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Guidelines for Online Research Proposal and Thesis Defence



The higher education landscape is rapidly changing, the technological rise of the 21st-century and widespread integration of those technologies into our society, combined with access to the internet has integrally changed graduate research proposal and thesis examination/defence approaches. The rapidly changing landscapes call for a review of the research proposal/thesis examination methods in order to keep up with the times and incorporate integrated technologies into the learning modal, these technologies aren’t going to go away, they’ll continue to be integrated into our society and it’s time to embrace them for the advantages they bring. With the heavy integration of online technologies, the University will be able to improve the teaching and learning processes, information retention, engagement, responsibility and academic integrity.  

Virtual and blended approaches have become important because they help to break down the traditional walls of examination, and now with access to present day technologies and resources we can tailor the examination experience to the prevailing conditions.

The Makerere University policy and regulations for the examination of research dissertations and theses provide for three forms of defense, namely, face-to-face; blended; and/or online technology. Traditionally, the Makerere University’s thesis examination policy required that all participants be physically present in the room where the thesis defense is taking place, however, under exceptional circumstances, videoconferencing is permitted provided that the following conditions are met:


  1. The general University regulations governing graduate research proposal and thesis examination/defence will apply (ref. Mak Graduate Hand book available at
  2. A suitable space and technology for the videoconference should be designated before the proposal and thesis defense. The technology should ensure system stability and quality of sound and image during the examination.
  3. Contact the Directorate of Information and Communication Technical Services (DICTs) for audio and videoconference technical support for the duration of the defense.
  4. Inform the Director, Directorate of Research and Graduate Training in advance of an upcoming online research proposal or thesis examination. In this notification letter, the Principal/Dean/Chair should indicate in writing he/she has read and understands the regulations and rules for online examination/defence.
  5. Videoconference software must be used that allows all participants to see and hear each other during the entire examination/defense.
  6. Online participants must connect using hardware and network connections that ensure that all participants are visible and audible and that the connection is stable and available throughout the scheduled time of the defense.
  7. Examination by ordinary cellular telephone (Audio only) is not permitted under any circumstances.
  8. Conducting a practice run one week prior to the defense to ensure that participants are comfortable using the technology is highly recommended.
  9. Maintain a good balance between web-conference security (to avoid disruptions, i.e. ‘web-bombing’) and allowing for an open public participation in the defense.


General Considerations

  • It is the responsibility of the Department to facilitate the web/teleconference-based defense;
  • To ensure that the candidate knows how to use the software platform, the Chair and candidate should conduct a test meeting prior to the defense.
  • Virtual research proposal and thesis defenses should adhere to the normal University requirements and procedures as much as possible;
  • The candidate and the examiners are encouraged to use a headset to reduce audio feedback, and to use an ethernet connection to the internet instead of WiFi.
  • The PhD Thesis defenses are open to the public audiences, and specific video connection instructions will be distributed to the University community in advance of the defense.
  • At the discretion of the Chair of the examination committee, a defense in progress may be stopped and rescheduled, ideally within one week if technical difficulties prevent the student, Chair or examiners from participating.


Before the Examination/defense


  • The Chair opens the meeting 15 minutes before the scheduled start of the defense. All participants should join the meeting at least 10 minutes before the defense begins.
  • The Chair should ensure that late participant arrivals do not distract the candidate once they start their oral presentation. Alternatively, the Chair can lock the meeting after the oral presentation begins.
  • At the start of the defense, the Chair will explain the format of the defense, including the time allowed for the oral presentation and set the ground rules for participation.
  • It is advisable that the candidate should send their presentation materials to the Supervisor and Chairperson ahead of time in case technical difficulties prevent projecting them during the teleconference.
  • To avoid distracting the candidate during their oral presentation, examiners and audience members’ microphones and camera should be turned off.


During the Examination/defense


  • The Chair should reminds the candidate and examination committee of the regulations. The Chair could project the slides on behalf of the candidate.
  • Audience members can either ask their question via the tool, in which case the Chair can turn on their video and microphone and invite them to interact directly with the candidate.


