Timelines and Planning
The average time the process takes is 4 months. Please see see Examination Timeline.
This notice enables us to reach out to prospective External Examiners in advance, with the aim of having an examiner confirmed before your dissertation is submitted to Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies for review. External Examiners are busy people. If we can give them advanced notice, it is often easier for them to accept our invitation. We have found that if we give these busy experts too much or too little notice then they tend to decline the invitation.
If you are unable to provide the requested 8 weeks advanced notice you will likely experience delays in the later stages of the examination process. The external review cannot begin until we have an approved External Examiner confirmed to review your dissertation. External Examiners are always given at least 4 weeks to review your work and submit a written report. To ensure your dissertation receives a thorough and comprehensive review, we will never ask an External Examiner to submit their report within a shortened timeframe.
Review timelines vary depending upon the needs of the candidate and supervisory committee. You should allocate time to discuss expectations with your supervisory committee early on in your program. Tools to help guide you in establishing clear expectations can be found in the Supervision and Advising section of our website.
This will depend upon the nature and scope of the revisions recommended by your committee. It is likely that your committee will review several drafts of your dissertation before they are able to approve your dissertation for submission for final examination. You will want to discuss expectations with your supervisory committee. Tools to assist you can also be found on Tools for Planning page.
Program end date is the date that your final, successfully defended and approved dissertation and all associated paperwork is accepted by Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies. At that point, your program is closed and your student status ends. Your program end date can be any business day during the year.
Your degree is awarded once it has been approved by Senate. Degrees are awarded twice a year in May and November. Once your degree has been awarded notation will appear on your official transcript.
Finally, graduation happens when you are able to walk across the stage at convocation and have the parchment handed to you (or mailed if you are not able to attend the graduation ceremony). Graduation also takes place twice a year at UBC in May and November.
Please remember that you must formally apply for graduation online through the SSC in order to have your degree awarded, regardless of whether you plan to attend the graduation ceremony.
Please see the Doctoral Deadlines page for specific timelines and deadlines.
If you miss a deadline, it is possible that you will not be able to graduate in your desired ceremony. The deadlines posted on the Doctoral Deadlines page are there to assist you in completing within your intended timeframe. If you are absolutely counting on a particular graduation or program end date, it is essential that you submit the required documents on or before the posted deadlines. We cannot accelerate the process for candidates who have delays. If you know in advance that you will have difficulty meeting a particular deadline, please contact us to discuss options.
Unfortunately, no. All doctoral candidates at the University of British Columbia must undergo a thorough and comprehensive examination. To ensure the integrity of the examination, it is not possible to rush any stage of the process.
In fairness to other doctoral candidates undergoing examination, submitted documents are processed on a first-come, first-served basis.
No, External Examiners are always given at least 4 weeks to review the dissertation and submit a written report. To ensure your dissertation receives a thorough and comprehensive review, we never pressure an External Examiner to submit their report within a shortened timeframe.
No. Please be sure to communicate any delays directly to the Doctoral Exams Team at firstname.lastname@example.org. This enables us to communicate clearly and effectively with your external examiner, which helps to prevent further delays with the external examination when the dissertation is ultimately submitted.
Nominating the External Examiner
Approximately 8 weeks before the dissertation is to be submitted for external exam. External Examiners are busy people. If we can give them 8 weeks of notice, it is often easier for them to accept our invitations. We have found that if we give these busy experts too much or too little notice, they tend to decline the invitation.
With that in mind, do not submit this form if you haven't got a clear sense that you are really and truly two months away from probable submission. You should be pretty much entirely finished with the writing and submitting the completed draft of the dissertation to your supervisory committee for their review and approval when you send this form to G+PS. If you are currently on Chapter 1, it is not yet time to send the form to us.
Normally, the Supervisory Committee will nominate potential External Examiners. See Selecting the External Examiner for more detail.
No. The integrity of the final doctoral examination relies on a scrupulously impartial outside assessment of the dissertation by an expert who is clearly at arm’s length from both the candidate and the supervisor, and who maintains that relationship during the examination period. It is the responsibility of the research supervisor and graduate program to nominate qualified individuals to serve as External Examiner for your examination; it is the responsibility of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies to review and approve those nominees, to extend invitations as appropriate, and to deal with all correspondence regarding your external examination.
The candidate is to have no contact with the External Examiner about the examination until the oral defence is complete. If your supervisor would like to extend an invitation for the External Examiner to attend the oral defence or provide a copy of your abstract, they will be invited to do so once an invitation has been extended by our office. Failure to maintain an arm's length relationship throughout the examination process can result in the disqualification of the External Examiner.
See Selecting the External Examiner for more information.
