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    University of Alberta
   
 
  Dec 13, 2017
 
 
    
University of Alberta Calendar 2016-2017 [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Supervision and Examinations


Return to: Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research  

 

The minimum requirements for all graduate programs are set by the Council of the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research of the University of Alberta. In this Calendar the minimum requirements acceptable are outlined under the respective headings. Students should note that the individual graduate program may impose additional requirements.

Supervision and Supervisory Committees

Departmental Regulations

Departments are responsible for preparing a set of regulations and guidelines for supervisors and students. Guidelines should deal with the selection and functioning of supervisors and should outline the joint responsibilities of faculty members and graduate students. Avenues of appeal open to students who feel they are receiving unsatisfactory supervision should also be specified.

Appointment of the Supervisor(s)

Every student in a thesis-based program is required to have a supervisor. The department that admits a student to a thesis-based graduate program is responsible for providing supervision within a subject area in which it has competent supervisors, and in which the student has expressed an interest.

Normally there is only one supervisor. Departments may consider the appointment of more than one supervisor for a student.

Implicit in the admission process is the following: on the applicant's part, that there has been an indication of at least a general area of interest and, preferably, provision of some form of proposal, particularly if the program is at the doctoral level; on the department's part, that the application has been reviewed, the area of interest examined, academic expectations and potential performance considered, and that the department accepts its obligation to provide appropriate supervision for the applicant in the specified subject area.

It is expected that every effort will be made to arrive at a mutually agreeable arrangement for supervision between the student and the department. Students are normally involved in the process for selecting their supervisor(s) although this process varies from program to program.

When the department is making arrangements for the appointment of supervisors, supervisory committees, and examining committees, or for the scheduling of meetings and examinations, the student shall be consulted and kept informed, but the student shall not be asked to conduct such organizational activities.

The authority for the appointment of supervisors, and final examining committees rests with the Dean of the department's Faculty, while the authority for the appointment of supervisory committees and doctoral candidacy examining committees rests with the department. Such appointment decisions are final and nonappealable.

Article 7.02.1 of the Faculty Agreement lists the "supervision of graduate students" as a form of "participation in teaching programs". It is expected that a department will monitor and review the performance of supervisors.

Supervisors on Leave

It is the responsibility of supervisors to make adequate provision for supervision of their graduate students during their leave. Therefore, if a supervisor is to be absent from the University for a period exceeding two months, it is the supervisor's responsibility to nominate an adequate interim substitute and to inform the student and the department.

Supervisors planning to take a sabbatical should follow the requirements found in Appendix E of the Faculty Agreement with respect to adequate advance arrangements for graduate students while a supervisor is on sabbatical.

Eligibility for Appointment as Supervisor

Each of the following criteria must be met by at least one of the supervisor(s):

  1. be a tenured, tenure-track, or retired faculty member, or a Faculty Service Officer, of the University of Alberta (current or retired categories A1.1, A1.3, or current category C1.1, as defined in the University's Recruitment Policy (Appendix A) Definition and Categories of Academic Staff and Colleagues);
  2. be active in the general subject area of the student's research;.
  3. demonstrate continuing scholarly or creative activity of an original nature;
    and
  4. either hold a degree equivalent to or higher than that for which the student is a candidate, or have a demonstrated record of successfully supervising students for the degree.

If one of conditions (1)-(4) is not satisfied by any of the proposed supervisors, then a departmental justification (with the proposed supervisors' CV) is put forward to the Dean of the department's Faculty for approval.

For supervisors from outside the University of Alberta, working with a supervisor at the University of Alberta, there should be an indication of the means by which meaningful interaction can be maintained.

Time Line for the Appointment of Supervisors and Introductory Meetings

Ideally, the supervisor for a thesis-based student, both master's and doctoral, should be appointed as soon as the student arrives to begin their program of studies. If this is not possible, an interim academic advisor may be appointed by the department. Supervisor(s) must be appointed within the first 12 months of the student's program following the procedures approved by the Dean of the department's Faculty. Every department must develop a list of topics that will be covered during the introductory meetings between a supervisor and a graduate student. These meetings should be held during the term in which a supervisor is first appointed. Topics likely to be listed include program requirements, academic integrity requirements, the role of the supervisor, the preferred means of communication, the availability or non-availability of funding, and scholarly practices and outputs. 

Supervisory Committees

Thesis-based master's students

Every thesis-based master's student must have a supervisor. It is not a University requirement for master's students to have a supervisory committee; however, some graduate programs may require them. As ex-officio members of the master's final examining committee, departments should ensure that the members of the supervisory committee meet the eligibility criteria as examiners.

