Skip to Main Content
Navigated to G.M. Thesis Examinations.

G.M. Thesis Examinations


G.M.1 Purpose

The purpose of the thesis oral examination is not only to defend independently the thesis, but also to serve as confirmation of the student’s knowledge of the research topic within the context of their field of study.

In order to safeguard and promote the quality of the graduate education, all students in thesis-based graduate programs must defend their theses in an oral examination before the degree may be granted. The Dean of Graduate Studies may waive this requirement in exceptional circumstances.


G.M.2 Scheduling

1) It is the responsibility of the supervisor to schedule the thesis oral examination, to recommend all examining committee members to the Graduate Program Director for approval, and to conform to the timelines set out in Thesis and Thesis Examination Administrative Processes, available at grad.ucalgary.ca/current-students/thesis-based-students/exams/thesis-defence. Under no circumstances are students permitted to make arrangements for an examination.

2) The examination committee, which is approved by the Faculty of Graduate Studies, is convened to make a recommendation of the final outcome of the examination to the Dean of Graduate Studies.

3) Any changes to the composition of examination committees must receive approval from the Faculty of Graduate Studies.

4) With the exception of 6), the doctoral examination cannot be scheduled until all members of the supervisory committee have reviewed the student’s research, including a relevant written sample of the material related to the thesis, or the draft thesis document, as required by the graduate program, and have provided written consent that the examination can be scheduled. The supervisor’s signature on the Notice of Examination Form acknowledges that the entire thesis meets the minimum standard (see G.L.1 Quality of Thesis). An indication that the thesis is ready to defend does not commit a member of the supervisory committee to voting “pass” on the thesis at the final oral examination.

5) With the exception of 6), the master’s examination cannot be scheduled until the supervisor has reviewed the student’s research and the entire draft of the thesis document, as required by the graduate program. When supervisory committees are required, both the supervisor and the committee members must review the student’s research, including a relevant written sample of the material related to the thesis, or the draft thesis document, as required by the graduate program. The supervisor’s signature on the Notice of Examination Form acknowledges that the entire thesis meets the minimum standard (see G.L.1 Quality of Thesis). An indication that the thesis is ready to defend does not commit a member of the supervisory committee to voting “pass” on the thesis at the final oral examination.

6) A student who has successfully completed all Faculty of Graduate Studies and program requirements has the right to submit and defend a thesis even if doing so may be contrary to the advice of the supervisor and supervisory committee (where applicable).


G.M.3 Composition of the Examination Committee

The composition of the committee must be recommended by the Graduate Program Director and approved by the Dean of Graduate Studies.

G.M.3.1 Neutral Chair (Doctoral, Master's)

The oral thesis examination is chaired by a neutral member of the academic staff appointed by the Graduate Program Director.

The Neutral Chair is not a member of the examination committee and may not vote or question the student. The Neutral Chair’s responsibility is to ensure that the examination is conducted in a fair and orderly fashion.

G.M.3.2 Internal and External Examiners

Additional examiners are required for thesis examination committees as outlined in G.M.3.5 and G.M.3.6 below. Both the internal and external examiners normally must:

  1. have a well-established research reputation

  2. have expertise in the area of the student’s research

  3. have experience in evaluating theses at the graduate level

  4. have experience in supervising to completion at the graduate level

  5. not be a close personal friend of the supervisor

  6. not have collaborated with the supervisor in past five years

  7. not be closely related to, or have worked with the candidate

In addition, the external examiner normally

  1. must not have been a supervisor in the candidate’s graduate program in the past three years

  2. must not have served as external examiner in the candidate’s program in the past two years.

If programs wish to put forward internal or external examiners who do not meet all of these criteria, they must provide a rationale for including them on the committee.

G.M.3.3 Non-Academic Staff Members (Doctoral, Master’s)

The Faculty of Graduate Studies may approve qualified persons who are not academic staff members of the University of Calgary to serve on thesis oral examination committees.

G.M.3.4 Advisory Members

In certain circumstances, up to one supervisory or examination committee member may serve in a non-voting advisory role. Advisory members are to be brought forward by the student or supervisor in consultation with the other. These individuals, whether academics or non-academics, are considered knowledge experts. This knowledge may be demonstrated on the basis of a resume, a CV, lived experiences, or community validation. Programs that wish to propose advisory members should provide a rationale for their inclusion for approval by the Faculty of Graduate Studies.

