Degree level expectations and learning outcomes

Guidelines for the Degree Level Expectations (DLEs) have been created by the Ontario Council of Academic Vice-Presidents (OCAV) and serve as the academic standards for Ontario’s universities. In addition, they identify the knowledge, skill and competency outcomes that reflect progressive levels of intellectual and creative development. These outcomes may be expressed in subject-specific or in generic terms. Graduates at specified degree levels (e.g., BA, MSc) are expected to demonstrate these outcomes. Each university adapts and describes the degree level expectations to apply within its own institution. Likewise, academic units describe their institution’s expectations in terms that are appropriate to their academic programs.

For more information, please consult the  guide to learning outcomes degree level expectations.

Baccalaureate/Bachelor’s Degree

This degree is awarded to students who have demonstrated the following:

Depth and breadth of knowledge
  • A general knowledge and understanding of many key concepts, methodologies, theoretical approaches and assumptions in a discipline;
  • A broad understanding of some of the major fields in a discipline, including, where appropriate, from an interdisciplinary perspective, and how the fields may intersect with fields in related disciplines;
  • An ability to gather, review, evaluate and interpret information relevant to one or more of the major fields in a discipline;
  • Some detailed knowledge in an area of the discipline.
Knowledge of methodologies

An understanding of methods of enquiry or creative activity, or both, in their primary area of study that enables the student to:

  • evaluate the appropriateness of different approaches to solving problems using well established ideas and techniques; and
  • devise and sustain arguments or solve problems using these methods.
Application of knowledge
  • The ability to review, present, and interpret quantitative and qualitative information to:
    • Develop lines of argument;
    • Make sound judgments in accordance with the major theories, concepts and methods of the subject(s) of study; and
  • The ability to use a basic range of established techniques to:
    • Analyse information;
    • Evaluate the appropriateness of different approaches to solving problems related to their area(s) of study;
    • Propose solutions; and
  • The ability to make use of scholarly reviews and primary sources.
Communication skills

The ability to communicate accurately and reliably, orally and in writing to a range of audiences.

Awareness of limits knowledge

An understanding of the limits to their own knowledge and how this might influence their analysis and interpretations.

Autonomy and professional capacity
  • Qualities and transferable skills necessary for further study, employment, community involvement and other activities requiring:
    • The exercise of personal responsibility and decision-making;
    • Working effectively with others;
  • The ability to identify and address their own learning needs in changing circumstances and to select an appropriate program of further study; and
  • Behaviour consistent with academic integrity and social responsibility.

Honours Baccalaureate/Bachelor’s Degree

This degree is awarded to students who have demonstrated the following:

Depth and breadth of knowledge
  • A developed knowledge and critical understanding of the key concepts, methodologies, current advances, theoretical approaches and assumptions in a discipline overall, as well as in a specialized area of a discipline;
  • A developed understanding of many of the major fields in a discipline, including, where appropriate, from an interdisciplinary perspective, and how the fields may intersect with fields in related disciplines;
  • A developed ability to:
    • Gather, review, evaluate and interpret information; and
    • Compare the merits of alternate hypotheses or creative options, relevant to one or more of the major fields in a discipline.
  • A developed, detailed knowledge of and experience in research in an area of the discipline.
Knowledge of methodologies

An understanding of methods of enquiry or creative activity, or both, in their primary area of study that enables the student to:

  • Evaluate the appropriateness of different approaches to solving problems using well established ideas and techniques;
  • Devise and sustain arguments or solve problems using these methods; and
  • Describe and comment upon particular aspects of current research or equivalent advanced scholarship.
Application of knowledge
  • The ability to review, present and critically evaluate qualitative and quantitative information to:
    • develop lines of argument;
    • make sound judgments in accordance with the major theories, concepts and methods of the subject(s) of study;
    • apply underlying concepts, principles, and techniques of analysis, both within and outside the discipline;
    • where appropriate use this knowledge in the creative process; and
  • The ability to use a range of established techniques to:
    • initiate and undertake critical evaluation of arguments, assumptions, abstract concepts and information;
    • propose solutions;
    • frame appropriate questions for the purpose of solving a problem;
    • solve a problem or create a new work; and
  • The ability to make critical use of scholarly reviews and primary sources.
Communication skills

The ability to communicate information, arguments, and analyzes accurately and reliably, orally and in writing to a range of audiences

Awareness of limits knowledge

An understanding of the limits to their own knowledge and ability, and an appreciation of the uncertainty, ambiguity and limits to knowledge and how this might influence analysis and interpretations.

