MSc and PhD oral defense

Now that you are thinking ahead to the actual defense of your thesis/dissertation, please note that there are certain procedures, paperwork and deadlines to comply with. Once you’ve reached this point, you must contact the . The following gives you a general idea of tasks involved in scheduling the oral exam.

Read the Thesis and Dissertation Guidelines carefully!

Please also keep a copy of the Degree Completion Checklist (3pgs, 216kb) on hand - this checklist contains all of the steps that you will need to follow to complete your degree requirements.

Step 1: Your Supervisor agrees that you are ready to defend

Your supervisor must have read your thesis and agrees that you are ready to defend. You must allow at least two weeks for your supervisor to review your thesis.

Step 2: Distribute your thesis to your committee

Each member of your supervisory committee gets a copy of your thesis/dissertation.

The copies that are distributed to your committee members should have all pages numbered (including frontispiece and figures) and should contain thesis quality figures. What you are handing out at this point is a version of your thesis that you think should not require revisions (although this is rarely the case).

You must allow at least two weeks for your committee to read your thesis. When distributing your thesis, tell your committee when you are hoping to defend so that you can get an idea if this is a suitable time for them.

Step 3: Find an external examiner

Your supervisor must find an appropriate external examiner and confirm with the individual his/her availability to attend the oral examination on the specified date and time. Once you have obtained the information, please provide the name, address, telephone/fax numbers and email address of the external examiner to the Graduate Program Assistant.

Regulations governing the choice of external examiners are as follows:

  • PhD Students: The external examiner must be from outside of the university. The external examiner must be appointed by the Dean of Graduate Studies in consultation with the department(s), and must be an arm's-length authority in the field of research being examined.
  • MSc Students: The external examiner has not had any previous involvement with graduate supervision of the candidate. Please note that the final oral examining committee must include at least one person from outside the home academic unit.

Step 4: Prepare Request for Oral Exam form

After each supervisory committee member has read the thesis/dissertation and has agreed that it is examinable, the following procedures take place:

The student and the committee will decide on a date for the oral that is convenient for everyone. This date must be far enough in advance to allow time to submit the Request for Oral Examination form (MSc / PhD) to the Dean's Office at least 20 working days (for MSc) or 30 working days (for PhD) prior to the examination.

Member signatures may be acquired in any order, except that the supervisor(s) must sign first. The Graduate Program Assistant will obtain the last signature - that of the graduate advisor. The thesis/dissertation version that your committee reviews prior to the defense is the version that must go to the external examiner and to Graduate Studies. Make all revisions after the defense.

If you have committee members that are off campus and not easily accessible (i.e. out of town) the Graduate Program Assistant can email a copy of the Request for Oral Examination to them to sign and to return via email. Once all signatures are obtained take the Request for Oral Form to the Graduate Program Assistant so she can check for completeness and make a copy for our records.

Step 5: Submission to Graduate Studies

Submit the signed 'Request for Oral Form' and a copy of your thesis/dissertation to the Graduate Program Assistant. The Graduate Program Assistant will obtain the Graduate Advisor's signature and submit the ROE to the Faculty of Graduate Studies. This must be done 20 working days prior to the defence for MSc students and 30 working days prior to the defence for PhD students.

PhD students: The Faculty of Graduate Studies will send the external examiner a copy of the dissertation.

MSc students: It is the student's or the supervisor's responsibility to send a copy of the thesis to the external examiner and this copy must be identical to the committee's copies. This must be done before the Request for Oral Exam is submitted to the Faculty of Graduate Studies.

After your Request for Oral Examination is submitted, you should receive an email from Graduate Records prompting you to register for UVicSpace, the online repository where your defended thesis/dissertation will be uploaded later on. Please follow the instructions and register for UVicSpace.

Step 6: Convocation deadlines

Convocation occurs twice a year (in June and November). In order to convocate at either ceremony, you must have your thesis/dissertation completed and archived (i.e. the defense is over, revisions made and final copies are at Graduate Records) by the posted degree submission deadlines (April 30, August 31, and December 31).

You must apply to graduate by Nov 15 (December completion) or Feb 15 (April completion) for Spring convocation, and by July 15 (August completion) for Fall convocation. If you haven't applied by these dates, submit your application via your Online tools (formerly MyPage) as soon as possible. However, if you've already applied, but know that you will not meet the requirements to graduate on time, notify the Graduate Admission and Records Office. You must apply to graduate before the Graduate Admissions and Records Office can proceed with setting up your Oral Exam.


Step 7: Day of the defense

The Graduate Program Assistant will prepare two forms and give them to your supervisor to take to the oral:

  1. Thesis/Dissertation Approval Form: this form requires original signatures from all the members of your committee. All supervisory committee members are normally expected to be present for their students' oral examinations. In the event that a faculty member is unable to attend, please read this memo.
  2. Letter of Recommendation: this is a letter signed by your supervisor(s) and the Chair of the Department.

At the defense you will give a 20 minute presentation followed by questions. The external examiner has the first opportunity to ask questions, followed by the committee members, and finally the supervisor. There may be a second round of questions, and the exam Chair may also have a question (rarely). The room is then cleared of all spectators and the candidate, while the committee confers and comes to a decision.

Step 8: After the defense

The supervisory committee must return comments on a thesis or dissertation within 20 business days. Your supervisor has to approve the revisions and corrections of your thesis/dissertation. Once your supervisor has approved your final version, follow the UVic Library instructions on how to upload it to UVicSpace.

Once your supervisor has approved your revisions and corrections, the Graduate Program Assistant will submit all the forms to the Graduate Admissions and Records Office. This must be done by 3pm on the last business day of the term you wish to complete in—no exceptions.

Step 9: Copies for binding

Effective 1st September, 2023, the Physics and Astronomy department will no longer be providing a binding service for thesis or dissertations.

Outstanding debts?

Check with Graduate Admission and Records (not Accounting) to be sure that you do not owe any money to the University. You will not be allowed to graduate if you have any outstanding debts. You may be able to make formal arrangements with Accounting Services for payment later.

Please note that if you have outstanding debts to UVic (e.g. Traffic Fines), you may receive a “bill” instead of a diploma in your envelope at the convocation ceremony.