4. The Candidacy

At the time specified by the supervisory committee, normally within the first three years after admission to the program, but in no case later than one year prior to anticipated graduation or the maximum time for completion of the program, whichever is sooner, the student must take the formal candidacy examination.

The candidacy examination should determine whether the student is adequately prepared to continue as a doctoral candidate. Students must demonstrate to the satisfaction of the examination committee that they possess:

  • an adequate knowledge of the discipline and of the subject matter relevant to their program of research, and,
  • the ability to pursue and complete original research at an advanced level.

The requirements that the student must meet in order to become a doctoral candidate may vary by program. The requirements may comprise one of the following:

  • a written and/or oral examination that tests the student on both their knowledge gained from their program of study (which includes their coursework) and their written dissertation proposal, or,
  • a written or oral examination that test(s) the student on their knowledge gained from their program of study (which includes their coursework), and an examination on their written dissertation proposal. The student must pass the examination on their program of study (coursework) before they can be examined on their proposal.

FGS is responsible for establishing detailed examination procedures for the candidacy and making this information available to faculty members and students in the program. A diagram illustrating the Overview of Doctoral Candidacy Process can be seen in Figure 2.

4.1 Preparation for the Candidacy Examination

Before the proposal is forwarded to the examination committee, the supervisory committee members shall declare in writing to the supervisor either:

  • that the proposal is of adequate substance and quality to warrant that the proposal is ready to be reviewed by the examination committee and that the student is ready to proceed to the candidacy; or
  • that the proposal is unsatisfactory (that further work is needed), and the student should not be allowed to proceed to the candidacy

It is important that this preliminary acceptance of the proposal is conducted in order to protect and uphold the reputation of the program and the University, for excellence in graduate programs. It is also critical to ensure that the examination committee members are not asked to invest time reading a substandard document.

If the supervisor considers the proposal ready for the examination committee, the Preliminary Acceptance of Proposal by Supervisory Committee form must be completed by the supervisory committee indicating their opinion of the readiness of the proposal and the student to proceed to the candidacy. This form must be completed and submitted 4 to 6 weeks prior to the anticipated date of the examination. At this time, the supervisor may also submit their recommendation for the examination committee to FGS (see Section 3.3 of this document).

4.2 Responsibilities of the Supervisor

It is the responsibility of the supervisor to ensure that these regulations and the procedures herein are followed, and that proper arrangements are made for the examination(s). The student is not required to make any of these arrangements. In the absence of the supervisor, a designate shall be responsible for these arrangements.

4.3 Selection, Composition, and Approval of Doctoral Candidacy Examination Committee

Regardless of the nature of the candidacy examination chosen by the program, only one examination committee will be struck to oversee and evaluate the student’s ability and knowledge to meet these requirements.

The examination committee will consist of the supervisory committee and the addition of one or two other members. It is the responsibility of the supervisor to nominate the additional member(s) of the examination committee to the graduate program director, and then to the FGS, for approval, using the Supervisory Committee Approval - Doctoral Program form. The proposed examination committee members must meet the eligibility criteria, and must not be in a position of conflict of interest (AU Policy 150 002).

A maximum of five members shall comprise the committee:

  • The supervisory committee members, and normally the addition of one or two new faculty members. This commonly a total of 3 committee members, plus one external to the program,
  • At least one of the new members shall be from outside the student’s program. This is often an AU faculty member external to the program,
  • At least one of the new members must be at arm’s length (see section 4.4) from the student and the proposal development, and,
  • All members must agree to participate in the examination.

4.4 Definition of ‘At Arm’s Length’

The proposed external examination committee member must be in a no conflict of interest situation Conflict Of Interest Policy (150 002) and ‘at arm’s length’ to the student and supervisor/co-supervisor. The external examiner should not have:

  • been involved in the development of the proposal or dissertation,
  • been associated with the student or supervisor/co-supervisor as a close friend, relative or in a commercial, business or financial relationship, or
  • published or held research funding with the student or supervisor/co-supervisor, during the past 5 years.

4.5 Written Candidacy Examination

The questions and the format of the responses (such as length, writing style, and deadline for submission) are developed by the examination committee, according to the regulations of the program, and then submitted to the graduate program director, with a copy for FGS. The graduate program director or supervisor distributes the questions and instructions to the student. The student submits their responses to the graduate program director or supervisor, within a specified time period as set out in the regulations of the program and FGS. The graduate program director or supervisor then distributes the responses to the examination committee. The committee has a specified time within which to grade the responses and submit their adjudication results to the graduate program designate.

4.6 Preparation for the Oral Candidacy Examination

At least four weeks prior to the oral Candidacy examination, it is the responsibility of the supervisor to initiate the External Examiner and Notice for Candidacy Oral Examination form and recommend an external examiner to be approved by FGS.

FGS will make the necessary arrangements for the exam based on the information obtained from the above form.

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.

4.7 Oral Candidacy Examination

The candidacy oral examination is considered a ‘closed’ examination. Only the examination committee members, the student, and the neutral chair are in attendance.

The oral examination shall be chaired by a neutral chair, appointed by the FGS. This neutral chair is normally from outside the student’s program and is considered at arm’s length to the committee and student.

