November 8, 2022

Policy 4.2: Supervisory Committee for Graduate Students

This section outlines the policy for the supervisory committee of master’s students and doctoral students with the exception of those pursuing Practice Doctorates. For policies regarding Graduate School Practice Doctorates, see Policy 1.1.5.

As a general principle, each student working toward a graduate degree at the University of Washington is guided by a faculty supervisory committee. This committee serves an important evaluative and mentoring function for the student throughout their graduate career.

4.2.1     The Master’s Supervisory Committee

Appointment of a supervisory committee for students aspiring to the Master’s degree is determined by the Graduate Faculty in the degree-offering unit or program. The Graduate Program Coordinator, in consultation with the student and appropriate faculty members, appoints a committee of two to four members. The Chair and at least one-half of the total membership must be members of the graduate faculty.

4.2.2     Doctoral Dissertation Supervisory Committee

The appointment of a doctoral supervisory committee indicates that the Graduate Faculty in the student’s field find the student’s background and achievement a sufficient basis for progression to the next stage of a program of doctoral study and research.

4.2.3     Appointing the Doctoral Supervisory Committee, including the Graduate School Representative (GSR)     Timeline and Process

  • In order to allow time to identify a suitable Graduate School Representative (GSR), it is suggested that the doctoral supervisory committee be established at least four months prior to the intended date of the General Examination.
  • The appointment of a committee is initiated by the Graduate Program Coordinator (GPC) after consultation with appropriate Graduate Faculty members in the student’s field and with the student.
  • The GPC recommends members of the supervisory committee to the Dean of The Graduate School by entering this information into MyGradProgram (MGP).     Committee Composition

  • The doctoral supervisory committee consists of a minimum of four members, at least three of whom (including one Chair and the GSR) must be members of the Graduate Faculty with an endorsement to chair doctoral committees.
  • A majority of the members must be members of the Graduate Faculty.
  • The GSR must be a productive scholar in their own research area that may differ from that of the student’s dissertation project.
  • The members outside the GSR must be identified by the student’s appointing department or program as productive scholars in the student’s major field and/or subfields.     The Committee Chair

  • The Chair(s) of a committee must be able and willing to assume principal responsibility for advising the student. In addition, the Chair(s) should have adequate time available for this work and should expect to be accessible to the student.
  • Emeritus/a and affiliate faculty may serve as Chair(s) if the above conditions are met.
  • If a committee has Co-Chairs, both serve with equal importance on a student’s supervisory committee and equally share the responsibility for the student’s progress. In the case of Co-Chairs, the first Co-Chair must have a Graduate Faculty appointment with doctoral endorsement. The second Co-Chair may be appointed without Graduate Faculty status if the individual has a qualified UW faculty appointment. Qualified faculty appointments in this case are those appointments eligible for continuous or five-year graduate faculty roles. A Co-Chair without qualified UW faculty appointment may be appointed only by petition to the Dean of the Graduate School or the Dean’s designee.     The Role of the Graduate School Representative (GSR)

The GSR represents the broad interests of the Graduate School with respect to high standards of scholarly performance. The GSR is a voting member of the dissertation supervisory committee, and as such provides an important service function to the Graduate School and the University.

In all cases, the GSR must meet the following Graduate School requirements:

  • attest to the validity of examinations and indicate approval of the process by which examinations are conducted;
  • ensure that the student is treated in an unbiased manner; and
  • represent the Graduate School in ensuring university-wide standards of scholarly performance.

In addition, any graduate program may choose to define the role of the GSR to include one or both of the following:

  • ensure that the student’s mastery of the subject matter is broad and comprehensive;
  • provide additional support for the student as the student navigates the exam and dissertation process.

If a graduate program sets additional expectations for the GSR beyond the Graduate School requirements, the graduate program must clearly articulate these expectations, and the Graduate Program Coordinator (GPC) or designee must communicate them in writing to all parties (student, chair, committee members, GSR) upon appointment of the GSR. The minimum role of the GSR must be defined consistently across all committees in the graduate program.

The GSR’s signature on the warrant affirming the decision of the committee communicates to the Dean of the Graduate School that the Graduate School and program-level responsibilities have been met.     Graduate School Representative (GSR) Eligibility

  • As with all doctoral supervisory committee members, the GSR is proposed to the Graduate School by the Graduate Program Coordinator in the student’s degree-offering unit and must be a member of the Graduate Faculty with an endorsement to Chair.
  • Faculty members with a primary, joint, or affiliate appointment in the student’s degree-offering unit or the committee chair’s department are not eligible to serve as the GSR.
  • It is vital that a conflict of interest in the selection of the GSR be avoided. Budgetary relationships, personal relationships, or research and/or publication relationships between the GSR and either the student or the committee chair are examples of possible conflicts of interest. (See GSR Eligibility for more information.) The GSR is responsible for ensuring that no such conflicts of interest, or appearance of conflicts of interest, exist, and must attest to this upon request.     Functions of the Doctoral Supervisory Committee

Doctoral supervisory committee member responsibilities include the approval of 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 and, when appropriate, recommending advancement to Candidacy.

The doctoral supervisory committee approves the Candidate’s dissertation proposal and guides the student in carrying out appropriate research for the dissertation. The Graduate School does not stipulate the content of the dissertation; guidance on the dissertation is the responsibility of the supervisory committee.     The General Exam

  • All members of the supervisory committee must approve that the student’s background of study and preparation is sufficient to schedule the General Examination.
  • At least four members of the committee (including the Chair(s), GSR, and one additional Graduate Faculty member) must be physically or virtually present at the General Examination.     The Reading Committee

  • After the General Examination, the Graduate Program Coordinator informs the Dean of The Graduate School of at least three members of the supervisory committee who will serve on the reading committee.
  • At least one of the members of the reading committee must hold an endorsement to chair doctoral committees. The reading committee is appointed to read and approve the dissertation.
  • It is the responsibility of the reading committee to:
    • ensure that the dissertation is a significant contribution to knowledge and is an acceptable piece of scholarly writing
    • determine the appropriateness of a candidate’s dissertation as a basis for issuing the Committee Signature Form for a Final Examination     The Final Examination

  • When the reading committee has read a draft of the entire dissertation and the members of the doctoral supervisory committee agree that the Candidate is prepared to take the Final Examination, all members of the doctoral supervisory committee must give the student approval to schedule the Final Examination.
  • At least four members of the committee (including the Chair(s), GSR, and one additional Graduate Faculty member) must be physically or virtually present at the and Final Examination.
  • At the Final Examination the dissertation is evaluated and, if a majority of the supervisory committee members in attendance agree that the evaluation is positive, the recommendation is made to the Dean of the Graduate School (via the warrant) that the degree be awarded.
  • If members of the doctoral supervisory committee do not agree with the majority recommendation concerning the examination, the minority report portion of the warrant must be used.

Questions about the appointment and functions of supervisory committees for master’s or doctoral students or concerns about the proceedings of an exam should be directed to the Graduate School’s Graduate Enrollment Management Services office.

Policy 4.2 revised: October 2021, March 2022; May 2022; December 2022