Information for external examiners

Preparing for the defence

The external examiner plays a crucial role in upholding the integrity of the Engineering PhD defence process and Engineering degree. The University requires that the external examiner provide a report on the thesis of the PhD candidate, and that the external examiner is physically present at the defence. Further information on the requirements of the report along with travel information and travel expense reimbursement guidelines is available in the sections below

Maintaining Engineering PhD principles

The PhD is a degree awarded by the University to a candidate who has successfully completed a program of advanced study and research in the Faculty of Engineering. The program is regulated and supervised by the Faculty and, except in special cases, the work for the degree is carried out in the Faculty. A candidate works under supervision, but is expected to demonstrate independence of thought.

The award of the degree certifies that a candidate has:

  1. Been trained in the techniques relevant to the field of research and is capable of applying and adapting these techniques to other research projects without further supervision
  2. Become sufficiently familiar with a significant area of the discipline within which the candidate is able to critically assess the present state of knowledge and conceive original ideas for further investigation with an increasing independence.

Assessing the quality of a PhD thesis

  1. A thesis may have a form of presentation different from that of a published paper of review. The writer of a thesis is, among other things, proving they can conduct research, are capable of independent and critical thought, and sees the work in relation to the work of others
  2. A candidate should demonstrate an awareness and understanding of literature directly relevant to the topic as well as in related areas of significance and should demonstrate the capacity to make considered judgments
  3. There is no hard and fast criteria to assess what constitutes "significant contribution to knowledge". However, one way of gauging whether a candidate's work meets this expectation is to consider the extent to which the thesis is publishable. Normally, a satisfactory PhD thesis might be expected to form the basis for one or more articles in recognized refereed journals, or perhaps the basis of a monograph which might be produced by a specialist publisher. It would be helpful if the examiner would offer an opinion on the publishable content of the thesis.
  4. A thesis is also expected to display a satisfactory degree of originality. This may be reflected in a number of ways. For example, a candidate may have posed an important new problem or have formulated an existing problem in a novel and useful way. A candidate may have investigated previously ignored material, or offered new and significant insights about issues which have been examined by other researchers. A candidate may have developed new techniques for investigating issues, or may have applied appropriate techniques to a new set of problems. Replication of previous investigations would be acceptable provided they incorporate important new elements in the design or execution of the investigation.
  5. There are no strict requirements as to the minimum or maximum length of a PhD thesis, although an excessively verbose thesis could be considered unsatisfactory in terms of the quality of expression.

Possible Examining Committee Decisions

Category 1 - Accepted

Thesis requires typographical and/or minor editorial corrections.

Category 2 - Accepted Conditionally

Thesis is accepted, but requires major revisions (in substance or editorial changes).
Category 3 - Re-examination Oral examination is not to the satisfaction of the Examining Committee and/or the written thesis requires modifications of a substantial nature, the need for which makes the acceptability of the thesis questionable. (re-examination must occur within one year of the date of the first examination.

Note: The external examiner's report must contain one of the above categories as part of their evaluation. if the chosen category is a category 3, please notify the Administrative Coordinator - PhD immediately as the examination may need to be postponed.

Where are we?

Please refer to the university map for parking information, building lookup, and directions.

Claiming travel expenses and honorarium

A package is sent to the external examiner through the mail once the committee and external examiner have been approved by Associate Dean of Engineering Graduate Studies. This package contains a travel claim form, instructions to receive the $150 CAD honorarium, and written guidelines on how to claim expenses. The external examiner must sign the travel claim, include all receipts claimed for reimbursement and, if applicable, fill in their SIN on the pay form prior to sending everything back in the return envelope provided by the Administrative Coordinator - PhD in the Engineering Graduate Studies Office. Failure to follow these or any University of Waterloo stipulations for travel claims will result in delays in reimbursement or rejection of the travel claim. In order to properly file a travel claim and avoid complications with the reimbursement process, external examiners should be familiar with the University's guidelines outlined below.


Air fare

Economy class return air fare will be paid from the external examiner's home to the Pearson International Airport, Toronto, ON. The original invoice and original boarding passes are required with the travel claim.

Note: flights booked with frequent flyer rewards or points will not be reimbursed

Note: in some cases flights can be arranged to the Hamilton International Airport, Hamilton, ON or the Region of Waterloo International Airport, Breslau, ON.

Bus or train An external examiner who elects to travel by bus or rail submits the original passenger ticket stub with the travel claim.
Private automobile An external examiner who elects to travel by private automobile will be reimbursed at the University of Waterloo's standard rate (currently 45 cents per kilometer) to a maximum of 500 km radius from the UW. If the examiner elects to drive from a distant point, the limit on such reimbursement will be the equivalent of economy-class air fare plus local travel. The external examiner must submit a map (google, uber or other) from their original location for this type of claim.
Rental limousines and taxis

Expenses incurred in traveling between the examiner's home and local airport and between Toronto Pearson International Airport and the University will be paid if they are equal or less to the fare charged by Airways Transit. In particular, expenses for automobile rental or other means of transportation between Toronto and Waterloo will be paid only up to the Airways Transit equivalent.

For expenses at the home end, the examiner is expected to use reasonable means of transportation which implies that in those cities where relatively inexpensive limousine service is provided, that should be used rather than more expensive taxis. Original receipts must be included with the travel claim.



As a general rule, hotel accommodation will be provided for one night. In special circumstances, accommodation for two nights will be provided if it can be confirmed that travel schedules make staying one night impossible. Original receipts must be included with the travel claim. For more information on where to stay in Waterloo, please refer to the University's Accommodations listing.


Expenses for meals incurred by the external examiner while traveling and while at Waterloo will be paid according to University policy.

The maximum amount for meals per day is:

  • $70.00 for travel within Canada
  • $80.00 for travel within North America
  • $125.00 for travel outside North America

All receipts must be included with the travel claim for reimbursement of expenses. A credit card slip or copy of a reservation is NOT considered an original receipt.

Note: travel, transportation, and accommodational arrangements are to be made by the external examiner and the supervisor(s).

For further information on University guidelines for travel claim reimbursement, please refer to finance's guidelines for travel expenses.