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Athabasca University

7. Preparation for The Oral Examination

7.1 Responsibilities of the FGS

It is the responsibility of the FGS to ensure that:

  • Proper arrangements are made for the candidate’s oral examination;
  • The results of the review of the dissertation by the examination committee are communicated to the supervisor, the remainder of the committee, and the candidate, immediately after all the commentaries have been received by the FGS;
  • All committee members are aware that they must attend the examination;
  • The oral examination is scheduled and held in accordance with FGS regulations;
  • The neutral chair for the oral examination is appointed by the FGS;
  • The external examiner is contacted and provided with appropriate instructions on their role at the oral examination; and
  • The candidate is notified of, but is not required to make, any of these arrangements.
  • The announcement of the oral examination is posted on the website of FGS and that of the student’s centre/faculty.

7.2 Appointment of the Neutral Chair for the Oral Examination

The doctoral dissertation oral examination shall be chaired by a faculty member who is considered neutral to the examination committee and the student, and who is not from the candidate’s academic unit. The FGS will appoint the chair and provide them with the appropriate instructions for the conduct of the oral examination, the procedure for the deliberations, and the necessary forms that require completion and return to FGS. See “Guidelines and Procedures for “Oral Examinations for Master’s Thesis and Doctoral Program section 4.0 for the procedures for chairing the oral examination and the instructions to be given to the student and committee.

7.3 Appointment of the Proctor

Unless a member of the examination committee is present with the student for the entire process, a mechanism must be in place to ensure both the identity of the student, effective application of the examination procedures, and the integrity of the examination. In the case when a proctor will be used, they must be preapproved by FGS as part of the “Notice of Oral Examination”.

For further information on the criteria for invigilators and their duties see “Guidelines and Procedures for Oral Examinations for Master’s Thesis Route and Doctoral Programs”, section 3.0.

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7.4 Notice of the Examination

At least four weeks prior to the oral examination, it is the responsibility of the supervisor to submit the “Notice of Dissertation Oral Examinationform to FGS that outlines the date of the oral examination, the preferred technology, back-up numbers of the examination committee members for during  the oral examination and other information as listed in Section 2.0 of the guidelines and proceduresforOral Examinations for Master’s Thesis Route and Doctoral Programs.

FGS will make the necessary arrangements for the technology. Upon FGS approval of the details related to the oral examination, the supervisor can then confirm the examination date, time, and other necessary arrangements with the student and the examination committee.

In the absence of the supervisor, the above responsibilities shall be carried out by a designate of the supervisor. The student is not required to make the arrangements for the examination.

At approximately 2 weeks prior to the oral examination date, the student is to complete the “Announcement of Dissertation Final Oral Examination” and submit the form to FGS. The Faculty of Graduate Studies will post the announcement of the oral examination with the name of the student, their research and scholarly accomplishments, the title of the dissertation and the abstract on the FGS website and the website of the centre/faculty of the student about 2 weeks before the oral examination. Students or faculty interested in attending the oral examination would contact the FGS by email to obtain permission to attend.

7.5 Attendance of Visitors at Examinations

Normally the final oral examination will be considered an ‘open’ session, at which faculty members and students of the candidate’s academic unit may attend. All observers must apply in advance to the FGS for permission to attend.  The supervisor sets the maximum number of guests to be present. Guests are approved by the FGS and the supervisor. When approved, FGS will provide the guests with the teleconference number or other appropriate number in order to connect to the oral examination. FGS will provide the neutral chair with the list of approved observers at least 72 hours prior to the oral examination.

At the oral examination, persons who are not members of the examination committee:

  • are not allowed to exit or enter during the oral examination. They must be present for the duration of the presentation and question period;
  • must have their microphones on mute and cannot write comments on the screen (if Adobe Connect is used);
  • may participate in the questioning only by permission of the chair;
  • are not permitted to participate in the discussion of the candidate’s performance, and
  • must withdraw before the committee deliberates on the outcome of the candidate’s dissertation and oral examination.

At the completion of the questioning period, the chair informs the audience and the candidate to disconnect in order for the committee to deliberate. The candidate and the examiners will reconvene when the examiners have completed their adjudication.

Only in certain circumstances, the oral examination may be ‘closed’; for example, when the results of the dissertation must be kept confidential for a period of time. In such cases, the candidate’s supervisor and academic unit graduate program designate shall recommend such action to the FGS, who shall then approve that the final examination be closed to all but the examination committee, the external examiner, the chair, and the FGS.

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Updated October 29 2014 by Student & Academic Services

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