Doctoral students

Every doctoral student's program shall be under the direction of a supervisory committee approved by the department. A doctoral supervisory committee must have at least three members, and must include all the supervisors. As ex-officio members of the candidacy and the doctoral final examining committees, all members of the supervisory committee must meet the eligibility criteria for examiners.

The supervisory committee is chaired by one of the supervisors.

Compliance with the University of Alberta's Conflict Policy - Conflict of Interest and Commitment, and Institutional Conflict is mandatory.

The committee will arrange for the necessary examinations and for adjudication of the thesis. The committee shall have a formal regular meeting with the student at least once a year.

The department should ensure that the members of a supervisory committee are sufficiently competent and experienced to serve at the required level. In forming a supervisory committee, the department should consider the rank and experience of the prospective members, their publications and other demonstrations of competence in the subject area or field of specialization, and the prospective members' experience in graduate supervision.

For doctoral students, the department shall appoint the supervisory committee well in advance of the candidacy examination.

Resolving Conflicts in Supervisor-Student Relationships

The relationship between students and supervisors is normally close and long-lasting. At times, conflicts may arise between a student and the supervisor. In such cases, the first step must be to try to resolve the conflict or misunderstanding informally. This is more likely to be successful if attended to as early as possible. The supervisor and student should discuss the problem together. The supervisor should document the discussions and keep a record of any agreements made. In the event of a conflict the graduate coordinator should be notified as early as possible.

It is the responsibility of the graduate coordinator to arrange for consultation and mediation. The graduate coordinator or the parties involved may request advice and/or mediation assistance from their Faculty, the FGSR, and/or other appropriate services, such as the Student Ombudservice. The student and supervisors shall not be required to participate in informal resolution against their wishes if either party's behaviour towards the other warrants a complaint under the Code of Student Behaviour, the Discrimination and Harassment Policy, or other University policy.

If informal resolution is unsuccessful or inappropriate, and the graduate coordinator determines that the supervisor-student relationship is beyond repair, the department will attempt in good faith to work with the student to find alternative supervision within the department, and will keep the FGSR apprised of these efforts.

Where the supervisor has been providing funding to the student, the funding should continue for a period of at least 30 days from the date on which the graduate coordinator determines that the supervisor-student relationship is beyond repair.

If the best arrangements of the department and the FGSR fail to meet the expectations of the student, the student may choose to withdraw without prejudice. If the student refuses to accept the supervision provided, or if no supervision can be secured, then the student is not fulfilling the academic requirement of having a supervisor and may, on academic grounds, be required to withdraw.

The Structure of Examining Committees

Formal examining committees are required for thesis-based master's final examination, doctoral candidacy examinations, and doctoral final examinations. Members of these examining committees perform two functions: 1) they bring disciplinary knowledge and expertise to the assessment of the thesis, and 2) they ensure that the University's expectations are met regarding the conduct of the examination, adherence to all relevant policies, and the suitability of the thesis for the degree.

The Chair

Every examining committee must have a chair who is not a supervisor but is a member of the student's home department. The chair should have sufficient experience of graduate examinations to be able to allow the examination to be conducted in a fair manner, and is responsible for moderating the discussion and directing questions. It is the chair's responsibility to ensure that departmental and FGSR regulations relating to the final examination are followed. If the chair is not an examiner, then the chair does not vote. The FGSR encourages, and for doctoral examinations strongly recommends, that committee chairs not be examiners.

Examiners

Examiners are full voting members of the examining committee. With the exception of the Dean, FGSR, the Dean of the department's Faculty, or a Pro Dean (Dean's representative), who may participate fully in the examination, persons other than the examiners may attend only with the prior approval of the Dean, FGSR, the Dean of the department's Faculty, or the chair of the examining committee. With the possible exception of the Pro Deans, all examiners must be either active in the general subject area of the student's research, or bring relevant expertise to the assessment of the thesis.

Arm's Length Examiners

An arm's length examiner must not be (or have been) a member of the supervisory committee, or have been connected with the thesis research in a significant way. The examiner should not have been associated with the student, outside of usual contact in courses or other non-thesis activities within the University, nor be related to the student or supervisor(s).

Except in special circumstances (fully justified in writing to the Dean of the department's Faculty), an arm's length examiner should not be a close collaborator of the supervisor(s) within the last six years.

Arm's length examiners who have served on a student's candidacy examination committee do not lose their arm's length status as a result, and are eligible to serve as arm's length examiners on the student's doctoral final examination if the other conditions of being arm's length remain unchanged.

