PhD Oral Exam: Information


Doctoral students must pass an oral examination of the subject of their thesis and matters relating thereto before they may obtain the Ph.D. degree. The examination will be conducted by the Dean of Graduate Studies or the Dean's designate chosen from among scholars of the University. The examining committee will include at least three members of the University of Manitoba academic staff, normally the same members as that of the candidate's advisory committee, and an examiner external to the University of Manitoba. The doctoral candidate, advisor, and all internal members of the examining committee must be present. The presence of the external examiner is strongly encouraged but not mandatory.


The following must be assured prior to scheduling the oral examination:

Attendance of internal examiners
It is required that all internal members of the examining committee be present at the defence, unless exceptional circumstances prevent this and prior approval of the Dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies has been given. If for any reason an internal examiner is unable to be present in person, participation via video-conferencing may be approved by FGS depending on the constitution of the committee and the presence of other examiners. Oral examinations will be cancelled and deferred if members of the examining committee are not present at the scheduled time and place.

Program information
At least two weeks prior to the proposed date the following information must be received by the Faculty of Graduate Studies:

  1. Thesis examining committee reports (both internal and external)
  2. Student’s examination program information (submitted in a Word document):
  3. 1. Biographical data if desired (i.e. birthplace)
    2. List of degrees obtained--institution and date
    3. List of the candidate's awards, publications, and joint publications
    4. An abstract of the thesis (not more than 350 words)

1. It is the responsibility of the Department to reserve the room for the oral examination and notify FGS of the date, time and location.
2. The examination must be held at either the University of Manitoba Fort Garry or Bannatyne campus, or the St. Boniface Research Centre.


Once the oral examination has been scheduled, the Faculty of Graduate Studies must be notified. A minimum of two weeks' notice is required. The Faculty of Graduate Studies will then ensure that memoranda announcing the examination are sent to the Department/Unit and the event is posted on the University webpage.

1. The oral examination is open to all members of the University community. Graduate students should especially be encouraged to attend.
2. Notices of the examination, including the invitation to graduate students, should be posted within the Department/Unit.


Upon receipt of the External Examiner’s report, FGS will forward the report and the “Guidelines for the Scheduling and Conduct of Ph.D. Oral Examinations” to the Department/Unit Head, Advisor, and Internal Examining Committee members.

Approximately one week prior to the oral examination, FGS will provide the Chair of the examination with a Chair package including the following:

  • copies of all of the examiner's reports, both internal and external,
  • the questions and expected answers, if provided, from the external examiner if not attending,
  • the examination programs,
  • release and copyright forms for the student,
  • "Guidelines for the Scheduling and Conduct of the Oral Examination".

1. Questions submitted by the external examiner will not be forwarded to the advisor or to the candidate prior to the examination, unless this is explicitly requested by the external.


The individual chairing the oral examination bears a very important responsibility. A thorough examination and defence of the thesis serves as the University's guarantee that the standards of the Ph.D. are not only maintained, but strengthened. To this end, the procedures for the conduct of the examination must be consistent and adhered to strictly.

Prior to the start of the formal examination

The Chair ensures that:

  • the location, facilities and equipment are considered appropriate for a Ph.D. defence,
  • copies of the examination program are distributed to the candidate, the Examining Committee, and members of the audience, and
  • the examining committee is aware of and understands the examination procedures.

General introduction and welcome

The Chair welcomes all of those in attendance and impresses upon the candidate, the examiners, and the audience that this occasion is the senior academic event in the Faculty of Graduate Studies and is a formal examination process prior to awarding the highest academic degree of the University of Manitoba;

Introduction of candidate and examiners

Referring to the Examination Program, the Chair:

  • introduces the candidate, noting previous degrees obtained, awards, special achievements, and publications, and
  • introduces the Examining Committee, beginning with a special welcome to the external examiner (if present) and proceeding with introductions of the non-departmental examiner, departmental examiners, and finally the advisor.

1. The Chair should note that all members of the examining committee have read the thesis and submitted written reports. The advisor may or may not have included a report.

