8. DEFENCE

8.1. PERMISSION TO SUBMIT THE THESIS FOR DEFENCE

It is expected the student will follow the advice of the Supervisor and the Advisory Committee in establishing when the thesis is ready for examination.  When a majority of the Advisory Committee agrees the thesis is ready for Defence, the academic unit will so advise the CGPS in writing.

Under exceptional circumstances a student may request in writing that the CGPS Dean arrange for an examination of the thesis without the agreement of the Advisory Committee. The rules for such an examination are determined by the Dean in consultation with the academic unit and the student. It is the student’s responsibility to prepare and assemble all materials in all copies of the thesis.

8.2. APPOINTMENT OF THE EXTERNAL EXAMINER

External examiners participate in the examination of Masters’ and PhD theses to provide an ongoing, independent assessment of the quality of graduate research and mentorship at the University of Saskatchewan. The external examiner will have an "arm's-length" relationship with the student, the supervisor and members of the advisory committee. In all cases, conflict of interest must be avoided in naming external examiners. It is inappropriate to name as external examiners persons who may have a close personal or scholarly relationship or shared financial interests with the student, the supervisor or any member of the advisory committee. While it is the responsibility of the student and all members of the advisory committee to avoid conflict of interest, it is the duty of the graduate chair of the academic unit and supervisor to ensure that all members of the Advisory Committee are aware of this responsibility.

The criteria for selection of external examiners have resulted from an examination of past practice and scans of policies at other Canadian institutions. It is understood that these criteria may not address all possible cases of potential conflict of interest. Further, there may be occasions where an exception to any of the criteria is warranted. The Dean of the CGPS (or designate) retains the authority to reject a recommended external examiner based upon a real or perceived conflict of interest which has not been anticipated in the existing criteria.  Further, the Dean (or designate) may also allow exceptions to any of the criteria in section 8.2.1 or 8.2.2, based on an appeal by the Graduate Chair, Department Head or Executive Director of the unit recommending the external examiner.

While the authority to approve and name the external examiner rests with the Dean of the CGPS (or designate), this authority may be afforded to other individuals or units to appoint external examiners for Master’s students, respecting the policies of the CGPS.

Following examination of the thesis and candidate, the External Examiner shall provide the Dean with a written report.

The supervisor is encouraged to identify possible external examiners prior to a meeting of the Advisory Committee.  The Advisory Committee will meet to discuss the suitability of the proposed external examiner(s), and all members are expected to affirm that proposed external examiner(s) satisfy all selection criteria. 

Following the oral examination, defence forms must be submitted by the academic unit to the CGPS. The full list of required forms is found in the “Procedures and Guidelines” portion of section 8.4 of the CGPS Policies and Procedures Manual. Specific to External Examiners, the GSR 403.2 must be submitted. This form will be provided to the External Examiner as part of the Dean’s Designate package at the time of Oral Defence. Following the defence, this form shall be completed and submitted by the external examiner to the student’s academic unit, who will then provide it along with the remainder of the forms via the Graduate Defence Forms eForm in the CGPS Service Desk

8.2.1. CRITERIA FOR SELECTION OF THE EXTERNAL EXAMINER FOR PH. D. THESES

  1. The external examiner must not be a current faculty member or employee of the U of S.  Former faculty members or employees of the U of S may serve as an external examiner if their employment with the U of S was terminated at least six (6) years prior to the proposed Defence date.
  2. The external examiner must not have graduated from or have been a student in the academic unit within the previous six (6) years.
  3. The external examiner must not have collaborated with either the student or the other members of the examining committee as demonstrated by shared research grants, joint authorship of academic or professional publications, artistic works or presentations, or community engaged collaboration or other joint scholarly activities.  The external examiner must not have collaborated with either the supervisor or the graduate student within the previous six (6) years or with any other member of the advisory committee in the previous three (3) years.
  4. The external examiner is not a regular committee member. An individual may serve as an external examiner for multiple students within the same academic unit without restriction, but would not normally serve as an external examiner for more than one student supervised by the same supervisor within a 12-month period.
  5. A former student of the supervisor may serve as the external examiner if all other criteria are satisfied and the external examiner completed their degree under the supervisor’s direction at least six (6) years previously.
  6. A supervisor’s former colleague (members of the same academic unit) may serve as the external examiner if the external examiner and supervisor have not been in the same academic unit for at least six (6) years prior to the thesis Defence. 
  7. The external examiner must not have close professional or business ties with the student, the supervisor or any member of the Advisory Committee.
  8. Where the student's thesis contains chapters or sections which have been published or submitted for publication, the proposed external examiner will be asked to disqualify themselves if they have previous involvement that would affect their ability to fairly and impartially evaluate the thesis.
  9. The external examiner may not be currently teaching or supervising other graduate students who are family members of either the student or the thesis supervisor.
  10. The external examiner must not be currently enrolled as a graduate student at the U of S.
  11. The external examiner is expected normally to have a degree equivalent to the degree being defended and to have demonstrated expertise in the field.

