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Failed Defense

At the defense, after all the questioning is completed, the examining committee will discuss the thesis and its defense. The acceptability of the thesis and the defense are two different issues. The chair polls the committee, beginning with the external examiner, and asks two questions:

a)  Whether the thesis: 
     (i)  Passes without revision,  
     (ii)  Passes with revision, 
     (iii)  Must be rewritten and re-defended.

b)  Whether the defense was: 
     (i)  Acceptable, 
     (ii)  Not acceptable and must be repeated, 
     (iii)  Not acceptable and student fails.

If the external examiner decides that the thesis passes, then each member of the examining committee votes on if the thesis passes. If half, or more, of the examining committee (other than the external examiner) feel that the thesis is acceptable, then the thesis is acceptable. The only remaining decision is if there are edits. (It is very rare for a thesis to pass without any revisions). If less than half of the committee decides that the thesis passes, then the thesis must be rewritten (even if the external examiner thinks that the thesis should pass).

If the external examiner thinks that the thesis must be rewritten, then the decision is that the thesis must be rewritten (this would be an extraordinary event, since the external examiner has signed off on the thesis).

The same procedure is followed for the defense.  If the external examiner decides that the defense is acceptable, then each member of the examining committee votes on whether or not the defense is acceptable. If half or more of the committee (other than the external examiner) decides that it is acceptable, then the defense is acceptable. If more than half of the committee feels that the defense is unacceptable, then then defense fails (even if the external examiner found the defense acceptable).

If the external examiner finds that the defense is unacceptable, then the defense is unacceptable.

If the defense is found to be unacceptable, then the committee must decide if the student will be given a chance to repeat the defense, or if the students fails (in this case the student will not be awarded the degree and will be required to discontinue).

There are two cases in which a student can fail:

  1. If a student’s defense is found to be unacceptable on their second attempt;
  2. If the external examiner and the committee agree unanimously that the student should fail.

Otherwise the student whose defense is found to be unacceptable, will be given a second opportunity to defend their thesis in the following semester.

In an exam with multiple portions, a failure of any portion of the examination is considered to be a failed examination.