8.0 Program Requirements

8.1 Annual Progress Reports

The annual progress report records the current status of the degree program progress of a student, and it indicates further steps on a path to successful completion of the program.

The progress report is initiated by the student and completed by the supervisor and the graduate program coordinator. The completed and signed report must be submitted to the College of Graduate Studies by June 1st for each year of study.

The process for completion of the annual progress report is as follows:

  • The student completes their portion of the report, signs it, and submits it to their supervisor;
  • The supervisor completes their portion of the report in consultation with the student and the supervisory committee;
  • The supervisory committee, the supervisor, and the student meet to discuss the supervisor’s comments. The student is made aware of the content of the report if they cannot be present at the meeting;
  • The supervisor and student sign the report and submit it to the graduate program coordinator;
  • The graduate program coordinator determines whether the progress of the student should be rated as satisfactory or not and marks the report accordingly, adds comments, signs it, and submits the original report to the College of Graduate Studies with copies going to the student and into the student’s file in the department or program; If the graduate program coordinator determines that the academic progress of the student is unsatisfactory, they will convene a meeting with the student and the supervisor to discuss their concerns.
  • NOTE: Dates for each stage of the process are established by the graduate program coordinator. The date for submission of the completed and signed report to the College of Graduate Studies has been set by Graduate Council.

It is important for supervisors and graduate program coordinators to be forthright in their assessments of student progress. Problems may arise when supervisors and graduate program coordinators attest to satisfactory student progress when that progress is, in fact, not satisfactory. When a problem in student progress arises, it is essential for the long-term wellbeing of the student to identify such problems accurately and honestly, so that they may be expeditiously remedied.

REPORTING REQUIREMENTS

All students are required to submit an annual progress report except the following:

  • Students who will defend their thesis or complete their program before the report deadline do not need to submit an annual report for that year;
  • Students starting a program in May are not required to submit an annual progress report after the first month of study;
  • Students in the Master of Data Science program are not required to submit annual progress reports.

Students on an approved leave of absence during the summer term in which the report is due must submit their annual report by June 1st in order to be considered for the University Graduate Fellowship.

NOTE: Students who were admitted under the Exceptional Admissions process are required to submit an additional progress report after the first term of study.

All categories are adjudicated based upon the speed and timeliness of progression through degree requirements such as course work, examinations and research. The report should be based upon accomplishments that have occurred within the past year and relative to the total duration of enrolment. Students may also be adjudicated on academic achievements, research, and publications based on program expectations.

SATISFACTORY PROGRESS REQUIREMENTS

This is the term used to determine if a student is making acceptable progress toward a degree including, but not limited to, acquiring required course credits with the minimum grade point average, progress towards candidacy and thesis and/or dissertation completion.

MASTER’S STUDENTS

Master’s: Coursework – must achieve a minimum of 60% in all courses taken. However, only 6 credits of 60-68% may be counted towards a master’s program. Obtaining grades above 68% would be considered satisfactory.

DOCTORAL STUDENTS

Doctoral: Coursework – must achieve a minimum of 68% in all courses taken for credit. College of Graduate Studies policy stipulates that candidacy must be achieved within thirty-six (36) months of starting a doctoral program.

RATING OF “IMPROVEMENT REQUIRED”

This indicates that the student is progressing, but needs improvement in one or more of the following areas:

  • Timeline to completion – may occur in situations where extenuating circumstances have occurred eg) illness or family strife, research has been impeded in some way (students on an approved leave are not categorized within this rationale). May also be used when one aspect is Satisfactory and another aspect of degree completion is delayed. For example, coursework is progressing well, but thesis and/or dissertation work has been delayed.
  • Master’s coursework – attaining grades between 60-68%
  • Research – improvement or additional knowledge is required in one or more aspects of the student’s research and/or area of study
  • Publications – student may need to increase the number of publications based on program requirements
PROCEDURES FOR FILING A PROGRESS REPORT WITH A RATING OF “IMPROVEMENT REQUIRED”

The student should receive a hard copy of the report, which should include written details regarding:

  • Where improvements are needed;
  • The next steps that the student needs to take;
  • Deadlines that need to be met;
  • Scheduled meetings to discuss progress towards these goals;
  • Responsibilities of the supervisor, supervisory committee members or the graduate program coordinator in assisting the student to achieve satisfactory progress;

NOTE: A follow-up meeting should be held no later than the end of the term following the submission of the progress report rated as “improvement needed.” A summary of the results of that meeting should be sent to the graduate program coordinator and copied to the College of Graduate Studies.

RATING OF “UNSATISFACTORY PROGRESS”

A student may be rated as progressing unsatisfactorily for a number of reasons including, but not limited to, the following:

  • Master’s student who attains a course grade of less than 60%;
  • Doctoral student who attains a course grade of less than 68%;
  • Advancement to Candidacy has not been accomplished within the program timeframe or the 36 months required by the College of Graduate Studies;
  • Delay in thesis or dissertation progress;
  • Deficiencies in the student’s skills in research and/or subject area knowledge.

First and foremost, however, it provides an opportunity to offer an incentive and a road map for getting the student back on track. When a progress report with a rating of “unsatisfactory” is filed, steps must be taken to ensure due process and encourage remediation of the situation.

PROCEDURES FOR FILING A PROGRESS REPORT WITH A RATING OF “UNSATISFACTORY PROGRESS”

The following steps should be followed when filing a progress report with a rating of “unsatisfactory”:

  • The student should receive a hard copy of the report, which should include written details about why the progress report includes a rating of “unsatisfactory”;
  • The student should have an opportunity to respond in writing to the graduate program coordinator;
  • The graduate program coordinator and, in thesis or dissertation -based programs, the supervisor and supervisory committee should decide what steps are required for the student to remedy the unsatisfactory rating;
  • Within five business days of filing the progress report with the College, the graduate program coordinator should provide the student with an outline that includes the following:
    • Clear expectations of activities and milestones required of the student to achieve a rating of “satisfactory progress”;
    • A timeline during which these steps must occur;
    • Responsibilities of the supervisor, supervisory committee members or the graduate program coordinator to assist the student in achieving the milestones indicated;
    • NOTE: This outline may be presented as a Letter of Understanding or as a Progress Contract;
  • A copy of this written set of requirements should be provided to the College of Graduate Studies;
  • No more than six months after filing a progress report with a rating of “unsatisfactory”, the graduate program coordinator will file an interim progress report indicating the progress that has been achieved toward remediation, and any outstanding expectations remaining;
  • Copies of this report should be provided to the student and to the College of Graduate Studies;
  • If, after six months, the student has not followed the outline of expectations, the matter should be referred to the dean of the College of Graduate Studies, who will review the file and impose or make recommendations to the relevant constituencies for further action including, but not limited to:
    • a new outline of expectations and timeline,
    • a voluntary leave of absence,
    • a voluntary withdrawal,
    • an involuntary withdrawal from the program.

NOTE: Copies of all correspondence and meeting summaries with respect to progress reports with ratings of “unsatisfactory progress” must be sent to the College of Graduate Studies for inclusion in the student’s file.

8.2 Residency Requirements and Duration of Program

MASTER’S STUDENTS

Students in a master’s program are expected to spend the equivalent of at least one year in full-time study. Some programs may be of longer minimum duration. Students must maintain continuous registration throughout all years until graduation.

All thesis-based master’s programs at UBC Okanagan include course requirements that imply a physical presence on campus. There are, consequently, no explicit residency requirements for master’s programs. Master’s students are encouraged to focus their attention on their degree program in the proximity of other students, scholars, and scientists, thereby enabling them to acquire the “habits, attitudes, skills, and insights” (CGS, 2005) that are necessary for making the high-quality contributions to scholarship and other professional endeavours that are expected of such students.

If a degree is not awarded within a period of five years from initial registration, the student’s eligibility for the degree will be terminated and the student will be required to withdraw from the program. Under exceptional circumstances, extensions may be granted by the Dean of the College of Graduate Studies. This restriction applies equally to full- and part-time students.
Students who must interrupt their studies for health or personal reasons, including childbirth and having primary responsibility for the care of a child, should apply for a leave in writing through the Dean of the College of Graduate Studies. The period of leave is not counted toward time to completion.