8.2.2. CRITERIA FOR SELECTION OF THE EXTERNAL EXAMINER FOR MASTER'S THESES

  1. The external examiner must be from outside the home department or unit(s) of both the graduate student and supervisor.
  2. The external examiner of a Master’s thesis is normally a member of the CGPS of the U of S. While it is acceptable to have an external examiner from outside the CGPS, this requires approval by the Dean of the CGPS (or designate). The external examiner is expected normally to have a degree equivalent to the degree being defended and to have demonstrated expertise in the field.
  3. The external examiner must not have graduated from or have been a student in the academic unit within the previous six (6) years.
  4. The external examiner must not have collaborated with either the supervisor or the graduate student, as demonstrated by shared research grants, joint authorship of academic or professional publications, artistic works or presentations, or community engaged collaboration, within the previous three (3) years.
  5. The external examiner must not be an adjunct professor or associate member or hold a joint appointment in the same department or unit as the supervisor.
  6. An individual may serve as an external examiner for multiple students supervised by different supervisors within the same academic unit without restriction, but may not serve as an external examiner for more than one student supervised by the same supervisor within a 12-month period.
  7. A former student of the supervisor may serve as the external examiner if all other criteria are satisfied and the external examiner completed their degree under the supervisor’s direction at least six (6) years previously.
  8. A supervisor’s former colleague (members of the same academic unit) may serve as the external examiner if the external examiner and supervisor have not been in the same academic unit for at least six (6) years prior to the thesis Defence. 
  9. The external examiner must not have close professional or business ties with the student, the supervisor or any member of the Advisory Committee.
  10. Where the student's thesis contains chapters or sections which have been published or submitted for publication, the proposed external examiner will be asked to disqualify themselves if they have previous involvement that would affect their ability to fairly and impartially evaluate the thesis
  11. The external examiner may not be currently teaching or supervising other graduate students who are family members of either the student or the thesis supervisor.
  12. The external examiner must not be currently enrolled as a graduate student at the U of S.

A recommendation for a person to serve as an external examiner who is not a member of the College of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies must include the person's CV.

8.2.3. ADJUNCT PROFESSORS, PROFESSIONAL AFFILIATES AND ASSOCIATE MEMBERS AS EXTERNAL EXAMINERS

Adjunct Professors, Professional Affiliates and Associate Members shall not ever serve as External Examiners in those academic units with which they are associated.  They may serve as External Examiners in other academic units, subject to the normal approval process.

8.3. SCHEDULING THE ORAL EXAMINATION

The thesis Defence will be scheduled only after the academic unit has advised the CGPS the thesis is ready for Defence and has recommended at least one (for Master’s) or three (for Ph.D.) person(s) to serve as External Examiner.

The academic unit shall ensure the student file contains all necessary documentation and that the academic requirements for the degree have been met prior to submitting the defence request.

The student shall ensure all requirements of the Program of Studies (DegreeWorks requirements) have been completed, registration is current, outstanding fees are paid, and University deadlines are respected in view of any particular convocation.

The defence must be scheduled at a time when the student and all examiners are known to be available and willing to participate. The student must be physically present for the examination. The academic unit should determine a suitable date for the defence. When no other reasonable option exists, the External Examiner or a member of the Advisory Committee may attend the oral defence via video (preferable) or tele-conference. Ideally, no more than two examiners shall participate remotely, including the external examiner. Arrangements for any special equipment required for the defence are the responsibility of the academic unit.

It is the responsibility of a student who has a disability that could interfere with their ability to respond to questioning at an oral defence, to contact Access and Equity Services (AES) to schedule an Accommodation Planning Committee meeting in sufficient time prior to the defence to ensure appropriate accommodations can be made. 

8.3.1. FOR MASTER'S DEFENCES

The CGPS must be notified a minimum of three weeks prior to the desired oral defence date.  Upon receipt of the notification, a convocation check will be completed by the CGPS to verify that all program requirements have been met, including current registration.

As soon as the student's Advisory Committee has determined that the student's thesis is ready for defence, a Memo to Schedule a Graduate Defence eForm should be submitted to the CGPS following the steps outlined here.

The advisor reponsible for assisting the academic unit will perform a check to verify that all program requirements have been met. This check includes:

1. Ensuring continuous registration in 994 and the completion of GPS 960

2. Ensuring the creation of a Planner Block and completion of requirements in DegreeWorks

3. Ensuring transfer credit is granted if required

4. Ensuring ethics approval has been granted if required

5. Ensuring that graduate student progress reports have been properly documented

6. Ensuring the accuracy of the advisory committee

7. Ensuring appropriate steps taken for approval of external examiner

 

Should any of the above be found incomplete, the advisor will contact the Academic Unit to ensure completion before the defence can be scheduled.

