Graduate work at Queen's University at Kingston was established formally in 1889 with the adoption of regulations for the Ph.D. and D.Sc. degrees. At that time the degree of M.A. was not a graduate degree, but was given on the completion of honours work in certain courses provided the candidate had first class standing. With the introduction of a new system of studies in 1919, however, a graduate program was set up requiring a year of work beyond the B.A. and prescribing advanced lecture courses and a thesis or other piece of independent work. In 1926 the master' s course was strengthened by making the Honours B.A., or its equivalent, with at least second class standing, the standard of admission, and the regulations stated that the degree was to be given "not on the grounds of general attainment, but in recognition of the candidate' s wide knowledge of a special field of study."
The degree of M.Sc. was given for the first time in 1905-06. Graduates holding the bachelor' s degree could qualify for the M.Sc. by practicing engineering for two years or spending one year at the university. In 1922-23 a formal course was set up and one year of attendance beyond the B.Sc. was required. Strong emphasis was placed on the research and thesis.
The establishment of the Chown Science Research Chair in 1919 and the Miller Memorial Research Chair in 1929 did much to stimulate graduate work in the Departments of Physics, Chemistry, Geology, and Mineralogy, increasing the number of graduate students in these fields.
The administrative aspect of graduate work was first formalized by the Faculty of Arts which set up a Committee on Graduate Studies in 1941. In 1943, the Senate constituted the Queen’s University Board of Graduate Studies. This was reconstituted into the School of Graduate Studies in 1963 and expanded to include the research component in 1971. In 1990, the increasing importance of research led to the creation of a joint position of Dean of Graduate Studies and Vice-Principal (Research). This continued until 1995, when a separate portfolio of Vice-Principal (Research) was established.
The School of Graduate Studies and Research name reflected the jurisdictions over which the graduate school had responsibility and authority when it was established. Following the creation of the Vice-Principal (Research) portfolio, the responsibility for all aspects of the research enterprise, exclusive of graduate student research, was moved to the VPR. In the interests of providing clarity and being accurate, the SGSR was renamed the School of Graduate Studies as part of governance changes approved by Senate in February 2009.
In November 2007, the position of Dean, Graduate Studies and Research, was expanded to include the responsibilities and title of Associate Vice-Principal and Dean, Graduate Studies and Research (now, AVP/Dean, SGS) to reflect the university wide scope of graduate education at Queen’s.