Case Study: Thesis Committees at University College, London

Alex Standen

Dr Standen is Associate Director and Associate Professor (Teaching) in the UCL Arena Centre for Research-Based Education.

A discussion of Thesis Committees and their uses at UCL

In September 2019, Thesis Committees were adopted across four UCL faculties (Medical Sciences, Life Sciences, Brain Sciences and Population Health Sciences) for all new research students.

The primary role of the committee is to support the student and Principal Supervisor throughout the doctoral programme. Specifically, the committee hears reports from the student periodically on their general academic progress and will feed back on these to the student and supervisors.

The Principal Supervisor continues as normal to supervise the student’s research project on a day-to-day basis. 

UCL’s academic manual notes the chief benefits of the approach as:

  • A Thesis Committee can provide a more rounded and objective measure of a student’s performance, because at least one or two (depending on the specific format) of its members will not be directly involved in the student’s research.
  • Regular meetings with a Thesis Committee can give the student valuable experience of explaining their work to an outside” audience.
  • A Thesis Committee provides the student with additional people who they know and from whom they can seek advice, independently from their Principal Supervisor.

In this video, Professor Sven Bestmann from the UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology talks to Dr Alex Standen from UCL’s Arena Centre about how thesis committees have been effectively implemented in his department:

Further information:

Or contact Dr Alex Standen at:

Visit the main UK Council for Graduate Education website