Upon completion of the above, scheduling of the defence can take place.

 

8.3.2. FOR PH.D. DEFENCES

The CGPS must be sent the necessary documentation (including the dissertation) a minimum of six (6) weeks prior to the desired oral defence date. After approval by the CGPS, the External Examiner must have the thesis a minimum of four (4) weeks prior to the defence as per section 8.2.2 of the CGPS Policies and Procedure manual.

At least seven days prior to their defence, students must provide a dissertation summary (not bound with the thesis) to the CGPS. This summary will be provided at the oral defence.

All arrangements for the Ph.D. thesis examination (time, date, location) are made by the academic unit. The CGPS Programs Advisor forwards the thesis and any necessary documentation to the External Examiner. The contribution of the CGPS to the expenses (travel, lodging, and meals) of the External Examiner is a maximum of CDN$2000.

As soon as the student's Advisory Committee has determined that the student's thesis is ready for defence, the GSR 300.1 form: Recommendation for Examination of the Ph.D. Thesis and Award of the Ph.D. Degree should be sent to the CGPS by way of the Memo to Schedule a Graduate Defence eForm following the steps outlined here.

The curriculum vitae of the first choice of External Examiner and a rationale for the choice shall be submitted to the CGPS along with notification that the student is ready for defence.

The advisor reponsible for assisting the academic unit will perform a check to verify that all program requirements have been met. This check includes:

1. Ensuring continuous registration in 996 and the completion of GPS 960

2. Ensuring the creation of a Planner Block and completion of requirements in DegreeWorks

3. Ensuring transfer credit is granted if required

4. Ensuring ethics approval has been granted if required

5. Ensuring that graduate student progress reports have been properly documented

6. Ensuring the accuracy of the advisory committee

7. Ensuring appropriate steps taken for approval of external examiner

 

Should any of the above be found incomplete, the advisor will contact the Academic Unit to ensure completion before the defence can be scheduled.

Upon completion of the above, scheduling of the defence can take place.

8.4. ORAL EXAMINATION OF THE THESIS

The adequacy of the written thesis and oral defence is decided by the Examining Committee consisting of the Supervisor, members of the Advisory Committee, and the External Examiner.  The Examining Committee, with the exception of the Ph.D. External Examiner, shall be appointed by the academic unit(s) in consultation with the CGPS Dean. For Master’s Defences, the examination is chaired by the Head of the academic unit, or designate (usually Graduate Chair). For Ph.D. Defences, the examination is chaired by the CGPS Dean or the Dean’s Designate. The Research Supervisor may not under any circumstances serve as the Chair of the Oral Examination.

The student shall make a brief (10-20 minute) presentation summarizing the major themes and findings of the thesis, followed by questions from the Examining Committee, beginning with the External Examiner. The student is expected to defend the work, and to answer questions in a clear, direct, and knowledgeable fashion.  In general, examination questions are limited to work done by the candidate for the thesis, to knowledge of matters directly related to it, and to peripheral knowledge of the subject matter.

At the conclusion of the examination, the candidate shall withdraw while the Examining Committee decides by majority vote whether the thesis as submitted and the candidate's oral defence meet the requirements for the degree.  The decision will be one of the recommendations outlined in section 8.4 of the Procedures and Guidelines.

The Committee's decision shall be reported to the Dean, CGPS. Where the Examining Committee’s decision is not unanimous, the majority view shall prevail provided the External Examiner shares the majority view. If those voting in favour of the majority opinion do not include the External Examiner, the examination shall be adjourned and the person chairing the examination shall so inform the Dean, CGPS. The Dean then shall investigate the circumstances and decide upon an appropriate course of action.

Recommendations 3 and 4 are only available to students taking the oral exam for the first time.

Students receiving Recommendation 5 will be automatically required to discontinue from their graduate program.  This decision can be appealed to the Graduate Student Affairs Committee of the CGPS.

A list of possible recommendations and their meanings can be found on the CGPS website.

For PhD defences, the following forms must be collected from the committee chair and submitted to the CGPS using the Graduate Defence Forms eForm

403.2 Oral Defence Report of the External Examiner (Master's and Ph.D. Degrees)

403.3 Oral Defence Report of the Dean's Designate/Graduate Chair (M.A., M.Sc. or Ph.D. Degree)

Recommendation for the Award of Doctor of Philosophy

Certification of Thesis Work

 

For Master defences, the following forms must be collected from the committee chair and submitted to the CGPS using the Graduate Defence Forms eForm:            

300.2 Recommendation for Award of a Master's Degree

301    Certification of Master's Thesis Work

403.2 Oral Defence Report of the External Examiner (Master's and Ph.D. Degrees)

403.3 Oral Defence Report of the Dean's Designate/Graduate Chair (M.A., M.Sc. or Ph.D. Degree)