Scheduling the Final Oral Defence

When to Schedule

The Final Oral Defence cannot be scheduled until after the dissertation has been transmitted to the External Examiner.

Once the Candidate's dissertation has been sent to the External Examiner, a due date for the external report is set. The Candidate and Research Supervisor will be notified by Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies of this report due date and the earliest possible date for the Oral Defence. The Defence can be scheduled as soon as you receive this email; you do not have to wait until the report has been received.

Candidates must plan for at least 6-8 weeks between the submission of the dissertation for external examination and the Oral Defence. This may seem like a long delay, but it is a safe estimate of the time it takes to ensure a thorough review of the dissertation (by the External Examiner as well as the University Examiners) and any administrative hurdles that might impede the process, especially during peak periods.

Note: While Candidates and their Committees are permitted to schedule the Oral Defence before the External Examiner's report has been submitted, they should be aware that the Defence cannot proceed without a positive report from the External Examiner. A negative external report will almost certainly make it impossible to proceed with a scheduled Defence. Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies also reserves the right to postpone the Final Oral Defence if the External Examiner's report is late. Please see External Examiner's Report for more information about this report.

The Oral Defence must be scheduled through Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies at least 4 weeks in advance.

Oral Defences are not normally held between mid-December and mid-January. We appreciate that circumstances sometimes necessitate holding Defences during this period and will consider examination booking requests in cases where a Candidate's Research Supervisor is able to find a suitable and willing Examination Chair. Please contact the Doctoral Exams team at least four weeks in advance to discuss an exam booking during the blackout period.

Please be aware that coordinating the schedules of the examiners required for a doctoral examination can prove especially challenging in the summer months. We strongly advise that students aiming for summer defences discuss this possibility with their supervisory committee members well in advance. Candidates counting on an August oral defence who fail to make the appropriate arrangements with their committee members well in advance may find themselves unable to meet their desired deadline for program completion.

Remote Attendance

There are two types of defences currently available: In-Person Defences where the candidate and committee meet together in a suitable room on campus, and Virtual Defences which take place on Zoom. 

In-Person defences normally require all Examining Committee members required for quorum to be physically present. The External Examiner or a third Supervisory Committee Member not required for quorum may attend an In-Person examination remotely.

Remote attendance by examiners required for quorum (ie a Hybrid Defence) may be possible. Doctoral Exams staff will work with students and supervisors to support remote attendance by University Examiners or Committee Members required for quorum. Students planning for a hybrid exam should definitely schedule a practice session in the exam space to ensure that all of the technology is working effectively.

Virtual Defence

This Virtual Defence Protocol applies for defences held on Zoom.

Candidates may choose to defend remotely via Zoom if this format is more appropriate or preferred.

A Virtual defence is when the candidate and all of the Examining Committee members join remotely via Zoom. Attendance by a third Supervisory Committee member or External Examiner is permitted. Supervisors and candidates may choose to be in physical proximity for Virtual Defences, say in adjoining rooms. (Audio issues may occur if multiple people are joining a Zoom meeting on separate computers in the same physical space.)

Inviting the External Examiner to attend the virtual defence is encouraged, but is at the discretion of the Research Supervisor(s). For information about extending such an invitation, please see "Inviting the External Examiner" (below). 

Audiences are permitted at Virtual Defences. Zoom links are not made public, but the candidate is welcome to distribute the link to friends and family.

Who Schedules

The Candidate and/or Research Supervisor is responsible for arranging a mutually convenient time with the members of the Examination Committee (2 University Examiners + 2-3 members of the Supervisory Committee including the Research Supervisor), and for booking the exam with Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies. 

Exams in the defence rooms in Thea Koerner House traditionally begin at 9:00am, 12:30pm, and 4:00pm Monday through Friday (excluding statutory holidays) and last for a period of 2.5 - 3 hours. Zoom exams can start on the half hour between 9:00am and 4:00pm. In-person defences in other rooms on campus can start on the half hour between 9:00am and 4:00pm.

