Guidance for research degree examiners

Reports used in the examination process

Summary of the examination process

1. Once the examiners have been appointed, the internal examiner (or the Independent Chair if there are only external examiners) is responsible for arranging the oral examination, including deciding on a time and date, in collaboration with the external examiner/s and the candidate. The relevant school will cover any costs related to holding the oral examination, including the fee and any expenses for external examiners. The fee for a doctoral examination is £180 and the fee for a research masters examination is £130.

2. After reading the dissertation, each examiner completes a separate preliminary report and exchanges them before meeting to prepare for the oral examination. At the preparatory meeting, examiners use the preliminary reports as the basis for discussing the dissertation and for formulating the questions they wish to ask the candidate. The preliminary reports must be exchanged before the examiners meet, but there is no formal deadline and examiners should agree an appropriate time for the exchange. If appointed, an Independent Chair must receive copies of the preliminary reports and oversee the discussions between examiners at the preparatory meeting. 

3. The oral examination may be held face-to-face, partly online or fully online. The candidate and the examiners must agree on how the oral examination will be held. If appointed, the Independent Chair will oversee the oral examination.

4. After the oral examination, the examiners must complete a joint final report to make a recommendation on an outcome, providing a rationale that includes comments on the dissertation and on the candidate's performance in the oral examination. If there are corrections required from the candidate, the examiners' guidance on the corrections must be included in the joint report. The guidance must also be sent separately to the candidate soon after the oral examination.

5. The internal examiner (or Independent Chair if there are only external examiners) must send the preliminary and joints reports to the School PGR Director (this may be via the School PGR team). The School PGR Director is required to review the reports, complete a declaration on the joint report, and send all reports to the Academic Quality and Policy Office to arrive no later than two weeks after the oral examination. If appointed, the Independent Chair must also complete a report, which should be included with the other reports sent to the School PGR Director. 

6. The Exam Board meets six times a year to consider examiners’ reports. The Board will review the reports and will decide whether to approve the examiners’ recommendation. Following the Board’s decision, the candidate will be informed of the outcome.  

7. If the decision is for errors of substance or for a resubmission, all examiners will be required to review the revised dissertation. For minor errors, only the internal examiner is required to approve the corrections (or the Independent Chair or other academic where there is no internal examiner). 

Detailed guidance on the examination process

The more detailed guidance set out in the links below should be read in conjunction with the Regulations and Code of Practice for Research Degree Programmes. This guidance covers the examination procedures and provides references to the underpinning regulations. In all cases, the regulations themselves take primacy over the guidance.

Please use the following links to the different sections of the guidance, or you may download a copy of the Guidance for research degree examiners (PDF, 282kB).

1. Preparataions (Appointment of examiners / Criteria for the award / The dissertation)

2. Oral examination (Before the oral examaintion and preliminary reports / During the oral examination / After the oral examination)

3. Recommendations and reports (Examiners' recommendations / Guidance on corrections and resubmissions / Examiners' joint final report / Submission of examiners' reports)

4. Approval of results (Research Degrees Examination Board / The outcome)

5. Corrections and resubmissions (Examiners' role in confirming the completion of corrections - minor errors and errors of substance / Examiners' role in resubmissions / Candidate requests for extensions)

6. Feedback from examiners       

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