IV. Degree Regulations

Master of Fine Art (Studio Art)


Each degree candidate will complete a thesis. The MFA thesis consists of an exhibition, a brief supporting paper and an oral examination. Each degree candidate must present an exhibition, performance, or showing of the studio work, as well as a brief critical paper of approximately 4,000-5,000 words that articulates the aesthetic, historical and technical issues pertinent to the artwork. The submitted studio work must demonstrate a professional level of competence and a significant aesthetic investigation, as approved by the candidate's master's examination committee.

External Examiner:

To advise on the exhibition/paper and to attend the master's examination, an external examiner from outside the university may be appointed by the school director, in consultation with the advisor and the Graduate Program Coordinator. The external examiner will submit a written appraisal of the exhibition/paper to the school director. The external examiner is expected to attend the master's examination and to assist in evaluating all aspects of the candidate's performance


The exhibition/paper may be completed at any time of the year, but candidates must bear in mind the desirability of having the final examination as much in advance of the deadline date as possible. Candidates should be aware of the deadlines posted in the Schedule of Dates in the graduate calendar. Candidates should discuss their thesis write-up with their advisors early in the final semester.

Following the master's examination, the candidate, if successful, will submit the paper and the photographic record of the exhibition to the school where they will be retained permanently.

Master's Examination

At the time of the exhibition, the MFA candidate will be expected to successfully complete a final oral examination devoted chiefly to the MFA exhibition with reference to the supporting critical paper. This is a school examination identified as the master's examination. The master's examination committee normally consists of four members appointed by the school director, as follows:

  • A member of the regular graduate faculty of the school, who is not a member of the advisory committee, to act as chair of the master's examination committee and to make arrangements therefor;

  • A member of the candidate's advisory committee (normally, the advisor);

  • A member of the associated graduate faculty or of the graduate faculty who may be a member of the advisory committee;

  • A fourth member appointed from among graduate faculty from another department, from the school or from the advisory committee, according to school and/or examination requirements. The fourth member may be an external examiner.

If possible, a member of another department should be included on the committee.


The chair serves to administer and ensure the proper conduct of the examination. The Chair is expected to exercise full control over the proceedings and does not participate directly in questioning the candidate during the examination. In unforeseen circumstances where an examiner is unable to attend due to, eg,, sudden illness, accident, etc., the chair will attempt to receive questions to ask on behalf of the absent member, to be answered by the student to the satisfaction of the examiners.

The school director is responsible for notifying the Assistant Vice-President (Graduate Studies) of the composition of the committee, and for reporting to the Assistant Vice-President (Graduate Studies) the outcome of the examination.

The examination committee is expected to review the exhibition and the critical paper. The student is examined orally on the contents of the exhibition and the paper. Viewing the exhibition may take place over several days; the oral examination should take place following the viewing and must involve all members of the examination committee, including the external examiner (if applicable), as well as the candidate. Both of these components constitute the master's examination. The examination is open to the public; members of the audience may question the candidate only upon invitation of the chair of the examination committee.

The examination is passed and the exhibition/paper approved if there is no more than one negative vote. An abstention is regarded as a negative vote. The report to the Assistant Vice-President (Graduate Studies) will record the decision as unsatisfactory or satisfactory. If unsatisfactory, the candidate may be given the opportunity of a second attempt. A second unsatisfactory result constitutes a recommendation to the Board of Graduate Studies that the student be required to withdraw (see Unsatisfactory Progress and Appeals of Decisions).

Copies of the Paper

A photographic record of the exhibition and a copy of the critical paper is retained in the school.

University of Guelph
50 Stone Road East
Guelph, Ontario, N1G 2W1