"Arm's length" refers to choosing examiners who do are sufficiently distant from the candidate and supervisor. See Selecting the External Examiner for additional information.
Once your dissertation has been transmitted to the External Examiner, you will receive an email from our office informing you of their identity. Until the oral defence is complete, you are to have no contact with the External Examiner.
Submitting the Dissertation for External Examination
For your dissertation to be transmitted to your External Examiner, the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies requires an electronic version of your dissertation (PDF) sent by email to: email@example.com and a signed, completed Graduate Program Approval Memo. See template.
You may need to submit a bound paper copy of your dissertation; we will let you know if a paper copy is required.
For full details, please see: Submitting the Dissertation.
Yes. All doctoral candidates must submit their dissertations electronically in PDF format to firstname.lastname@example.org.
If the dissertation is larger than 20MB, please upload the document DropBox, Google Drive or a similar filesharing service and provide us with the downloadable link. PLEASE NOTE: Filesharing links should be sent from an account using the email address you have registered in the SSC.
Your dissertation cannot be transmitted to your External Examiner without the expressed (and signed) approval of your graduate program. Until that memo arrives at the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies, your dissertation will not be sent out.
Please make arrangements with your supervisor and graduate secretary to have the memo signed and sent over to the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies on your behalf.
If you are unable to provide the requested 8 weeks advanced notice of your anticipated dissertation submission, you will likely experience delays in the later stages of the examination process. The external review cannot begin until we have an approved External Examiner confirmed to review your dissertation. External Examiners are always given at least 4 weeks to review your work and submit a written report. To ensure your dissertation receives a thorough and comprehensive review, we will never ask an External Examiner to submit their report within a shortened timeframe.
External Examiners are confirmed for a specific timeline. If you submit early or late, we will need to reach out to the Examiner to confirm their availability. Please contact Doctoral Exams to let us know if you will be late or early. See Examination Timeline for more detailed information.
Once your dissertation and associated approvals have been received by Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies, we aim to transmit the dissertation to the External Examiner as soon as possible. We receive a lot of dissertations around deadline days. During these periods, it can take up to three business days to transmit your dissertation. Once the dissertation has been sent to the External Examiner, you will receive an email notification informing you of the External Examiner's identity, the date we are expecting their written report and your earliest possible defence date.
Please note: if your actual submission date is significantly different from the anticipated submission date provided on your Nominations for External Examiner form and you have not already been in touch to inform us of the change, there is likely to be a longer than usual delay before the dissertation is transmitted to the External Examiner. In these cases, we must first contact the External Examiner to ensure that they are still available to review your dissertation given the new timeframe.
No. The content of the External Examiner's report is considered confidential and may be discussed with you only at/after the final oral examination. This report will be circulated to your examining committee one week before the defence.
If the External Examiner does not recommend that you move ahead to the oral defence, your supervisor will let you know.
Preparing for the Oral Defence
You can book your defence once we send your dissertation for examination. See Scheduling the Final Oral Defence for more information.
Normally, your earliest possible defence date will be 6-7 weeks after submission of your dissertation to Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies for external examination. If your External Examiner has requested a review period of longer than 4 weeks, a later defence date can be expected; we would be in touch with you if this applies to your exam. Delays may also be expected if you have not submitted all of the required documents or if your actual submission date is significantly different from the anticipated submission date provided on your Nominations for External Examiner form and you have not already been in touch to inform us of the change.
Once your dissertation has been transmitted to the External Examiner, you will receive an email notification informing you of the External Examiner's identity, the date we are expecting his/her written report and your earliest possible defence date.
You or your supervisor can book the defence. See Scheduling the Final Oral Defence.
Normally the Research Supervisor is one of the supervisory committee members serving on the examining committee, but this is not required. If your Supervisor is unable to attend the oral defence, another member of your supervisory committee must be tasked with asking the questions posed by the External Examiner in their report.
A minimum of 2 and a maximum 3 members of your supervisory committee (including your supervisor) are required for quorum on the examining committee at your oral defence.
If you have more than three members on your supervisory committee, you will want to have a discussion with them in advance to determine which members will be serving in this role. Additional supervisory committee members are welcome to attend the defence and to ask questions of the candidate, but cannot participate in the in camera discussion or voting.
This form can be sent as early as the "Appointment of External Examiner" form (8 weeks prior to submission), but certainly no later than 3 weeks before the oral defence.
Please note that your supervisor should have already confirmed the willingness of the proposed University Examiners before submitting this form.
Please see the complete information on the eligibility of University Examiners.
Absolutely. Emeriti are very welcome to serve in all roles of the Final Doctoral Exam, provided they are affiliated with a doctoral program. The wisdom and experience that emeriti bring is an asset to the process.
