Examination Process

The process to nominate examiners is done via MyPGR.  The lead supervisor should nominate examiners around 3 months before a thesis is intended to be submitted. In most cases one internal and one examiner is required, although at times there may be a requirement for an independent chair also, or an additional external examiner. Examiners will be sent a copy of the thesis by the Postgraduate Research Office, and are required to submit a preliminary report

Please refer to the Code of Good Practice: Boards of Examiners for Degree by Research for information on the appointment of Examiners, Examination Process and Recommendations.

For all Doctoral programmes an oral examination of your thesis is required, and in some exceptional cases for MPhil or MbyRes programmes where there is either a substantial disagreement between the examiners, or one or both feels that an oral examination is necessary. The oral examination is traditionally called a 'viva voce', meaning ‘by or with the living voice’, referred to as a ‘viva’. The viva examination is where you will give a verbal defence of your thesis, to justify, authenticate, contextualise, and clarify. The main purposes of the viva are to;

  • Check that you did complete the work yourself
  • Clarify any points that the examiners found unclear
  • Explore why you conducted the research the way in which you did. There may be an exploration of other possible alternative avenues of investigation
  • Confirm that you understand the background for the work you have done and how it links to the work of others

The examiners will have received a copy of your thesis prior to the viva and will submit a preliminary report to the Postgraduate Research Office.

All viva’s are different, but they normally follow a question and answer format. The questions can address any aspect of the submission, and there is no minimum or maximum number of questions that might be asked

If the thesis is not of the standard to merit the relevant award, formative feedback will be provided in the Examiners’ Report, specifying why the written submission does not meet the relevant assessment criteria and detailing how it should be revised so that it does meet the criteria.

You are able to have one member of your supervisory team attend the viva with you as a non-participant observer. There are able to support you, and enable them to better provide supervision should you be required to complete amendments or resubmit your thesis.

Candidates may invite one member of their supervisory team to be in attendance at their viva. The supervisor would be there in support of the candidate as a non-participant observer, and to enable them to better provide supervision should you be required to complete amendments or resubmit your thesis.

It is a requirement to have your University ID card with you at the beginning of the viva, or another photo ID. Without any form of identification the viva is not able to go ahead. It is also recommended that you have your own copy of your thesis.

Viva’s must not extend beyond the maximum time-frames, which are four hours for Doctoral degrees and three hours for MRes, MPhil and DClinPsy. After two hours the Chair of the viva will offer all participants a fifteen minute break.

Where there are exceptional circumstances it can be authorised by the Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Executive Dean of College to have an viva by video-conference. The reasons are limited but include medical reasons preventing travel, an expired Tier 4 visa, and other such personal circumstances.

Aside from the authorisation required as above, the below points are essential for a viva by video-conferencing to go ahead

a) The Examiners will be able to assure themselves that the thesis is the candidate’s own work.
b) Undertaking the viva by video-conference will not give rise to concerns about appropriate research conduct on the part of the candidate.
c) The technology is sufficient to enable a viva to take place without limiting communications.
d) Technical support is immediately available in both locations to address any problems that may arise.
e) Where the candidate will be attending their viva at a distance an invigilator at that location must be appointed. In such instances the invigilator will be responsible for verifying the candidate’s identity,

To below will need to be addressed to ensure the above points

a) All viva participants (All members of the Board of Examiners, the NEIC (where appointed) and the candidate) must agree in writing to the viva being conducted in this way and confirm at the conclusion of the viva that the holding of the examination by video-conference has had no substantive bearing on the examination process.
b) The Postgraduate Administration Office will facilitate organisation of vivas by video-conference, where necessary, including making arrangements to book video-conferencing facilities on University campuses and at the remote location.
c) The viva should normally take place by a 2-way video link (i.e. participants should not be at more than two locations), and that link should be tested ahead of the viva.
d) Where a member of the Board of Examiners will be at separate site, consideration should be given to their need to consult privately with the other members of the Board of Examiners (and the NEIC, where appointed) on the conduct of the examination.
e) Use of video-conference technology should not prejudice the provision of a comfortable environment in which to hold the viva.
f) Where the candidate will be based at a distance it is their responsibility to make an initial proposal with regard to the host venue. Where a viva is taking place outside of the UK this should normally be at a British Council location. Other viva locations, for example within the UK, are likely to include other Higher Education Institutions, where these offer appropriate facilities.
g) Where a viva is conducted by video-conference because the candidate is not on campus, costs incurred for the use of resources elsewhere should be met by the candidate provided these costs are made explicit at the point at which permission is given to hold the viva by video-conference.
h) Checks should be made to ensure that no participant has kept a record of the viva.

