Defense and Graduation

Dissertation Defense

As you near completion of your dissertation, you should schedule a dissertation defense (final oral examination).  You should allow sufficient time in the schedule to complete the dissertation (to the point that you and the committee will anticipate only minor changes following the actual defense) and to allow the committee time to read it and discuss it with you.  Under the rules of the Graduate School, the final defense may not occur fewer than seven months of the approval of the dissertation proposal.  The Graduate School also requires that the defense be scheduled a minimum of a month in advance.

In Computer Science, the defense has two components: a defense and a public presentation.  If you combine them, you have an "open defense"; if you do not, you have a "closed defense".  Which you choose must be agreed upon by both you and your committee.  Some faculty members have very strong opinions one way or another.  In either case, there are two components to a defense:

  1. A public seminar that any member of the University community is invited to attend.
  2. An interaction between you and your committee, during which they deliberate and decide whether you have successfully defended your dissertation and whether they will insist on any modifications to your dissertation.  All members of your committee must be present on the Amherst campus for this portion of the defense.

In an open defense, the public seminar is attended by your committee who continue the defense after the public audience is excused.  In a closed defense, you and your committee meet privately and you hold a public seminar sometime in the few days surrounding that meeting.

Note that by the rules of the Graduate School any member of the University's Graduate Faculty may attend the meeting between you and your committee.  For that reason the time of that meeting is announced publicly well in advance of your defense.  Courtesy suggests that individuals hoping to attend the meeting consult the chair of your committee.

In both cases, the committee may pass or fail your oral examination.  (It is extraordinarily rare for someone to fail a defense.)  Your chair will inform the Graduate Program Manager of the result of the defense. 

At the defense, the committee will also usually specify changes or additions that it requires to the dissertation itself.  After all members are satisfied with the dissertation, they will sign the dissertation's cover sheet.  (In many cases a committee member will sign the cover sheet at the defense, so it is a good idea to have the cover sheet handy!)  It is your responsibility to provide the Graduate School with a copy of the dissertation in the required format.

Graduation deadlines

The University of Massachusetts Amherst awards graduate degrees in February, May, and September. Since paperwork for graduation is required well before the degree date (click here for deadlines), please contact Leeanne Leclerc, Graduate Program Manager, for the paperwork and to check on your degree requirements.

May is the only graduation date that students "walk". Students graduating in September, February and May are invited to "walk" at the May graduation ceremonies.

Please be sure you have satisfied all requirements for the degree:

  • MS/PhD requirements.  Note that students in this track have two opportunities to graduate (and "walk"), once for the Masters degree and once for the PhD.

In addition to uploading your thesis to the Grad School, we also ask that you upload a .pdf file of your thesis to our publication DB, make sure you change the publication type to "Thesis".