G.M.3.5 Doctoral Oral Thesis Examination Committee

The examination committee will consist of:

  1. the supervisory committee,

  2. an internal examiner: a member of the University of Calgary academic staff whom programs may require to be external to the program and who fits the criteria outlined in M.3.2 Internal and External Examiners,

  3. an external examiner: external to the University and who fits the criteria outlined in M.3.2 Internal and External Examiners,

  4. other members (at the discretion of the Graduate Program Director, subject to the approval of the Dean of Graduate Studies)

  5. up to one advisory member in cases where there is no advisory member on the supervisory committee, where applicable.

A post-doctoral scholar whose supervisor is on the supervisory committee is not eligible to serve as a member of the examination committee.

G.M.3.6 Master’s Oral Thesis Examination Committee

The examination committee should consist of:

  1. the supervisor

  2. supervisory committee, where applicable,

  3. an additional member of the University of Calgary academic staff,

  4. an internal examiner: a member of the University of Calgary academic staff whom programs may require to be external to the program, or an external member who fits the criteria outlined in M.3.2 Internal and External Examiners

  5. up to one advisory member in cases where there is no advisory member on the supervisory committee, where applicable.

If there is a formal supervisory committee, only one additional internal examiner or external examiner is required.

If there is a co-supervisor, but not a formal supervisory committee, an additional member of the University of Calgary academic staff and an internal examiner or external examiner are required.

A post-doctoral scholar whose supervisor is either on the supervisory committee (when applicable) or is the supervisor of the student, is not eligible to serve as a member of the examination committee.


G.M.4 Conflict of Interest

The examination committee must be seen as impartial and conflicts of interests must be avoided and disclosed. See Graduate Studies Conflict of Interest Policy at grad.ucalgary.ca/current-students/thesis-based-students/supervision/conflict-interest.


G.M.5 Rescheduling of Thesis Examinations

The Faculty of Graduate Studies must be informed of minor changes in the scheduling of the examinations (e.g., for illness or weather). Programs are allowed to postpone the examination by up to two weeks after the scheduled date.

Postponements of more than two weeks from the original date can be considered in exceptional circumstances and will require approval of the Dean of Graduate Studies.


G.M.6 Cancellation of Thesis Examinations

A scheduled examination may be cancelled under exceptional circumstances with the approval of the Dean of Graduate Studies.


G.M.7 Format of the Oral Thesis Examination

All examinations must be conducted according to the procedures described in Thesis and Thesis Examination Administrative Processes, available at grad.ucalgary.ca/services/faculty-and-staff/gpdgpa-resources/policies-and-guidelines/guidelines-examiners.

The Oral Examination

1) The examination begins when the thesis is distributed to the examiners - including the advisory member - at least three weeks prior to the date of the oral examination. Examination committee members may not discuss the thesis amongst themselves or with the student. However, the supervisor and, if applicable, the co-supervisor may discuss the thesis with the student or with each other. The student may not submit revisions while the examination is in progress.

2) The oral examination is normally open to the public but only members of the examination committee, including the advisory member, may question the student.

3) The oral examination questioning will not exceed two hours.

4) The thesis oral examination may be preceded by a separate public seminar, which will not include any questioning by members of the examination committee. If no public seminar preceded the examination the student may be offered an opportunity to give a brief (15 minute) presentation summarizing the thesis in addition to the two-hour examination time.

5) Before the oral examination begins, voting members of the examination committee must submit their written and signed examination reports to the Neutral Chair. Written reports are confidential and will not be communicated to the student or other members of the examination committee before the examination committee’s recommendation has been finalized by completing the final examination form.

6) Examiners must be present, either in person or via teleconference, during the entire questioning process as well as the post-examination discussion and vote (see Examination Guidelines at grad.ucalgary.ca/services/faculty-and-staff/gpdgpa-resources/policies-and-guidelines/guidelines-examiners). Normally, the supervisor (or the co-supervisor, if applicable) must be present in person.

7) All examiners, including the advisory member, where applicable, must be given the opportunity to question the student and the questions must be relevant to the thesis document.

8) Prior to the oral examination, if an examiner suspects that academic misconduct has occurred in the thesis, they must contact the Dean of Graduate Studies immediately. The examination will then be suspended until such time as the Dean (or designate) is able to determine whether academic misconduct has occurred and what penalties will be applied. Depending on the determination, the examination may proceed as scheduled, be rescheduled, or be cancelled.

9) Any procedural irregularities must be reported to the Dean of the Graduate Studies within 5 working days of the examination date, regardless of the outcome of the examination.


G.M.8 Recommendations at the Conclusion of an Examination

Post-examination procedures must be conducted according to the Thesis and Thesis Examination Administrative Processes, available at grad.ucalgary.ca/services/faculty-and-staff/gpdgpa-resources/policies-and-guidelines/guidelines-examiners.

