Program Policies and Regulations

The Master of Data Science Policies and Regulations are part of the campus-wide UBC Policies and Regulations document. Below is a summary of those Policies and Regulations that students frequently ask about and that are specific to the Master of Data Science program.


Regular attendance is expected of students in all their classes (including lectures, laboratories, tutorials, seminars, etc.). Students who are unavoidably absent because of illness or other reasons should inform the instructor(s) of the course(s) as soon as possible, preferably, prior to the start of the class/lab/quiz.

For the 2020-21 cohort only: the above policy is relaxed this year. As we start with online MDS in September, we realize that folks in various time zones will not be able to attend our scheduled activities during Vancouver business hours, and that is fine.

Students who miss an assignment or quiz can request an academic concession. From the UBC Senate policy on academic concession, grounds for academic concession can be illness, conflicting responsibilities, or compassionate grounds. Examples of compassionate grounds, from the above policy, include “a traumatic event experienced by the student, a family member, or a close friend; an act of sexual assault or other sexual misconduct experienced by the student, a family member, or a close friend; a death in the family or of a close friend.”

To request an academic concession, students should immediately email a completed and signed academic concession form to the course’s Lab Instructor. Upon receiving the form, the Lab Instructor and/or MDS Directors will make a decision about how to proceed. Failure to present valid documentation may result in a failing grade.

Late arrivals in lecture

Students arriving late to MDS lectures can be distracting for the instructor and other students. While the ideal solution is for everyone to arrive on time, the following procedures are in place to minimize the disruption caused by any late arrivals.

In our main lecture hall, DMP 110, all students arriving late must enter through the east door, which leads to the back of the lecture hall. Furthermore, late students shall only sit in the folding seats at the back wall or stand in the northeast corner, until a break or group activity in the lecture, at which time you are free to take a regular seat.

Bringing children to class

If childcare is not available due to unforeseen circumstances, MDS students/TAs/instructors are welcome to bring their children to lecture and/or lab sessions. If you find yourself in this situation, please let the instructor know that you wish to bring your child to class. If there are any concerns of children disrupting the class, these will be addressed on a case-by-case basis.

Grades and Academic Standing

General grading scheme

All grades in the MDS program will be entered as letter grades based on our rubrics. For Master’s students at UBC, percentage grades and letter grades are mapped as follows (source: 2nd table of this page):

Percentage (%) Letter Grade
90-100 A+
85-89 A
80-84 A-
76-79 B+
72-75 B
68-71 B-
64-67 C+
60-63 C
0-59 F (Fail)

When grading your work, TAs will enter letter grades. We will then map them to percentages using the midpoint of the range in the table above. So, for example, if the TA enters “A+” you will get a 95% and if the TA enters “B” you will get 73.5%. These percentages will be used to compute a numerical final grade for each course.

Note: to get above 95% in a course you need to earn bonus points by doing the questions marked “optional”.

Note: to complicate things slightly, we actually find it useful to also have C- and D grades available when grading your work. Thus, the conversion from letter grades to numbers actually happens through the undergrad scheme, which is the first table at the same calendar link. However, we did not want to paste that table here and cause confusion, as it’s really the table above, for Master’s students, that matters for you. In particular, because of the issues around failing and C/C+ grades described below.

Letter grades

At the end of a course, you can convert your numerical grade back into a letter grade using the table above.

Failed courses and C/C+ grades

UBC courses are graded out of 100%. To pass an MDS course a student must score 60% or above. To graduate from MDS, a student must pass all courses, with no more than 3 courses in the 60%-67% range (C or C+).

Final course grades

With a few exceptions (which will be communicated to students at the start of a course), each course grade is calculated using the lab and quiz grades, weighted 60% and 40% respectively. However, if a student fails all the quizzes in a course (each below 60%) then the final course grade will be the lower of their calculated course grade and 67%. This means that to graduate a student cannot fail all the quizzes in more than 3 courses.

Late Submissions

A late submission is defined as any work, including quizzes, submitted after the deadline. For a late submission, the student will receive a 50% scaling of their grade for the first occurrence, and will receive a grade of 0 for subsequent occurrences.

Update: for the 2020-21 cohort only, due to the challenges of starting the program online, we will use the following alternate policy: for a late submission, the student will receive a 75% scaling of their grade for the first occurrence, 50% scaling of their grade for the second to fifth occurrences, and will receive a grade of 0 for subsequent occurrences.


If you have a question about the way your work was graded, please contact the TA who graded it for an explanation. If you would like to contest your grade, you should notify the instructor. In these cases, the instructor will re-grade the entire piece of work, not only the parts in question. Please keep in mind that your grade may go up or down as a result of re-grading, and that instructors often grade more critically than TAs.

Grading concerns: time limit

If you perceive a problem with a grade, you have one week to raise a concern from the time that your grade was released. After that, your grade is final.

Reasonable grading concerns

Grades are not perfect; some randomness in grading is normal, meaning that you’ll generally get more than you deserve in some cases and less than you deserve in other cases. Thus, it is possible to cheat the system by consistently complaining when your grade is too low but not when it is too high. Unfortunately, this takes time away from the course staff which could have been spent on making the course better for everyone. Thus, in our view, students who overzealously contest grades are penalizing their classmates for personal gain.

