General Provisions

Introduction and Mission Statement

This handbook provides a consolidated statement of the policies and practices relating to the M.A. and PhD programs of the Department of Political Science.  The handbook is intended to be a guide to members of the faculty and to graduate students.  The basic policies of the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies (G+PS), are contained in the UBC Calendar and the G+PS Policies and Procedures manual.  In case of a conflict between Departmental and Faculty of Graduate Studies policies, the latter will prevail.  For additional information on relevant policies, please consult the Department’s Director of the Graduate Program. Information on policies of the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies may also be obtained from the administrative staff of that Faculty.  This handbook is produced periodically and thus may not reflect changes adopted between editions.  An effort will be made to keep the World Wide Web edition of the Handbook as up to date as feasible. Note:  Official policies of the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies contained in the University Calendar or in policy memos of the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies are italicized in this handbook.

The Department of Political Science is committed to:

  • scholarly excellence: the pursuit of knowledge being our core function
  • high-quality undergraduate education: with an emphasis on the development of critical thinking and oral and written communication skills
  • high-quality graduate education: with an emphasis on scholarship and the preparation of future professionals and academics
  • collegiality: particularly in terms of professional interactions and intellectual community
  • diversity and openness: in that the pursuit of knowledge entails an examination of competing perspectives in an atmosphere of trust, respect, and professional courtesy
  • community service: in actively providing a source of expertise for the media and the public

Faculty Statement of Principles

(As adopted April 16, 1996)

1.1       The Faculty of the Department of Political Science is committed to upholding the highest professional standards in its research, teaching, and service activities.  The purpose of this Statement is to advance the goals of the Department, as described in its Mission Statement of 28 June 1995.  Many of the matters mentioned in this Statement are addressed in university policies and collective agreements, to which this Statement is necessarily supplementary.  Of particular relevance are the University’s statement on Academic Freedom and the University’s policies on Discrimination and Harassment and on Conflict of Interest.

1.2       For the purpose of this Statement, the term “faculty” applies to all regularly-appointed faculty of the Department, as well as to any visiting faculty (resident for research or teaching purposes) or sessional or part-time instructors of political science courses.

1.3       This Statement of Principles is to be reviewed and reaffirmed on a regular basis. New members of the faculty, as well as any visiting faculty or sessional instructors, will be made aware of the Statement and their responsibility to uphold its principles.  This Statement shall be reproduced in the Department’s annual Undergraduate and Graduate Handbooks.

2.1       Faculty members shall treat students, staff, and faculty with fairness, civility, and respect.

2.2       Faculty members have an obligation to defend their rights and the rights of their colleagues and students to academic freedom.  It is thus incumbent on the faculty, individually and collectively, to maintain working and learning environments that are conductive to the free and open exchange of ideas and scholarly debate.

2.3       Faculty shall act, individually and collectively, to promote working and learning environments that are free from discrimination and harassment.

2.4       Faculty members shall seek to discharge their instructional responsibilities with academic integrity, scholarly competence, and pedagogical effectiveness.  Faculty members shall be conscientious in their attention to their classes and students.  Expectations, requirements, and standards of evaluation should be clearly communicated in a timely manner and should be upheld and applied equitably and consistently regarding all students.

2.5       Faculty shall strive to be fair, objective, and balanced in their evaluation of students and colleagues.  Oral and written evaluations, e.g. letters of recommendation or assessments of course assignments or examinations, shall be provided in a professional manner and shall contain and be based only on information relevant to their intended purposes.

2.6       Faculty members shall respect and protect the confidentiality of information about colleagues, staff, or students as mandated by university policies, government regulations, and general standards of professional conduct.

2.7       Faculty members shall seek to avoid any potential conflicts of interest that might arise involving the possibility of their personal material gain or involving their relationships with students, other faculty or university employees.  Perceiving the possibility of a conflict of interest, a faculty member should declare this and seek guidance from the Head or appropriate university official as to the appropriate action.

2.8       Faculty members have the responsibility to acknowledge appropriately their academic or intellectual debts to colleagues and students.

2.9       Faculty, individually and collectively, have a responsibility to be informed of relevant university policies, to participate in establishing and implementing effective departmental policies, and to support members of the department, especially the Head, in carrying out their duties on behalf of the Department.

2.10     The Department shall facilitate timely, responsible, and constructive dealing with student complaints and appeals.  Faculty shall support and participate in complaints and appeals processes in good faith and shall not engage in retaliation against any persons who participate in such processes

Administrative Structures

The Graduate Program Committee consists of the Director of the Graduate Program who chairs the Committee, at least two faculty members, and three students. Students will be selected by the Political Science Graduate Student Association. Normally, there will be two PhD candidates and one M.A. candidate.

Tasks of the Graduate Program Committee are to discuss and review all aspects of the graduate program, including, but not confined to:

  • curriculum
  • comprehensive examination procedures and format
  • student facilities
  • entrance requirements
  • general policy on fellowships and scholarships
  • general policy on teaching assistantships (aspects not covered by union agreements)
  • mentoring and supervision
  • professional development social occasions

To make recommendations on these policies and areas to the Department.

The Graduate Program Committee is a forum for consideration of programmatic issues, not complaints about individuals.  In the event of disagreements with professors or supervisors, graduate students shall, in accordance with the G+PS Guidelines, seek to resolve disputes as close as possible to the source, by first discussing the problem frankly with the professor in question.  If the problem is not resolved, the appropriate course of action is to approach, in order, the Director of the Graduate Program, the Head of the Department, and finally the Dean of Graduate Studies. Assistance may be obtained from the Departmental Advisor on Policy and Procedures and from relevant University offices.