DOCTORAL STUDENTS

The residency requirement for all PhD. students registered in programs on the UBC Okanagan campus is a minimum of 24 months of accumulated full-time study at the University from the point of beginning a PhD. to its conclusion. Programs have the option to increase the length of this requirement as they may desire as part of their program requirements (upon Senate approval). Full-time study, for the purpose of this requirement, may include activities such as participation in laboratory work, class-work, comprehensive examination preparation, practicums, dissertation research and writing, or other like scientific and scholarly activities that are undertaken on or in the proximate vicinity of the UBC Okanagan campus, and under the direct supervision of UBC Okanagan faculty as part of the completion of a UBC Okanagan PhD. degree program.

Waiver of the residency requirement can be granted only by the Dean of the College of Graduate Studies. Successful applications for such waivers will require a program plan that articulates how the student will satisfy the spirit of the residency requirement in the absence of full-time presence on the UBC Okanagan campus.

Students must maintain continuous registration throughout all years until graduation.
If the degree is not awarded within a period of six years from initial registration, the student’s eligibility for the degree will be terminated and the student will be required to withdraw from the program. Under exceptional circumstances, extensions may be granted by the Dean of the College of Graduate Studies.

Students who must interrupt their studies for health or personal reasons, including childbirth and having primary responsibility for the care of a child, should apply for a leave in writing through the Dean of the College of Graduate Studies. The period of leave is not counted toward time to completion.

8.3 General Requirements

MASTER’S PROGRAM REQUIREMENTS

The graduate program in which the student is registered must approve the student’s program of study and will give the student the best information on program options and requirements. In thesis-based programs, students should consult with their supervisor(s) to develop a program of study. In non-thesis programs, students may be directed either to a supervisor or to a graduate program coordinator for program information. Master’s programs may:

  • Require competence in languages other than English.
  • Require a thesis, have a thesis option, or be entirely course-based.
  • Prescribe work beyond the minimum College of Graduate Studies requirements.

The choice of these options lies with the individual graduate program and sometimes the student.

  • A minimum of 30 course credits, of which at least 24 must be numbered 500 to 699. In specific programs, minimum requirements may be higher than 30 course credits.
  • A maximum of 6 credits at the undergraduate level in courses numbered 300 to 499 may be counted toward the requirements of a master’s degree.
  • An oral thesis defence for all students in thesis-based programs.

The Academic Calendar contains further information regarding general and program-specific Master’s program requirements.

DOCTORAL PROGRAM REQUIREMENTS

The graduate program in which the student is registered must approve the student’s program of study and will give the student the best information on program options and requirements. When students begin the PhD degree program, they must consult with their supervisor(s) to develop a program of study. General doctoral program requirements include:

  • Completion of required courses, seminars, directed readings, consultations or other relevant courses.
  • Demonstrated competency in languages other than English (if applicable).
  • Completion of comprehensive examinations.
  • Advancement to candidacy within 36 months of initial registration in the program.
  • Approval of a dissertation research proposal.
  • A doctoral dissertation describing the process and results of the student’s original research.
  • A dissertation defence in a public oral examination.

Program requirements vary by program. The Academic Calendar contains further information regarding general and program-specific doctoral requirements.

It is sometimes possible for a student to change their program of study during the course of the degree program. Any changes must be approved by the supervisory committee of the student and the graduate program in which the student is enrolled.

8.4 Coursework

MASTER’S

All master’s programs require some coursework. Requirements for specific programs are listed in the Academic Calendar.

DOCTORAL

Some doctoral programs have coursework requirements and some do not. Specific program requirements are listed in the Academic Calendar.

8.5 Grades Required to Pass

MASTER’S STUDENTS

60% is the minimum passing grade for master’s students; however, only 6 course credits with grades from 60-67% may be counted towards a master’s program. For all other courses, students must obtain a minimum of 68%.

The student may repeat a course for higher standing or take an alternate course on the recommendation of the graduate program and the approval of the Dean of the College of Graduate Studies. If the graduate program does not make such a recommendation, or if the Dean of the College of Graduate Studies does not approve the recommendation, the student will be required to withdraw. A student who obtains a grade of less than 68% in a number of courses will normally be required to withdraw. The student will be informed of unsatisfactory academic progress in writing before any action regarding withdrawal is taken.

When repeating a failed required course, a student must obtain a minimum of 74%. The graduate program coordinator or the College of Graduate Studies may require higher minimum grades.

If a course is repeated, both grades will appear on the transcript. The higher grade will be used to determine promotion in a program and in any decision to admit or withdraw a student from a program. For all other purposes, averages will be calculated using both grades.

DOCTORAL STUDENTS

Students must achieve a minimum of 68% (B-) in all coursework taken for credit. Where a grade of less than 68% (B-) is obtained in a course, and on the recommendation of the graduate program and the approval of the Dean of the College of Graduate Studies, the student may repeat the course for higher standing or take an alternate course. If the graduate program coordinator does not make such a recommendation, or if the Dean of the College of Graduate Studies does not approve the recommendation, the student will be required to withdraw. A student who obtains a grade of less than 68% in more than one course will normally be required to withdraw. If progress in research is unsatisfactory, a student will be required to withdraw. The student will be informed of unsatisfactory academic progress in writing before any action regarding withdrawal is taken.

When repeating a failed required course, a student must obtain a minimum of 74%. The graduate program or the College of Graduate Studies may require higher minimum grades.

If a course is repeated, both grades will appear on the transcript. The higher grade will be used to determine promotion in a program and in any decision to admit or withdraw a student from a program. For all other purposes, averages will be calculated using both grades.

8.6 Comprehensive Examinations

Comprehensive examinations are a critical milestone in the life course of a doctoral student. They represent a juncture at which the graduate student either proves that they are fully prepared and have the ability to pursue doctoral research, or that – in the case of a failure- they may be better suited to a different career trajectory.

Comprehensive examinations are not a pro forma activity. The doctoral degree is the highest degree awarded by the University, and the comprehensive examinations constitute a key indicator of the academic ability and preparedness of the doctoral candidate. The standard of excellence required to successfully pass comprehensive examinations should reflect the quality of the PhD or other doctoral degree at UBC, a leading research university.

The purposes of the comprehensive examinations are:

  1. to ensure that a doctoral student has a comprehensive understanding of the literature in their field(s) of study, including theories and methodologies;
  2. to ensure that the student is fluent with past and current debates and anticipated future trajectories in this/these field(s);
  3. to enable the student to develop and locate their own intellectual commitments within the debates of those fields;
  4. to demonstrate scholarly breadth and depth of understanding that is wider than the specific topic of the student’s research;
  5. to prepare the student to convey their knowledge to both specialized and non-specialized audiences.

All doctoral students are required to successfully complete a comprehensive examination before being admitted to candidacy. Although the nature of the comprehensive examination may vary significantly between doctoral programs, it is the responsibility of each doctoral program to ensure that the comprehensive examination is consistent and equitable and that it meets the highest academic standards.

Given the core significance of the comprehensive examination, the College of Graduate Studies requires that each doctoral graduate program develop a written statement of comprehensive examination policy and procedures that is transparent and consistent, and that clearly articulates the purpose, timing, examination format (or choice of formats), composition of the examination committee, criteria for evaluation, and the process of adjudication, including the process that takes place in the event of an examination failure.

The UBC Okanagan campus provides two formats for completing comprehensives: a series of written comprehensive papers or comprehensive examinations. The form and specification for the candidate’s comprehensive are determined by the program.

Students who write papers for comprehensives are required to complete up to five comprehensive papers in consultation with their supervisor and supervisory committee. The comprehensives are intended to provide an assessment of the student’s mastery of a breadth of research areas related to their program of study. Comprehensive papers should be significant literature reviews or focused research projects. Set in distinctive research areas, these papers are designed to provide the student with exposure to a breadth of research theories and methods, and to provide practical experience completing projects and preparing the results for publication.

A program may require comprehensive examinations as an alternative to comprehensive papers. A comprehensive examination is normally held after completion of all required coursework and is intended to test the student’s grasp of the chosen field of study as a whole, as well as the student’s ability to communicate his or her understanding of it in English or in French. The candidate’s committee will set and judge this examination in a manner compatible with the policy of the graduate program concerned. Programs should make available to students a written statement of examination policy and procedures. The comprehensive examination is separate and distinct from the evaluation of the thesis prospectus.

Comprehensives normally should be completed by the end of the second year of their program and before commencing research for the final thesis.

PhD programs establish their own candidacy guidelines, especially guidelines for comprehensive exams, in accordance with the general guidelines established by the College of Graduate Studies and outlined in the UBC Okanagan Academic Calendar.