In the case of a doctoral final examination, the required External (i.e., the arm's length examiner from outside the University of Alberta) is, by definition, an arm's length examiner.

Every examining committee requires a minimum number of arm's length examiners: At least one for a master's final examination, at least two for a candidacy examination, and at least two for a doctoral final examination.

Compliance with the University of Alberta's Conflict Policy - Conflict of Interest and Commitment, and Institutional Conflict is mandatory.

Ex-Officio Examiners

The supervisor(s), and, for doctoral students, the other members of the student's supervisory committee, are ex-officio members of the examining committee.

Minimum Membership Requirements for Examining Committees

At least half of the examiners on every examining committee must have a degree which is equivalent to, or higher than, the degree being examined.

At least half of the examiners on every examining committee must be tenured, tenure-track, or retired University of Alberta faculty members, or Faculty Service Officers, (current or retired categories A1.1, A1.3, or current category C1.1, as defined in the University of Alberta's Recruitment Policy (Appendix A) Definition and Categories of Academic Staff and Colleagues).

Minimum Size of an Examining Committee

By definition, no individual can be both an arm's length examiner and an ex-officio examiner on the same examining committee.

The minimum size of a master's final examining committee is three. This minimum size condition is automatically met except when the student has one supervisor, no supervisory committee, and there is only one arm's length examiner on the examining committee. In this case, the examining committee requires at least one more examiner.

For doctoral candidacy and doctoral final examinations, the minimum size of the examining committee is five.

Conduct of Examinations

Common Examination Protocols

Attendance at Examinations: In the absence of unforeseen circumstances, it is essential that all examiners attend the entire examination. Attendance means participation in the examination either in person or via Teleconferencing (see below). The only exception allowed is the External Reader for a doctoral final examination, who participates by providing a detailed report and a list of questions.

If the department has warning that any member of the examining committee cannot attend the examination, the department should contact the Dean of the FGSR for advice. The situation will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis, but it may be necessary that the examination be postponed and rescheduled, or the examiner be replaced.

Except for the Dean, FGSR, the Dean of the department's Faculty, or a Pro Dean (the representative of the Dean, FGSR), who may participate fully in the examination, persons other than the examiners may attend only with the approval of the Dean, FGSR, the Dean of the department's Faculty, or the chair of the committee.

Attendance and Responsibilities of a Pro Dean at Examinations: A Pro Dean is a full voting member when attending an examination. The Pro Dean's presence is in addition to the regular membership. Attendance of the Pro Dean may be at the request of a committee member, student, chair, graduate coordinator, the Dean of the department's Faculty, or the Dean, FGSR.

The Pro Dean's role is to ensure the proper conduct of the examination and will intercede actively to correct procedural problems. The Pro Dean has the power to adjourn an examination. If problems are encountered, the Pro Dean is asked to submit a brief report to the Dean, FGSR.

Teleconferencing Guidelines for Examinations: The term 'teleconferencing' is used here generically to include all forms of distance conference facilitation including telephone, video and electronic communication.

Departments may wish to use teleconferencing for one or more of the examiners (including the External). It is recommended that no more than two participants use teleconferencing. Teleconferencing may be used for master's or doctoral examinations. Examiners participating in examinations by this means are considered to be in attendance.

Students must attend their candidacy examinations in person. In exceptional circumstances, for the final examinations, students may participate by teleconferencing. It is recommended that if the student is the remote participant, no remote committee members be used.

Use of teleconferencing must be submitted for approval to the Dean of the department's Faculty at the time the examination committee is approved, following the Faculty's established procedures.

Timelines and Approval of the Examining Committee: It is the responsibility of the department to nominate the members of the examining committee following the procedures established by the Dean of the department's Faculty using the Forms available on the FGSR website The notice of final approval must be received by the FGSR at least two weeks in advance of the examination to be coded into the system.

Scheduling of Examinations: It is the responsibility of the supervisor(s) to ensure that:

  1. proper arrangements are made for the student's examination,
  2. the exam is scheduled and held in accordance with FGSR and departmental regulations,
  3. committee members are informed of meetings and details of examinations
  4. the student does not make these arrangements, and
  5. the student provides copies of the thesis (master's and doctoral final examination) to the examiners at least three weeks before the examination. Note that the External for a doctoral final examination must receive a copy of the thesis at least four weeks before the examination.

In the absence of the supervisor, the department's graduate coordinator or designate shall be responsible for these arrangements.