Normally, no. The expectation of University Examiners is that they be tenured, experienced, and knowledgeable in the subject of the dissertation. In cases where the narrowness of the dissertation subject severely limits the number of qualified faculty members on campus, an exception will be considered. Please contact the Doctoral Exams Coordinator about any such request.
Currently, under physical distancing protocols for covid-19, all defences are held remotely via Zoom. So, yes.
Currently, under physical distancing protocols for covid-19, all defences are held remotely via Zoom.
For details regarding regular in-person defences, see Location of Final Oral Defence.
You and your research supervisor are responsible for ensuring all members of the examining committee (attending supervisory committee members and university examiners) are aware of the exam schedule. You and your supervisor will receive a formal booking confirmation email from our office once your booking is finalized.
You or your supervisor. You might check to see whether your University Examiners would prefer a paper or an electronic version of the dissertation.
The Doctoral Exams Office will secure a Chair for your defence in most circumstances. See Selecting the Examination Chair for details and exceptions.
A number of processes, including the recruitment of an Examination Chair, begin as soon as your oral defence booking is finalized by Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies. As a result, you should think of your defence booking as final once booked.
Currently, under physical distancing protocols for covid-19, all defences are held remotely via Zoom. You should definitely practice on Zoom, and perhaps even hold a mock defence with friends and family. If you would like to book a practice session with Doctoral Exams staff, email us.
In the rare instance that the External Examiner does not recommend proceeding to defence, your supervisor will share the report with you, and you will have the opportunity to revise and resubmit. See External Examiner's Report for more information.
On the Day of the Oral Defence
The Zoom meeting will be available 30 minutes prior to the start time of your exam and we recommend that you take advantage of this time to set up and settle in. A Doctoral Exams Team will be present for this time to assist you.
You are expected to provide the equipment for your remote defence. Please talk to your supervisor or program if you would like to arrange to use any on-campus facilities for your defence. Doctoral Exams rooms are not currently available.
You should be sure to eat before your virtual defence. Be sure to have water available during your defence.
Currently, we have limited capacity to support an audience of up to 20 people at a virtual defence. Please let us know when you book if you would like to have an audience.
Quorum is normally 4-5 examiners plus the Chair. See Examination Committee for more details.
If the examining committee member in question is required for quorum, we will need to wait for them to arrive before the exam can begin.
If the examining committee member is not required for quorum and the exam begins as scheduled, they may not be permitted entry into the exam room. In this case, it may be advisable to wait for the missing committee member to arrive before commencing the exam.
Once the exam has begun, no one is permitted entry into the virtual room. Audience members arriving late will be unable to join the exam.
Virtual defences may not be recorded.
Currently, we have limited capacity to support an audience of up to 20 people at a virtual defence. Please let us know when you book if you would like to have an audience.
The in camera discussion is the portion of the defence when the examination committee meets privately to discuss their assessments of the candidate's oral defence and written dissertation and to determine their overall recommendation to the Dean of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies. Only the official members of the examining committee participate in this discussion; the candidate and all audience members will be asked to leave or will be put in a separate virtual room. The candidate will be recalled once this discussion is complete and the Chair will inform them of the recommendations the committee will make to the Dean of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies.
Note: this discussion is never recorded (i.e. there are no cameras involved).
The Chair's Report on the exam is considered a confidential correspondence between the examination committee and the Dean of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies. As a result, it is not shared with the candidate.
At the end of the defence, the Chair will communicate to you the recommendations the examining committee will be making to G+PS. The Chair will also provide you with information about the revisions required to your dissertation before it can be accepted as final and which examining committee members will be withholding their signatures from the Doctoral Dissertation Approval form until the revisions have been completed.
Submitting the Final Dissertation Post-Defence
The final approved copy of the dissertation must normally be submitted to Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies within one month of the date of the oral examination. If your examining committee recommends a longer period for the revisions, this will be communicated to you by the Examination Chair at the end of your defence.
This refers to the nature and scope of the revisions required by your examining committee. In the case of minor revisions, your research supervisor will withhold their signature from the Doctoral Dissertation Approval form at the end of the defence; they will sign the form after checking that the required revisions have been completed. If substantive revisions are required, at least two examiners, including your research supervisor, will be selected to check the revisions and will withhold their signatures from Doctoral Dissertation Approval form until the required revisions have been completed. The revisions required by your examining committee and the names of the examiners required to check the revisions will be communicated to you at the end of your defence by the Examination Chair.
No. All candidates must formally apply for graduation and submit a research description. Details are available on the Graduation page.
For a list of awards administered centrally by Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies, please see our Award Opportunities page and enter "dissertation" in the Award Search box. Please note that this is not a comprehensive list of all available awards. You may also wish to speak with your graduate program and/or faculty about additional opportunities.