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Awards-Related Policy and Guidelines

(Senate Committee on Admissions, Recruitment and Student Assistance)

Award Terms as approved by Senate

The following award terms and definitions were approved by the Senate in June 2004 and revised in March 2009. These classifications are followed when naming an award.

Award: Combines academic criteria (minimum grade of 70% for students entering from secondary school, undergraduate grade point average of 6.0, or graduate average of B) and non-academic criteria (e.g. talent, promise, community service, leadership, financial need). Awards appear on a student’s transcript.

Bursary: Primarily designed to assist students with financial need. Recipients must be in good academic standing. Bursaries do not appear on the student's transcript.

Fellowship: Primarily designed to support research by outstanding graduate students with an A average or the top academic performance when an award evaluates students’ marks in comparison to their peers (although financial need may be taken into account). Fellowships appear on a student's transcript.

Scholarship: Recognizes exceptional talent/promise or academic excellence, as defined by:

  • A minimum grade of 80% for students entering from secondary school; or
  • A minimum undergraduate grade point average of 7.5; or
  • A minimum A average for graduate studies; or
  • Top academic performance, when an award evaluates students’ marks in comparison to their peers. In some cases scholarships may also include non-academic criteria (e.g. financial need, residency, etc.). All scholarships appear on a student’s transcript.

Prize: A prestigious recognition, often a book or nominal financial award, which recognizes academic achievement in a course, cluster of courses (no more than 3), program/field of study, or an academic piece of work, as defined by:

  • A minimum undergraduate grade point average of 7.5; or
  • A minimum A average for graduate studies; or
  • Top academic performance, when an award evaluates students’ marks in comparison to their peers; or
  • Talent or promise.
    All prizes appear on a student’s transcript.

Medal: A medal recognizes academic achievement in a program and may include non-academic criteria such as contribution to student life. All medals appear on a student’s transcript.

From SCARSA report to Senate, June 24, 2004

1. Delegation of responsibility for approval of newly-created awards

SCARSA recommends:

That Senate delegate to the Office of Student Financial Services (OSFS) of the responsibility to approve all newly-created fellowships, scholarships, medals, prizes and other awards, according to the guidelines established by SCARSA as set out in Appendix A.

Background and Rationale

SCARSA is currently empowered by Senate “(a) to award all scholarships, medals, prizes, and other types of academically related student assistance to York students; (b) to supervise and co-ordinate the selection of candidates by individual faculties, the Director of Student Awards, and other units in the University; and (c) to evaluate the terms and conditions of all student awards to ensure that they are sufficiently general to allow for changing circumstances and do not contain prejudicial clauses.” As well, SCARSA’s policy mandate relating to awards is: (d) to formulate policy and make recommendations to Senate concerning:

  1. types of award programs and distribution of available funds for scholarships, bursaries and loans
  2. the function and effect of external assistance programs and York's participation in them;
  3. factors that determine the level of scholarship.

In proposing the changes, SCARSA will be able to better fulfill its mandate of formulating policy and making recommendations to Senate on student awards while ensuring that all relevant polices and legislative requirements are adhered to. SCARSA is committed to seeing that all processes established ensure that academic freedom and integrity of the University are maintained. (Note: At York, the term “award” is generally used to refer to all fellowships, scholarships, medals, prizes, awards and bursaries, as well as specifically defined “awards”.)

In the last few years, the volume of new awards has increased, driven in part by the government programs to support student assistance (Ontario Student Opportunities Trust Fund) and the establishment of the York Foundation. Proposals for these new awards are usually developed by Foundation-affiliated Development Officers working with donors and relevant units, in consultation with the Office of Student Financial Services (OSFS). This means that the evaluation of terms and conditions generally takes place before SCARSA involvement and SCARSA has found, to a great extent, its review of new awards is limited to minor editing, and reporting of the award name and brief description to Senate. In delegating approval of newly-created awards to OSFS, SCARSA will maintain responsibility for oversight, ensuring due diligence and accountability under its terms of reference, and provide more comprehensive reports and analysis to Senate. Appendix A to this proposal provides guidelines proposed by SCARSA to be considered in the review of awards, and procedures for reporting to SCARSA.

2. Process for the Allocation of Existing Awards

SCARSA recommends:

That Senate approve the procedures for the awarding of prestigious scholarships and merit-based awards as set out in Appendix B.


The increase in student enrolment has led to a large increase in the number of applicants for scholarships, which has made the timely selection of recipients difficult under the current process in which SCARSA as a whole makes the decisions. Since recruiting top students often depends on providing them with scholarships and awards, it is necessary to process the consideration in a expeditious manner. For example, the “turnaround time” for entrance awards is often no more than one week between receiving grades and making offers. Delegating the selection of prestigious award recipients to committees established for that purpose, allows for more flexibility in arranging timely selection. The proposal for the make up of the committee ensures SCARSA participation and academic oversight. In addition, the recommendation for awards administered by Faculties and other units also ensures faculty involvement in the selection of recipients.


Guidelines for the approval of newly-created awards

  1. Fellowships, scholarships, medals and prizes and other awards shall conform to the Ontario Human Rights Commission Policy on Scholarships and Awards and other legislative requirements, as they exist from time to time;
  2. Awards shall conform to the University Policy: Guidelines for the Acceptance of Gifts;
  3. The integrity of the University shall be protected through thorough review of the donor’s background;
  4. Awards which are specific to Faculties shall be approved by the Dean of that Faculty and any other approving body where relevant;
  5. Award criteria shall be constructed so as to encourage distribution of awards to a wide-range of qualified and eligible students, rather than limiting that range;
  6. Award criteria should be amenable to administration and not so restrictive as to make finding a qualified applicant difficult;
  7. Awards should be encouraged that have criteria reflecting York’s history, community context and long-standing commitments to equity and interdisciplinarity.

Procedure for Reporting

To fulfill its policy mandate, SCARSA will report to Senate twice a year, normally in December and June on the new awards. More comprehensive reports, including analysis such as award types, amounts, distribution by Faculty/program, trends over time, etc., shall be made to Senate at a minimum once a year. A sample of this type of report is attached to this Appendix. Faculty awards committees will be requested to report annually to SCARSA.


Procedures for the Awarding of Prestigious Scholarships and Merit-Based Awards

SCARSA will work with the Office of Student Financial Services to establish sub-committees for the selection of recipients of University-wide undergraduate prestigious scholarships. These sub-committees will have at least 50% of the membership drawn from SCARSA, preferably including both faculty and student members. In addition, at least 50% of the membership in total will be faculty members, and normally there will be one student representative. These sub-committees will report back to SCARSA on the process and its results. Selection of merit-based awards administered by individual Faculties and other units shall be carried out by Faculty committees including at least one faculty member at the associate or full professor level. These Faculty committees will report back to SCARSA annually on the process and its results.