Outline of procedures for the Oral Examination.

The Chair outlines the procedures for the conduct of the examination for the candidate, examining committee, and audience as follows:

  1. The candidate will be asked to give a 25 to 30 minute presentation of the thesis to include the major objectives, content, results, and conclusions. The Chair also notes that the Candidate's ability to present the thesis clearly and concisely in a 25 to 30 minute period is an essential part of the examination process.
  2. At the conclusion of the candidate's presentation, the examiners will be invited to pose questions. The Chair reminds the examiners that they will each be initially allowed approximately 20 minutes to pose their questions and that, because this is an examination on which candidates may, and do, pass or fail, their comments and discussions on the subject matter of the thesis, apart from those essential to the questions, should be made only at the post-examination meeting of the examiners.
  3. The order of questioning from the examiners is: external examiner, non-departmental examiner, departmental examiners, and the advisor. The Chair notes that ample time will be given to ensure that the examiners are able to complete their questions and that they may raise additional matters after hearing the initial round of questions. The Chair also notes that, if the external examiner is not present, the Chair (or advisor, as decided) will pose the questions from the external examiner to the candidate.
  4. If time permits, and after the questioning by members of the Examining Committee is completed, the Guest member (if applicable and in attendance) may be given an opportunity to ask questions, followed by other members of the FGS and members of the audience.

1. The Chair is not permitted to pose any questions of his/her own to the candidate. The Chair must remain neutral at all times.
2. At the conclusion of the candidate's presentation and before the questioning period, the Chair should allow sufficient time for those members of the audience who wish to leave the session to do so.
3. One and one-half hours should normally be sufficient for the conduct of the oral examination by the committee, but in no case should the questioning exceed two hours.

Following completion of the presentation and questioning period

The Chair conducts the remainder of the Oral Examination as follows:

  • the audience (and Guest member, if applicable) is thanked for their attendance and support of the candidate and, along with the candidate, is asked to leave so that a confidential meeting of the Examining Committee may be held.
  • each examiner is asked, in sequence, to comment on the candidate's performance with respect to the answers to the questions and on whether the candidate should pass or fail the oral examination*.
  • the candidate is invited back into the room and informed of the results of the examination, the nature of revisions, and the method of approval of the revisions.
  • the candidate is reminded of the procedures for submission of the thesis to MSpace, and of the meaning and use of the copyright and partial release of copyright forms.
  • the candidate is congratulated (if appropriate) and members of the Examining Committee thanked.

1. *If the external examiner or two or more internal examiners indicate a fail, the candidate fails the examination.
2. The decision of the Examination Committee is reported on the “Final Oral Examination of the Ph.D. Thesis” form, submitted to FGS.
3. A second attempt at the oral defence of the thesis may be scheduled in accordance with the regulations of FGS.
4. The nature of required revisions, prior to submission of the final copy of the thesis to MSpace as well as the procedures for their completion is determined. This is done by the Chair in discussion with the committee.
5. The members of the Examining Committee are asked to sign the approval form, and indicate whether they assign the candidate a vote of “Pass” or “Fail” on their oral defense.

Following completion of the examination.

The Chair shall:

  • communicate to the Dean of Graduate Studies, through the submission of the “Report for Final Examination of the Ph.D.” form, the nature of the revisions and the procedures to ensure that the revisions are satisfactorily made

The Dean of Graduate Studies shall:

  • ensure that the External Examiner is thanked for his/her services

The Advisor shall:

  • approve the revisions to the thesis according to the agreed upon directions from the Examining Committee.
  • obtain the committee members’ signatures on the "Final Oral Examination of the Ph.D. Thesis" form, including any members who attended the defence remotely.
  • submit the "Final Oral Examination of the Ph.D. Thesis" form to the Graduate Studies Office by the appropriate deadline.

The Candidate shall:

  • submit all required forms to the Faculty of Graduate Studies, room 500 University Centre, including thesis release forms and, if applicable, copyright permissions.
  • submit a digital version of the final thesis as an e-thesis at the MSpace website (