The Graduate Admission and Awards Committee consists of faculty members chosen to ensure field representation. The Committee makes decisions on applicants for admission, ranks students for financial awards, and reviews requests for accommodation outlined in Section IV.  The Committee is responsible for publishing a list of factors used in rankings.

The Director of the Graduate Program is responsible for the administration of the graduate program of the Department. The Director of the Graduate Program chairs the Graduate Program Committee and is an ex-officio member of the Department Executive Committee; and coordinates the recruitment and admissions process, including the preparation of relevant materials; designates initial academic advisors and facilitates the matching of students with supervisors; ensures that faculty supervising or teaching graduate students are aware of and adhere to applicable policies and procedures; coordinates ranking of graduate students for fellowships; allocates Teaching Assistantships; coordinates the periodic review of academic progress of graduate students; and coordinates the administration of comprehensive examinations.  The Director of the Graduate Program is also a source of advice and informal appeal in the event of problems involving graduate courses, relations with advisors or supervisors, relations between TAs and course instructors, or fellow graduate students.

As the formal “administrative head of unit”, the Department Head has extensive responsibilities.  Regarding the Graduate Program, the Head is responsible for assigning teaching responsibilities to faculty (including graduate students as sessional instructors), and adjudicating formal appeals of grades or other complaints involving faculty — including issues of professional conduct, equity and harassment matters — and the decisions of the  Director of the Graduate Program or the Graduate Program Committee.

While having no direct line relation to the Graduate Program, the Executive Committee advises the Head on a wide range of matters.  It consists of three faculty members elected by the Department and the Director Graduate Studies and Undergraduate Studies as ex-officio members.

Committees for each comprehensive examination field consist of all faculty members in a particular field, and, where possible, have one graduate student representative who has already passed the comprehensive examination in that field. The committees are intended to ensure a diverse curriculum and create an on-going structural forum for faculty and students to discuss curriculum issues.

Terms of reference:

  1. annual re-examination and discussion of curriculum issues in the field;
  2. review of comprehensive exams and comprehensive exam reading lists (faculty alone will be responsible for the administration of exams);
  3. identification of areas of field weakness, and determination of future hiring priorities of the field.

Criteria and Procedures for Admission to the Graduate Program

Faculty and Department criteria relevant to the M.A. and PhD programs are discussed in the appropriate sections of this handbook.  As a general statement of policy, the Department wishes to make clear that no student has an automatic right to admission as a graduate student, even though he/she meets all minimum requirements. His/her application must be approved by the Graduate Admission and Awards Committee of the Department.  This committee will be guided by Department policy on the size of the graduate student population which can be handled successfully.

Admission applicants are adjudicated by the Graduate Admissions and Awards Committee.  An applicant’s file must include relevant transcripts, at least three letters of academic reference, an application form, and a TOEFL score for all applicants with a first university degree from a university other than Australia, Botswana, Canada, Ireland, Kenya, New Zealand, South Africa, United Kingdom, United States and the English speaking countries of the West Indies.  Where applicable, the Department requires a TOEFL score of 580 for the paper-based exam, 237 for the computer-based exam, and a 5.0 on the Test of Written English (TWE) or 92 (internet exam, including at least 22 on Reading, 25 on writing, 22 on Listening, and 23 on Speaking).  GRE scores are highly recommended from all our applicants to our PhD program. The Department also requires GRE scores from all applicants to our PhD program whose prior degrees are from non-Canadian universities.

Upon completion of the file, the committee has three courses of action open to it:

  1.  It can recommend admission. (Note:  Admission is often conditional on the completion of some course of action on which the applicant is then engaged, such as pursuit of a B.A. or M.A. degree.)
  2. It can recommend rejection.
  3. It can delay its decision, and inform the applicant accordingly, until additional information is received.  This often happens when the applicant appears marginal, but there is a possibility that his/her academic record for that year might improve his/her chances of admission.  In such cases the decision is delayed until final academic transcripts are received.  It is the applicant’s responsibility to ensure that such transcripts are sent to the Department by the issuing institution.  When the additional information is received, the applicant is either admitted or rejected.

The Committee’s recommendation is normally accepted by The Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies, provided Faculty criteria have been met.

The deadline for applications is January 7 of each Academic Calendar year.

Student Status, Course Selection, and Teaching Evaluations

Students do not require the approval of the Department before registering for Department graduate courses.  However, students should discuss their program with the Director of the Graduate Program and their initial academic advisor during the first two weeks of September.  Courses outside the Department’s graduate program do require the approval of the Director of the Graduate Program.

One purpose of courses collectively is to introduce students to a wide variety of ideas, theories, and methodologies in political science.  Course outlines should be made available by the first day of class.  All course outlines should provide a clear written statement of purpose, course requirements, mark breakdown, and a discussion of the criteria the professor will use to evaluate student performance.  When there is more than one component to the grade, students should be informed of their performance on each component.

The Department will ensure that student teaching evaluations are conducted for all graduate courses and that summaries of teaching evaluations from past years will be made available in a timely manner to incoming and continuing graduate students.  For small courses (less than eight students), evaluations will be read only by the Head and Director of the Graduate Program to protect the confidentiality of student responses, and a cumulative multi-year summary will be provided to students and faculty.

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