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Graduate Academic Policies

Thesis/Dissertation Committee Formation

Timely formation of thesis and dissertation committees

  • MS students should form their committees by ORD — the official reporting date or 12th day of class of the semester of their defense, which is their graduating semester.
  • PhD students should form their dissertation committee two weeks prior to their proposal defense. For departments who do not have a proposal defense it will be the same time frame as MS students listed above.

Thesis/Dissertation Committee

  • The thesis/dissertation committee (also called advisory committee) advises the student on research and writing of the thesis /dissertation, conducts the final oral examination (as required by the program) and approves the final version of the thesis/dissertation. A thesis committee should include at least three members (five for dissertation). The thesis/dissertation committee must have members from the student’s graduate program/academic unit. It may have additional members that are serving as an external committee member. The majority of members must be currently active in the scholarship of the field.
  • One committee member will serve as the chair of the thesis/dissertation committee. In some cases, two committee members may be appointed as co-chairs and will share the chair responsibilities.
  • If a student’s thesis/dissertation chair is a faculty member whose primary appointment is not in the graduate program offering the degree, then they must receive approval from the graduate program director/department chair to serve as a co-chair with a faculty member from the program also serving as co-chair. If the academic unit/graduate program has specified departmental or college policies regarding thesis/dissertation committee members, the student will follow the specified procedures of the graduate program/academic unit as long as they do not conflict with the policy outlined here.
  • The thesis/dissertation chair (or co-chairs) is (are) the student’s mentor(s) and guide(s) through the degree program. Students should consult the departmental policy regarding the appropriate number of thesis/dissertation committee members, the process for the selection of the committee members and the process to request changes in the committee membership. If the chair of a student’s dissertation committee leaves the University and the student is near completion of the degree and wants the chair to continue to serve in this role, the student, in consultation with the graduate program director and committee members, should ask a current member of the University of Houston faculty to serve as the co-chair of the committee.
  • A prospective committee member who is not a member of the University of Houston faculty may receive approval to serve on a thesis/dissertation committee by the chair of the committee. The chair has the responsibility of confirming that the prospective committee member has the requisite qualifications (typically, a terminal degree, subject matter expertise, and active in the field) to serve on the committee. When the committee chair approves a non-UH committee member to serve on the committee, they should provide a CV/resume from that member as part of the committee composition record.
  • Changes to the Thesis/Dissertation Committee require the approval of the student, new committee members, and the graduate program director. The graduate director (and department chair) will have the authority to make changes in case of a disagreement over the committee composition. In case a dispute goes beyond the department, the associate dean for graduate studies (and dean) will have this authority to appoint committee members and/or appoint an external thesis/dissertation chair to oversee the proceedings. Exceptions to this process may be granted by petition to the Vice Provost and Dean of the Graduate School.
  • All thesis/dissertation committee members should be entered into the student information system when the committee is formed to facilitate accurate academic records. Exception: At this time, committee members not employed by the University of Houston cannot be entered into the student information system.
  • A graduate program may have stricter requirements with respect to the final exam/defense and these requirements should be clearly articulated in the written policies and procedures or catalog entry for the graduate program.

Final Exam/Defense

  • The thesis/dissertation committee will conduct a final exam/defense as specified in the degree requirements. The final exam/defense should be scheduled such that the thesis/dissertation is available in nearly final form so that the committee has adequate time to review the document prior to the final exam/defense. While the final exam/defense may broadly cover the disciplinary field of the candidate’s training, the primary questioning should be related to the thesis/dissertation. A positive evaluation by the thesis/dissertation committee — with at most one dissension — is required for a student to pass. The dissenting member should indicate their dissent on the approval form. At the discretion of the thesis/dissertation committee and per the graduate program rules, a student may be given one opportunity to repeat a final exam/defense for the master’s/doctoral degree. The repeat exam/defense must be held no later than the end of the next fall/spring semester (summer terms excluded). A graduate program may have stricter requirements with respect to the final exam/defense and these requirements should be clearly articulated in the written policies and procedures or catalog entry for the graduate program.