Doctoral Oral Defence

On this page, you'll find essential information regarding setting up and scheduling the oral defence, and oral defence committee membership.

Setting up the Oral Defence

When the Doctoral student initially submits the thesis to Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies, an Oral Defence form is sent to the Unit* so that it can set up the oral defence committee and notify the Thesis Unit as to its membership and date of the oral defence. The Unit should arrange the defence and return the completed form, electronically, to GPS with a minimum four (4) weeks notice prior to the defence date.

The Unit is responsible for confirming the defence date and providing PDF copies of the thesis to every oral defence committee members. Should an oral defence committee member require a thesis hard copy, the Unit should request one from the student. The Unit should refer to the following guidelines when inviting external examiners to the oral defence.

Exceptional requests to normal procedures (e.g. videoconferencing) should be referred to the Thesis Unit as soon as possible and prior to making arrangements. If a member of the oral defence committee must attend via videoconference (with the arrangements and cost to be borne by the Unit), approval must be sought as soon as possible - and prior to making arrangements. GPS may not permit the use of Skype because of issues with stability and quality of sound/image.

GPS will secure a Pro-Dean who will chair the oral defence as a representative of the Dean of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies. GPS will inform the Unit and provide the Pro-Dean with a PDF copy of the thesis, and the examiners’ reports.

Scheduling the Oral Defence

A notice is sent to the Graduate Secretary/Coordinator of the Unit indicating the earliest date (tentative, pending receipt of reports) the defence may take place. At least four (4) weeks notice must be given to Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies, to allow time to arrange for a Pro-Dean, check the student’s file, etc.

In the event an oral defense is postponed due to unforeseen circumstances, the Thesis Office must be informed immediately followed by documentation from the Pro-Dean including agreement of the candidate as to the particulars of the re-scheduled examination.

The Unit is responsible for the following and should refer to these guidelines when inviting external examiners to the oral defence:

  • Contact all members to ensure their acceptance and availability to serve on the oral defence committee. This responsibility should not be delegated to the student, but may be delegated to the supervisor following approval of the committee composition by the Unit.
  • Ensure that all members of the committee are given a PDF copy of the thesis well before the oral defence. Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies will provide a PDF copy to the Pro-Dean.
  • Make local arrangements - booking the room and ensuring that any required audiovisual and videoconference equipment is available and functional
  • Refer to the Thesis Unit for any exceptional requests (e.g., videoconferencing)

Membership of the Oral Defence Committee

Members of the Doctoral oral defence committee must hold a doctorate or equivalent.  The Pro-Dean is appointed by Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies and serves as the chair of the committee, but is not a voting member. The committee is designed to ensure a majority of members have not been closely involved with the thesis.

All members must be physically present at the oral defence.

Committee Composition

The oral defence committee consists of five voting members. However, if three members are closely involved with the thesis, a seven-member committee will be required (see definitions below).

Five-Member Committee

·         Academic Unit* representative (Chair or delegate)

·         Supervisor

·         Internal Examiner

·         Internal Member (or Co-Supervisor as appropriate)

·         External Member

If three members have been closely involved with the thesis, a seven-member committee will be required.

 

Seven-Member Committee

·         Academic Unit* representative (Chair or delegate)

·         Supervisor

·         Internal Examiner

·         Internal Member

·         Internal Member (or Co-Supervisor as Appropriate)

·         External Member

·         External Member

 

Definitions

Closely involved with the thesis

If a member of the oral defence committee served on a student’s supervisory committee or had any meaningful input into the body of work represented in the thesis, the member is considered closely involved with the thesis.

Not closely involved with the thesis

If a member of the oral defence committee did not serve on a student’s supervisory committee nor had any meaningful input into the body of work represented in the thesis, the member is considered not closely involved with the thesis.

The Academic Unit* representative (Chair or delegate)

The Chair or delegate is a McGill faculty member affiliated with the student’s Unit*.   The Academic Unit* representative does not provide GPS with a written report.

Supervisor

The supervisor is a McGill faculty member affiliated with the student’s Unit*.  The co-supervisor may be from another Unit* at McGill or outside the University. The supervisor and co-supervisor, as appropriate, do not provide GPS with a written report. 

Internal Examiner

The internal examiner is a McGill faculty, or affiliated, member.   The internal examiner provides GPS with a written report. The internal examiner must not be in conflict of interest according to McGill’s policy (see University conflict of interest regulations).  An important role of the internal examiner is to ensure that the written thesis meets the standards of McGill University.

Internal Member

The internal member is a McGill faculty, or affiliated, member who may be associated with the student’s Unit*.    The internal member does not provide GPS with a written report.

External Member

The external member must not be from the Unit* and may be from outside McGill. The external member is distinct from the external examiner and does not submit a written report.


*Unit refers to a department, a division, a school, an institute, or a Faculty/University-wide program.