I have to give my Master's defense soon. I am provided with the name of a "Jury", a professor. And two professors in my 'vowel', one of whom is my advisor. (total 3 on Jury)

What is the definition of this 'vowel' and what does it mean? What is their role in relation to the 'jury'?

My university is Portuguese and the Portuguese word is Vogal (singular).

  • "Vogal" has more than one translation. The phrasing of this question is misguided. Jul 21 at 10:49
  • It is, but fixing it would invalidate some of the existing answers, which responded to an earlier version of the question (i.e., before the untranslated word was provided). Moreover, preserving the misconception may have value in case others make the same mistranslation in the future.
    – cag51
    Jul 29 at 1:12

"Vowel" is likely a translation error from Portuguese, Spanish or another Romance language - probably caused by Google Translate.

In a committee or a board, a "vogal" or "vocal" is a member without a specific role. For example, in a committee I was recently to grade end-of-degree dissertations, the three members were the president (tasked with chairing the committee), the secretary (tasked with writing grades down) and one "vocal", with no specific task besides deciding grades with the other two members.

Another meaning of "vogal" or "vocal" is vowel. Both meanings come from the Latin word for voice or speak, because a "vocal" is a person who just speaks in a committee and vowels are sounds or letters that can be pronounced alone.

I tried to find a translation into English but no dictionary gave me a suitable one. Then, I would translate "vocal" to "board/committee/jury member". Maybe boards are organized in a different way in English speaking countries.

Just for reference, definition of vogal in Portuguese (see meanings 3 and 4), and vocal in Spanish (meaning 5) and Catalan (meaning 2).

  • 1
    The Oxford Spanish-English dictionary gives "vocal... B masculine and feminine (de un consejo, tribunal) member". Jul 14 '19 at 6:00

On several occasions, I have been a member of an academic jury at a Portuguese university. In Portuguese, the structure is usually the following:

  • Presidente do júri, the "president of the jury" who presides to the dissertation. His participation varies between symbolic to active — he can make 1 or 2 questions or comments, if he so desires, or just present the thesis and sleep until the end, when he officially concludes the event.

  • Arguente principal, the main examiner, who will be relentlessly and exhaustively putting the student under scrutiny with questions and remarks of all sorts concerning the thesis and the oral presentation.

  • Vogal. The "vogal" are, well, "vocal", i.e., members of the jury that will have a limit of 2-3 questions, usually targetting the impact of the study in the global context, but can also target very specific things of the dissertation that where not covered by the main examiner, which often happens when the dissertation covers multiple scientific subjects or is interdisciplinary. The number of "vogais" in MSc degrees is actually 1 only, currently, and for PhD degrees it is usually 2.

  • Orientador, the supervisor, his task here can be summarized as follows: to defend the candidate against unreasonable questions, praise the work developed and the efforts of the candidate, and finally, ask the candidate for future perspectives concerning his work and professional future projects.

  • Awesome answer, thanks for adding. It is difficult to read long blocks of text, so I suggested an edit that makes it much more readable.
    – cag51
    Jul 17 at 17:46

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