When the dissertation is complete and the doctoral Supervisory Committee agrees that the candidate is prepared to take the Final Examination (Oral Defense), the Program Director, Assistant Director, and Graduate School must be informed of the decision.

All members of the Supervisory Committee must be provided an initial draft of all chapters at least 6 weeks prior to the Oral Defense and a complete draft of the dissertation (with all required sections) at least 2 weeks in advance of the Defense.

All members of the Supervisory Committee (including the GSR) must be consulted by the student and approve of the date, time, and location for the Oral Defense. The student then logs in to MyGrad to request scheduling of the Defense. (This must be done at least 2 weeks prior to the date of the oral defense.) As soon as the request is made, the student must send an email to the Assistant Director of the Social Welfare Program indicating that the request has been made (the MyGrad system tells students that the departments are being notified, but that's not true). The Assistant Director will approve the request through MyGrad and print out the Defense Warrant, which is given to the Chair of the Supervisory Committee. This printed Warrant must be present at the Defense or it cannot go forward.

The Final Oral Defense is intended as an opportunity for the student to clarify, elaborate, or justify the procedures used and the findings obtained. At least four members of the Supervisory Committee (including the Chair and GSR), must be present at the defense, and all members of the Reading Committee must approve the final product. (The GSR must be there in person; any other members may participate by phone or video-conferencing.) The defense session is normally about 2 hours. The committee Chair completes the Dissertation Evaluation Form. After the defense has been conducted, the committee may approve the dissertation or require the student to make additional modifications or additions. Upon a successful defense and acceptance of the dissertation by the SSW and the Graduate School, the PhD in Social Welfare is conferred. The final approved, signed Warrant and SSW Evaluation From must be returned to the PhD Program Office, at which time the Assistant Director will record the outcome in MyGrad.

Participating in Commencement Exercises

Consistent with the eligibility criteria for participation in the University of Washington’s June commencement exercises, individuals are eligible for participation in the School of Social Work’s June commencement exercises if the doctoral degree has been earned during preceding Summer, or the Fall or Winter term of the current academic year.
Alternatively, if a doctoral candidate has a reasonable expectation of graduating in either Spring or Summer of the current academic year he/she may choose to participate.  “Reasonable expectation of graduation” is interpreted as having progressed sufficiently in the writing of a dissertation that is of sufficient academic standard that there is strong consensus by the candidate’s reading committee that a dissertation defense can be scheduled in sufficient time for graduation by the end of the Summer term (after the commencement exercises).   

The PhD Program Director must approve commencement participation for any student who has not completed all requirements, including submission of the final dissertation to the Graduate School.


  1. Approved by Steering Committee, 5/26/98.
  2. Approved by Steering Committee, 12/7/2010
  3. Graduate School revisions in General Examination and Defense Process instituted May 2009.