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Thesis Committees

The Thesis Committee model has been adopted in Trinity to enhance the supervisor – research student relationship and to ensure quality supervision practice in line with international best practice. A Thesis Committee shall be formed no later than six months from the first registration of a PhD student to monitor and advise in relation to the progress of the student throughout the lifespan of the structured PhD.

Membership of Thesis Committees 

  1. All Thesis Committees must comprise at least two members independent of the supervisor and co-supervisors. One member must be an independent academic member of Trinity staff from within the School familiar with the student’s research area. The second may be an additional academic member of staff from within the university or a recognized external expert in the student’s field of study. Such external experts may be affiliated with external universities, but this is not a requirement for the role.
  2. Committee membership should be nominated by the supervisor in consultation with the student for approval by the Director of Teaching & Learning (Postgraduate).
  3. Supervisors and co-supervisors cannot be formal members of a Thesis Committee.
  4. The Director of Teaching and Learning (Postgraduate) has authority to approve membership of Thesis Committee and any necessary changes ensuring that there is at least one independent academic member from within the School represented at all times.

The Role of the Thesis Committee

Thesis Committees perform three key functions:

  1. Support the academic progress of the student and provide guidance on their development as PhD researchers.
  2. Assess and monitor research progress through formal review processes (i.e., annual review and confirmation / transfer interview) and agree an appropriate recommendation.
  3. Support the student-supervisor relationship and enhance the overall quality and rigour of the supervision process.

While Thesis Committees may guide students to appropriate support services and provide informal support, the Committee does not have a direct responsibility for the provision of pastoral care.

Formal Meetings of the Thesis Committee

The meetings with the Thesis Committee provide students with the opportunity to present, explain and defend their research (as preparation for the viva voce examination at the end of their degree) as well as to highlight any concerns or issues.

Format of Review Meetings

The format of the annual review and confirmation interview meetings is at the discretion of the Thesis Committee members, but it is recommended that the format, especially that of the confirmation interview meeting, is reflective of PhD viva norms for the specific discipline. As such the formal annual Thesis Committee meetings represent excellent preparation for the final PhD viva voce examination.

Timing of Review Meetings

1. Annual Reviews

  • Schools should complete the Annual Review process before the deadline of June 30 for students on the September register, and January 31 for March registrants.
  • Schools may have earlier internal timelines for the completion and submission of the annual review forms and students are encouraged to contact their School Administrator to discuss their School’s deadlines.
  • Only the outcome of the annual review should be communicated to Academic Registry by email to to facilitate timely registration of their research students.

2. Confirmation Process

  • Confirmation process should be completed no later than 22 months after initial registration in Year 2 for full-time PhD students and 34 months after initial registration for in Year 3 for part-time PhD students.
  • The completed Confirmation Report should be returned to a nominated School Administrator by 30 June for September registrants and by 31 January for March registrants.
  • Schools may have earlier internal deadlines for the completion and submission of the confirmation reports and students are encouraged to contact their School Administrator to discuss their School’s deadlines.
  • Only the outcome of the confirmation process should be communicated to Academic Registry by email to in the format advised by Academic Registry.
  • The Confirmation Process replaces the annual review process in the relevant year of study.
  • Please note that students may also request an informal meeting with the Thesis Committee outside of the above formal review meetings, and independent of their supervisor.

The figure below presents the timing of review meetings in the student lifecycle of postgraduate research students.

  1. Postgraduate research students - September registrants
  2. Postgraduate research students - March registrants

Terms of Reference for Thesis Committees

In June 2023, University Council approved the introduction of the Terms of Reference for Thesis Committees, which clarify:

  1. The membership of Thesis Committees
  2. Its scope and functions
  3. Functions outside of the remit
  4. Meeting arrangements
  5. Outcomes of formal review meetings
  6. Reporting

Thesis Committee Guidelines

The Terms of Reference for Thesis Committees are supplemented by the Thesis Committee Guidelines, which have been developed to:

  1. provide detailed guidance to Schools, students and members of Thesis Committees involved in research progression;
  2. outline their roles and responsibilities, and
  3. ensure their timely and meaningful engagement with the student at the key points of review.

Further details are provided in the Thesis Committee Guidelines available for download in the section below.

Annual Review and Confirmation Report Templates

The enhanced reporting templates support the review milestones in the research student journey and provide detailed guidance to students and staff. The templates can be downloaded from the Regulations and Resources section below.

Regulations and Resources

If you have any questions please contact the Administrative Officer in Graduate Studies or check for answers on our FAQ page.