Guidance for research degree examiners

Guidance and summary of what you, as an examiner, are required to do.

Reports used in the examination process

Summary of the examination process

1. Arranging the oral exam

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 student.

2. Cost

The relevant school will cover appropriate costs related to holding the oral examination, including the fee and appropriate expenses for external examiners. 

  • The external examiner fee is £180 for a doctoral examination and £130 for a research masters examination.
  • External examiners should send completed fee and expenses forms to the relevant administrator in the student’s school. The Academic Quality and Policy Office is not involved in paying fees and expenses.

3. The preliminary reports

After reading the dissertation, examiners complete individual preliminary reports and exchange them before meeting to prepare for the oral examination.

  • At the preparatory meeting, examiners use the preliminary reports as the basis for discussion and for formulating the questions they wish to ask the student.
  • Examiners must exchange their preliminary reports before they meet, but there is no formal deadline and examiners should agree an appropriate time for the exchange.
  • If there is an Independent Chair, the examiners must also send the Chair their preliminary reports before the meeting. The Independent Chair will oversee the discussions between examiners at the preparatory meeting.  

4. The viva (oral exam)

The oral examination may be held face-to-face, partly online or fully online. The student and the examiners must agree on how the oral examination will be held.  If appointed, the Independent Chair will oversee the oral examination. University of Bristol staff can find out more about video conferencing platforms in guidance from IT Services.

5. The joint final report

After the oral examination, the examiners must complete a joint final report including a recommendation for an outcome and a rationale including comments on the dissertation and on the student’s performance in the oral examination.

  • If there are corrections required from the student, the examiners' guidance on the corrections must be included in the joint report.
  • The internal examiner (or the Independent Chair if there are only external examiners) must also send the guidance separately to the student soon after the oral examination so that the student can make a start on the corrections. 

6. Sending the reports

The internal examiner (or Independent Chair if there are only external examiners) must send the preliminary and joints reports, plus the Independent Chair report if relevant, to the School PGR Director (this may be via the School PGR team).

The School PGR Director reviews the reports, signs the declaration on the joint report, and sends all reports to the Academic Quality and Policy Office to arrive no later than two weeks after the oral examination.

7. The exam board

The Exam Board meets six times a year to consider examiners’ reports. The Board reviews the reports and decides whether to approve the examiners’ recommendation. Following the Board’s decision, the student is informed of the outcome.

8. Award and corrections

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 another 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 ProgrammesThis guidance covers the examination procedures and provides references to the underpinning regulations. In all cases, the regulations themselves take priority 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, 290kB).

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

2. Oral examination (Before the oral examination 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