Autonomy and professional capacity
  • Qualities and transferable skills necessary for further study, employment, community involvement and other activities requiring:
    • The exercise of initiative, personal responsibility and accountability in both personal and group contexts;
    • Working effectively with others;
    • Decision-making in complex contexts.
  • The ability to manage their own learning in changing circumstances, both within and outside the discipline and to select an appropriate program of further study; and
  • Behaviour consistent with academic integrity and social responsibility

Graduate Diploma

This degree is awarded to students who have demonstrated the following:

Depth and breadth of knowledge

A systematic understanding of knowledge related to a discipline or profession, and a critical awareness of current problems and/or new insights at the forefront of this academic discipline, field of study or area of professional practice.

Conceptual & methodological awareness

A conceptual understanding and methodological competence that:

a) enables a working comprehension of how established techniques of research and inquiry are used to create and interpret knowledge in the discipline and/or area of professional competence;

b) enables a critical evaluation of current research and scholarship in the discipline and/or area of professional competence; 

c) enables the analysis of complex issues and development of sound judgments based on current research and established practices and techniques.

Communication skills

The ability to communicate issues and conclusions clearly to specialist and non-specialist audiences.

Application of knowledge

Competence in the application of an existing body of knowledge to the critical analysis of a new question or specific problem or issue in a new setting.

Professional capacity/autonomy

Professional development is often a primary component of graduate diplomas, and will involve: 

a) qualities and transferable skills necessary for employment or further education, including:

i. the exercise of initiative, and of personal responsibility and accountability;

ii. decision-making in complex professional situations;

b) the intellectual independence required for continuing professional development;
c) ethical behaviour consistent with academic and professional integrity;
d) the ability to appreciate the broader implications of applying knowledge to particular contexts.

Awareness of limits knowledge

Cognizance of the complexity of knowledge and of the potential contributions of other interpretations, methods and disciplines.

Master's Degree

This degree is awarded to students who have demonstrated the following:

Depth and breadth of knowledge

A systematic understanding of knowledge, including, where appropriate, relevant knowledge outside the field and/or discipline, and a critical awareness of current problems and/or new insights, much of which is at, or informed by, the forefront of their academic discipline, field of study, or area of professional practice.

Research and scholarships

A conceptual understanding and methodological competence that :

  1. Enables a working comprehension of how established techniques of research and inquiry are used to create and interpret knowledge in the discipline;
  2. Enables a critical evaluation of current research and advanced research and scholarship in the discipline or area of professional competence; and
  3. Enables a treatment of complex issues and judgments based on established principles and techniques; and,

On the basis of that competence, has shown at least one of the following:

  1. The development and support of a sustained argument in written form; or
  2. Originality in the application of knowledge.
Level of application of knowledge

Competence in the research process by applying an existing body of knowledge in the critical analysis of a new question or of a specific problem or issue in a new setting.

Professional capacity/autonomy
  1. The qualities and transferable skills necessary for employment requiring:
    1. The exercise of initiative and of personal responsibility and accountability; and
    2. Decision-making in complex situations
  2. The intellectual independence required for continuing professional development;
  3. The ethical behavior consistent with academic integrity and the use of appropriate guidelines and procedures for responsible conduct of research; and
  4. The ability to appreciate the broader implications of applying knowledge to particular contexts.
Level of communications skills

The ability to communicate ideas, issues and conclusions clearly.

Awareness of limits of knowledge

Cognizance of the complexity of knowledge and of the potential contributions of other interpretations, methods, and disciplines.

Doctoral Degree

This degree extends the skills associated with the master's degree and is awarded to students who have demonstrated the following: 

Depth and breadth of knowledge

A thorough understanding of a substantial body of knowledge that is at the forefront of their academic discipline or area of professional practice including, where appropriate, relevant knowledge outside the field and/or discipline.

Research and scholarships

a) The ability to conceptualize, design, and implement research for the generation of new knowledge, applications, or understanding at the forefront of the discipline, and to adjust the research design or methodology in the light of unforeseen problems;

b) The ability to make informed judgments on complex issues in specialist fields, sometimes requiring new methods; and

c) The ability to produce original research, or other advanced scholarship, of a quality to satisfy peer review, and to merit publication.

Level of application of knowledge

The capacity to:

a) Undertake pure and/or applied research at an advanced level; and 

b) Contribute to the development of academic or professional skills, techniques, tools, practices, ideas, theories, approaches, and/or materials.

Professional capacity/autonomy

Competence in the application of an existing body of knowledge to the critical analysis of a new question or specific problem or issue in a new setting.

Level of communications skills

The ability to communicate complex and/or ambiguous ideas, issues and conclusions clearly and effectively.

Awareness of limits of knowledge

An appreciation of the limitations of one’s own work and discipline, of the complexity of knowledge, and of the potential contributions of other interpretations, methods and disciplines.

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