PhD Oral Defense

Procedure for Scheduling a PhD Oral Defense

(1)  At least 3 months before the examination, the supervisor determines at least two, but preferably three, dates and times (morning vs afternoon is specific enough) when the student and everyone on the thesis committee can be present. The supervisor provides the graduate director with these dates and times, the title of the student’s thesis, and the names of 3 possible external appraiser/examiners, in ranked order. The supervisor also provides the graduate director with suggestions of at least two colleagues who could serve as “internal externals” — members of the Department who have not served on the candidate’s thesis committee.

Please note that the external needs to be officially invited and approved by SGS* before scheduling can proceed, and please note that it is very desirable to find an external who can participate in the Final Oral Examination, either in person or by phone. Under current SGS quorum rules, at least two voting members of the Final Oral Examination committee must be from outside the student’s supervisory committee: typically, these two members include the external scholar (from outside the University of Toronto) and the “internal external”. If the External cannot participate  in the Final Oral Examination (either in person or by phone), then at least two internal externals will have to be appointed to the student’s Final Oral Examination committee to satisfy quorum.

A maximum of two people can participate in the Final Oral Examination by telephone.

*From the SGS website:
Criteria for appointment of the external appraiser:

(a) The external appraiser must be external to the University as well as to its affiliated teaching hospitals and their research institutes.

(b) The external appraiser must be a recognized expert on the subject of the thesis, and an Associate or Full Professor at his/her home institution. An appraiser from outside the academic sector must possess the qualifications to be appointed to an academic position at this level.

(c) The external appraiser must be at arm’s length from both the candidate and the supervisor(s). Normally, this will exclude anyone who: has served as PhD Supervisor/Supervisee of the Candidate or the Supervisor; or has, in the past six years, been a departmental colleague of the candidate or the supervisor, or has collaborated on a research project, scholarly work or publication, with either of them. The Vice-Dean (Programs), in considering nominations of external appraisers, will assess whether the nominee is at arm’s length.[1]

(2) Because of our new quorum rules, we very strongly advise finding an external scholar who is willing to participate in the Final Oral Examination and vote. However, it is possible for an external scholar to be an appraiser and not an examiner, as long as we have two non-supervisory faculty lined up to participate in the defense.  Either way, the external scholar writes a report and receives an honorarium of $100.  The University provides a maximum of $500 in travel expenses for external scholars who come to the defense in person to serve as examiners.  Any additional expenses are to be covered by the supervisor or members of the student’s committee.  To minimize confusion, we ask that the supervisor be responsible for collecting receipts from the external scholar.  Please give all receipts to Ben Eldridge with a note stating clearly which funding sources should be used for which expenses.

(3) AT LEAST 7 WEEKS BEFORE THE DEFENSE, the student gives a filled-in Thesis Submission Form and 5 (or 6 if there is a co-supervisor or more than 2 readers on the committee) coil-bound copies of the dissertation to Margaret Opoku-Pare. (Margaret must have the thesis well in advance of the defense to ensure that the desired date and time are available in the SGS calendar.  She cannot formally schedule the exam until she has the bound copies in hand.)  Margaret will send the bound thesis to the external scholar and then forward the scholar’s report to the student and all committee members as soon as it arrives.

(4) After receiving the scheduling request from Margaret, SGS will secure a faculty member from another department to chair the defense.  The chair’s name will be sent to the student and all committee members in advance of the exam.


[1] The SGS website provides detailed information about the constitution of the examination committee, number of voting members required, etc., here.