PhD Defence Scheduling & Convocating

Basic Procedure

For information on how to prepare your PhD thesis for submission, please see detailed instructions on the SGS site Producing your Thesis, including sub-pages Formatting and Electronic Thesis Submission.

Two convocation dates exist per calendar year, one in June and the other in November. Follow the minimum timeline of five (5) months below to convocate in either month.

As a general rule, you must have completed your oral thesis defence a minimum of two (2) months ahead of convocating, and require a minimum of three (3) months to begin the process of scheduling your oral defence (typically initiated by your thesis supervisor). Your thesis must be submitted at least seven (7) weeks ahead of the oral defence.


  • At least THREE (3) MONTHS before the oral examination:
    • The thesis supervisor should consult with the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) about possible external appraisers/examiners and internal/external examiners for thesis.
    • Once these roles are determined, the supervisor should contact the external appraiser/examiner to obtain their informal consent to participate, while the DGS will contact the internal/external examiner to obtain their consent to participate.
    • The graduate administrator will then obtain SGS approval for the external appraiser/examiner and issue a formal invitation.
  • At least TWO (2) MONTHS before the oral examination:
    • The supervisor should consult with the student, the thesis committee, the external appraiser/examiner, and the internal/external examiner to determine the desired date and time for the exam.
    • Once agreed on, the supervisor informs the graduate administrator about the proposed exam date, which must be confirmed by the School of Graduate Studies (SGS).
  • At least SEVEN (7) WEEKS before the oral examination (eight to nine weeks are better):
    • The student should submit a Thesis Submission Form and an e-copy of the dissertation to the graduate administrator. A coil-bound copy of the thesis will only be necessary in the unlikely event of an external appraiser/examiner requesting one.
    • The graduate administrator will send the bound or e-thesis to the external appraiser/examiner, the internal/external examiner, and all committee members.
    • At this time, the graduate administrator will confirm the desired date and time with SGS. The graduate administrator cannot formally schedule the exam until they have the e-copy in hand.
    • After receiving the scheduling request from the graduate administrator, SGS will secure a faculty member from another department to chair the defence.
  • At least TWO (2) WEEKS before the oral examination:
    • The external appraiser/examiner should submit their report.
    • The graduate administrator will then forward the external appraiser/examiner’s report to the student and all committee members.


  • Exact thesis submission deadlines to meet a specific convocation date are set by SGS for every academic year. You can find them under SGS sessional dates. They tend to be around eight (8) weeks ahead of convocation dates.
  • More information about convocation is available from the Office of Convocation.

Appraisers and Examiners

Appraisers/examiners assess the quality of your written dissertation and its oral defence. The only difference between the two is that an examiner can attend the defence, whereas an appraiser cannot.

Role of the assessor (appraiser or examiner)

  • For simplicity’s sake, it is desirable to find an external appraiser who can also serve as an external examiner, and so participate as a voting member at the Final Oral Examination (oral defence), either in person or by phone, Zoom, or Skype.
  • Under current SGS quorum rules, at least two of the five voting members of the Final Oral Examination committee must be from outside the student’s supervisory committee.
  • Typically, these two members include the external appraiser/examiner (from outside the University of Toronto) and the internal/external examiner (see above).
  • If the external appraiser cannot participate in the Final Oral Examination (either in person or by phone, Zoom, or Skype), then at least two internal externals will have to be appointed to the student’s Final Oral Examination committee to satisfy quorum.

Criteria for appointment of the external appraiser/examiner (from SGS)

  • The external appraiser must be external to the University as well as to its affiliated teaching hospitals and their research institutes.
  • The external appraiser must be
    1. a recognized expert on the subject of the thesis,
    2. an associate or full professor at their home institution,
    3. and experienced as a successful supervisor of doctoral candidates through to defence.

In rare circumstances, an appraiser from outside the academic sector may be appointed, but they must possess the qualifications to be appointed to an academic position at this level.

  • The external appraiser must be at arm’s length from both the candidate and the supervisor(s). This will usually exclude anyone who
    1. has served as a master’s or PhD supervisor / supervisee of the candidate or the supervisor;
    2. has, in the past six (6) years, been a departmental colleague of the candidate or the supervisor;
    3. or has, in the past six (6) years, collaborated on a research project, scholarly work, or publication with either of them.

The Vice Dean (Programs) will assess whether the nominee is at arm’s length in considering nominations of external appraisers.

External appraiser/examiner honorarium and travel expenses

The external appraiser/examiner receives an honorarium of $100. The university provides a maximum of $500 in travel expenses for external appraisers who come to the defence in person to serve as examiners. Any additional expenses are to be covered by the supervisor or members of the student’s committee.

The supervisor is responsible for collecting receipts from the external appraiser. Please give all receipts to the department’s business officer with a note stating clearly which funding sources should be used for which expenses.