Information for supervisors regarding PhD defences and external examiners

Committee formation

Nomination of examining committee: When the student is expected to submit the PhD thesis, an examining committee is nominated by the supervisor in consultation with the Associate Chair of Graduate Studies of the department. The Nomination of the PhD Thesis Examining Committee form must be received by the Engineering Graduate Studies Office at least eight weeks before the date of the oral defence. The examining committee consists of:

  • the supervisor(s) must attend the defence in person
  • two tenure or tenure-track examiners from the candidate’s home department
  • a tenure or tenure-track examiner from outside the candidate’s home department but within the University of Waterloo
  • an external examiner from outside the university

With the exception of the external, the examining committee should be the same as the original PhD comprehensive examination committee members. If there are any changes in the committee, supervisors are required to complete the PhD Committee Replacement form and submit it to the EGSO with all required signatures.

Appointment of an examining committee: The Nomination of the PhD Thesis Examining Committee form is sent to the Engineering Graduate Studies Office for approval by the Associate Dean of Engineering Graduate Studies. The proposed examining committee is evaluated and additional information may be requested.

The External Examiner

Initial contact with the external examiner

It may be advisable simply to ask a prospective external examiner if he/she is willing to assist in conducting this PhD examination, so that in the eventuality of rejection by the Associate Dean of Graduate Studies, embarrassment may be avoided. When an external examiner has been approved by the Associate Dean of Graduate Studies, the onus is on the supervisor(s) to keep the external examiner well informed about the examination date and time. The candidate should not have any contact with the external examiner prior to the defence. All communications should go through the supervisor

Qualifications of external examiners

  • The examiner must be an expert and knowledgeable in the field of the thesis. The best evidence of this is an excellent record of publications (at least the past six years)
  • The examiner should have knowledge of the supervision and examination of theses beyond their experience with their own thesis. Normally examiners currently employed outside universities should have suitable past supervisory experience, or a university adjunct appointment
  • The examiner should be at arm’s length from the supervisor and student, to the extent that an unbiased examination would be seen to take place. The UW definition of arm’s length can be found on page 2 of the Nomination of the PhD Thesis Examining Committee form or the University of Waterloo Graduate Calendar.

The external examiner's are allowed to attend the defence remotely. This can be either a fully remote or hybrid defence. 

Appointment of the External Examiner

The Nomination of the PhD Thesis Examining Committee form should be accompanied by a complete, up-to-date curriculum vitae of the external examiner which should contain a publications list for at least the past six years and a list of current and previous supervised PhD students. This is provided by the supervisor to the department’s Graduate Coordinator to be approved by the Associate Chair of Graduate Studies and the Associate Dean of Graduate Studies. The supervisor will informally ensure that the proposed external examiner is willing to act and attend the defence in person, or in extenuating circumstances, will indicate the external is participating via electronic media on the Nomination form. No formal commitment will be made until the Associate Dean for Engineering Graduate Studies has authorized the appointment of the committee.

Once the external examiner and committee for the defence are approved, a package is sent to the external examiner containing a travel claim, honorarium form/wire transfer information form, and instructions on the reimbursement process. If the external examiner has any questions, he/she is encouraged to ask the Engineering Graduate Studies Office's Administrative Coordinator – PhD. Basic guidelines for external examiners regarding travel and the external examiner’s report are available on the EGSO’s Information for external examiners page.

The external examiner is reimbursed for all travel expenses according to the guidelines of the University’s Travel Policy.

Depending on where the external examiner is situated, EGSO will reimburse expenses up to the following Canadian dollar amounts:

  1. In province: $750
  2. Out of province: $1250
  3. United States: $1500
  4. Overseas: $2000

If the total amount claimed exceeds the external examiner’s budget category, the EGSO will contact the supervisor(s) as it will be the supervisor(s) responsibility to pay the exceeding amount.

EGSO will not reimburse expenses incurred by the supervisor(s) on the external examiner’s behalf. Hospitality expenses paid for by the supervisor(s) will have to be reimbursed through Concur using one of the supervisor(s) accounts.

Any questions regarding travel expenses and the reimbursement process should be directed to the Administrative Coordinator – PhD.