Doctoral Degree: Completion

Responsible Officer
Rachel Croson
Executive Vice President and Provost
Scott Lanyon
Vice Provost and Dean of Graduate Education
Primary Contact
Karen Starry
Assistant To
Last Revised
Effective Date

Policy Statement

This policy sets the standards for the doctoral final oral examination and the submission of the final copy of the doctoral dissertation for the completion of the doctoral degree.

I. The Doctoral Final Oral Examination

  1. The doctoral final oral committee must consist of at least four members, including the advisor(s). All members of the committee and the candidate must participate in the final oral examination. Committee members and/or the student may participate remotely as long as all conditions for remote participation in the examination are met.
    1. At least three members (including the advisor) must be from the student's major field.
    2. At least one member must represent a field outside the major. If the student has declared a minor, the outside member, or one of the outside members, must represent the minor field.
    3. Members cannot satisfy the requirement with respect to more than one field.
    4. The chair of the committee must not be the candidate’s advisor or co-advisor.
    5. At least two members of the committee must be tenured or tenure-track University faculty members who hold earned doctorate degrees or designated equivalents in appropriate fields from an accredited institution. At least one of the committee members must be a tenured University faculty member.
    6. Collegiate deans or their designated representatives at the collegiate level must verify eligibility and approve the members of the final oral examination committee.
  2. Thesis Reviewers for final oral examination:
    1. A minimum of 2 major field reviewers and 1 minor/outside reviewer are required. In the case of multiple minors, there must be a reviewer for each minor.
    2. Advisor(s) and co-advisor(s) must serve as reviewers.
    3. Students must provide reviewers with a copy of the dissertation at least 14 days before the scheduled date of the doctoral final oral examination.
    4. Every designated reviewer on the doctoral dissertation reviewer’s report must certify that the dissertation is ready for defense before the doctoral final oral examination may take place.
  3. The doctoral final oral examination must include:
    1. A public presentation of the candidate’s dissertation to the doctoral final oral examination committee and the invited scholarly community.
    2. A closed session (open only to the doctoral final oral examination committee and the candidate) immediately following the public presentation.
  4. To be recommended for the award of the doctoral degree, all committee members, or all committee members save one, must vote that the student has passed the doctoral final oral examination.
  5. Students are not allowed to retake the final oral examination.

II. Submission of final copy of the doctoral dissertation

  1. Committee members must notify the candidate in writing of all required revisions to the doctoral dissertation as well as specifying a time limit for the submission of the revised doctoral dissertation within seven (7) days of the final oral examination.
  2. All students who complete a doctoral dissertation must file a digital copy of the dissertation with the University in accordance with University standards. Students may choose whether or not to request an embargo of the publication of the dissertation for a limited period of time.


Doctoral programs with approved completion requirements that do not include a final oral examination are exempt from I.

Doctoral programs with approved completion requirements that do not include a doctoral dissertation are exempt from II.

Effective Date

This policy applies to all students admitted after January 1, 2013. Students who matriculated before January 1, 2013 may choose to continue under the policies in effect when they initially matriculated in their graduate program.

This policy does not apply to the J.D., M.D., Pharm.D., D.V.M., D.D.S, L.L.M degrees.

Reason for Policy

This policy establishes uniform standards for the doctoral final oral examination; defines timely submission of copies of the dissertation for University archives, and supports Board of Regents Policy: Openness in Research which covers public dissemination of University-sponsored research.


Primary Contact(s) Karen Starry 612-625-2815 [email protected]
University of Minnesota - Duluth Erik Brown 218-726-8891 [email protected]
University of Minnesota - Rochester Jeffrey Ratliff-Crain 507-258-8006 [email protected]


There are no definitions associated with this policy.


Graduate School
  • Provide guidelines for formatting and submitting the dissertation, to include not only current instructions for electronic formatting and filing but also guidelines governing the use of already published material in the dissertation. Guidelines should take account of possible copyright issues.
Collegiate Units
  • Approve and archive in the system of record committee membership (including any subsequent changes to an approved committee).
  • Approve and record the specific procedures used by programs for administering and grading the doctoral preliminary and final examinations.
  • Maintain and publish any additional collegiate-level publishing standards or guidelines (e.g., stylistic conventions based on discipline, language of the thesis).
  • Provide program-specific information in the graduate handbook
  • Maintain and publish any additional program-level publishing standards or guidelines (e.g., stylistic conventions based on discipline, language of the thesis).
  • Review and approve committee membership (including any subsequent changes to an approved committee); route program-approved requests to the collegiate unit for approval.
  • Must meet all standards for the doctoral final oral examination
  • Must meet the formatting requirements for the submission of the final doctoral dissertation.
  • Must meet all requirements for completing the doctoral degree.


June 2017 – Comprehensive Review, Minor Revision. 1) Rewrote the introduction to clarify the goal of the policy, 2) moved language regarding composition of the final exam committee from Appointments to Graduate Examination Committees policy to this policy for consistency, 3) added language to clarify that the co-advisors must be thesis reviewers, 4) added language requiring the committee to notify the student in writing of any required revisions to the dissertation and a deadline for the completion of such revisions, 5) clarified language to indicate that students have a choice whether or not to impose and embargo on publication of the thesis for a limited time period, 6) removed language regarding reactivation in order to graduate. Changes in policy respond to need for greater clarity on policy intent on the part of affected constituencies and enhanced consistency in policy implementation across programs.
July 2012 - New Policy, Comprehensive Review. 1. Establishes guidelines for remote participation in graduate milestone examination. 2. Specifies the University as the digital archive of record for deposit of dissertations. 3. Facilitates reactivation of students who have completed all other degree requirements so that their degree may be conferred. 4. Extends applicability of policy requirements to programs not formerly under the aegis of the Graduate School.

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