Sometimes serious grading errors are made, for example when a grader did not see your answer to a question or completely deviated from standard grading practices for some unknown reason. Such situations can be quite frustrating for students, and we want you to feel that the courses are fair. In these cases, it makes sense for the student to bring the error to our attention.

Balancing these two sides is difficult. In MDS the policy is as follows: if a grade is challenged in a way that is deemed unreasonable, the student will receive a warning. This decision will be made by the instructor (not TA). If a student receives three warnings, the student will lose the privilege to challenge grades for the remainder of the program. Examples of unreasonable requests include extremely minor complaints (e.g. half a mark on an assignment) or repeatedly contesting the same issue once a decision has been reached. This policy applies to both labs and quizzes.


For the 2020-21 cohort only: the below policy does not apply during remote MDS. While we are remote, quizzes will be open book and done remotely. The part that still does apply is: students may not communicate with anyone else during quizzes. This includes classmates, internet tutors etc.

Unless otherwise specified, the only allowed material during MDS quizzes is official documentation available in the local programming environment (e.g., help in RStudio and Jupyter notebook). This means that during the quiz students may NOT :

  • take a quiz from a remote location
  • communicate with other students or anyone else
  • use the internet to solve questions on the quiz
  • bring any materials into the quiz that would be of assistance in completing the quiz (aside from a laptop)
  • leave the quiz room early with your laptop
  • leave and re-enter the quiz room (other than for purposes such as using the washroom)

Failing to observe the above expectations may result in a zero grade for the quiz in question.


Plagiarism, which is intellectual theft, occurs where an individual submits or presents the oral or written work of another person as his or her own and can include:

  • multiple students submitting the same response
  • copying from sources without citing them
  • copying verbatim (word-for-word) from source and citing, but failing to make it explicit that this is a quotation (quotations should be used only rarely, if at all)
  • sending/emailing/sharing part of your answers, including code, to anyone else, including classmates (unless you are working together in an official group assignment).

Plagiarism will not be tolerated in the MDS program and may result in dismissal from the program. Students are responsible for ensuring that any work submitted does not constitute plagiarism. Students who are in any doubt as to what constitutes plagiarism should consult their Instructor before handing in any assignments.

For more information see the UBC Academic Misconduct policies.

Code Plagiarism

Students must correctly cite any code that has been authored by someone else or by the student themselves for other assignments. Cases of code plagiarism may include, but are not limited to:

  • the reproduction (copying and pasting) of code with none or minimal reformatting (e.g., changing the name of the variables)
  • the translation of an algorithm or a script from a language to another
  • the generation of code by automatic code-generations software

An “adequate acknowledgement” requires a detailed identification of the (parts of the) code reused and a full citation of the original source code that has been reused.

Leaves of Absence (medical or personal)

Students in good academic standing may request long-term academic leave from the program for medical or personal reasons and return, within a year, to complete the MDS program. These requests must be discussed and submitted in writing to the MDS Leadership Team well in advance. Leaves can only start at the beginning of a term, which for MDS, is January 1st. It is also possible that the MDS course offerings and orders change from year-to-year. Hence, students who are on leave from the program may have to take their outstanding courses in in a different order than expected. Please be aware that fees and other costs (loss of student loans and bursaries) may apply depending on individual situations.

Program Withdrawal

Students may withdraw from the MDS program for medical or personal reasons. Depending on the timing of the withdrawal, full or partial tuition fee refunds may or may not be given. A request to withdraw from the program must be submitted in writing to the MDS Leadership Team.

The MDS Leadership Team may request a student to withdraw from the program. This is only done after extensive discussions between the instructional team, the leadership team and the affected student. Reasons for this may be related to the health and well-being of the student in question or his/her peers, not meeting program requirements, unsatisfactory conduct or other significant reasons.

Full-Time Commitment

The MDS program is approved by the UBC Senate as a full-time program. Hence, students must take the program on a full-time basis as part of their cohort and cannot complete the program on a part-time basis.

UBC’s Policies and Resources to Support Student Success

UBC provides resources to support student learning and to maintain healthy lifestyles but recognizes that sometimes crises arise and so there are additional resources to access including those for survivors of sexual violence. UBC values respect for the person and ideas of all members of the academic community. Harassment and discrimination are not tolerated nor is suppression of academic freedom. UBC provides appropriate accommodation for students with disabilities and for religious, spiritual and cultural observances. UBC values academic honesty and students ae expected to acknowledge the ideas generated by others and to uphold the highest academic standards in all of their actions. Details of the policies and how to access support are available here.

Option Transfers

Transfer between options is generally not permitted. In exceptional circumstances (e.g., an external job offer requiring a different area of specialization), a transfer request may be considered if: a) a written rationale is submitted prior to the end of Block 2, b) the student is in a good academic standing, and c) the student had initially been accepted to both options. Final decisions will be at the discretion of the Option Directors, following discussion with the instructional and leadership teams.