ASSISTANCE WITH COMPREHENSIVE EXAMS/PAPERS

All doctoral students must pass comprehensives before advancing to candidacy. At UBC’s Okanagan campus, there are two formats for completing comprehensives: a series of written comprehensive papers or comprehensive exams. Comprehensives are a key indicator of the academic ability and preparedness of doctoral students, and therefore, no individual assistance should be provided to students by the Centre for Scholarly Communication or the College of Graduate Studies. This applies to comprehensives and conditional pass revisions. The Centre for Scholarly Communication offers several high-level workshops on topics and skills that can be applied to comprehensives, but specific assistance on writing the comprehensive papers or comprehensive exams is not permitted.

ADJUDICATION OF COMPREHENSIVE EXAMS/PAPERS

In all graduate programs, the examining committee must meet in camera to evaluate the student’s performance in all aspects of the exam and to render one of the following decisions:

  • Unconditional Pass
    • No further comprehensive examination work is required of the student. The student has passed the comprehensive and may now proceed to the research and writing of a dissertation.
  • Conditional Pass
    • The student may be required to perform additional comprehensive examination tasks (for example, the student may be required to successfully complete a course or write a paper in an area in which the committee finds the student needs additional knowledge);
    • The additional examination requirements are to be provided to the student in writing by the examination committee and include expected standards of achievement and times for completion.
  • Failure
    • The examination committee must inform the student in writing of the failure and provide the student with the conditions, if any, under which a repeat or a continued examination, if any, may take place.
    • If the student is allowed to repeat the examination, the student must be informed immediately after the examination
    • Conditions for repeating the examination are to be clearly stated, including the time frame, potential dates, nature of the re-examination, and consequences of a second failure.
    • The examination committee membership normally remains unchanged for the subsequent examination

FEEDBACK

The assessment and reasons, including an identification of strengths and weaknesses in the examination, for the decision reached by the examination committee are to be documented and provided to the student in sufficient detail to allow the student to understand the decision.

Some graduate programs have developed a standard form for the committee chair to complete following the examination to help maintain a thorough and consistent record of comprehensive examinations in the program.  The College of Graduate Studies also has a Doctoral Comprehensive Examination Report form available on the website.

In the case of oral examinations, the student should be given feedback concerning the presentation, logic flow, and clarity of their answers to questions.

ACADEMIC MISCONDUCT

UBC Policy 85 concerning scholarly integrity applies to all comprehensive examination work. Plagiarism and fabrication or falsification of research data will be considered academic misconduct.

If academic misconduct is suspected, including plagiarism or fabrication/ falsification of data, the dean of the College of Graduate Studies must be informed immediately. Concerns should be brought directly to the dean of the College of Graduate Studies, without consultation with others. The examination must be suspended until such time as the dean or his/her designate determines whether academic misconduct has occurred and what penalties will be applied. Depending on the dean or designee’s determination, the examination may proceed as scheduled, be rescheduled, or be cancelled.

8.7 Candidacy

The basic requirements for a doctoral student to be admitted to candidacy are:

  • All required coursework is successfully completed.
  • The comprehensive examination(s) is/have been passed.
  • The dissertation proposal has been approved by the supervisory committee.

Students are normally expected to complete their comprehensive(s) within twenty-four (24) months from the date of initial registration. Students who are not admitted to candidacy within 36 months from the date of their initial registration must withdraw from their program. In exceptional circumstances, the dean of the College of Graduate Studies may grant an extension to this deadline.

Additional requirements for admission to candidacy could include such conditions as demonstration of competency in a foreign language. If such additional criteria are added, the graduate program must inform the College of Graduate Studies and the student(s) of these criteria in writing.

As soon as a student has satisfied all requirements for candidacy, the graduate program must recommend to the College of Graduate Studies that the student be admitted to candidacy. Candidacy status is listed on the student’s academic record along with the date candidacy was achieved.

8.8 Master’s Thesis

Many master’s programs require a thesis. Some programs do not require a thesis, and others have a thesis option. For the specific requirements and options available in any given program, please refer to the Academic Calendar.
In programs requiring a thesis, the thesis must be presented as described in the Thesis and Dissertation Preparation section of the College of Graduate Studies website.

In programs in the creative and performing arts, a thesis may contain creative work or series of works (e.g., group of paintings, novel or short story collection, etc.) or a performance. Programs may, at their discretion, require additional documentation that supports the work as part of the fulfillment of degree requirements in the program.

QUALITY OF THESIS

The thesis must demonstrate that the candidate is acquainted with the published literature in the subject(s) of the thesis, that the candidate has used an appropriate research methodology, and that the candidate has applied appropriate levels of critical analysis.

While it is expected that a portion of the thesis could be the basis for a publication, the supervisor and examiners should recognize that even an excellent thesis may not be perfect in all respects. “Perfection” is not a prerequisite for acceptance of the thesis as a “partial fulfillment of the requirements for a degree.” The quality of the thesis must meet UBC standards of excellence.

THESIS FORM AND STYLE

  • The general form and style of the thesis may vary slightly, depending on the program, but a thesis must be a cohesive document.
  • The thesis must conform to specific UBC requirements and regulations.
  • Students may hire an editor to copy-edit their thesis. Students and supervisors should discuss whether or not it is appropriate to hire an editor, and if yes, to agree upon the specific editing tasks. Under no circumstance may a supervisor compel a student to hire an editor. The Editors’ Association of Canada (EAC)’s (2006) Guidelines for Editing Theses is a helpful source on the ethical editing of theses/dissertations.
  • The thesis must conform to all relevant legislation and policies that govern copyright (Policy 85,Policy 86,Policy 87). (Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies Intellectual Property Guide)

PUBLIC RELEASE OF THESES

RESEARCH AND ETHICS REQUIREMENTS

All research involving human participants, animals or biohazards must first be reviewed by and receive approval from the appropriate Research Ethics Board before the research can commence. Failure to obtain the appropriate ethics approvals prior to conducting research may result in an outcome of Fail on the thesis examination.

THESIS ORAL EXAMINATION

The purpose of the Master’s Thesis Oral Examination is for students to independently defend their thesis. It serves as confirmation of the student’s knowledge of the research topic within the context of their field(s) of study. To safeguard and promote the quality of a UBC graduate education, all students in thesis-based master’s programs must successfully defend their theses in an oral examination before the degree can be granted.

The Thesis Oral Examination is an examination approved by the College of Graduate Studies. Prior to the final defence, candidates must have fulfilled all coursework, examination, and language requirements of the degree program. It is the responsibility of the candidate’s graduate program to ensure that all of these requirements have been met, and that the candidate’s language proficiency is sufficient for the examination to be conducted with full communication between the committee and the candidate. The Thesis Oral Examination is a public event at UBC Okanagan, and as such will be conducted in English.

NOTE:  Theses must be written in English; however, Interdisciplinary Studies (IGS) students who are registered in the Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies may be approved to write the thesis in French.

The following regulations apply to theses written in French:

  • The oral examination will be conducted in French.
  • The Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies must ensure the requisite supervisory committee members, with the necessary language background and familiarity with the field of French literature, are available to supervise the thesis. It is the responsibility of the Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies to ensure there are sufficient faculty members, with no conflict of interest, to participate on supervisory committees and as University Examiner and Neutral Chair.
  • The small number of faculty at UBCO who have language fluency in French may mean University Examiners could come from UBCV.
  • The thesis will be submitted to the College of Graduate Studies with a Title Page, Abstract, Preface, and Table of Contents translated into English.
INITIATING THE MASTER’S THESIS ORAL EXAMINATION

For thesis-based programs, the thesis oral examination process is initiated once the student’s supervisor and supervisory committee have deemed the thesis ready to proceed to defence. It is the responsibility of the supervisor to recommend all examining committee members, including the university examiner, to the graduate program coordinator for approval and to conform to the timelines and processes established by the College of Graduate Studies. Under no circumstances are students permitted to make arrangements for an examination.

Graduate program coordinators are responsible for approving the forms needed to initiate the thesis oral examination process. The signature of the graduate program coordinator verifies that the supervisory committee has adhered to the criteria and policies set out by the College of Graduate Studies for proceeding to the thesis defence. The graduate program coordinator is also responsible for approving all final submission forms if the examination is successful.

