A supervisory committee helps guide your course selection, research and thesis. While your Research Supervisor is your primary program planner, your committee members bring valuable breadth of knowledge, experience and alternative opinions. Committees are an invaluable tool in assisting your progress through a degree.

Choosing Your Committee

You and your supervisor should choose a committee as soon as you begin your program. Your committee will consist of:

  • your research supervisor (your committee chair)
  • at least two but ideally three additional faculty members who are familiar with your research topic. Committee memebers are usually UBC faculty holding the rank of Assistant Professor, Associate Professor, or Professor.

Special permission allows for supervisory committees to include senior instructors, honourary faculty, adjunct faculty, off-campus professionals and/or faculty members from other universities so long as the majority of the committee consists of UBC faculty holding the ranks above. A letter justifying the appointment and a copy of the individual's curriculum vitae should be submitted to the EOAS graduate office.

When to Have a Committee Meeting

New students should hold a meeting within the first two to three months of starting the program. After that, a yearly committee meeting is required. It's advisable to hold a meeting before any important stage in your graduate career, including prior to fieldwork or transferral to a PhD program. Committee meetings should be recorded through GradME.

Your First Committee Meeting

After your prospective committee members agree to being a part of your committee you should set up your first meeting in your first two to three months.

Your initial committee meeting doesn't require an in-depth exploration of your research nor do you need to provide any results. A general discussion about your academic background, project, possible approaches, and prospective course choices is all that is required. Your committee members will also look at your choice of courses.

After the meeting the committee will complete a report on GradMe to record the meeting.

Subsequent Committee Meetings

Your next committee meeting should be more involved. A week prior to the meeting provide each committee member with a short (2-5 pages) written description of your project and research/action plan. Please include details about your current progress as well as your future plans.

At the meeting you should make a 15-20 minute presentation, which will be followed by a question and answer period. This isn't intended to be confrontational. Rather it is meant to update your committee on your progress and future goals as well as giving them an opportunity to offer advice and an alternative views.

After the meeting the committee will complete a report on GradMe to record the meeting.

PhD Candidacy

The Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies specifies that you must take your candidacy exam within the 24 months of his/her PhD program and advance to candidacy within 36 months of the start of your PhD program. To advance to candidacy:

  1. You must pass the candidacy exam.
  2. Your supervisory committee must approve your research proposal.
  3. You must have completed all required coursework. There are no specific course requirements within EOAS, except in the ATSC program. However, you may be required by your supervisory or candidacy examination committee to complete course work.
  4. The Chair of your Candidacy Exam Committee must notify the Graduate Coordinator that you should be advanced to candidacy.


Please complete the Advancement to Candidacy Form and email the completed form to the EOAS Graduate Coordinator as soon as you have completed the exam.

Advancement to Candidacy Forms:



PhD Candidacy Examinations

Detailed procedures about the timing and scope of PhD exams in EOAS can be found at: PhD_Exam_time-lines_nov2014.pdf, PhD_Exams_Proceedures_EOAS_nov2014.pdf.

Atmospheric Science PhD Candidacy

Detailed procedures about the timing and scope of ATSC PhD exams in EOAS can be found at: ATSC_PhD_program_outline.pdf.

Defence of Masters Thesis (MSc & MASc)

Ensure that GradMe is used to report the defense.

The Examing Committee

The Committee should include:

  • Your Thesis Supervisor who will act as the Chair.
  • At least one other tenured/tenure track member of your supervisory committee.
  • At least one external examiner who does not sit on your committee. If this person isn't a UBC faculty member then the Thesis Supervisor will need to send a request (include a justification and the examiner's CV) to the Graduate Coordinator at least fourteen days prior to the exam.

Before the Exam

At least fourteen days before the scheduled defence you must:

  • Give each examiner a copy of the complete thesis.
  • E-mail to book a room for the defense.
  • Ask the Graduate Coordinator to post a notice of defence.

During the Exam

The exam consists of:

  • A 20-30 minute presentation by the candidate to an open audience
  • A period of questions from the examiners and other members of the audience
  • A period of in camera questioning by the Examining Committee and other interested faculty.
  • Adjudication by the Examining Committee based on the thesis, the oral presentation and your ability to defend the thesis.
  • The chair reporting to you the result (pass with or without conditions, fail or adjourned). Comments on the defense, along with other details will be recorded on GradMe.

After the Exam

If you passed the exam you will need to:

  • Make any suggested correction to your thesis.
  • Submit your thesis to the Faculty of Graduate Studies.

Note you are only considered to have completed your program once the thesis has been submitted and accepted. Your fees are pro-rated up until the end of the month in which you submit your thesis. If you haven't already done so, apply to graduate.

If you do not pass the exam you will need to develop a plan of action in conjunction with your Thesis Supervisor and the Graduate Chair.

PhD Thesis Defences

  1. The PhD defence will follow the guidelines set out by Faculty of Graduate Studies.
  2. At the discretion of the supervisory committee, an in camera department level defence (e.g., including faculty and associated researchers) could be scheduled prior to submitting the thesis to the external examiner.

Master's to PhD Transfer

To be eligible you must meet the requirements outlined by the Faculty of Graduate and Postodoctoral Studies. In addition, your supervisor must agree to the conversion and you committee members must have agreed to the transfer.

PhD to Master's Transfer

To be eligible you must meet the requirements outlined by the Faculty of Graduate and Postodoctoral Studies. Note that transferring to an MSc may have implications for your funding.

Leave of Absence

If you plan to work outside of UBC or need to take time off for personal reasons, taking a leave of absence may be necessary. The Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies details this procedure.

For maternity related leaves of absence you may be entitled to benefits via Employment Insurance (EI). Most students contribute to EI but if you're in doubt you can check your pay slip. Entitlement to EI varies according to how long you have worked and on your immigration status. You can find more help at the Service Canada Website. Visa Students can also go to International House for advice.

Students employed as Graduate Research Assistants or Teaching Assistants will not receive a top up from UBC on the funds provided by EI. However CUPE 2278 does run a fund for Teaching Assistants, Markers and Tutors who are experiencing financial hardship due to the loss of work after the birth of a child. For more specific information please email