The advisory member, when present, is invited to provide comments on the thesis and the oral examination once the student has left the room.  They do not participate in the remainder of the in-camera discussion following the oral defense.

Recommendation to the Dean of Graduate Studies must be unanimous. If it is not unanimous, the Dean of Graduate Studies will decide the outcome of the thesis and the oral examination.

The examination committee must recommend the outcome of the examination by indicating one of the following in each component:

G.M.8.1 Thesis

a) Unanimous pass with no revisions. All examiners must sign the Thesis Approval Form. The thesis must be submitted to the Faculty of Graduate Studies within five days from the date of examination.

b) Unanimous pass with minor revisions: At least one member of the examining committee considers the revisions to be minor while other examiners do not require revisions. Minor revisions involve stylistic changes and/or minor additions or clarifications; these must be correctable within one month from the date of the examination. Deliberations are not to end until all members of the committee reach an agreement on the scope and content of revisions. The supervisor will inform the student of the necessary corrections. The supervisor will withhold their signature until satisfied with the revisions.

c) Unanimous pass with major revisions: At least one member of the examining committee considers the revisions to be major. Major revisions normally require more than changes in style and will typically involve clarification of textual materials, the qualification of research findings, conclusions, or limited additions to the text. Major revisions normally must be completed and submitted to Faculty of Graduate Studies within six months from the date of examination. Deliberations are not to end until all members of the committee reach an agreement on the scope and content of revisions. The supervisor will withhold their signature, and one or more examiners may also withhold their signature, until satisfied with the revisions.

d) Unanimous fail. The student is permitted one resubmission no sooner than six months and no later than 12 months from the first exam date. No decision is made on the oral examination.

e) Failure to reach unanimous decision.

G.M.8.2 Oral Examination

a) Unanimous pass.

b) Unanimous fail. If a unanimous fail was reached on the oral examination and the thesis was a pass, the oral component must be retaken within six months from the date of examination.

c) Failure to reach unanimous decision.


G.M.9 Retake of Failed Examination

In the case of a failed thesis or a failed oral examination, one resubmission will be allowed and a new examination will be required. A revised thesis must be submitted before the oral examination.

The composition of the examination committee normally will remain the same. Upon the recommendation of the Graduate Program Director and approval of the Faculty of Graduate Studies, an examiner may be replaced.

A second failure of the thesis or the oral examination will result in the student being required to withdraw. In the case of failed outcomes, students have the right to appeal (see M.10 Appeals of Decisions Regarding Thesis Examinations).


G.M.10 Appeals of Decisions Regarding Thesis Examinations

Student Appeals of decisions of the dean regarding the process for thesis examination may be made to the Faculty of Graduate Studies Appeals Committee in accordance with the Faculty of Graduate Studies Appeals Procedures grad.ucalgary.ca/current-students/registration/appeals.

Student Appeals of decisions regarding thesis examinations that do not result in a student being immediately required to withdraw may be made as an academic assessment appeal to the Faculty of Graduate Studies Appeals Committee in accordance with the Faculty of Graduate Studies Appeals Procedures grad.ucalgary.ca/current-students/registration/appeals. See section I. Reappraisal of Graded Term Work and Academic Assessments (final grades) of the University of Calgary Calendar.

Student Appeals of decisions regarding thesis examinations that do result in a student being immediately required to withdraw may be made to the University appeals committee as an academic progression decision. See section J. Student Appeals to the University Appeals Committee and University Appeals Tribunal of the University of Calgary Calendar.


Back to Graduate Regulations

Contact Us

Reach out to us if you have any questions about the new Calendar website or to provide feedback on any of the site navigation. For any questions regarding your program or for specific interpretations of regulations, please connect with an advisor for support.

Site Disclaimer

Please read the Important Notice and Disclaimer to understand your rights and responsibilities with regards to using the Academic Calendar.

The University of Calgary, located in the heart of Southern Alberta, both acknowledges and pays tribute to the traditional territories of the peoples of Treaty 7, which include the Blackfoot Confederacy (comprised of the Siksika, the Piikani, and the Kainai First Nations), the Tsuut’ina First Nation, and the Stoney Nakoda (including Chiniki, Bearspaw, and Goodstoney First Nations). The City of Calgary is also home to the Métis Nation of Alberta (districts 5 and 6).

The University of Calgary is situated on land Northwest of where the Bow River meets the Elbow River, a site traditionally known as Moh’kins’tsis to the Blackfoot, Wîchîspa to the Stoney Nakoda, and Guts’ists’i to the Tsuut’ina. On this land and in this place we strive to learn together, walk together, and grow together “in a good way.”

Powered by Coursedog