Changing an Examining Committee Member: Changes to the membership of the Examining Committee must occur following the procedures established by the Dean of the department's Faculty.

Language of Examinations: The language used to conduct examinations shall be English, except where already approved by the FGSR Council. However, the examining committee may petition the Dean of the FGSR, and on receiving written approval, may conduct the examination in a language other than English.

Time Limit for Submission of Theses to FGSR: Following completion of the final examination at which the thesis is passed or passed subject to revisions, the student shall make the appropriate revisions where necessary and submit the approved thesis to the FGSR within six months of the date of the final examination. Departments may impose earlier deadlines for submitting revisions.

If the thesis is not submitted to the FGSR within the six-month time limit, the student will be considered to have withdrawn from the program. After this time, the student must apply and be readmitted to the FGSR and register again before the thesis can be accepted. If the final examination is adjourned, the six-month time limit will take effect from the date of completion of the examination where the thesis was passed with or without revisions.

In order to convocate, all thesis-based students must submit their thesis to the FGSR and have it approved before they can be cleared for convocation. The thesis cannot be approved without a valid student registration at the time of approval.

Thesis Based Master's Program Examination

Decision of the Master's Final Examining Committee: The decision of the examining committee will be based both on the content of the thesis and on the student's ability to defend it. The final examination may result in one of the following outcomes:

  • Adjourned
  • Pass
  • Pass subject to revisions
  • Fail

There is no provision for a final examination to be "passed subject to major revisions".

If the Examining Committee fails to reach a decision, the department will refer the matter to the Dean, FGSR, who will determine an appropriate course of action.

Adjourned: An adjourned examination is one that has been abandoned officially. A majority of examiners must agree to an outcome of Adjourned. The final examination should be adjourned in the following situations:

  • The revisions to the thesis are sufficiently substantial that it will require further research or experimentation or major reworking of sections, or if the committee is so dissatisfied with the general presentation of the thesis that it will require a reconvening of the examining committee. In such circumstances the committee cannot pass the student, and must adjourn the examination.
  • The committee is dissatisfied with the student's oral presentation and defence of the thesis, even if the thesis itself is acceptable with or without minor revisions.
  • Compelling, extraordinary circumstances such as a sudden medical emergency taking place during the examination.
  • Discovery of possible offences under the Code of Student Behaviour after the examination has started.

If the examination is adjourned, the committee should:

  • Specify in writing to the student, with as much precision as possible, the nature of the deficiencies and, in the case of revisions to the thesis, the extent of the revisions required. Where the oral defence is unsatisfactory, it may be necessary to arrange some discussion periods with the student prior to reconvening the examination.
  • Decide upon a date to reconvene. If the date of the reconvened examination depends upon the completion of a research task or a series of discussions, it should be made clear which committee members will decide on the appropriate date to reconvene. This new examination must be held within six months of the initial examination.
  • Make it clear to the student what will be required by way of approval before the examination is reconvened (e.g., approval of the committee chair or supervisor, approval of the entire committee, or of select members of the committee).
  • Specify the supervision and assistance the student may expect from the committee members in meeting the necessary revisions.
  • Advise the Dean, FGSR, in writing of the adjournment and the conditions.
  • When the date is set for the adjourned final examination, the department will notify the FGSR. Normally a Pro Dean attends the examination.

Pass: All or all but one of the examiners must agree to an outcome of Pass. If the student passes the examination, the department should submit a completed Thesis Approval/Program Completion form to the FGSR. If one of the examiners fails the student, that examiner does not have to sign this form.

Pass subject to revisions: All or all but one of the examiners must agree to an outcome of Pass subject to revisions. The student has satisfactorily defended the thesis but the revisions to the thesis are sufficiently minor that it will not require a reconvening of the examining committee.

If the examining committee agrees to a "Pass subject to revisions" for the student, the chair of the examining committee must provide in writing, within five working days of the examination, to the Dean, FGSR, the graduate coordinator and the student:

  • the reasons for this outcome,

  • the details of the required revisions,

  • the approval mechanism for meeting the requirement for revisions (e.g., approval of the examining committee chair or supervisor, or approval of the entire examining committee, or select members of the committee), and

  • the supervision and assistance the student can expect to receive from committee members.

The student must make the revisions within six months of the date of the final examination. Once the required revisions have been made and approved, the department shall submit a completed Thesis Approval/Program Completion form to the FGSR indicating "pass subject to revisions". If one of the examiners fails the student that examiner does not have to sign the form. If the required revisions have not been made and approved by the end of the six months deadline, the outcome of the examination is a Fail.