It is the responsibility of the Candidate and Research Supervisor to ensure the submission of the Approval of University Examiners for Doctoral Dissertation form at least four weeks prior to the Oral Defence.

Location of the Final Oral Defence

Final Oral Defences may be held in any suitable room on the UBC Vancouver campus. Defences may also be held at one the of the hospital sites or a UBC-associated research centre, but this must be discussed with the proposed examiners prior to booking. Requirements for off-site bookings are outlined in the Doctoral Defences Off-Site Responsibilities summary.

The Doctoral Exams Office keeps a list of suitable defence locations. If you have questions about a potential room, please contact the Doctoral Exams team.

Regardless of the location, all Oral Defence bookings must be finalized by G+PS a minimum of four weeks before the proposed defence date.

How to Schedule

Oral Defence booking requests must be submitted to the Doctoral Exams team using the Oral Defence Booking Request form at least 4 weeks prior to the proposed exam date.

The Defence Booking Guide has information on what you will need top complete the Oral Defence Booking Request.

Once an Oral Defence booking has been finalized by Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies, the Candidate, Research Supervisor and Graduate Program will receive a confirmation email. At this point the exam booking is considered final. The Research Supervisor is responsible for ensuring all Examining Committee members (except the Chair) are aware of the date, time and location of the Oral Defence.

Inviting the External Examiner

The External Examiner's participation in a Candidate's Final Oral Defence offers the opportunity for a valuable dialogue about the dissertation and the research it presents. Therefore, the participation of the External Examiner in the Final Oral Defence is encouraged, but it is not required.

Inviting the External Examiner to attend the Final Oral Defence is at the discretion of the Research Supervisor; Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies never extends such an invitation. Research Supervisors wishing to invite the External Examiner to participate in the Oral Defence are required to abide by the guidelines communicated to them by G+PS at the time the invitation to serve as External Examiner is sent and to copy the Doctoral Examinations team on all communication with the External Examiner.

Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies recognizes that the cost to UBC academic units associated with the travel of External Examiners to the defence has been prohibitive in all but a small number of cases each year. The Doctoral External Examiner Transport Fund provides assistance with those costs with the hope of making this a more viable option for additional units. This initiative has the support of the Provost. For additional information please see the Guidelines and Procedures of the Doctoral External Transport Fund.

The Candidate’s graduate program is responsible for making any necessary travel arrangements, reimbursing the visiting External Examiner according to mutually-understood expectations, and requesting partial compensation for eligible expenses from the External Examiner Transport Fund. Research Supervisors should carefully review the details cited above and discuss this with the Candidate’s graduate program or academic unit before extending an invitation.

In addition to hosting the External Examiner, academic units are encouraged to make the most of this opportunity by inviting the Examiner to present a seminar, lecture or other academic event during their visit that will benefit other students.  

Having the External Examiner participate in the Oral Defence remotely may be a viable alternative in cases where funding or timing do not allow for in-person attendance. External Examiners are always welcome at Virtual Defences.

Distributing the Dissertation

It is the responsibility of the Research Supervisor to ensure members of the Supervisory Committee receive a copy of the dissertation, which is identical to the copy submitted for the External Examiner, at least 4 weeks before the Oral Defence. Doctoral Exams sends a copy of the dissertation to the University Examiners along with the email confirming their appointment.

Award Funding

Students who currently hold award funding should refer to the Award Holder’s Guide for details on program completion and potential award pro-rating.

Doctoral Oral Defences are Public Events

Doctoral Final Oral Examinations are open to all members of the University and to the public who want to attend in person. Once an examination has been booked by Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies, the following details will be made available on the Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies webpage: Candidate's full name, home department, degree program, dissertation title, and the date, time and location of the exam. For Virtual Defences the location section will not appear.

Students with compelling safety-related concerns about this public announcement can request an exemption from the Dean of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies. Requests for exemption should be submitted to the Doctoral Exams Coordinator.

Audiences are permitted at Virtual Defences. Zoom links are not made public, but the candidate is welcome to distribute the link to friends and family. We suggest that if you are advertising the defence on an email list or social media that you ask people to RSVP for the link.


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