COMPOSITION OF MASTER’S THESIS ORAL EXAMINATION COMMITTEE

The Master’s Thesis Oral Examination committee should consist of:

  1. The supervisor of the candidate;
  2. All supervisory committee members;
  3. The university examiner, who is external to the student’s home department or program in which the student is registered.

The Examination Committee, which is approved by the dean of the College of Graduate Studies, is convened to make a recommendation of the final outcome of the examination to the dean of the College of Graduate Studies. No changes in the composition of the Examination Committee may take place without prior approval of the associate dean or dean of the College of Graduate Studies.

The examination committee must be seen as impartial and conflicts of interest must be avoided and disclosed.

CRITERIA FOR SELECTION OF THE NEUTRAL CHAIR

The examination is chaired by a neutral member of the academic staff who is familiar with the examination policies and procedures of the College of Graduate Studies. The Neutral Chair is not a member of the Examination Committee, does not question the student and may not vote.

The Neutral Chair must not:

  1. Have been closely associated with the student (now or in the past) as a colleague, supervisor, or member of the Supervisory Committee,
  2. Be an academic collaborator with the supervisor.

The Neutral Chair is required to be external to the student’s graduate department; however, either the graduate program coordinator or the department head could serve as Neutral Chair. The responsibility of the Neutral Chair is to ensure that the examination is conducted fairly and in accordance with College of Graduate Studies procedures.

CRITERIA FOR SELECTION OF THE UNIVERSITY EXAMINER

The University Examiner normally must:

  1. Have a Board appointment outside the student’s department or graduate program but within the professorial ranks (for examiner’s from UBC).
  2. Have expertise in the student’s research area or a closely related field.
  3. Have a well-established research reputation, expertise in the area of the student’s research, and experience in evaluating theses at a graduate level (for examiner’s external to UBC Okanagan and UBC Vancouver).
    1. The supervisor must submit a Request for Approval of Proposed External Examiner (which includes the proposed University Examiner’s CV) to the dean of CoGS at least six weeks prior to the proposed examination date.
  4. Not have collaborated with the supervisor in the past five years prior to the defence.
  5. Not be a close personal friend or relative of the supervisor.
  6. Not be related to the student, nor have worked with the student.
  7. Not have an affiliation with the department/division/graduate program of either the student or supervisor.

If the proposed University Examiner does not meet one or more of the above criteria, a memo explaining the circumstances should accompany the Notice of Thesis Oral Examination.

SCHEDULING THE MASTER’S THESIS ORAL EXAMINATION

The Master’s Thesis Oral Examination process is initiated once the supervisor and the supervisory committee of the student have deemed the thesis of the student to be ready to proceed to defence.

It is the responsibility of the supervisor to complete the Notice of Master’s Thesis Oral Examination form, indicating the title of the thesis, the three potential dates and times of the examination, the names of the recommended examiners, including the university examiner, and confirming that the candidate has completed all program requirements. The form must be endorsed by the graduate program coordinator, and submitted to the College of Graduate Studies office at least four weeks prior to the proposed date of the examination in order to schedule the room. The dean of the College of Graduate Studies has final approval of the examination committee composition.

The Master’s Thesis Oral Examination cannot be scheduled until the supervisor has reviewed the student’s research and the entire draft of the thesis document. The supervisor and supervisory committee members must review the student’s research and the draft thesis document. The signature of the supervisor on the Notice of Master’s Thesis Oral Examination form acknowledges that the thesis meets the minimum standard.

NOTE: Indication that the thesis is ready to defend does not commit a member of the supervisory committee to vote “pass” on the thesis at the final oral examination.

A student who has successfully completed all College of Graduate Studies program requirements has the right to submit and defend their thesis, even if doing so may be contrary to the advice of the supervisor and/or supervisory committee, where applicable under exceptional circumstances.

In special circumstances such as sudden illness or weather factors, the dean of the College of Graduate Studies may approve the rescheduling of an oral examination. In addition, a scheduled oral examination may be cancelled under exceptional circumstances with the approval of the dean of the College of Graduate Studies.

THESIS DEFENCE ANNOUNCEMENT

Following approval of the Master’s Thesis Oral Examination by the College of Graduate Studies, the College posts the Thesis Defence Announcement prior to the examination; this includes the student’s name, degree sought, thesis title, abstract, date, time and location of the examination.

EXAMINATION TELECONFERENCE-VIDEOCONFERENCE

Normally, if they are unable to be at the examination in person, the university examiner is allowed to participate in the exam by teleconference or videoconference; if an additional examiner wishes to teleconference/videoconference for the same examination, approval of the dean of the College of Graduate Studies is required. However, it is better if all examiners are able to attend the defence in person and the supervisor must be present in person at the examination. Also, teleconferencing and videoconferencing cannot both be used for the same examination, since the examiners will be unable to hear each other.

Telephone backup must be available for all videoconferencing examinations. In extraordinary circumstances and with approval of the dean of the College of Graduate Studies, a student may be given permission to attend remotely and a proctor may be required by the College of Graduate Studies.

MASTER’S THESIS ORAL EXAMINATION PROCESS
BEFORE THE EXAMINATION

The supervisor must ensure that the final electronic copy of the thesis is sent to the College of Graduate Studies and all examiners at least four to six (4-6) weeks prior to the proposed examination date.

The thesis submitted for final examination must be in all respects a final, complete copy and not a draft. Once the thesis has been distributed to the College of Graduate Studies and the examiners, the examination has formally begun, and there should be no discussion of the substance or quality of the thesis among examiners or between examiners and the candidate (or anyone else). The student may not submit revisions while the examination is in progress.

SUSPECTED ACADEMIC MISCONDUCT IN THE THESIS

If an examiner suspects that academic misconduct, including plagiarism or fabrication/falsification of data, has occurred in the thesis, he/she must notify the dean of the College of Graduate Studies immediately. (Please note, this should not entail a conversation with the supervisor or with any others, but should come directly to the dean.)

The examination will then be suspended until such time as the dean or his/her designate determines whether academic misconduct has occurred and what penalties will be applied. Depending on the dean or designee’s determination, the examination may proceed as scheduled, be rescheduled, or be cancelled.
If an examiner alleges academic misconduct during the examination or in the post-examination discussion, the neutral chair must suspend the examination or discussion and contact the College of Graduate Studies immediately.

THE MASTER’S STUDENT ORAL PRESENTATION

The student may present a ten to thirty (10-30) minute opening summary of the thesis, introducing the research and summarizing its significance.

The student may speak from notes, and may use audio-visual equipment, but must not read the summary.

The neutral chair will stop the presentation if it exceeds 30 minutes. The presentation is not included in the two-hour examination time.

LENGTH OF THE ORAL EXAMINATION

The oral examination should not exceed two hours. This two hours is in addition to the thirty minutes allowed for the opening summary.

This time limit does not include the opening summary presentation nor the in-camera deliberation time of the examination committee. Examination committee members and the neutral chair should, therefore, reserve at least three hours for the summary presentation, examination, and deliberation periods.

This important, formal event is core to the academic mission of the university and should be given priority.

ATTENDANCE AT THE EXAMINATION

The Master’s Thesis Oral Examination is a formal examination, which should be accorded due professional respect. Examination committee members should be present ten minutes prior to the start of the examination.

If the neutral chair is unable to reach a missing committee member, and the committee member has failed to appear for the appointed start of the examination, the neutral chair will contact the College of Graduate Studies immediately.

Normally, the College of Graduate Studies will cancel the examination if the committee member cannot be reached -and be present- within 30 minutes after the scheduled beginning of the examination.

The examination cannot start without the examination committee member. If the examination committee member arrives within the first 30 minutes, the neutral chair must poll other examiners to determine if they are ALL able to stay for at least three hours commencing from that moment. If this is the case, the neutral chair can start the exam.

If any examiner is unable to remain for that time period, the College of Graduate Studies must be informed immediately and the examination may be cancelled and rescheduled.

QUESTIONS TO THE CANDIDATE

During the formal question period, only examination committee members, as identified on the Notice of Master’s Thesis Oral Examination form, are allowed to question the candidate. Examiners, either in person or via teleconference, must be present during the entire questioning period. All examiners must be given the opportunity to question the student.

In a master’s exam, the formal question period should begin with the university examiner, and proceed to other examination committee members, followed by the supervisor and co-supervisor (if applicable). Normally, the question period will consist of two to three rounds, but should proceed (within the allowable time frame) until examiners have no further questions. During the question period, the supervisor should be taking notes about concerns and areas for revision. The neutral chair does not question the student.