Fail: All or all but one of the examiners must agree to an outcome of Fail. If the examination result is a Fail, no member of the examining committee signs the Thesis Approval/Completion form.

When the outcome is a Fail, the committee chair will provide the reasons for this decision to the department. The department will then provide this report, together with its recommendation for the student's program, to the Dean, FGSR, and to the student.

An Associate Dean, FGSR will normally arrange to meet with the student, the graduate coordinator, and others if needed, before acting upon any departmental recommendation that affects the student's academic standing.

Doctoral Candidacy Examination

Establishing Candidacy Examination Procedures: Each department offering a doctoral degree is responsible for establishing detailed examination policies and procedures for the candidacy examination. These documents should be publicly available.

The candidacy examination is an oral examination; some departments may also require that students take comprehensive written examinations prior to the candidacy examination, but such examinations do not form part of the candidacy examination itself.

For candidacy examinations, students must demonstrate to the satisfaction of the examining committee that they possess:

  1. an adequate knowledge of the discipline and of the subject matter relevant to the thesis;
  2. the ability to pursue and complete original research at an advanced level;
    and
  3. the ability to meet any other requirements found in the department's published policy on candidacy examinations.

The candidacy examination must be held within three years of the commencement of the program in accordance with The Degree of PhD  of the University Calendar. The candidacy examination must be passed no less than six months prior to taking the final examination.

Decision of the Candidacy Committee: The candidacy examination may result in one of the following outcomes:

  • Adjourned
  • Pass
  • Conditional pass
  • Fail and repeat the candidacy
  • Fail with a recommendation to terminate the doctoral program or for a change of category to a master's program.

If the Examining Committee fails to reach a decision, the department will refer the matter to the Dean, FGSR, who will determine an appropriate course of action.

Adjourned: A majority of examiners must agree to an outcome of Adjourned. The candidacy examination should be adjourned in the event of compelling, extraordinary circumstances such as a sudden medical emergency taking place during the examination or possible offences under the Code of Student Behaviour after the examination has started.

Pass: All or all but one of the examiners must agree to an outcome of Pass. If the student passes the candidacy examination, the department should complete the Report of Completion of Candidacy Examination form and submit it to the FGSR.

Conditional Pass: A majority of examiners must agree to an outcome of Conditional Pass. If the candidacy examining committee agrees to a conditional pass for the student, the chair of the examining committee will provide in writing within five working days to the Dean, FGSR, the graduate coordinator and the student:

  • the reasons for this recommendation,
  • the details of the conditions,
  • the timeframe for the student to meet the conditions,
  • the approval mechanism for meeting the conditions (e.g., approval of the committee chair or supervisor, or approval of the entire committee, or select members of the committee), and
  • the supervision and assistance the student can be expected to receive from committee members

Conditions are subject to final approval by the Dean, FGSR. At the deadline specified for meeting the conditions, two outcomes are possible:

  • All the conditions have been met. In this case, the department will complete the Report of Completion of Candidacy Examination form and submit it to the FGSR; or
  • Some of the conditions have not been met. In this case, the outcome of the candidacy examination is a Fail, and the options below are available to the examining committee. Note that the options are different after a failed second candidacy examination.

Fail: If the candidacy examining committee agrees that the student has failed, the committee chair will provide the reasons for this recommendation to the department. The graduate coordinator will then provide this report, together with the department's recommendation for the student's program, to the Dean, FGSR, and to the student.

For failed candidacy examinations, an Associate Dean, FGSR, normally arranges to meet with the student and others as required before acting upon any department recommendation.

The options available to the examining committee when the outcome of a student's candidacy exam is "Fail" are

  • Repeat the Candidacy: A majority of examiners must agree to an outcome of Fail and Repeat the Candidacy. If the student's first candidacy exam performance was inadequate but the student's performance and work completed to date indicate that the student has the potential to perform at the doctoral level, the examining committee should consider the possibility of recommending that the student be given an opportunity to repeat the candidacy exam. Normally, the composition of the examining committee does not change for the repeat candidacy exam.
    If the recommendation of a repeat candidacy is formulated by the examining committee and approved by the FGSR, the student and graduate coordinator are to be notified in writing of the student's exam deficiencies by the chair of the examining committee. The second candidacy exam is to be scheduled no later than six months from the date of the first candidacy. In the event that the student fails the second candidacy, the examining committee shall recommend one of the following two options to the department:
  • Change of Category to a Master's Program: All or all but one of the examiners must agree to an outcome of Fail and Change of Category to a Master's Program. This outcome should be considered if the student's candidacy examination performance was inadequate and the student's performance and work completed to date indicates that the student has the potential to complete a master's, but not a doctoral, program; or
  • Termination of the Doctoral Program: All or all but one of the examiners must agree to an outcome of Fail and Terminate the Doctoral Program. If the student's performance was inadequate, and the work completed during the program is considered inadequate, then the examining committee should recommend termination of the student's program.