After the examination/defense

  • At the end of the question period, the Chair will ask the audience to leave the meeting and invite the candidate to either leave the meeting or isolate them from the other participants in the “lobby” depending on the software platform used.
  • Each examiner will individual assess and score the candidate’s performance. No vote will be recorded for an examiner who was not able to attend the defense. If an examiner must leave early due to technical difficulties, they can be allowed to vote via email at the Chair’s discretion.
  • The Chair will ask the examiners to sign the Examination Report. More details on digital signatures shall be provided by the DRGT.
  • The Chair will invite the candidate to return to the meeting and inform them of the outcome of the examination/defense.
  • If the candidate passes but revision of the thesis is required, the Chair will provide written comments to the candidate. All examiners must agree on the required changes. Optional changes that the candidate should consider prior to submitting the final report to the DRGT.
  • If the candidate fails, the Chair will provide written comments on the oral defense performance.
  • At the committee’s discretion, the candidate may be given a second attempt to defend the proposal or thesis.


Guidelines and best practices for the Principal/Dean/Chair


In advance of the examination/defense, the Chair

  • Consult with the student to select the video conference program to be used.  At the time of the defense, the Chair should be the host/point person for any technology difficulties.  Please do not leave this to the student, even if Chair is sure the student is more adept at technology.
  • Be knowledgeable of the ICT facility especially on how to allow the student to share slides and control the presentation.
  • Consider offering a “test run” with the student to ensure that the technology works and that they are comfortable using it to present their findings and answer questions.
  • Ensure that the student maintain audio-video connection throughout the examination.
  • Be responsible for ensuring that the requirements for online participation are met and that the online participation was uninterrupted or, if interrupted, that the defense was paused until the situation was fully restored.


At the defense

  • All participants should be in the examination room at least 15 minutes before the scheduled start time.
  • Don’t multitask during the research proposal or thesis defense.  Many examiners often do this in the online environment, but this is not a regular online meeting, it is an examination.  The student defending has spent years in anticipation of this examination/defense. 
  • Chair has the authority to discontinue the online defense at any time if they judge that online participation is interfering with the proper conduct of a rigorous and fair defense.
  • If one or more participants is dropped from the connection, or if audio is lost, the defense must be paused until the connection is restored. If the connection cannot be restored, the Chair must suspend the defense until it can be rescheduled.
  • Chair will introduce the candidate and the examination committee members; just as you would in a live defense (this is also a final check that all the audio/visuals work). 
  • Put a brief the agenda/rules in the chat window as a reminder of the examination rules.
  • Audio-only participation by either the examination committee members and the student is not permitted.


Guidelines and best practices for the candidate/student defending


In advance of the defense

  • The student should arrange to distribute all visual materials in advance of the defense
  • Make sure you know how to use the chosen video conferencing site (WebEx, Zoom, Microsoft Teams). 
  • Share your slides with your Supervisor before the start of the defense.  Ensuring someone else has them and could potentially share them if necessary is a good back up plan.
  • If you have notes or a presentation, practice how you will setup and deliver that beforehand. You may want to arrange your screen so that you can see your committee
  • To ensure high quality and full access to web-conference features, the candidate should participate in the defense using a laptop or desktop computer.
  • Plan your physical space for the defense to ensure that there is enough light so that you can be seen without a shadow; avoid glare, shadows, or an overly cluttered backdrop, and Use headphones is encouraged, to reduce any potential background noise.


At the defense

  • When delivering the presentation, sit and be sure that your webcam has a good shot of you from the shoulders up.  In a live defense, you would probably be standing, but that will not work here since you will not be as clearly visible.
  • Even though you are, sitting and you are communicating via videoconference, your gestures and nonverbal communication still matter.  Just as in a face-to-face examination, practice to avoid all those verbal fillers that may clog your communication.


Guidelines and best Practices for the examination committee members/Panelists


  • Do a test run, and consult DICTs and time to arrange the camera and lighting in advance.
  • Use your video to the extent that your internet connection allows, rather than a still image or your name.
  • Please mute your microphone unless you are speaking.
  • The examination committee members evaluate the candidate’s presentation, the quality of the research proposal or thesis as well as the candidate’s response questions.