Questions to the candidate should be relevant to the subject matter of the thesis, and should be clearly and succinctly phrased. The student should be given reasonable time to answer. If the candidate has understood a question, but cannot answer, the examiner should pass to another question and not attempt to extract an answer by prolonged interrogation.

The neutral chair should guard against any attempt by the supervisor to help the student in any way, or any tendency of examiners to interact with each other instead of concentrating on the examination of the candidate. Examiners’ editorial comments on the thesis should not be discussed at the oral examination, but should be directed to the supervisor following the exam.

Normally, final thesis oral examinations are open to the public. If the oral examination is still within the limit of two hours, and if the examination committee does not have any further questions for the student, the neutral chair may invite questions from audience attendees.

Any procedural irregularities must be reported to the dean of the College of Graduate Studies on the Neutral Chair’s Report within two business days.

ADJUDICATION OF THE ORAL EXAMINATION OF THE THESIS

At the end of the thesis oral examination, the neutral chair asks the candidate and the audience members to leave the examination room. Only the neutral chair, the members of the examination committee, and the dean of the College of Graduate Studies and/or the dean’s designate should remain in the room.

Before any discussion of the student’s performance begins, the neutral chair passes out ballots to each examination committee member and then reads the full list of possible recommendations to the members. Each examiner must then identify by secret ballot (which is non-binding), whether s/he favours recommending a pass or fail on each of the thesis and the oral defence. The ballots are handed back to the neutral chair. This procedure provides the committee with a frame of opinion upon which a full discussion of the student’s performance may then be based.

If an examiner is tele-video/conferencing in to the examination, the neutral chair should:

  • collect the secret ballots from those present;
  • ask those examiners to briefly leave the room;
  • behind a closed door, record the secret ballot of the absent examiner;
  • invite the examiners back into the room for the official examiners’ discussion.
OFFICIAL EXAMINERS’ DISCUSSION

The neutral chair reads off the ballot results and records these on the Neutral Chair’s Report. The neutral chair then facilitates a full post-examination discussion, starting with the university examiner, other examiners, and lastly the supervisor. The dean of the College of Graduate Studies or their delegate is allowed to participate, although they have no vote. At the conclusion of the discussion, the neutral chair may request up to two additional rounds of open voting to try to reach a consensus. At the end of the discussion, each examiner must write and initial their final recommendation on the Final Thesis Oral Examination – Neutral Chair’s Report.

RECOMMENDATION OF THE EXAMINATION COMMITTEE

Thesis oral examinations are designed to establish a level of achievement consistent with the standards set out by the College of Graduate Studies. In each case, the committee recommendation must be reported to the dean of the College of Graduate Studies on the official Final Master’s Thesis Oral Examination – Neutral Chair’s Report within two business days of the completion of the examination. Unanimous decisions are required for both the thesis and the oral defence. Immediately following the conclusion of the examination, the neutral chair must report the outcome to the student.

MASTER’S THESIS EXAMINATION OUTCOMES
UNANIMOUS PASS ON THESIS

If the unanimous final decision is that the thesis is a pass, the committee must choose whether the thesis is accepted with:

  1. No Revisions. The student is expected to submit their thesis within three working days from the date of the examination.
  2. Minor Revisions: These may be stylistic changes and/or minor additions or clarification; the supervisor withholds signature on Master’s Thesis Approval and Program Completion form until all revisions are made. The student has two weeks from the date of the examination to submit revisions.
  3. Major Revisions: The thesis requires substantive changes such as rewriting a chapter, reinterpretation of data, or additional minor research in order to attain acceptable standards of coherence and integrity in argument and presentation. The supervisor and at least one other member of the examination committee withhold signatures on the Master’s Thesis Approval and Program Completion form until satisfied with the revisions. Major revisions normally must be completed and submitted to the College of Graduate Studies within six months from the date of the examination.
FAILED THESIS

If the examining committee unanimously determines that the underlying research of the thesis is not acceptable, then the examination committee recommends a Fail on the thesis to the dean of the College of Graduate Studies. The final decision will be at the discretion of the dean of Graduate Studies. Should the dean of the College of Graduate Studies uphold the recommendation of ‘fail’, the candidate will have a second opportunity to present and defend an acceptable thesis. No judgment should be made on the oral defence, because the new thesis will need to be defended.

In the case of a failed thesis, only one re-submission will be allowed and a new defence will be required. The second oral defence will be scheduled and normally heard by the original examination committee no sooner than six (6) months and no later than twelve (12) months from the first examination date. Any necessary revisions to the thesis must be completed by the candidate and approved by the committee before the second oral examination is scheduled.

FAILURE TO REACH A UNANIMOUS DECISION

If the examiners are unable to achieve unanimity regarding the thesis and/or the oral examination, there must be no further discussion regarding that component of the examination. The neutral chair must select “Failure to Reach Unanimous Decision” on the Final Master’s Thesis Oral Examination-Neutral Chair’s Report and immediately inform the College of Graduate Studies of “lack of unanimity”.

In the case of a ‘hung jury,” the neutral chair informs the student of the result and asks all committee members to submit a confidential report, called the Final Oral Examination Committee Member Report to the dean of the College of Graduate Studies, documenting the exam and their rationale for their recommendation within five business days.

When the neutral chair reports lack of unanimity, the dean of the College of Graduate Studies will examine the reports submitted by the neutral chair and the examination committee members, and then may consult with anyone involved in the post-examination deliberation and the student before rendering a final decision.

DECISION ON THE OUTCOME OF THE ORAL DEFENCE

If the examining committee chooses any of the above three options, they must also select the outcome of the oral examination:

  1. Unanimous Pass
  2. Fail

If the examining committee unanimously determines that the oral thesis examination is not acceptable, it recommends a failed oral defence to the dean of the College of Graduate Studies. The final decision will be at the discretion of the dean of the College of Graduate Studies. Should the dean of the College of Graduate Studies uphold the recommendation of ‘fail’, the candidate will be allowed a second, final attempt to present an acceptable oral defence of the thesis within three months of the first examination.

REPORTS FROM THE EXAMINATION COMMITTEE

For any of (i) a unanimous decision to fail the thesis (ii) a unanimous decision to fail the oral or (iii) a lack of unanimity, the following reports must be submitted to the College of Graduate Studies within the specified periods:

  1. The neutral chair must submit a written report to the dean of the College of Graduate Studies, describing the examination procedures within 2 business days.
  2. Each examination committee member must provide a confidential written Final Oral Examination-Committee Member Report to the dean of the College of Graduate Studies explaining the reasons for their recommendation within 5 business days.
SECOND MASTER’S THESIS ORAL EXAMINATION

The second examination must be conducted under the procedures described in the aforementioned sections. A student who fails any component (thesis or oral) of the second examination will be required to withdraw.

FINAL THESIS SUBMISSION

Students submit their final thesis to the College of Graduate Studies once the supervisor approves the final thesis, which contains the revisions requested at the oral examination.

Please refer to the Final Submission Instructions on the website for more information.

CIRCLE

is the digital repository of the University of British Columbia for research and teaching materials created by the UBC community and its partners. Materials in cIRcle are openly accessible to anyone on the web, and will be preserved for future generations. Students are required to upload the final copy of their thesis in cIRcle.

REQUEST TO WITHHOLD THESIS FROM THE PUBLIC DOMAIN

If there is strong justification, the dean of the College of Graduate Studies may approve a request to withhold the thesis from the public domain for a limited period of time (typically 12 months, extendable to a maximum of 24 months in special circumstances).

The following are examples of when a student may request to withhold a thesis:

  • time is required for completion and submission of a significant manuscript or patent application for a device or idea that may emerge from the thesis research;
  • the thesis describes something of considerable monetary potential which could, if the student were given an opportunity to develop it first, benefit the student or the University;
  • the thesis deals with a potentially dangerous product or process or potential cure for a disease for which the researchers need more time for testing before public release of the information.

The Request for Approval to Withhold a Dissertation/Thesis from the Public Domain form must be made when the thesis is first submitted to the College of Graduate Studies following the thesis defence.

8.9 Doctoral Dissertation

All doctoral candidates are required to complete a dissertation.

The dissertation must be presented as described in the Thesis and Dissertation Preparation section of the College of Graduate Studies website.

