UW Graduate School

Doctoral Supervisory Committee Roles and Responsibilities

For information regarding establishing/revising doctoral committees, please review the step-by-step instructions.

In consultation with members of the degree granting units, The Graduate School appoints a doctoral supervisory committee to guide and assist each student in working toward a doctoral degree. This committee oversees the student’s academic work throughout the program. All members of the supervisory committee are responsible to the student and to their Graduate Faculty colleagues to ensure the quality of doctoral degrees from the University of Washington Graduate School. Details regarding the composition of a doctoral supervisory committee are located in Graduate School Memorandum 13.

Voting Members

All appointed supervisory committee members (see special responsibilities and qualifications of Chairs and Graduate School Representatives below) are voting members of the doctoral supervisory committee. These individuals are productive scholars in the student’s major field and/or sub-fields. These members are responsible for:

  • approving a course of study which will fulfill the general course requirements of the student’s major and supporting fields;
  • conducting the student’s General Examination;
  • approving the Candidate’s dissertation proposal;
  • conducting the Candidate’s Final Examination


In addition to the voting member responsibilities, the chair(s) of a committee must:

  • hold an Endorsement to Chair a doctoral supervisory committee;
  • be able and willing to assume principal responsibility for advising the student;
  • have adequate time available for this work and be accessible to the student;
  • attend both the General and Final Examinations and additional committee meetings, as necessary;
  • sign the dissertation signature page acknowledging approval of the dissertation and completion of the degree

Graduate School Representative (GSR)

The Graduate School Representative (GSR), is a voting member on a doctoral committee whose responsibilities1 are to:

  • represent the broad concerns of the University with respect to high standards of scholarly performance;
  • provide, for The Graduate School, a non-specialist’s view of the quality of the student’s work, ensuring that the student’s mastery of the subject matter is broad and comprehensive;
  • assure that all procedures are carried out fairly and according to the guidelines of The Graduate School;
  • participate in conducting both the General and Final examinations;
  • assure that the required 4 members are present for the exams – Chair, GSR, and at least two other members; see “If a Committee Member is Missing”

GSRs are selected by the student in consultation with the committee chair(s) and/or the Graduate Program Coordinator (GPC – faculty advisor).


The student’s responsibilities relating to his/her supervisory committee include:

  • providing all members with a short summary of the program of study and research interests and an examination timeline;
  • providing necessary General Examination materials to all committee members in a timely manner;
  • providing necessary Final Examination materials to all committee members in a timely manner (this includes a draft of the entire dissertation to reading committee members);
  • keeping the committee membership current and notifying the department’s Graduate Program Coordinator (GPC – faculty advisor)/Graduate Program Assistant (GPA – staff member) of any committee changes in a timely manner

Questions regarding doctoral committee roles and responsibilities may be directed to the Office of Academic Affairs & Planning at gsacad@uw.edu, or 206.685.3519.

1As of July 12, 2017, the Graduate School no longer requires a GSR to submit a separate report. The GSR communicates their decision on a doctoral exam on the committee signature form per Memo 13. This change was communicated to programs in an email from the Dean and Vice Provost of the Graduate School in July 2017.