PhD Exam Committee & Scheduling

Scheduling the PhD oral exam

The Supervisor and all Supervisory Committee members must approve the student’s thesis prior to the online submission of the “PhD Oral Exam Request” form (available under Forms and Links). The Supervisory Committee and Supervisor will be emailed by the Graduate Program Coordinator after submission of the form for confirmation. Supervisors are expected to read and return the thesis draft to the student within three weeks, after which the student will distribute a revised version to the Supervisory Committee members. The Supervisory Committee members  are then expected to read and return the thesis with comments within three weeks. Failure by faculty members to meet these deadlines should be reported to the Graduate Coordinator as described below.

Students will submit the “PhD Oral Exam Request” form online once they have confirmed a date and time for the exam with all members of the Exam Committee. This request may be submitted at any point after the Supervisor has approved the draft of the student’s thesis and no less than 8 weeks prior to the exam. This allows the Graduate Program Coordinator sufficient time to find rooms for the public seminar and subsequent Oral Examination, and have the Exam Committee approved by the School of Graduate Studies. Failure to meet this deadline will likely result in the exam request being denied. Note that final copies of the thesis are no longer required for this form. It is important to note that the student must not have any contact with the External Examiner prior to the PhD thesis defence, including the distribution of the thesis. This communication should be carried out by the Supervisor.

Immediately following the PhD Exam Request submission, students must submit a 1-page double-spaced abstract, and a curriculum vitae containing their name, education and publications to the Graduate Program Coordinator. A curriculum vitae for the proposed External  Examiner/Appraiser must also be provided. If a student cannot find a current CV online for the prospective External Examiner/Appraiser, the Supervisor must obtain one on the student’s behalf. Note that PhD Exam Requests cannot be considered until the supporting documents are received. The student’s Supervisor will send the External Examiner/Appraiser the edited PhD thesis at least six weeks prior to the exam date. The student and supervisor must also ensure that the thesis is distributed at least four weeks prior to the exam date to all other
Exam Committee members.

The External Examiner/Appraiser must submit a written appraisal of the thesis to the Graduate Program Coordinator at least 2 weeks prior to the exam. If the report is not received by that date, the School of Graduate Studies may cancel the examination and request another six weeks' notice for rescheduling.

Choosing the PhD oral exam committee

The "Request to set up a PhD Oral Examination" form includes a list of proposed Exam Committee members. The Student Services Assistant will ensure that all the Exam Committee members are willing to serve and will be available for the exam. The final composition of the committee is subject to the Graduate Coordinator and SGS approval.

The exam committee comprises

  1. A Molecular Genetics Department member within the student’s primary research field,  chosen and invited by the student and Supervisor. This person must not have been involved with the student’s research project. 
  2. The student's Supervisor
  3. Supervisory Committee members (usually 1 or 2).
  4. An External Examiner/Appraiser (a faculty member from another university, who must be at least an Associate or Full Professor). The external examiner must have an arms-length relationship to both the candidate and the supervisor. The student is not permitted to have any contact with the examiner prior to the exam. An external examiner cannot be used more frequently than once every two years for committees with substantive overlap of members with whom the external has served within the past two years (i.e. more than three voting members.)
  5. An academic faculty member from another University of Toronto department. This examiner cannot have been closely involved in the supervision of the thesis.
  6. An Exam Committee Chair - a non-voting member appointed by the School of Graduate Studies.

Exam Committee members from the University of Toronto must be Full Members of the Graduate School.

Both the student and supervisor should bear in mind that the Department has very limited funds to pay the expenses of the External Examiner. The Department will cover up to $400 for travel expenses (supervisors are responsible for any amount above this), a standard 1-2 night accommodation and a $250 honorarium. All additional expenses are the responsibility of the supervisor.

Delays in scheduling the PhD oral exam

If a PhD Oral Examination is not scheduled within 4.5 months from the time permission was granted for thesis writing and the PhD Terminal Committee Meeting Report was signed, the student must submit a Request to Extend the Time Limit for Completing the MSc or PhD Thesis form to the Graduate Coordinator. See the appropriate form for details, which includes proposing a new realistic timeline for the oral exam.

If the 4.5-month deadline passes without an approved extension, the graduate stipend may be withdrawn due to failure to meet program requirements. HOWEVER, a supervisor may not withdraw a student’s stipend without prior consultation with the Graduate Coordinator. If a student has set up the exam within the required time frame, the stipend must be paid until both the oral exam and thesis revisions recommended by the Exam Committee have been completed.

Supervisors are required to pay students during the thesis writing and defense period for up to 6 months, provided the student has not taken another job. If the thesis writing is delayed such that the submission of the thesis and defense take longer than 6 months, continuation of the stipend is at the discretion of the supervisor.

Delays in approval of PhD thesis

Since thesis writing and committee approval must be completed within a tight time frame, supervisors and supervisory committee members are obliged to promptly read and approve a draft thesis. Supervisors are expected to read and return theses to their students in three weeks or less. Committee members are expected to read and return theses with comments in three weeks or less. If a student does not receive the corrected thesis within these time frames, they should contact the supervisor or committee member by email and obtain a revised deadline for finishing the corrections. If this subsequent deadline is unreasonable or if this deadline is not met, the student should report the situation to the Graduate Coordinator along with appropriate documentation. The Graduate Coordinator will take immediate measures to resolve the situation.

The PhD Oral Exam form can be submitted only after the supervisory committee have read and critiqued the thesis. At that time, committee members will return the critiqued thesis and any additional suggestions for revisions. Students are expected to incorporate these changes before distributing the thesis to the External Examiner and other Exam Committee members. If there are disagreements between a committee member and the student and/or supervisor about the nature and/or extent of the changes to be made to the thesis, the Graduate Coordinator should be consulted. The Graduate Coordinator will decide on how to proceed. Note that this resolution process will not be influenced by prior unofficial arrangements of PhD exam dates (e.g. having agreed on a date with an external examiner).

The Department will not tolerate excessive delays by faculty members in reading and approving theses. Offenders will be sanctioned and may lose their graduate appointments.