SCOPE OF DISSERTATION

A student’s doctoral dissertation is a substantial piece of scholarly work that contains a significant contribution of new knowledge to the field of study. It presents the results and an analysis of the student’s original research, and should be significant enough to be publishable in the refereed literature.

The dissertation must have a coherent structure that provides a complete and systematic account of the student’s scholarly work. It may incorporate work from submitted, accepted, or published journal articles, which may or may not have co-authors. It may also include other scholarly artifacts such as creative writing, film and other audio, visual, and graphic representations, and application-oriented documents such as policy briefs, curricula, business plans, computer and web tools, pages, and applications, etc., so long as they are also described and analyzed in a scholarly context.

The dissertation should reflect the student’s ability to do the following:

  • Critically analyze the relevant literature
  • Use and describe in detail the appropriate methodology for the scholarly work undertaken
  • Conduct research and present findings that result in a significant and original contribution to knowledge
  • Verify knowledge claims and sources meticulously
  • Locate the work of the dissertation and its findings within the broader field or discipline
  • Communicate the scholarly work and analysis effectively

In most fields, a doctoral dissertation will range from 60,000 to 80,000 words in length, exclusive of footnotes, bibliography, and appendices. Scholarly artifacts will normally reduce the expected length of the dissertation. As a courtesy to examiners, if the dissertation will be over 100,000 words long the student must notify the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies when the Appointment of External Examiner for Doctoral Dissertation form is submitted.

See also The Instructions for the Preparation of the External Examiner’s Report.

DISSERTATION FORM AND STYLE

  • The general form and style of the dissertation may vary slightly, depending on the program, but a dissertation must be a cohesive document.
  • The dissertation must conform to specific UBC formatting requirements and regulations.
  • Students may hire an editor to copy-edit their dissertation. Students and supervisors should discuss whether or not it is appropriate to hire an editor, and, if yes, agree upon the specific editing tasks. Under no circumstance may can a supervisor compel a student to hire an editor.  The Editors’ Association of Canada (EAC)’s (2006)Guidelines for Editing Theses is a helpful source on the ethical editing of theses/dissertations.
  • The dissertation must conform to all relevant legislation and policies that govern copyright (Policy 85,Policy 86, Policy 87). (Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies Intellectual Property Guide).

PUBLIC RELEASE OF DISSERTATIONS

Dissertations are normally made available for public access.

Under certain circumstances, the dean of the College of Graduate Studies may approve a Request for Approval to Withhold a Dissertation/Thesis from the Public Domain.

RESEARCH AND ETHICS REQUIREMENTS

All research involving human participants, animals or biohazards must first be reviewed by and receive approval from the appropriate Research Ethics Board before the research can commence. Failure to obtain the appropriate ethics approvals prior to conducting research may result in an outcome of Fail on the dissertation examination.

DISSERTATION ORAL EXAMINATION

The purpose of the Doctoral Dissertation Oral Examination is for the student to independently defend the dissertation. It is also intended to serve as confirmation of the student’s knowledge of the research topic within the context of their field(s) of study. In order to safeguard and promote the quality of the graduate degree, all PhD students must pass a final dissertation oral examination before the degree can be granted.

The Doctoral Dissertation Oral Examination is an examination approved by the College of Graduate Studies. Prior to the final exam, candidates must have fulfilled all coursework, examination and language requirements of the degree program. It is the responsibility of the candidate’s graduate program to ensure that all of these requirements have been met, and that the candidate’s English language proficiency is sufficient for the examination to be conducted with full communication between the committee and the candidate. The Doctoral Dissertation Oral Examination is a public event at UBC Okanagan, and as such will be conducted in English.

The final oral examination is open to all members of the University and to the public.

Note: Dissertations must be written in English; however, Interdisciplinary Studies (IGS) students who are registered in the Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies may be approved to write the dissertation in French.

The following regulations apply to dissertations written in French:

  • The oral examination will be conducted in French.
  • The Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies must ensure the requisite supervisory committee members, with the necessary language background and familiarity with the field of French literature, are available to supervise the thesis. It is the responsibility of the Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies to ensure there are sufficient faculty members, with no conflict of interest, to participate on supervisory committees and as University Examiner and Neutral Chair.
  • The small number of faculty at UBCO who have language fluency in French may mean University Examiners could come from UBCV.
  • The dissertation will be submitted to the College of Graduate Studies with a Title Page, Abstract, Preface, and Table of Contents translated into English.
INITIATING THE DISSERTATION ORAL EXAMINATION

The Doctoral Dissertation Oral examination process is initiated once the student has been deemed, by both their supervisor and their supervisory committee, as ready to proceed to defence. The supervisor must have reviewed the student’s research and the entire draft of the dissertation and obtained written agreement from the members of the supervisory committee that the dissertation is ready to move to oral examination. The signature of the supervisor on the Notice of Doctoral Dissertation Oral Examination acknowledges that the dissertation meets the minimum standard.

NOTE: Indication that the dissertation is ready to defend does not commit a member of the supervisory committee to vote “pass” on the dissertation at the final oral examination.

The Supervisor is responsible for the following steps in the oral examination process once s/he has determined that the dissertation meets the minimum standard:

  • Ensures that all members of the supervisory committee have reviewed the latest draft of the dissertation, and provided written consents to the supervisor to proceed to oral examination (email is acceptable).
  • Contacts a potential External Examiner to determine their willingness to serve as External Examiner and their availability for the proposed examination dates.
  • Submits a Request for Approval of Proposed External Examiner to the Dean of the College of Graduate Studies at least ten (10) weeks prior to the proposed examination date.

It is the responsibility of the supervisor to recommend all examining committee members, including the external examiner and university examiner, to the graduate program coordinator, for approval.  It is also the responsibility of the supervisor to conform to the timelines and processes established by the College of Graduate Studies.  Under no circumstances are students permitted to make arrangements for their examination.

The graduate program coordinator makes a final recommendation to the dean of the College of Graduate Studies regarding the composition of the examining committee. The dean of the College of Graduate Studies has final approval authority over the examination committee composition. The examination committee is convened to make a recommendation on the final outcome of the examination to the dean of the College of Graduate Studies.

COMPOSITION OF DISSERTATION ORAL EXAMINATION COMMITTEE

The examination committee consists of:

  • The Supervisor;
  • All members of the Supervisory Committee;
  • The University Examiner, who is external to the graduate program
  • The External Examiner, who is external to the university

All doctoral dissertations must be assessed by an examiner external to the University and by internal examiners, including a university examiner who is not directly associated with the graduate program in which the candidate is registered.

The examining committee assesses the performance of the candidate in the written dissertation and in the oral examination and makes a recommendation to the dean of the College of Graduate Studies.

The examination committee must be seen as impartial and conflicts of interest must be avoided and disclosed.

Once the dean of the College of Graduate Studies has approved the composition of an examination committee, no changes in that composition may take place without prior approval of the dean of the College of Graduate Studies.

CRITERIA FOR SELECTION OF THE NEUTRAL CHAIR

The examination is chaired by a neutral member of the academic staff who is familiar with the examination policies and procedures of the College of Graduate Studies. The Neutral Chair is not a member of the Examination Committee, does not question the student and may not vote. 

The Neutral Chair must:

  • not have been closely associated with the student (now or in the past) as a colleague, supervisor, member of the supervisory committee,
  • not have been an academic collaborator with the supervisor.

Normally, the Neutral Chair is external to the student’s graduate program but either the graduate program coordinator or the department head could serve as Neutral Chair.

The responsibility of the Neutral Chair is to ensure that the examination is conducted in a fair way and according to College of Graduate Studies procedures.

CRITERIA FOR SELECTION OF THE UNIVERSITY EXAMINER

The University Examiner normally must:

  1. Have a Board appointment outside the student’s department or graduate program, but within the professorial ranks (for examiner’s from UBC).
  2. Have expertise in the student’s research area or a closely related field.
  3. Have a well-established research reputation, expertise in the area of the student’s research, and experience in evaluating dissertations at a graduate level (for examiner’s external to UBC Okanagan and UBC Vancouver).
  4. Not have collaborated with the supervisor in the five years prior to the oral examination.
  5. Not be a close personal friend or relative of the supervisor.
  6. Not be related to the student, nor have worked with the student.
  7. Not have an affiliation with the department/division/graduate program of either the student or supervisor.
CRITERIA FOR SELECTION OF THE EXTERNAL EXAMINER

An External Examiner normally must:

  1. Have an established reputation in the area of the dissertation research and be able to judge whether a dissertation is acceptable at a university comparable to UBC.
  2. Have had previous experience with the supervision and examination of doctoral students.
  3. Hold a PhD or a degree of the same level as that which the student is pursuing.
  4. Be either a Full or Associate Professor at a university, or have comparable expertise if not at a university.
  5. If not presently associated with a university, have some previous university affiliation.
  6. Not be a close personal friend of the supervisor; not have collaborated with the supervisor in the five years prior to the oral examination; not be related to, nor have worked with, the candidate.
  7. Not have acted as an External Examiner in the candidate’s graduate program, or for a student with the same supervisor, for a minimum period of three years.

