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 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.
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.
There are three types of defences currently available: In-Person Defences where the candidate and committee meet together in a suitable room on campus, Hybrid Defences with one or two examiners required for quorum attending remotely, 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 and/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) can be challenging. Doctoral Exams staff will work with students and supervisors to support remote attendance by university examiners or committee members required for quorum. We recommend that hybrid defences have less than half the required examiners attend remotely; if a majority want to attend remotely, the exam should be full virtual on Zoom. 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.
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.
The research supervisor and/or candidate 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
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 Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies 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 to 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 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 Oral Defence is encouraged, but it is not required.
Inviting the external examiner to attend the 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 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.
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 Doctoral Examiner Travel Fund (see below for details). 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.
DOCTORAL EXAMINER TRAVEL FUND
The physical presence of all examiners in doctoral oral defences conducted in person is of great value for the candidate, and, for those coming from a distance, provides an opportunity for further connections with the university community. To facilitate these interactions, Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies provides assistance with examiner travel costs, in partnership with the candidate’s home unit, who may invite the examiner to present a seminar and/or engage in other academic activities that will benefit other students.
The fund may be used for any examiner (external, university, supervisory committee) who has had to travel from outside the Lower Mainland the to be present at the defence. Only one examiner’s travel will be eligible for reimbursement for each candidate.
The candidate’s graduate program is responsible for making any necessary travel arrangements, reimbursing the examiner according to mutually-understood expectations, and requesting partial compensation for eligible expenses. Details of the funding limits and the procedure for applying for reimbursement can be found in the Doctoral Examiner Travel Fund.
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.
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 will not appear; Zoom links are not posted.
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. Remote audience may also be permitted at in-person exams, but requests must be made well in advance. 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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