Guidelines and best practices for the public audience:

  • After the defence, examination committee members have completed their rounds of questioning, and if time permits, the audience will have an opportunity to submit questions in writing using the chat feature.
  • Please keep the microphone muted at all times.



  • Ensure there is a back-up phone number for all required participants in case there is a problem with the technology.  While University policy does not allow for participation via phone, being able to reach participants by phone can help troubleshoot a solution.
  • If all else fails, notify the Director DICTS of the issue by other means (e.g., email, text).


Please follow these directions for planning and conducting an online/virtual proposal or thesis examination. These directions provide procedures and technical guidelines for running a virtual oral research proposal or thesis examination using videoconferencing technology. These directions do not replace the University regulations governing research proposal or thesis examination. Then Chair is responsible for understanding and conducting examination in accordance with the University regulations.

The following recommended directions explain how to set up a video-conference examination, and ensure that the defense runs smoothly and securely.

Process for planning and conducting a videoconference for Graduate Research proposal and Thesis examination/defence

Contact point in case you need further clarification of these regulations and procedures:

Directorate of Research and Graduate Training
Level 4 Senate Building, Makerere University;
P.O. BOX 7062 Kampala
Email: director[at]

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Rotary International President visits Mak



The Chairperson of Council, Mrs Lorna Magara (L) presents a plaque to Rotary International President Shekhar Mehta in appreciation of his visit and invaluable service, 15th September 2021, CTF1, Makerere University.

By Hasifa Kabejja

Rotary International President Shekhar Mehta has appreciated Makerere University for supporting and carrying forward the newly introduced programme aimed at advancing peace on the African Continent. Launched in January 2020, the Rotary Peace Centre at Makerere University runs a postgraduate diploma programme in Peace-building and Conflict Transformation. The hands-on program entails coursework that addresses topics including human rights, governance, and the role of the media in conflict. Other studies focus on refugees and migration, as well as resource and identity-based conflicts.

At a high level meeting held with the University leadership on 15th September 2021 at CTF1, President Shekhar Mehta said Rotary International was proud to be partnering with Makerere to promote peace on the African Continent. “The mere absence of war does not translate into total peace. Besides war, there are many other factors undermining peaceful co-existence. It is our duty to address these issues so as to create harmony in our communities. Through the Rotary Peace Centres across the globe, we are undertaking a number of initiatives aimed at promoting peace. Since 2002, the Rotary Peace Centres have trained more than 1,300 fellows who are working to advance peace in more than 115 countries. We are happy to work with Makerere University to foster peace and development on the African Continent,” he noted.   President Shekhar Mehta, who was on a three-day tour of Rotary projects in Uganda, was visiting Makerere for the first time since the University won the bid to host the International Rotary Peace Centre, the first of its kind on the African Continent.

President Shekhar Mehta, who was in company of past and current Governors of Districts 9213 and 9214, said peace was a necessary catalyst for the progress of humanity and general development of nation states across the globe. Elected for the 2021-22 term, President Shekhar Mehta, through his year theme Serve to Change Lives, asks Rotarians to participate in service projects where they can make a difference in their communities and the people who live in them. Since he joined Rotary in 1984 as a member of the Rotary Club of Calcutta-Mahanagar, West Bengal, India, President Shekhar Mehta has led many major service initiatives in India and South Asia, including among others, constructing 500 homes for Tsunami survivors at Andaman and Nicobar Islands, and starting the Shelter Kit programme in India which has served about 20 disasters and benefited about 75,000 disaster victims. 

Delivering her remarks, the Chairperson Council, Mrs. Lorna Magara appreciated Rotary International for entrusting Makerere University with the mandate to host the first rotary peace centre on the African Continent. “Choosing to house the Centre at Makerere University shows Rotary International’s trust and confidence in Makerere and her vision for building for the future. We are grateful for the opportunity to contribute to the advancement of Rotary International’s agenda. We also sincerely appreciate Rotarians all over the world who have committed funds to support the Rotary Peace Centre at Makerere University,” she noted. Similarly, she appreciated The Rotary Foundation (TRF) of Canada for setting up an endowment fund for the Peace Centre. “This will go a long way in ensuring the sustainability of the Peace Centre at Makerere University. The fund will help in the Capstone week where Fellows will present their social initiatives. These initiatives will showcase how the Rotary Peace Centre contributes to positive peace initiatives all over the world.”

