The final defense is an oral examination open to the public, during which the author of a thesis or dissertation demonstrates to his or her committee satisfactory command of all aspects of the work presented and other related subjects, if applicable. The defense is required for the dissertation and Masters plan A students.

Scheduling & Announcement

Defense announcement in the University Events Calendar is required for the dissertation. The defense must be one hour or more in length. It may be scheduled between 8:00 am to 4:30 pm on any work day, during both instructional and non-instructional periods. Submit announcement to the Graduate Division Student Services no later than two weeks prior to defense. Announcement must specify title, date, time and place of the defense. It must be signed by the committee chair.

Pre-Defense Manuscript Distribution

The student must submit the completed manuscript to the committee by the deadline set by his or her graduate program, or no later than two weeks prior to the scheduled defense (four weeks is highly recommended in the case of the dissertation). In addition, the student needs to distribute a copy of the abstract to the faculty of his or her graduate program. The abstract may be distributed via email or other electronic means as appropriate.

Committee Participation

Effective 2015, the Graduate Council has approved allowing graduate programs more flexibility with regard to remote participation by the doctoral candidate and committee members for a doctoral defense. With this change, it is possible for the entire committee to attend a doctoral defense online with no members physically present on campus at UHM. However, since such defenses will continue to remain a public presentation, a physical location on the UHM campus with accessibility for viewers to an online or related type of defense (i.e., if defense is located at an off-campus location) must be made available. This information will also be required on the Dissertation Announcement that is submitted at least two weeks prior to a defense and when posted to the Academic Calendar.

For any graduate program that wishes to establish their own guidelines and procedures with regard to physical presence, virtual presence, or a mixture of both for the candidate and committee members for doctoral defenses, an official memo sent via your college/school Dean to Dean Aune will be required.

In the absence of such a memo, current Graduate Division procedures must be followed. The student, chair, university representative, and a majority of members (as approved on Student Progress Form II) must be physically present at the defense. In the event that a committee member is unable to participate physically in the final defense, the alternatives are, in order of preference:

1. Postpone the defense.

2. Use video- or teleconferencing — Under special circumstances, a committee member may participate via video- or teleconferencing, if certain conditions are met:

  • Advance written agreement of the student and all committee members has been obtained and submitted to the Office of Graduate Student Services (use Petition for Remote Committee Participation Form);
  • All materials, including any visual aids, have been distributed in advance to the remote member;
  • The remote member participates in the entire and complete course of the meeting;
  • The committee chair has accepted responsibility for the oversight of any logistical arrangements necessary; and
  • Any costs associated with video- or teleconferencing have been accounted for in advance. Such costs are not the responsibility of the Graduate Division.
  • Submit a Doctoral Petition for Remote Committee Participation.
  • Resources on Campus
    • Teleconference facilities with various types of equipment (video, audio, etc.) are supported by these units: SOEST (Hawai‘i Natural Energy Institute), John A. Burns School of Medicine, Language Learning Center, School of Architecture, Pacific Biomedical Research Institute, and School of Nursing and Dental Hygiene. Faculty in those units should contact their IT specialists if they wish to reserve a time slot for a dissertation defense. ITS also offers conferencing services for the UH community such as “Halawai”, adobe enterprise connect (; check the help site for information – and HITS, Hawaii Interactive Video Service; check the FAQ for information –

3. Restructure the committee.

4. Use proxy member(s) — As a general rule, the Graduate Division discourages the use of proxy committee members for the final defense. However, the use of a proxy member may occasionally be the only feasible solution that does not unduly penalize the student. Only regular graduate faculty may serve as proxies. A proxy cannot be used for the committee chair or the university representative. To use a proxy member, submit a written request to the Office of Graduate Student Services prior to the day of the final defense. The request must indicate the reason for the proxy, and include the approval signature of the student’s graduate chair.

Upon request approval by the Graduate Division, the proxy is expected to act in full capacity of the committee member he or she replaces. The proxy may ask any questions he or she deems appropriate. The proxy may require the student to revise, add or delete portions of the manuscript. Finally, the proxy must indicate approval or disapproval of the defense by signing Form III.

Committee Approval

A majority of the committee, including the chair and university representative, must approve of the defense in order for the student to pass. A student failing the final defense for the first time may repeat it only with approval from both the graduate program and the Graduate Division. A student failing for the second time is dismissed from both the graduate program and the Graduate Division. Committee members are required to indicate their approval of the manuscript and the defense using the forms listed below:

Purpose To indicate approval or disapproval of the content of the manuscript and the student’s ability to defend it. To indicate approval of both the content and the form of the finalized manuscript.
Required Signatures To be signed by the chair, university representative, and committee members who participate in the final defense, including any proxy members. To be signed by the chair, university representative, and a majority of the committee, including any committee member(s) who may have been physically absent at the defense. All those who sign must have read and must approve the manuscript in its entirety.
Submission Deadline Submit after the defense Submit along with manuscript by the thesis/dissertation due date (See Calendar).

Committee Decision Review

Should a member of the committee voting in the minority wish to have the majority decision reviewed, he or she may do so by submitting a written request to the Graduate Division. The request must state specific reasons. Upon approval of the request, the review will be undertaken by the Graduate Council.

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