Optional Transfer of Professional Graduate Programs from the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies to the Disciplinary Faculties

Approved by the Senate on January 19, 2005 upon recommendation of the Academic Policy Committee.

Memo to: Senate
From: Academic Policy Committee

There have been several Senate discussions (May and September 2004) of this policy document led by Barry McBride and Lorne Whitehead, the Academic Vice Presidents. The Senate has acted on the proposed policy by making decisions regarding several professional degrees (see Appendix A: Programs Already Transferred to Disciplinary Faculties). Although the transfer of these programs was enacted prior to the approval of the proposed policy, the Faculties involved acted in accordance with the policy and its associated guidelines. The Senate Academic Policy Committee also previously reviewed and endorsed this policy, but the policy has not yet been formally presented to the Senate for its approval. The Academic Policy Committee therefore makes the following recommendations.

Policy Recommendations

  1. That disciplinary Faculties have the opportunity, upon approval, to assume administrative responsibility for new and existing programs designated as “graduate professional programs.”
  2. That the process for designating a new or existing program as a “graduate professional program” and/or transferring administrative responsibility from the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies to one or more disciplinary Faculties be initiated by the Faculty/Faculties and comprise:
    1. Discussion between the Vice President, Academic & Provost and the Faculty or Faculties involved;
    2. Consultation with the Senate Academic Policy Committee;
    3. Senate approval upon recommendation by the Vice President, Academic & Provost.
  3. That Senate endorse “Issues Related to the Administration of Graduate Professional Programs” (included as Appendix B) for use as a guideline for disciplinary Faculties considering assuming such responsibility (and for the future Senates and their Academic Policy Committees to inform their judgments).


In 1949, the UBC Senate established the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies, acting upon recommendations from two committees, one on Ph.D. studies and the other on the Organization of the University. In its earliest days the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies focused primarily upon degrees at the Master’s and Ph.D. level. Especially in the past two decades the number of graduate programs at UBC has grown rapidly and of these an increasing number constitute what are typically referred to as professional programs (e.g., M.B.A.). In 1996 when the International Student Initiative was launched, the Provost designated some graduate programs as professional. This practice has continued and once the Tuition Freeze Act was lifted in 2002, certain designated professional graduate programs saw the introduction of differential fees.


The recommendations are designed to accomplish one thing:

To further strengthen the particular kinds of relationships between students, professional communities, and disciplinary Faculties by having these Faculties assume responsibility, when they so choose, for students in designated professional graduate programs.

Disciplinary Faculties should be permitted to take on primary responsibility for designing and delivering the appropriate training aligned with professional occupational communities (e.g., Master of Jurisprudence, Master of Engineering). The Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies will retain responsibility for all other graduate degrees, just as it does now.

Within their particular fields of study, disciplinary Faculties work closely with professional communities via advisory councils, professional standards associations, cooperative education and clinical placements, and accreditation bodies. Indeed the strength of these academic programs depends fundamentally upon linkages with professionals in the labour force and the organizations these professionals develop. Disciplinary Faculties should be given greater flexibility to develop Senate-approved programs that fit appropriately with these professional standards.

Disciplinary Faculties should be given more freedom to design effective professional degree and non-degree programs that will effectively target the needs and desires of the professional communities with whom they work. Many top quality students desire these degrees and their professional training is better left fully in the hands of the Faculties most directly connected with these areas. Also, these new procedures will maintain the ability of Continuing Studies to work with all Faculties to develop appropriate programming, both credit and non-credit.

There is diversity among graduate degree programs on the campus. The nature of scholarly activity varies both between and within Faculties and this diversity is an important strength of university culture. As a research-intensive university, our research expertise should influence all programs, benefiting students in undergraduate, postbaccalaureate, and graduate programs, including students in professional graduate streams. The outcomes following from this motion are meant to influence administrative responsibilities for programs but should have no effect on this diversity of degree programs or the quality of these programs. Furthermore, all Master’s and Doctoral level degree programs, including those designated as professional, will continue to be graduate programs offering graduate degrees and as such professional graduate degree programs will continue to be included in university material promoting graduate education.

An issue touching upon graduate degree designations, but extending beyond the immediate motion, relates to new trends in professional entrance to practice standards. In some professional areas, especially in the health sector, professional Master’s degrees are a pre-requisite to obtaining a License to Practice (i.e., the degree is needed prior to taking the licensing examination). Other professional graduate degrees are not required for entrance to practice at this time (e.g., in Social Work entry to practice requires a Bachelor’s). This issue will require careful attention in the near future.


The idea of transferring responsibility for professional graduate degrees to the disciplinary Faculties was first formally introduced at a Committee of Deans retreat in the Fall of 2003. Subsequently the idea has been discussed briefly in a Committee of Deans meeting and has been included in discussions related to revisions of the Trek 2000 vision statement.

The proposal currently under review was initially developed by a committee established by the Provost to consider an implementation plan for the transfer of professional programs from the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies to the disciplinary Faculties. The Committee’s report was presented to the Committee of Deans for feedback, and thus consultation with the Faculties has been conducted through the corresponding Deans. This proposal has been endorsed by the disciplinary Faculties through their Deans.

A draft proposal was taken to the Senate Academic Policy Committee for feedback and endorsement. The Committee has approved the final version of this document. The Graduate Council, a body of the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies, also discussed this proposal. Furthermore, the proposal was circulated to all members of Council of the Graduate Student Society and changes were made in light of their feedback. Discussions have also occurred with students in specific professional graduate programs. Since this is a matter transcending the role of individual Faculties, it is a decision of Senate, representing all of the Faculties, that is critical.

Since the admissions criteria and the curricula of existing programs will not be changed by the proposed transfer, approvals of the Senate Admissions Committee and the Senate Curriculum Committee are not required. Both of these Committees have, however, reviewed drafts of this proposal and were invited to provide input to the Senate Academic Policy Committee. Importantly, any future changes to admissions criteria or to the curricula of these programs will require the approval of these Senate committees in the usual manner.

The above approval process was also based on the advice of the Senate Agenda Committee.

Respectfully submitted,
Richard C. Tees
Chair, Senate Academic Policy Committee

Optional Transfer of Professional Graduate Programs from the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies to the Disciplinary Faculties 

This information is for quick reference. For the full text of the Minutes of Senate, which include the motions and discussion, please see the Minutes Archive.