The External Examiner is approved by the Dean of the College of Graduate Studies in consultation with the graduate program in which the degree candidate is registered.

SCHEDULING THE ORAL EXAMINATION

Upon receiving approval from the dean of the College of Graduate Studies for the External Examiner, the supervisor should proceed with the following:

  • Book the examination room & video conferencing (if needed);
  • Fill in the Notice of Doctoral Dissertation Oral Examination form, ensure that the relevant graduate program coordinator has signed it, and submit it to the College of Graduate Studies no later than six (6) weeks prior to the date of the examination;
  • Fill in the Doctoral Dissertation Oral Examination Announcement Form, including date, time and location of the examination;
  • Ensure that the final draft of the dissertation is sent to all committee members and to the College of Graduate Studies.

Final oral examinations can be scheduled no sooner than eight weeks after submission of the approved dissertation to the College of Graduate Studies.

Where applicable, under exceptional circumstances, a doctoral student who has successfully completed all College of Graduate Studies program requirements has the right to submit and defend their dissertation, even if doing so may be contrary to the advice of the supervisor and/or supervisory committee.

In special circumstances such as sudden illness or weather factors, the dean of Graduate Studies may approve the rescheduling of an oral examination. In addition, a scheduled oral examination may be cancelled under exceptional circumstances with the approval of the dean of Graduate Studies.

DOCTORAL DISSERTATION EXAMINATION ANNOUNCEMENT

Following approval of the Doctoral Dissertation Oral Examination by the College of Graduate Studies, the College posts the Doctoral Dissertation Examination Announcement prior to the examination; this includes the student’s name, degree sought, thesis title, abstract, date, time and location of the examination.

EXAMINATION TELECONFERENCE-VIDEOCONFERENCE

Normally, if they are unable to be at the examination in person, the external examiner is allowed to participate in the exam by teleconference or videoconference; if an additional examiner wishes to teleconference/videoconference for the same examination, approval of the dean of the College of Graduate Studies is required. However, it is better if all examiners are able to attend the exam in person and the supervisor must be present in person at the examination. Also, teleconferencing and videoconferencing cannot both be used for the same examination, since the examiners will be unable to hear each other.

Telephone backup must be available for all videoconferencing examinations. In extraordinary circumstances and with approval of the dean of the College of Graduate Studies, a student may be given permission to attend remotely and a proctor may be required by the College of Graduate Studies.

DOCTORAL DISSERTATION EXAMINATION PROCESS
BEFORE THE EXAMINATION

The Supervisor must ensure that the electronic copy of the dissertation is sent to the College of Graduate Studies and all examiners at least six (6) weeks prior to the proposed examination date.

The dissertation submitted for final examination must be in all respects a final, complete copy and not a draft. Once the dissertation has been distributed, the examination has formally begun, and there should be no discussion of the substance or quality of the dissertation among examiners or between examiners and the candidate (or anyone else).

The College of Graduate Studies must receive the written report from the External Examiner before the final examination can take place.

SUSPECTED ACADEMIC MISCONDUCT IN THE DISSERTATION

If an examiner suspects that academic misconduct, including plagiarism or fabrication/falsification of data, has occurred in the dissertation, he/she must notify the dean of the College of Graduate Studies immediately. (Please note, this should not entail a conversation with the supervisor or with any others, but should come directly to the dean.)

The examination will then be suspended until such time as the dean or his/her designate determines whether academic misconduct has occurred and what penalties will be applied. Depending on the dean/designate’s determination, the examination may proceed as scheduled, be rescheduled, or be cancelled.

If an examiner alleges academic misconduct during the examination or in the post-examination discussion, the neutral chair must suspend the examination or discussion and contact the College of Graduate Studies immediately.

THE DOCTORAL STUDENT’S ORAL PRESENTATION

The student may present a 10-30 minute opening summary of the dissertation, introducing the research and summarizing its significance. The candidate may speak from notes, and may use audio-visual equipment, but must not read the synopsis.

The neutral chair will stop the presentation if it exceeds 30 minutes. The presentation is outside of the two-hour examination time.

LENGTH OF THE EXAMINATION

The oral examination should not exceed two hours. This two hours is in addition to the thirty minutes allowed for the opening summary.

This time limit does not include the opening summary presentation nor the deliberation time of the examination committee. Examination committee members and the neutral chair should, therefore, reserve at least three hours for the summary presentation, examination, and deliberation periods.

This important, formal event is core to the academic mission of the university and should be given priority.

ATTENDANCE AT THE EXAMINATION

The doctoral oral defence is a formal examination, which should be accorded due professional respect. Examination committee members should be present ten minutes prior to the start of the examination.

If the neutral chair is unable to reach a missing committee member, and the committee member has failed to appear for the appointed start of the examination, the neutral chair will contact the College of Graduate Studies immediately.

Normally, the College of Graduate Studies will cancel the examination if the committee member cannot be reached -and be present- within 30 minutes after the scheduled beginning of the examination.

The examination cannot start without the examination committee member. If the examination committee member arrives within the first 30 minutes, the neutral chair must poll other examiners to determine if they are ALL able to stay for at least three hours commencing from that moment. If this is the case, the Neutral Chair can start the exam.

If any examiner is unable to remain for that time period, the College of Graduate Studies must be informed immediately and the examination may be cancelled and rescheduled.

QUESTIONS TO THE CANDIDATE

During the formal question period, only examination committee members, as identified on the Notice of Doctoral Dissertation Oral Examination form, are allowed to question the candidate.

In a doctoral exam, the formal question period should begin with the external examiner, university examiner, other examination committee members, followed by the supervisor and co-supervisor, if applicable. Normally, the question period may consist of two to three rounds but should proceed (within the allowable time frame) until examiners have no further questions. During question period, the supervisor should be taking notes about concerns and areas for revision. The neutral chair does not question the student.

Questions to the candidate should be relevant to the subject matter of the dissertation, and should be clearly and succinctly phrased. The student should be given reasonable time to answer. If the student has understood the question but cannot answer, the examiner should pass to another question and not attempt to extract an answer by prolonged interrogation.

The neutral chair should guard against any attempt by the supervisor to help the student in any way, or any tendency of examiners to interact with each other instead of concentrating on the examination of the candidate. Examiners’ editorial comments on the dissertation should not be discussed at the oral examination, but should be directed to the supervisor following the exam.

Normally, dissertation oral examinations are open to the public. If the oral examination is still within the limit of two hours, and if the examination committee does not have any further questions for the student, the neutral chair may invite questions from audience attendees.

Any procedural irregularities must be reported to the dean of the College of Graduate Studies on the Neutral Chair’s Report within two business days.

ADJUDICATION OF THE ORAL EXAMINATION OF THE DISSERTATION

When the question period has reached two hours, the neutral chair asks the candidate and the audience members to leave the examination room. Only the neutral chair, the members of the examination committee, and the dean of the College of Graduate Studies and/or the dean’s designate should remain in the room.

Before any discussion of the candidate’s performance, the neutral chair passes out ballots to each examination committee member and then reads the full list of possible recommendations to the members. Each examiner must then identify by secret ballot (which is non-binding), whether s/he favours recommending a pass or fail on each of the dissertation and the oral defence. The ballots are handed back to the neutral chair. This procedure provides the committee with a frame of opinion upon which a full discussion of the student’s performance may then be based.

