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MSc PPH Structure of the Defence and Guidance for Committee Members

Feb 22, 2017 |

Structure of the Oral Defence

  • Defence chair (appointed by Program Director) introduces student and thesis title
  • Student makes a public presentation of the dissertation (approximately 20-30 minutes)
  • Examining Committee and the Chair/External question the student
  • Members of the audience are invited to ask questions of the student
  • Examining Committee holds an in camera discussion (student leaves the room)
  • Chair/Examiner conveys the findings of the Examining Committee to the student

You can read more here.

Role and Procedures for the chair

The role of the chair is to represent SPPH and G+PS and act as a moderator for the defence proceedings, ensuring fairness. The chair must ensure that the student addresses any questions raised during the question period. The procedure the chair should follow is:

1. Determine whether a quorum is present (see below). Establish the order in which examining committee members will question the student. When the examiner is participating s/he should be called upon first. The research supervisor is normally called upon last.

2. Instruct all present to turn off mobile phones, alarms, etc., for the duration of the defence. Recording of the defence is not normally permitted.

3. Announce that no latecomers will be admitted, and that any member of the audience who leaves the examination room will not be permitted to re-enter. Ensure that the door is closed (in lengthy sessions, the chair may allow a brief recess after the student’s presentation or during the question period).

4. Announce that the meeting has been called for the public examination of (student’s name) for the degree of MSc PPH.

5. Invite the student to present a synopsis of the dissertation research. The student may speak from notes and use audio-visual equipment, but must not read the synopsis. The presentation should last between 20 and 30 minutes (chair to enforce time limits) and should not be interrupted by questions.

6. Call upon each member of the examining committee in turn to question the student. Exercise discretion in managing the question period; intervene if the questioning or behaviour becomes inappropriate or interferes with the proper conduct of the exam. Try to limit each question to approx. 5mins to allow all questions.

7. Ensure that all relevant questions from the examiner are put to the student.

8. Call for questions from the audience.

Call for final questions from the examining committee, and, if necessary, ask the student to address/clarify any points not adequately covered previously.

10. Instruct the student and all persons not on the examining committee to leave the room. Note Evaluation criteria: Discuss the student’s performance in presenting the synopsis, in responding to questions, and in defending the work.

11. Call the student and in the presence of the Examination Committee inform the student if they passed or failed.

Role of the Examining Committee Members

  • Represent her/his academic discipline
  • Scrutinize the thesis in preparation for the defence
  • Formulate an independent opinion of the work
  • Question the student at the defence about the contents of the thesis and her/his relevant knowledge
  • Participate in the in camera discussion and provide an opinion on the recommendation to the Dean of Graduate Studies


A minimum of three faculty are required to be present for the defence, at least two members from the Supervisory Committee. There is usually a minimum of four faculty present at the defence: thesis supervisor, two committee members, plus the examiner.

Evaluating Thesis/Amendments

The evaluation criteria for the committee are based on the student’s performance in presenting the synopsis, in responding to questions, and in defending the work. Attempt to reach a consensus on an appropriate category for the thesis based on the following:

Category 1
Minor revision that is typographical or editorial in nature. Requires approval by supervisor only

Category 2
Substantive revision affecting the content of the thesis. Requires approval by the supervisor and supervisory committee.

Category 3
The thesis is unsatisfactory in its current form. Major rewriting and rethinking are required to produce a satisfactory thesis. Requires approval by the supervisor, supervisory committee and external examiner.

If it is agreed that the thesis has met approval of the examining committee (category 1 or 2) for recommendation to the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies for acceptance, this form must be signed and submitted.

Click here to return to the MSc Thesis page