Final Doctoral Examination

Each department offering a doctoral degree is required to establish detailed examination procedures for final examinations. These procedures must be made available publicly.

Preliminary Acceptance of the Thesis: Before the thesis is forwarded to the External, the supervisory committee members must declare in writing to the supervisor(s) either that the thesis is of adequate substance and quality to warrant that the student proceed to the final examination or that the thesis is unsatisfactory and the student should not be allowed to proceed to the final examination.

The purpose of this process is to ensure the thesis is vetted by the supervisor(s) and all supervisory committee members and to verify that it is of sufficient substance and quality to proceed to the final examination.

This process is critical to protect and uphold the reputation of the department and the University of Alberta for excellence in graduate programs. It is also critical to ensure that Externals and other additional members of the examining committee are not asked to invest time reading a thesis that is substandard.

Departments may choose to prepare a "Preliminary Acceptance of Thesis" signature sheet for their own records.

Attendance at Doctoral Examinations: Faculty members of the student's home department as well as members of FGSR Council (or their alternates) have the right to attend doctoral examinations but should notify the chair of the examining committee. Other persons may attend the examination only with special permission of the Dean of the department's Faculty, the Dean, FGSR, or the chair of the examining committee.

Except for a Dean or a Pro Dean who may participate fully in the examination, persons who are not members of the examining committee:

  • may participate in the questioning only by permission of the chair of the committee, but
  • are not permitted to participate in the discussion of the student's performance and must withdraw before such discussion commences

Inviting the External Examiner or Reader: Every Final Doctoral Examining Committee must have an External i.e., an arm's length examiner from outside the University of Alberta. The term External Examiner refers to an External that attends the examination; whereas the term External Reader refers to an External who provides a written evaluation of the thesis and questions to be asked during the examination. External Readers are deemed to be in attendance at the examination.

It is the responsibility of the department to recommend an External Examiner or Reader and to submit the name to the Dean of the department's Faculty for approval. Normally, this should be done at least two months in advance of the examination date. The submission must follow the procedures established by the Dean of the department's Faculty.

The External:

  • Must be a recognized authority in the specific field of research of the student's thesis.
  • Will be experienced in evaluating doctoral area work; and
  • Must be in a position to review the thesis objectively and to provide a critical analysis of the work and the presentation.

It is essential that the External not have an association with the student, the supervisor, or the department, within the last six years as this could hinder objective analysis. For example, a proposed External who has within the last six years been associated with the student as a research collaborator or coauthor would not be eligible. Also, a proposed External must not have had an association within the last six years with the doctoral student's supervisor (as a former student, supervisor, or close collaborator, for instance).

Under normal circumstances the same person will not be used as an External at the University of Alberta if that External has served in the same capacity in the same department at this University within the preceding two years; this does not preclude an External serving in another department.

Once the External has been approved an official letter of invitation is issued to the External by the department.

Approval of the Doctoral Final Examining Committee: The department will recommend the names of all members of the final examining committee and forward them to the Dean of the department's Faculty, if decanal approval is required, following the procedures established by their Faculty.

External Readers: Do not attend the examination. Instead, the External Reader is asked in the letter of invitation to prepare a written report consisting of:

  • an evaluation of the scope, structure, methodology, and findings of the thesis,
  • a list of minor errors (if any), and
  • either a list of clear, direct, contextualized questions to be posed to the candidate during the examination, or a brief written commentary of the thesis which can be read to the candidate for response during the examination.

The External Reader must include a statement that the thesis falls into one of the following two categories:

  • Acceptable with minor or no revisions: In this case, the External Reader submits the report to the Graduate Coordinator at least one week before the examination. If the External Reader considers the thesis to be of a calibre worthy of consideration for an award, the External Reader comments on this in the written evaluation; or
  • Unacceptable without major revisions: In this case, the External Reader contacts the Dean of the FGSR immediately by email as the examination may need to be postponed.

The questions or commentary will be made available to the student for the first time during the examination and the committee will evaluate the student's answers as part of the examination.

