PhD Regulations and Information

Two students sitting and talking

Program completion in Arts

Students must ensure they have completed all their program's degree requirements. For a complete list of your program's degree requirements, you should consult the Graduate Studies Academic Calendar for the term in which you were admitted. 

Additionally, you should review the University regulations for your degree level: 

If you have any questions regarding the degree completion process, you should contact your Program Coordinator/Advisor.  

For research and course-based programs 

  1. Review your program guidelines to ensure all courses and milestones have been completed.  

  1. At least one month before the end of your final term you will need to apply for graduation through Quest

    • Navigate to My Academics > Graduation, and select Apply for Graduation for the next convocation 


A complete list of the convocation deadlines, or the 100% and 50% refund deadlines for each term can be found in the Graduate Studies Academic Calendar

PhD Comprehensive Exams

PhD students in Arts programs at the University of Waterloo are normally required to successfully complete the PhD Comprehensive Exam milestone. The exceptions are Philosophy and Psychology, where courses ensure breadth coverage, and Economics where doctoral students write Qualifying exams as a cohort.

PhD Comprehensive Examination Milestone

Comprehensive exams serve multiple purposes, specifically to ensure that:

  • PhD students have the appropriate academic background – a foundation and breadth of knowledge in the field of study – to be successful in their PhD program;
  • PhD students have the capacity to engage in scholarly communications – both oral and written – necessary to be successful in their PhD studies;
  • PhD students have developed a novel research topic to be evaluated during their PhD studies.

Comprehensive Examination timing

Students admitted to the PhD program from a completed Master’s degree must complete their Comprehensive Exams by the end of the seventh term of their PhD program, although many programs have these exams in a term earlier than the seventh. 

Students should consult their departmental websites for more specific information about the exams in their particular doctoral programs.

Students who have previously completed studies in a PhD program at another university are required to successfully complete the Comprehensive Exam in their University of Waterloo doctoral program.

In extenuating circumstances, students may petition for an extension of the time limits for completing the Comprehensive Examination. Petitions are to include proper documentation and justification of the reason for the extension request. Students who wish to petition on the basis of medical grounds, must register with AccessAbility Services and provide them with all required medical documentation. Medical documentation should not to be provided to your Department. AccessAbility Services will determine if the medical condition justifies an accommodation. Petitions must include a plan and timeline for Comprehensive Exam completion and an account of the extenuating circumstances.

PhD defence guidelines

Defence Room - PAS 2464 

The dissertation defence is the final requirement of your doctoral studies.  PhD candidates are judged not only on their written submission (their PhD thesis or dissertation), but also on their ability to defend it during an oral examination.  In the Faculty of Arts, PhD defences can take place in one of three ways: an in-person defence, a remote defence, or a hybrid defence where some examination committee members are in person and others join remotely.  Both in person and hybrid defences take place in the PhD Defence Room – PAS 2464.  The Defence Room is equipped with a large board table and excellent technology to ensure all participants (whether in person or remote) can see and hear the candidate’s presentation as well as the questions from the committee members.  Washrooms (including a designated all gender multi-stall bathroom) are located just outside the Defence Room.  

The Defence Room can also be used for writing Comprehensive Exams – there are multiple computer stations that are unconnected to the Internet, which means students can write their exams with integrity and in a quiet space.  If you will soon be defending your doctoral work, be sure to come and check out the Arts PhD Defence Room.  If there is availability, the Defence Room can also be booked for proposal defences or other graduate-related defences.  PhD examinations are prioritized.  

Preparing for a Thesis Defence 

Once the Advisory Committee has approved a final draft of the dissertation, the student's supervisor should send it to the department's Associate Chair, Graduate Studies, along with the following: 

  • a ranked list of external examiners and internal/external examiners. The lists should include short biographical details and contact information for each individual. Conflict of interest rules apply to the selection of all examiners. Guidelines are posted on the GSPA's PhD Thesis Examination Regulations

  • a list of available dates and times that the candidate and the Advisory Committee have agreed on for the defence. Please keep in mind that the defence could be carried out in person, remotely or hybrid, and that we are likely to be dealing with several people located in several time zones. Note as well that the defence must be scheduled within the operating hours of the university -- from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm Waterloo time -- because we rely on technical support as well as our faculty colleagues to chair the defence. 

  • The department Associate Chair, Graduate Studies confirms the appointment of the external and internal/external examiners. If the department Associate Chair is also the supervisor, this step will be taken by the Associate Dean, Graduate Studies. 

  • The department graduate coordinator checks the availability of PAS 2464 (if needed) and books the room for the defence and sends the Graduate Studies and Research Officer, the online form for the PhD Dissertation Defence Memo, External examiner CV, digital copy of the dissertation, and a contact list for the defence participants.  

  • For hybrid defences, we recommend the use of the Defence Room, PAS 2464 

Defence Timeline 

We recommend that Arts students refer to the PhD Thesis Defence Backwards Planning Tool Faculty of Arts

General PhD Thesis Information