The chair is responsible for moderating the discussion, directing questions, and ensuring that the procedures outlined in section 7.0 of these regulations is followed. The chair is not considered a member of the examination committee and therefore has no voting privileges. A report on the proceedings must be completed by the neutral chair, Report of the Neutral Chair and submitted to FGS after the oral examination.

4.8 Adjudication Categories and Procedures for Written Dissertation Proposal

Each student is required to develop a written dissertation proposal in their chosen field of study. The dissertation proposal is developed under the mentorship of the supervisor and the supervisory committee. At the time of candidacy, the examination committee must formally approve the written dissertation proposal.

One of the following outcomes of the written dissertation proposal must be recorded on the Final Report of Candidacy Oral Exam and Proposal form: Pass, pass with minor or major revisions, or Fail. The decision shall be that of the majority. The form is initiated by the supervisor as soon as possible after the deliberations. The approval of each committee member is required. The dissertation proposal shall be given one of the following ratings:

  • Pass
  • Pass with minor revisions
  • Pass with major revisions
  • Fail

General Procedures for all adjudication categories (see individual category for specifics):

  • The candidate must be informed of the recommendation and the reasons immediately after the deliberations
  • The chair completes the Report of the Neutral Chair form indicating the results of the deliberations and submits the form to the FGS immediately after the oral examination.
  • The supervisor will initiate the Final Report of Candidacy Oral Exam and Proposal form immediately after the examination which will confirm the adjudications and recommendations of all examination committee members.

Pass

No revisions are required aside from minor grammatical errors or minor points of clarification.

The proposal is deemed to be of sufficient quality to represent doctoral research.

Procedures:

  • The student is provided with clear written instructions on the necessary revisions and is given a timeline within which to complete them.
  • It is the supervisor’s responsibility to ensure the student has completed the required revisions.
  • Once the supervisor and the committee (if applicable) has approved the final proposal with the revisions, the supervisor must inform FGS.

Pass with Minor Revisions

Minor revisions are those that involve stylistic changes and/or minor additions or clarifications. Minor revisions are those that may be corrected within three months from the date of the examination, but the committee can determine the length of time required. The supervisor will inform the student of the necessary corrections and time to complete them.

Procedure:

  • The student is provided with clear written instructions on the necessary revisions and is given a timeline within which to complete them.
  • It is the supervisor’s responsibility to ensure the student has completed the required revisions.
  • Once the supervisor has approved the final proposal with the revisions, the supervisor must inform FGS.

Pass with Major Revisions

Major revisions are those that require more than changes in style, minor additions, or clarifications. Major revisions involve more qualification of materials and/or research findings or may involve additions to the content of the proposal. Major revisions may take longer than three months, but the committee can determine the length of time required. The supervisor will inform the student of the necessary revisions and time to complete them.

Procedure:

  • The student is provided with clear written instructions on the necessary revisions and is given a timeline within which to complete them. The supervisor must specify with as much precision as possible, the nature of the deficiencies and the extent of the revisions required. It must be clear to the student what will be required to receive a pass.
  • The nature of the supervision and assistance the student may expect from the committee members in making the necessary revisions should be specified. A timeframe for completing the changes must be identified.
  • Once the supervisor has approved the final proposal with the revisions, the supervisor must inform FGS.

Fail

The concerns with the proposal must be serious enough to warrant a fail. A fail will appear on the transcript.

Procedure:

  • The supervisor shall provide the reasons for the fail to the student immediately after deliberations, and within (2) two business days in writing. The nature of the deficiencies must be specified with as much precision as possible.
  • The Final Report of Candidacy Oral Exam and Proposal form shall indicate the reasons for the fail and recommendations for further action.
  • The FGS may arrange to meet with the student and the examination committee before acting upon the committee’s recommendations.

4.9 Adjudication Categories and Procedures for the Oral Candidacy Examination

  • Pass
  • Fail
  • Adjourned, Repeat Oral

Normally, one of the following outcomes of the oral examination must be recorded on the Final Report of Candidacy Oral Exam and Proposal form: Pass; Fail; or Adjourned.

General Procedures for all adjudication categories (see individual category for specifics):

  • The student must be informed of the recommendation and the reasons immediately after the deliberations
  • The chair completes the Report of the Neutral Chair form indicating the results of the deliberations and submits the form to the FGS immediately after the oral examination.
  • The supervisor will initiate the Final Report of Candidacy Oral Exam and Proposal form immediately after the examination which will confirm the adjudications and recommendations of all examination committee members.

Pass

The presentation clearly described the proposal, and the student was able to accurately answer the questions.

Fail

The presentation of the proposal was poor, with inadequate description of the study; the student answered the questions poorly, indicating a lack of knowledge in the research they conducted.

Procedure:

  • The supervisor shall provide the student with the reasons for the fail in writing within two business days of the oral examination. The nature of the deficiencies must be specified with as much precision as possible.
  • The FGS may arrange to meet with the student and/or the examination committee representatives, before acting upon the committee’s recommendation.

Adjourned

There may be unexpected or extenuating circumstances that cause the oral examination to be adjourned, such as severe anxiety, technology problems of 30 minutes or more, illness, or an absent committee member.

The supervisor confers with the student, the examination committee members, and the FGS, to determine an appropriate course of action and timeline.