In his remarks, the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe informed the President that the decision to establish the first Rotary Peace Centre in Africa at Makerere University was welcomed with ‘excitement and gratefulness’. “We consider this to be a vote of confidence in our efforts in the peace and conflict resolution agenda. We extend our appreciation to Rotarians in Uganda and beyond for selflessly supporting this noble cause.” The Vice Chancellor appreciated the leadership of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at Makerere, and the Director of the Centre, Dr Helen Nambalirwa Nkabala for their tireless efforts in ensuring the centre achieves the intended objective.

By the end of this year, the Centre will have hosted two cohorts of peace fellows. The first cohort was at Makerere University between February and May, 2021. Currently, these Peace fellows are carrying out their peace initiatives in their communities. The second cohort will report on September 27, 2021. In both cohorts, Peace Fellows were chosen from 20 countries and by the end of the year, the Centre will have had a total of 36 Fellows.

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Intentionality Key to Nurturing More Women Leaders



The "Enhancing Women’s Participation and Visibility in Leadership and Decision-Making Organs of Public Universities in Uganda through Action Research" Phase One Study dissemination poster for the event held on 14th September 2021, CTF1, Makerere University and Online.

The Gender Mainstreaming Directorate (GMD), Makerere University on 14th September 2021 presented findings from phase one of the study on Enhancing Women’s Participation and Visibility in Leadership and Decision-Making Organs of Public Universities in Uganda through Action Research. The study team led by the Director GMD and Principal Investigator (PI), Dr. Euzobia Mugisha Baine also consists of Assoc. Prof. Consolata Kabonesa, Dr. Anna Ninsiima, Ms. Frances Nyachwo, Ms. Susan Mbabazi and Mr. Eric Tumwesigye.  

The team is also made of coordinators from participating Universities such as Busitema University-Ms. Elizabeth Birabwa, Kabale University-Sr. Dr. Eva Tumusiime, Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST)-Dr. Specioza Twinamasiko, Muni University-Ms. Amandru Stella Wawa, and Gulu Univeristy-Sr. Rosalba Aciro.

Funded by the Government of Uganda through the Makerere University Research and Innovations Fund (Mak-RIF), the study was inspired by the fact that women are persistently few in numbers as staff, more so in leadership and decision-making organs of Ugandan Public Universities. “This is despite all the various efforts at national and international levels; the numbers are not growing as fast as needed to meet development goals of the country” explained Dr. Euzobia.

Based on this background, the study team therefore sought to conduct a situational analysis of the gender terrain of the six public universities to obtain baseline information encompassing the composition of governance and leadership organs and senior staff by sex, as well as a needs assessment and profiles of potential mentors and mentees.

Furthermore, the team sought to explore the capacity to conduct gender-responsive research as well as the role of male staff engagement in gender equity interventions within the universities as the drivers of development.

Dr. Mugisha-Baine shared that results of the baseline would then be used to design participatory training manuals or guides on gender and leadership. The manuals would cover; Institutionalized mentorship, How to conduct gender-responsive research, gender and equity budgeting, among others.

The Director GMD, Dr. Euzobia Mugisha Baine
The Director GMD, Dr. Euzobia Mugisha Baine

 “Within these manuals, we shall have a male staff engagement strategy in gender equity interventions in universities” she explained.

The development of the aforementioned materials would then be followed by their adoption and use to build capacity for women not only in leadership of participating and other public university but also beyond. “We shall periodically evaluate whether the capacity we have built has influenced women’s participation in leadership and decision-making organs of the university” supplemented the PI.

The capacity building trainings for women, it is envisaged, will lay the foundation for the formation of a functional Uganda University Women’s Think Tank, starting with the six participating universities. Dr. Mugisha Baine added that through this Think Tank, a monitoring and tracking system for gender representation in recruitment, promotion, retention/turnover and leadership of public universities shall be established and maintained.  

