As of the 2017-2018 academic year, Thesis Committees were introduced for all RDM DPhil students. Thesis Committees are an extension to your core supervision structure and have a purely advisory role. The Thesis Committee advises on your academic work, monitors progress and can flag any concerns. It helps you work towards timely completion of your DPhil.
The Thesis Committee consists normally of 4 to 5 people:
- your supervisors
- 2 to 3 additional PIs not directly involved in your project/line of supervision
The additional members of your Thesis Committee are invited after you are sufficiently clear about the general direction of your project, which will normally be no later than your 2nd term. Consult with your supervisor about who to invite. When assembling your Thesis Committee consider the expertise, scientific standing and seniority of the additional members (aim for a balance with your supervisor’s seniority), and whether you would feel comfortable raising any issues you might have with them. They should not be close collaborators. At least one of the additional members should be internal to the University of Oxford; for practical reasons most of them usually are.
The additional members of your Thesis Committee can serve as Transfer and Confirmation of Status assessors, provided their involvement remains purely advisory and does not move into the supervisory realm (e.g. when interactions become more frequent or they become collaborators), and they meet the assessor criteria of the Medical Science Board. Only one Thesis Committee member should act as your Transfer or Confirmation assessor.
A Thesis Committee member cannot normally serve as internal examiner for your thesis viva.
Thesis Committee members are well placed to provide a reference for you.
Frequency of Thesis Committee Meetings
The Thesis Committee meets normally once a year. More meetings can be called, by the Committee or you, if there are concerns about any aspects of your DPhil. The first meeting should be in your 3rd term the latest. This meeting provides an excellent opportunity to test-run your Transfer of Status viva in term 4.
The focus of a Committee meeting will be guided by the stage of your career. For example, expect emphasis on foundation and grasp of project in the first year, data generation, interpretation, and plans in the second year, career prospects and finalizing your studies successfully in the 3rd (and 4th) years. In general, Thesis Committee meetings provide an opportunity to take a step back and get feedback not only on your direct work but also on the bigger picture and impact of your studies as your Thesis Committee members are likely to be further removed from your direct topic.
It is your responsibility to organize the meetings (i.e. find suitable date, space, take care of the paperwork, etc.)
Prior to a Committee meeting:
At least three working days prior to the meeting, you provide members of the Thesis Committee with a brief progress report of no more than 2 pages, including the aim of your studies, results obtained and experimental plans. This report does not normally include any figures: you will be expected to prepare a 15-minute presentation for the Committee meetings which is where you can show your data.
A typical Thesis Committee meeting (1 hour):
At the start of the meeting, you give a 15-minute presentation outlining your project and highlighting your most important findings. This is followed by a discussion of your data, project, and future plans. Often you will be interrupted during your presentation and the discussion and presentation coincide, at least in part. Next, both your supervisor and you will each have the opportunity to meet with the other Committee members in private to comment on your progress and flag any concerns. For this the Committee will first ask the student to step out of the room temporarily, and next the supervisor. The meeting ends with a Committee discussion and completion of the report form (at which neither the student and supervisor are present) followed by feedback to the student.
 An exception to this are instances where students already have 4 or more official supervisors, e.g. because of industry placements (iCASE studentships). In this case, the supervisors further removed from the direct line of supervision can fulfil the role of the Thesis Committee. Note that in this instance Thesis Committee members cannot serve as Transfer or Confirmation of Status Assessors. If you are not certain about how to compose your Thesis Committee, ask your DGS or local Graduate Advisor for advice.