Ph.D. Defense

To graduate, Ph.D. candidates must form a Ph.D. dissertation defense committee and successfully defend a Ph.D. dissertation.

Ph.D. Dissertation Defense Committee

The Ph.D. dissertation defense committee, which must be approved by the dean, must consist of at least four members and typically includes no more than six members. At least three of the required members must be KAUST faculty and one must be an external examiner who is external to KAUST. The chair, plus one additional faculty member must be affiliated with the student’s program. The external examiner is not required to attend the defense, but must write a report on the dissertation and may attend the dissertation defense at the discretion of the program. Please see individual programs for defense committee requirements.

Ph.D. Dissertation Defense

The Ph.D. degree requires the passing of the defense and acceptance of the dissertation. The final defense is a public presentation that consists of an oral defense followed by questions and may last a maximum of three hours. All committee members are required to attend the defense. 

Students must determine the defense date with agreement of all the members of the dissertation committee, meet deadlines for submitting graduation forms and inform the committee of their progress. It is the responsibility of students to submit the required documents to their GPC by the second week of the semester/session they intend to defend. It is also expected that students submit their written dissertation to the committee at least two months prior to the defense date in order to receive feedback.

The written dissertation is required to comply with the University formatting guidelines.

There are four possible outcomes for this dissertation final defense:

  • Pass
  • Pass with conditions
  • Retake
  • Fail without retake

A pass is achieved when the committee agrees with no more than one dissenting vote. In the instance of a pass with conditions, the entire committee must agree on the required conditions, and if they cannot, the dean decides. The deadline to complete the conditions is three months after the defense date, unless the committee unanimously agrees to reduce it. If the conditions will take three months or more, or more than one member casts a negative vote, one retake of the defense is permitted. The deadline to complete the retake is as decided by the defense committee with a maximum of six months after the defense date, unless the committee unanimously agrees to change it. Students who fail without retake or who fail the retake will be dismissed from the University.

Evaluation of the Ph.D. dissertation defense is recorded by submitting the result of Ph.D. dissertation defense form to the Office of the Registrar by the deadline in the Academic Calendar.