External Examiners: Attend the examination in person. In the letter of invitation, the External Examiner is requested to prepare and send to the Graduate Coordinator, at least one week in advance of the examination, an evaluation of the thesis placing it temporarily in one of the following categories:

  • the thesis is acceptable with minor or no revisions,
  • the External Examiner wishes to reserve judgment until after the examination, or
  • the thesis is unacceptable without major revisions.

In the first two cases, the External Examiner is asked to provide a brief written commentary (approximately two to three pages) on the structure, methodology, quality, significance and findings of the thesis for the reference of both the student and supervisor. The commentary should not be given to the student prior to the examination.

If the thesis is judged by the External Examiner to fall into the "Unacceptable" category, then the External Examiner is asked to contact the Dean of the FGSR immediately, since the final examination may have to be postponed.

The Examination: The examining committee should conduct a final examination, based largely on the thesis.

The graduate coordinator should ensure that the chair of the examining committee, the student, and all examiners have a final copy of the thesis at the examination.

The student should make a brief presentation about the thesis.

The most time should be allotted to the arm's length examiners, including the External Examiner, while the least time is allocated to the supervisor(s).

No final decision should be made without each examiner having given an opinion.

Decision of the Doctoral Final Examining Committee: The decision of the examining committee will be based both on the content of the thesis and on the student's ability to defend it. The final examination may result in one of the following outcomes:

  • Adjourned
  • Pass
  • Pass subject to revisions
  • Fail

There is no provision for a final examination to be "passed subject to major revisions".

If the Examining Committee fails to reach a decision, the department will refer the matter to the Dean, FGSR, who will determine an appropriate course of action.

Adjourned: An adjourned examination is one that has been abandoned officially. A majority of examiners must agree to an outcome of Adjourned. The final examination should be adjourned in the following situations:

  • The revisions to the thesis are sufficiently substantial that it will require further research or experimentation or major reworking of sections, or if the committee is so dissatisfied with the general presentation of the thesis that it will require a reconvening of the examining committee. In such circumstances the committee cannot pass the student, and must adjourn the examination.
  • The committee is dissatisfied with the student's oral presentation and defence of the thesis, even if the thesis itself is acceptable with or without minor revisions.
  • Compelling, extraordinary circumstances such as a sudden medical emergency taking place during the examination.
  • Discovery of possible offences under the Code of Student Behaviour after the examination has started.

If the examination is adjourned, the committee should:

  • Specify in writing to the student, with as much precision as possible, the nature of the deficiencies and, in the case of revisions to the thesis, the extent of the revisions required. Where the oral defence is unsatisfactory, it may be necessary to arrange some discussion periods with the student prior to reconvening the examination.
  • Decide upon a date to reconvene. If the date of the reconvened examination depends upon the completion of a research task or a series of discussions, it should be made clear which committee members will decide on the appropriate date to reconvene. The final date set for reconvening shall be no later than six months from the date of the examination. This new examination must be held within six months of the initial examination.
  • Make it clear to the student what will be required by way of approval before the examination is reconvened (e.g., approval of the committee chair or supervisor, approval of the entire committee, or of select members of the committee).
  • Specify the supervision and assistance the student may expect from the committee members in meeting the necessary revisions.
  • Advise the Dean of the department's Faculty following the procedures established for this purpose.
  • Advise the FGSR in writing of the adjournment and the conditions.
  • When the date is set for the adjourned final examination, the department will notify the Dean of the department's Faculty and the FGSR. Normally a Pro Dean attends the examination.

Pass: All or all but one of the examiners must agree to an outcome of Pass. If the student passes the examination, the department should submit a completed Thesis Approval/Program Completion form to the FGSR. If one of the examiners fails the student, that examiner does not have to sign this form.

Pass Subject to Revisions: All or all but one of the examiners must agree to an outcome of Pass Subject to Revisions. The student has satisfactorily defended the thesis but the revisions to the thesis are sufficiently minor that it will not require a reconvening of the examining committee.

If the examining committee agrees to a "Pass subject to revisions" for the student, the chair of the examining committee must provide in writing, within five working days of the examination, to the Dean, FGSR, the graduate coordinator and the student:

  • the reasons for this outcome,

  • the details of the required revisions,

  • the approval mechanism for meeting the requirement for revisions (e.g., approval of the examining committee chair or supervisor, or approval of the entire examining committee, or select members of the committee), and

  • the supervision and assistance the student can expect to receive from committee members.