At the conclusion of phase one, the study team had drafted participatory training manuals in gender and leadership with content on; gender specific critical analysis of the leadership spectrum of public universities, positioning of individual women within the institutional framework and strategies for their advancement, gender equity advocacy in the university setting, institutional mentorship, building capacity in conducting gender-responsive research, among others.

“This content will be validated by the participating universities before the actual research training is conducted” added the PI.

On behalf of the research team, Dr. Mugisha Baine thanked the Government of Uganda for providing the resources that facilitated phase one of the study and prayed that the Mak-RIF Grants Management Committee (GMC) would support the next phase of capacity building.

Speaking on behalf of the Mak-RIF GMC Chairperson, Prof. William Bazeyo, Dr. Helen Nambalirwa Nkabala thanked and congratulated the team led by the Director GMD upon the milestones registered in the critical research.

“We are very proud of that work that is being done by all researchers in Mak-RIF and we would like to most sincerely thank Management for all the support throughout this process” she remarked.

Dr. Nkabala encouraged the research team to continue disseminating and using the findings for the furtherance of gender mainstreaming, particularly through the aspect of male staff engagement in gender equity interventions.  

The Executive Director, NCHE, Prof. Mary Okwakol. Courtesy Photo.
The Executive Director, NCHE, Prof. Mary Okwakol. Courtesy Photo.

Prior to delivering the keynote address of the day, the Executive Director National Council for Higher Education (NCHE) Prof. Mary Okwakol thanked the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe for inviting her to the important forum, noting that women’s participation in decision making and governance is a priority area of the Uganda Gender Policy 2007.  

She commended Makerere University for being at the forefront of gender mainstreaming in Uganda, noting that this prominence was one of the reasons why the Gender in Education Policy 2007 provides for replicating the institution’s strategy in all other Higher Education Institutions.   

Prof. Okwakol whose keynote address was punctuated incisive personal examples reaffirmed the statistics that women are generally not visible in leadership of Universities. That notwithstanding, in instances where they rise to leadership and decision-making positions, they are regularly subject to roles traditionally deemed as women’s inconsiderate of their managerial seniority and experience.

She nevertheless rallied the women to play their respective roles in enhancing participation and visibility at a personal level. The following were some of the strategies she proposed; work hard to acquire academic credentials so as to compete favourably with men, acquire necessary administrative training and experience, network among women, join professional networks as well as do research and publish.  

On joining professional networks, she shared her personal experience as a young zoologist who joined UNESCO’s Tropical Biology and Fertility Programme. “Within a short time I was appointed Coordinator for Africa and after two years, I was elected as a Member of the International Board of Management. After serving for two years, I became Vice Chairperson of that Board and finally I became Chairperson of that International Board.”

At the institutional level, Prof. Okwakol appealed to the Chairperson Council and Vice Chancellor to proactively recruit women who meet the requirements for leadership positions even if it means actively seeking out the reluctant ones. In this regard, she shared that it would be useful for the university to develop a database of women and their qualifications to ease this process.

She shared that NCHE has in recognition of female underrepresentation at every level in Higher Education approved the establishment of a Gender and Equity Unit with the aim of promoting inclusive gender participation in the sub-sector.

“This unit has been placed under the Directorate of Quality Assurance and Accreditation which implies that as we look out for and regulate quality, gender will be a very important aspect of that regulation” she reassured.

Prof. Okwakol concluded by urging participants to read the; Third National Development Plan (NDPIII), Uganda Vision 2040, and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) noting that there is no way all three can be achieved while women are left behind because they each make a case for inclusion of the female gender.  

The Vice Chancellor, Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe follows proceedings during the dissemination.
The Vice Chancellor, Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe follows proceedings during the dissemination.

“What we are addressing here are historical injustices” said Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe as he commenced his remarks, “And in the case of Makerere University, it is well known that the institution started as a male-only institution and we all know the original motto was ‘Let us be men’” he added.

