The PhD oral examination
Doctoral students must pass an oral examination on the subject of their thesis and matters relating to it before they may obtain their PhD degree. Here are the key tasks for preparing for and conducting the PhD oral examination.
- The examination will be conducted by the Dean of Graduate Studies or the Dean's designate chosen from among scholars of the University (the "Chair").
- 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 oral examination is open to all members of the University community. Graduate students are especially encouraged to attend.
Scheduling the oral examination
It is the responsibility of the department to reserve the room for the oral examination and notify the Faculty of Graduate Studies (FGS) of the date, time and location (and/or virtual platform, if applicable) no later than two weeks (10 business days) prior to the date of the examination. Note: the Faculty will not accept examination information before all reports have been received from the internal and external members of the examining committee.
If the examination is to be held in-person or using a blended format, the examination must be held at one of the following:
- University of Manitoba Fort Garry campus
- University of Manitoba Bannatyne campus
- St. Boniface Hospital Albrechtsen Research Centre
All internal members of the examining committee must be present at the defence, unless exceptional circumstances prevent this and prior approval has been given by the Dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies (FGS).
Departments/Units may choose to conduct Ph.D. Oral Examinations in-person, remotely, or using a hybrid model. Note that for in-person and hybrid examinations, Departments/Units will be responsible for providing appropriate space and technology for their chosen delivery method(s) (e.g., sufficient space for adequate distancing of all in-person attendees and reliable technology to facilitate hybrid participation) and aiding in securing a chair.
At least two weeks prior to the proposed date of the examination, the following information must be received by the Faculty of Graduate Studies:
- Student’s examination program information:
- Biographical data, if desired (e.g., birth place)
- List of degrees obtained: institution and date
- List of the candidate's awards, publications, and joint publications
- An abstract of the thesis (not more than 350 words)
Advertising the oral examination
Once the oral examination has been scheduled by the department, 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 Faculty of Graduate Studies events page.
Notices of the examination, including the invitation to graduate students, should be posted within the department/unit.
Documentation for the conduct of the examination
Upon receipt of the internal and external examiner’s reports, FGS will forward the reports and the “Guidelines for 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 an electronic package containing:
- "Chairing Ph.D. Oral Examinations" Guide, including:
- Guidelines for Ph.D. Oral Examinations;
- Sample Chair Script;
- Candidate Bio, Thesis Title (as distributed), and Thesis Abstract;
- 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;
- Approval Form;
- Chair Report; and
- MSpace Brochure
Conduct of the examination
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 maintained. To this end, the procedures for the conduct of the examination must be consistent and adhered to strictly.
The Chair is responsible for:
- Recording attendance of the examining committee and any guests that may be present.
- Note: All internal examiners must attend unless otherwise approved by the Dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies. If any of the expected members of the examining committee are absent, the Chair must seek approval for the examination to proceed from the Faculty of Graduate Studies;
- Ensuring that the examination follows the procedure detailed below in a professional and collegial manner;
- Monitoring the examining committee's deliberations and conducting a vote to determine the rest of the examination;
- Informing the candidate of the result of the examination and outlining the post-examination procedures for both the candidate and the examining committee; and
- Completing and submitting the Chair Report Form to the Faculty of Graduate Studies
General introduction and welcome
The chair welcomes all of those in attendance. The chair 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
- introduces the candidate, noting previous degrees obtained, awards, special achievements, and publications
- 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.
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 submitted a report.
Outline of procedures for the oral examination
- The candidate will give a 20 to 25-minute presentation of the major objectives, content, results, and conclusions of their thesis. The candidate’s ability to present the thesis clearly and concisely is an essential part of the examination process.
- At the conclusion of the candidate’s presentation, the examiners will each be initially allowed approximately 20 minutes to pose questions in the following order:
- External Examiner (or Chair on the External Examiner's behalf)
- Internal Examiners and Knowledge Keeper (if applicable)
- Advisor (and C0-Advisor, if applicable)
- A second round of questions may be offered to the examining committee if time permits.
- The Invited Member (if applicable) and audience will be invited to ask questions if time permits.
- Once the question periods are completed, the candidate, audience, and Invited Member (if applicable) will be asked to leave the room/virtual meeting. The examining committee will discuss the candidate’s performance and determine the outcome of the oral examination.
- The candidate will be invited to return once the examining committee reaches a decision.
For virtual and Hybrid Examinations, the Chair must also state the following:
- All remote audience members must keep their microphone and video off for the duration of the examination. If time permits questions from the audience, members may turn their video on only when speaking;
- All participants and attendees may only use the chat function to communicate technical difficulties to the meeting host, or to indicate that they would like to pose a question during the appropriate time.
Professionalism and collegiality are expected of all particpants and attendees. Any who behave inappropriately will be removed from the meeting.
In addition, not that:
- In no case should the questioning exceed two hours;
- The Chair must remain neutral, and consequently is not permitted to pose any questions of their own; and
- The examiners should keep comments and discussion on the subject matter of the thesis to a minimum, unless they are essential to the questions being posed. Otherwise, such comments and discussions should occur only during the examiners deliberations.
After the candidate’s presentation and questioning period
The chair conducts the remainder of the oral examination as follows:
- The audience (and Invited 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. If the external examiner or two or more internal examiners indicate a fail, the candidate fails the 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 the UM's digital repository, MSpace.The candidate is congratulated (if appropriate) and members of the examining committee are thanked.
The decision of the Examination Committee is reported on the “Chair Report Form”, submitted to FGS. 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 defence.
A second attempt at the oral defence of the thesis may be scheduled in accordance with the Academic Guide.
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 by the chair, in discussion with the committee.
Following completion of the examination
After the examination is complete, these participants are responsible for the following tasks.
The chair shall:
- Communicate the result of the examination, nature of revisions (if any), participant attendance methods (for hybrid examinations only), and revision procedure to the Dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies through the submission of the Chair Report Form. If revisions are required, the Chair will obtain the signatures of those responsible for overseeing the revisions prior to submitting the form via email to the Faculty of Graduate Studies Student Program Assistant responsible for the candidate’s unit;
- Sign the Final Oral Examination of the Ph.D. Thesis Approval Form and email it to the Advisor; and
- Provide the candidate with the MSpace brochure (if the examination is passed) via email.
The Advisor/Co-Advisor (if applicable) shall:
- Ensure that any required revisions to the thesis have been approved according to the agreed upon procedure;
- Obtain the signature of all committee members who participated in the oral examination on the Approval Form; and
- Submit the Approval Form via email to the Faculty of Graduate Studies Student Program Assistant responsible for the candidate's unit in time to meet relevant deadlines.
The candidate shall:
- Revise the thesis as required by the examining committee and follow the agreed upon approval procedure;
- Upload a digital (pdf) version of the final thesis to the MSPace website once all required revisions have been made and approved.
The Dean of Graduate Studies shall:
- Ensure that the external examiner is thanked for their services
Video conference capabilities for examinations
The Faculty of Graduate Studies encourages units to have external examiners participate in the Ph.D. oral examination. This can be accomplished by video conference if it is too expensive or not possible for the external examiner to be present.
The University of Manitoba has excellent videoconferencing facilities. They may be used:
- for University of Manitoba oral examinations with an external examiner at another institution
- for University of Manitoba faculty members who are external examiners when the examination is held at another institution.
Please contact Information Services & Technology (IST) to ask about current videoconferencing rates for oral examinations. Please refer to video recording and productions services for more information.