Academic Policies and Procedures

Committees (Doctoral/Master's)

Committees (sometimes called "Graduate Advisory Committees" or "Degree Committees") advise and evaluate satisfactory progress, administer preliminary and final oral examinations, evaluate a thesis or dissertation, and/or sign a degree warrant. A student’s program arranges a committee with appropriate expertise to afford the breadth and depth needed in degree examinations. In all cases, a student’s advisor chairs the committee. The responsibilities of individual committee members are determined by the program. The executive committee (or its equivalent) of a program/department is responsible for approving the composition of all graduate committees. The final warrant request which includes committee membership must be submitted to the Graduate School at least three weeks before the examination date. Master’s students with a thesis committee must follow the policies on committee membership requirements. Students should consult their advisor and their program’s student handbook for the specific function of degree committees in their program.

Effective September 1, 2017, the Graduate School requirements for graduate committees are as follows:

  1. The chair or co-chair of the committee must be Graduate Faculty from the student’s program. The UW–Madison Faculty Policies and Procedures 3.05B stipulates that "the faculty of the Graduate School includes all university faculty defined in 1.02 holding professional rank (professor, associate professor, assistant professor or instructor) in any department with graduate program authority, including those with zero-time appointments in such departments." Committee members who have retired or resigned from the University automatically retain Graduate Faculty status for one year; after one year they are permitted to serve as co-chair or other non-Graduate Faculty committee member. The co-advisor/co-chair will be designated on dissertation documentation. 
  2. Doctoral committees/final oral examination committees must have at least 4 members representing more than one graduate program, 3 of whom must be UW-Madison graduate faculty or former UW-Madison graduate faculty up to one year after resignation or retirement. At least one of the 4 members must be from outside of the student’s major program or major field (often from the minor field).
  3. At least 3 committee members of all doctoral/final oral examination committees must be designated as readers.
  4. MFA final committees must have at least 4 members, 3 of whom must be graduate faculty or former graduate faculty up to one year after resignation or retirement.
  5. Master’s thesis committees must have at least 3 members, 2 of whom must be graduate faculty or former graduate faculty up to one year after resignation or retirement.
  6. Non-thesis master’s committees must have at least one graduate faculty member from the student’s program.
  7. The required 4th member of a doctoral committee/final oral examination committee, 4th member of an MFA committee, or 3rd member of a master’s thesis committee, as well as any additional members, all retain voting rights. They may be from any of the following categories, as approved by the program executive committee (or its equivalent): graduate faculty, faculty from a department without a graduate program, academic staff (including emeritus faculty), visiting faculty, faculty from other institutions, scientists, research associates, and other individuals deemed qualified by the executive committee (or its equivalent).
  8. To receive a doctoral or master’s degree, students cannot receive more than one dissenting vote from their committee on the final degree warrant.

Students should be aware that programs may require more rigorous committee requirements than the Graduate School’s minimum requirements. Students should contact their graduate program coordinator for specific program information.

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