Citing examples from history such as; Marie Curie – one of the smartest physicists, Hatshepsut, Nefertiti and Cleopatra – prominent Pharaohs of Egypt, George Eliot, Rosa Luxemburg and Hypatia – all great philosophers as well as Chancellor Angela Merkel – first female Chancellor of Germany, the Vice Chancellor said there is no plausible argument that there are things women cannot do as well as their male counterparts.

He said it was against this knowledge and in a bid to correct historical injustices that Makerere University pioneered initiatives such as putting in place affirmative action for girls, establishing a Gender Mainstreaming Directorate as well as a School of Women and Gender Studies. The Vice Chancellor nevertheless stressed the need to go beyond pioneering to protecting these gains through legislation. “Historically we have seen that discrimination can only be addressed by laws and policies.”

Prof. Nawangwe thanked the Government for providing funds to support Mak-RIF as well as the Funds GMC and Secretariat for ensuring that these funds are put to good use. He equally thanked the Chairperson of Council, Mrs. Lorna Magara for her not only her support but also sparing time to attend a good number of the research dissemination events.

A screenshot of the Chairperson of Council, Mrs. Lorna Magara delivering the concluding remarks.
A screenshot of the Chairperson of Council, Mrs. Lorna Magara delivering the concluding remarks.

Delivering the concluding remarks, Mrs. Magara acknowledged that the study was timely and relevant the contemporary University, as one of the critical drivers of the national and international development agenda. She therefore reechoed the Vice Chancellor’s thanks to the Government of Uganda for generously supporting the University’s research through Mak-RIF.

Turning to the keynote speaker she said, “I thank Prof. Okwakol for ardently discussing the critical issues affecting the female gender, the strategies to overcome the challenges, including sharing her inspiring personal experiences.”

Mrs. Magara equally thanked Prof. Okwakol for her very instructional analysis, providing mentorship guidance with the resultant impact of enhancing the female gender in decision-making positions. In the same breath she congratulated the PI and her team upon successfully concluding phase one of the project.

“Phase one has generated insights in understanding the status of women in leadership in public universities, the legal and policy framework and its implications on women’s visibility, the institutional mentoring systems and the gaps therein” she observed.

The Chairperson of Council acknowledged that the challenge of underrepresentation of women in leadership roles cannot be resolved at an individual level. She therefore advocated for broad based strategies that can address deep-seated structural and cultural biases facing women. “These include developing mentorship networks, enacting laws and policies that address the imbalances and providing training programmes to address the leadership gaps.”

She therefore pledged the University Council’s unwavering support to the Gender Mainstreaming Programme by ensuring an enabling policy environment that facilitates gender-responsive teaching, learning, research innovation and community service.   

The research dissemination was moderated by the Principal Public Relations Officer (PRO), Ms. Ritah Namisango and the Director Communications, Learning and Knowledge Management, ResilientAfrica Network (RAN) and PRO Mak-RIF, Ms. Harriet Adong.

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Section Editors & Associate Editors Wanted-CABI Agriculture & Biosciences Journal



The CABI Agriculture and Biosciences Journal (CABI A&B) is still in search of both Associate Editors to join the CABI A&B Editorial Board, as well as a Regional Editor-in-Chief to lead for Africa in addition to serving as a Section Editor in the area of either Environmental and SOIL SCIENCE, AGROECOLOGY, OR AQUACULTURE AND FISHERIES. Ideally CABI wants Section Editors (SE) who are prominent members of their research communities, with high-level established positions at a research institution, with a strong, current record of international collaborations and publication, with an H-index of at least 25.  For Associate Editors (AE) we hope for researchers who have with established positions at a research institution (e.g., not post-docs or Ph.D. candidates), with a strong growing record of international collaborations and publication (e.g., around 8 publications in the past two years), and have an H-index of at least 15.

Very importantly, CABI hopes for SEs and AEs who are good communicators and are passionate about serving and building the journal to be an outlet for both large and small steps of sound science that will improve the lives and livelihoods of people worldwide.

Please see Downloads for the CABI EDITORIAL DIRECTORY

Interested applicants should email PHILIPPA J. BENSON, PH.D. MANAGING EDITOR | _CABI A&B | P.BENSON[at]CABI.ORG

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