Selecting the External Examiner

Role of the External Examiner

  • Assesses whether the dissertation meets the criteria for a successful dissertation, as outlined in the Instructions for the External Examiner's Report and with reference to the expectations regarding the scope and structure of a doctoral dissertation at UBC.
  • Provides a review of the strengths and weaknesses of the dissertation and recommends revisions as appropriate.
  • Makes a recommendation to the Dean of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies on whether the candidate should proceed to Final Oral Defence.
  • Provides questions to be asked at the Final Oral Defence. If the external examiner is not able to attend, these questions will be asked by the research supervisor.
  • Ideally, participates in the Final Oral Examination. 

Nominating the External Examiner

The candidate's supervisor and graduate program advisor nominate at least two (but preferably three) people for the role of external examiner. Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies will select and invite the external examiner.

External examiners are nominated using the Nominations for External Examiner form. This form should be submitted to Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies approximately 8 weeks prior to the intended date of submission of the dissertation for external examination. Failure to provide this advanced notice is likely to result in delays in the later stages of the examination process due to challenges in confirming external examiner participation on short notice. The external review cannot begin until Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies has an approved External Examiner confirmed to review the dissertation.

Invitations to potential external examiners to serve in the role must be initiated by Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies, and the nominees must not be contacted by the candidate, research supervisor or graduate program prior to their invitation by G+PS. 

To coordinate a submission with particular program end dates, degree awarding dates or graduation ceremonies, please consult the Doctoral Deadlines website.

Communications with the external Examiner

To prevent bias or the perception of bias in the external review, the candidate may not communicate with the external examiner before the defence. Likewise, no one external to G+PS may discuss the dissertation, research, or candidate with the external reviewer at any time before the defence. The research supervisor and/or program may communicate about travel arrangements as applicable.

Eligibility Requirements for External Examiner

The research supervisor and graduate program are responsible for nominating well-qualified, objective, experienced individuals not associated or affiliated with UBC-V or UBC-O. Reflecting the importance of this role, it is imperative the external examiner:

  • Have an established reputation in the area of the dissertation research and be able to judge whether the dissertation is acceptable at a university comparable to UBC.
  • Have had previous experience with the supervision and examination of doctoral students.
  • Hold the rank of full, associate, or emeritus professor (or the equivalent if outside North America) at a university that offers the degree the candidate seeks, or have comparable expertise and standing if not at a university.
  • Have not acted as external examiner for a student of any member of the committee in the past three years.

Please contact the Doctoral Exams team to discuss the nomination of any other nominee who does not clearly meet the above eligibility criteria, but who has experience with the supervision and/or examination of doctoral students.

A brief rationale must be provided for each nominee indicating the special field(s) of expertise and achievements of each nominee. This may include a list of publications by the nominee that are of central importance or are closely related to the candidate's research.

Arm’s Length Requirements for External Examiner

A person is ineligible to serve as external examiner if, with respect to the candidate or any member of the candidate’s supervisory committee, they hold a conflict of interest that may include, but is not limited to:

  • a close friend or relative
  • a research collaborator and/or co-author within the past 6 years
  • an institutional colleague within the past 6 years
  • a former supervisor
  • a person who has offered future employment or mentorship to the candidate
  • a previous trainee
  • a person involved in a dispute
  • a person involved in a professional or business partnership

Independence of Assessment

Prior to the Final Doctoral Oral Defence the research supervisor, graduate program, and candidate must scrupulously avoid discussing the dissertation’s merits or academic content with the external examiner. Any such contact initiated by the external examiner should be redirected to the Doctoral Exams Coordinator without delay.

Identity of the External Examiner

The candidate should not know the identity of the external examiner until after the dissertation has been submitted to Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies and transmitted for external examination.

Participation in the Oral Defence

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. See Scheduling the Final Oral Defence for more information.


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