If an examiner is tele/video-conferencing in to the examination, the neutral chair should:

  • collect the secret ballots from those present,
  • ask those examiners to briefly leave the room,
  • behind a closed door, record the secret ballot of the absent examiner,
  • invite examiners back into the room for the official examiners’ discussion.
OFFICIAL EXAMINERS’ DISCUSSION

The neutral chair reads off the ballot results and records these on the Chair’s Report. The neutral chair then facilitates a full post-examination discussion, starting with the external examiner, the university examiner, other examiners, and lastly the supervisor. The dean of the College of Graduate Studies or their delegate is allowed to participate although they have no vote. At the conclusion of the discussion, the neutral chair may request up to 2 additional rounds of open voting to try to reach a consensus. At the end of the discussion, each examiner must write and initial her/his final recommendation on the Final Doctoral Dissertation Oral Examination – Neutral Chair’s Report. Unanimous decisions are required for both the dissertation and the oral defence. If the examiners are unable to achieve unanimity regarding one or both components, there will be no further discussion regarding that component of the examination and the neutral chair must immediately inform the dean of “lack of unanimity”. The final decision concerning the disposition of the examination results will be at the discretion of the Dean of the College of Graduate Studies.

RECOMMENDATION OF THE EXAMINATION COMMITTEE

Dissertation oral examinations are designed to establish a level of achievement consistent with the standards set out by the College of Graduate Studies. In each case, the committee recommendation must be reported to the dean of the College of Graduate Studies on the official Final Doctoral Dissertation Oral Examination – Neutral Chair’s Report form within two business days of the completion of the examination. Immediately following the conclusion of the examination, the neutral chair must report the outcome to the student.

In the case of a “hung jury,” the neutral chair informs the student of the result and asks all committee members to submit a confidential report called the Final Oral Examination – Committee Member Report to the dean of the College of Graduate Studies documenting the exam and rationale for their recommendation within 5 business days.

DOCTORAL EXAMINATION OUTCOMES
UNANIMOUS PASS ON THE DISSERTATION

If the unanimous final decision is that the dissertation is a pass, the committee must choose whether the dissertation is accepted with:

  1. No revisions. The student is expected to submit their dissertation within three working days from the date of the examination.
  2. Minor revisions: Changes to the dissertation within this category consist of only slight modifications that affect presentation of the material such as typographical or grammatical errors as well as minor editorial revisions; it also includes minor revisions, which may range from a few paragraphs to several pages. The student has two weeks from the date of the examination to make the revisions. The supervisor will inform the student of the necessary revisions and will withhold their signature until satisfied with the revisions.
  3. Major Revisions: This means that the dissertation is not acceptable in its present form, but could be acceptable pending major revisions. This requires substantive changes such as rewriting a chapter, reinterpretation of data, correction to calculations, or additional minor research. The supervisor and at least one other member of the examination committee withhold signatures on the Doctoral Dissertation Approval and Completion form until revisions are made. The student has six monthsfrom the date of the examination to make revisions and submit the dissertation to the College of Graduate Studies.
DECISION ON THE OUTCOME OF THE ORAL EXAMINATION

If the examination committee chooses any of the above three options, they must also select the outcome of the Oral Examination:

  1. Unanimous Pass
  2. Fail

If the examining committee unanimously determines that the oral dissertation is not acceptable, it recommends a failed oral defence to the dean of the College of Graduate Studies. The final decision will be at the discretion of the dean of the College of Graduate Studies. Should the dean of the College of Graduate Studies uphold the recommendation of ‘fail’, the candidate will be allowed a second, final attempt to present an acceptable oral defence of the dissertation within three months of the first examination. For a retake of the oral examination, the composition of the examination committee, including the external examiner, will remain the same. If the student fails the oral retake, they will be required to withdraw from the graduate program.

FAILURE OF THE DISSERTATION

If the examining committee unanimously determines that the underlying research of the dissertation is not acceptable, and recommends an “unanimous fail” on the dissertation, the student is required to withdraw from the graduate program.

FAILURE TO REACH A UNANIMOUS DECISION

If the examiners are unable to achieve unanimity regarding the dissertation and/or the oral examination, there must be no further discussion regarding that component of the examination and the neutral chair must select “Failure to Reach Unanimous Decision” on the Final Dissertation Oral Examination Report and immediately inform the College of Graduate Studies of “lack of unanimity”. The final decision will be at the discretion of the dean of the College of Graduate Studies who, before rendering a decision, may consult with anyone involved in the post-examination deliberation.

REPORTS FROM THE EXAMINATION COMMITTEE

For any of (i) a unanimous decision to fail the dissertation (ii) a unanimous decision to fail the oral or (iii) lack of unanimity, the following reports must be submitted to the College of Graduate Studies within the specified time periods:

  1. The neutral chair must submit the Doctoral Dissertation Oral Examination- Neutral Chair’s Report to the dean of the College of Graduate Studies, describing the examination procedures within two business days.
  2. Each examination committee member (including the external examiner) must provide a confidential Final Oral Examination Committee Member Report to the dean of the College of Graduate Studies explaining the reasons for his/her recommendation within five business days.

FINAL DISSERTATION SUBMISSION

Students submit their final dissertation to the College of Graduate Studies once the supervisor approves the final dissertation, which contains the revisions requested at the oral examination.

Please refer to the Final Submission Instructions on the website for more information.

CIRCLE

is the digital repository of the University of British Columbia for research and teaching materials created by the University of British Columbia community and its partners. Materials in cIRcle are openly accessible to anyone on the web, and will be preserved for future generations. Students are required to upload the final copy of their dissertation in cIRcle.

REQUEST TO WITHHOLD DISSERTATION FROM THE PUBLIC DOMAIN

If there is strong justification, the dean of the College of Graduate Studies may approve a request to withhold the dissertation from the public domain for a limited period of time (typically 12 months, extendable to a maximum of 24 months in special circumstances).

The following are examples of when a student may request to withhold a dissertation:

  • time is required for completion and submission of a significant manuscript or patent application for a device or idea that might emerge from the dissertation research;
  • the dissertation might describe something of considerable monetary potential which could, if the student were given an opportunity to develop it first, benefit the student or the University;
  • the dissertation deals with a potentially dangerous product or process or potential cure for a disease for which the researchers need more time for testing before public release of the information.

The Request for Approval to Withhold a Dissertation/Thesis from the Public Domain form must be made when the dissertation is first submitted to the College of Graduate Studies following the dissertation examination.

8.10 Program Completion & Degree Conferral

Graduate student degree completion in thesis-based master’s and all doctoral programs means that the student has:

  • Completed all required coursework;
  • Successfully defended their thesis or dissertation;
  • Submitted all documentation, including their final thesis or dissertation to the College of Graduate Studies;
  • Completed all other degree requirements.

Provided that the student has met all other degree requirements, his/her program will be closed effective to the date when the correctly formatted thesis or dissertation is successfully uploaded to cIRcle.

Note: there are typically formatting errors in the thesis/dissertation on the student’s first upload attempt, so students should plan accordingly.

For non-thesis programs, the student’s program will be closed effective the date that the program confirms all requirements were met.

Once the program is closed out, the student will be advised of how to obtain a refund of any tuition (if applicable) or will be notified if any additional tuition installments are due.

PROGRAM RESPONSIBILITIES

For thesis/dissertation students, the graduate program coordinator should verify that all program requirements (minus the thesis/dissertation) have been met before signing the documents to initiate the oral examination.

For non-thesis students, the graduate program coordinator ensures that all grades have been entered and all degree requirements have been met and then sends an email to the College of Graduate Studies advising them that the degree requirements have been completed.

PROGRAM COMPLETION LETTER

A Program Completion letter officially confirms that the student has fulfilled the degree requirements and completed the program. The student can print this letter as soon as the program has been closed (students will receive a confirmation email from the College of Graduate Studies once their program is closed).

The student can use the Student Service Centre (SSC) to print an official Program Completion letter.

DEGREE CONFERRAL

In order to be granted the degree, the student must apply for degree conferral through the Student Services Centre during the relevant application period.

A student will not receive a diploma or be able to order transcripts until their student account is paid in full.

A student must not use their credential until it has been officially conferred by Senate.

APPLYING FOR DEGREE CONFERRAL

Every candidate for a degree must make a formal application for degree conferral. Students must apply through the Student Service Centre (SSC).

Graduate students should check the deadlines database of the website to determine application deadlines for degree conferral.

If the student’s application for degree conferral is not approved, the student must re-apply for the next degree conferral session.

The student must apply for degree conferral regardless of whether or not s/he plans to participate in the scheduled ceremonies.

Graduate degrees are conferred in February, May, September, and November.  Graduation ceremonies are held annually in June.