The student must make the revisions within six months of the date of the final examination. Once the required revisions have been made and approved, the department shall submit a completed Thesis Approval/Program Completion form to the FGSR indicating "pass subject to revisions". If one of the examiners fails the student that examiner does not have to sign the form. If the required revisions have not been made and approved by the end of the six months deadline, the outcome of the examination is a Fail.

Fail: All or all but one of the examiners must agree to an outcome of Fail. If the examination result is a Fail, no member of the examining committee signs the Thesis Approval/Completion form.

When the outcome is a Fail, the committee chair will provide the reasons for this decision to the graduate coordinator. The department will then provide this report, together with its recommendation for the student's program, to the Dean of the department's Faculty, the FGSR, and to the student.

An Associate Dean, FGSR will normally arrange to meet with the student and with the graduate coordinator before acting upon any department recommendation that affects the student's academic standing.

Thesis Requirements

Regulations and Outline of Responsibilities

All students in a thesis degree program must present and defend a thesis embodying the results of their research. The topic of the master's and doctoral thesis must have been approved by the student's supervisor and supervisory committee respectively.

Departments may set specific requirements for student theses, including requirements pertaining to traditional format theses, paper-based theses (e.g., theses consisting of published, accepted or submitted papers), and mixed format theses (combining the traditional format and the paper-based format). Clarity is recommended in setting departmental requirements to avoid disputes later.

For students in a master's degree program, the thesis, at a minimum, should reveal that the student is able to work in a scholarly manner and is acquainted with the principal works published on the subject of the thesis. As far as possible, it should be an original contribution.

A doctoral thesis, at a minimum, must embody the results of original investigations and analyses and be of such quality as to merit publication, meeting the standards of reputable scholarly publications. It must constitute a substantial contribution to the knowledge in the student's field of study.

The thesis should normally be written in English. In some departments, students may be permitted to write their thesis in a language other than English, provided that language has been approved for use by the supervisory committee, the department, and the Dean of the department's Faculty. Theses written in a language other than English must have two abstracts, one in the language of the thesis, and the other in English.

Students are responsible for following the FGSR Minimum Thesis Formatting Requirements found at https://uofa.ualberta.ca/graduate-studies/currentstudents/academic-requirements/thesis-requirementand-preparation.

It is the responsibility of both the student and the supervisor(s) to be aware of any specific requirements of the student's department with respect to the student's thesis.

Policy on Public Access to Thesis Results

A thesis will be made freely available to the public as soon as possible after a student's convocation. It is the responsibility of the supervisor and the supervisory committee to inform the student of the University's policy on public access to thesis results and to explore with the student the possible ramifications of the student's research, at the outset of the thesis project. In principle, graduate students should not undertake, nor supervisors involve, students in research for a thesis when the thesis project is part of a contract which prohibits public access to a thesis.

Restricting Access to the Publication of a Thesis

It is University policy that a thesis be made freely available to the public as soon as possible after a student's convocation. A general policy of "open access" is also embraced by Tri-Council and other funding agencies. However, it is recognized that circumstances may arise that justify restricting access to a thesis for a specified period of time initially up to a maximum of one year (also known as an embargo period). The student's department has been delegated the authority to receive and approve a request for restricting access to a thesis for up to two years.

The likely circumstances for restricting access to a thesis include:

  • Contractual, where a contract with a company, funding agency or sponsor requires that the research conducted for the thesis must remain confidential for a specified period of time;
  • Patent Pending, where a patent application has been lodged by the student, or by another on the student's behalf, relating to a discovery or novel method in a thesis;
  • Publication Pending, where a student has a contract with a publisher indicating that the publisher regards the electronic availability of a thesis as a prior publication and will reject any work based on a publicly available thesis, or for a student who has not yet obtained a publishing contract, where a student can show that the practice of the likely publishers in the student's discipline is to consider the electronic availability of a thesis as a prior publication; and
  • Ethical Confidentiality, where a thesis requires an embargo period in order for additional steps to be taken to remove information from the thesis where electronic access to the thesis in a university repository without amendment could endanger the physical or mental health or the safety of people.
  • Losing originality of research dissemination.

Students wanting to restrict public access to their theses for a temporary period of time must submit a written request with supporting documentation to their department. If approved by the department, the form request must be submitted to the FGSR for processing at the time of submission of the thesis to FGSR.

At the end of an approved embargo period, the thesis will become accessible. An accessible thesis can be located by a Google search or other internet search engine. It is a student's responsibility to contact the Dean of FGSR if there are any extenuating circumstances that warrant an extension to the original embargo period.

University policy requires compliance with copyright law.