On the basis of reading your thesis and the viva if required, the examiners will produce a joint report with a recommended outcome.

This report will be submitted to the Postgraduate Research Administration Office as soon as possible and no later than 15 working days after the viva, after which you will be sent a confirmation letter of your outcome, to include deadline dates for any amendments or resubmissions that need to be made.

It is important to remember that the time-scales allowed for amendments or resubmissions will start from the date that the confirmation of the outcome is sent out, and not the date of the viva.

Below are all of the outcomes possible for the first examination of your programme

  • Minor amendments - recommended for:

a) the correction of typographical, spelling and grammatical errors and
b) limited revisions of material in the thesis. This may include limited revisions not central to the thesis, omissions, and improvements to the argument which do not materially alter the conclusions.

Minor amendments have a time-scale of 12 weeks to be completed by, and received by the Postgraduate Research Office

  • Major Amendments – recommended for:

    a) more extensive revisions than that implied by a decision of minor amendments;
    b) revisions that will not normally require any significant extension of the original research to be undertaken. (In such instances, resubmission would normally be necessary.)

 Major amendments have a time-scale of 6 months to be completed by, and received by the Postgraduate Research Office.

  •  Resubmission - recommended when:

A thesis has failed the first examination for the award for which it was submitted.

In requiring the resubmission of a thesis for re-examination examiners must indicate the maximum period in which this work should be undertaken. The maximum period must not be more than 18 months for all Doctoral awards other than the DClinPsy and 12 months for Masters Awards and the DClinPsy.

In most cases for amendments your submission should show tracked changes, unless told otherwise in your confirmation letter. It is advisable to liaise with your supervisory team to discuss the additional work and ensure that you understand the nature of the revision(s) required. It is imperative that you do not make contact with either of the examiners, and this will be treated as research misconduct Procedure for Graduate Research Students suspected of Research Misconduct

Once you have completed your amendments or resubmission you must submit your amended thesis to the Postgraduate Research Administration Office by the date specified in your outcome letter. If there are any mitigation circumstances that will result in you not being able to meet the specified deadline, you must contact the office prior to your submission date. Failure to submit by the deadline specified will result in withdrawal from the University.

Assessing Amendments

The recommended outcome of the amendments received will confirmed to you no later than 6 weeks for Minor Amendments, and 8 weeks for Major Amendments, from the time you have submitted

In exceptional cases, where the Internal Examiner is unavoidably unavailable at the point of submission, these time-scales will start from the specified deadline for submission of the amendments. You will be informed of the any delay by the Postgraduate Research Administration Office

The review of amendments is specific to the requirements of your initial outcome.

For minor amendments the internal examiner will review the amended thesis and determine if they have been completed satisfactorily.

For major amendments all examiners will review the amended thesis and determiner if they have been completed satisfactorily.

The list of outcomes for the submissions of minor and major amendments include

  • Amendments completed satisfactorily- This means that you can now be awarded your degree
  • Recommendation of a lower award – This can only be done if there is evidence that the thesis meets the assessment criteria for the recommended award
  • Outstanding Amendments - This recommendation is only available following minor/major amendments, where all of the required amendments have not been completed satisfactorily, and that any outstanding amendments can be completed in less than 4 weeks.
  • Fail (No degree be awarded) -This recommendation should be made where the thesis does not reach the standard required for the award of the degree in question, or a lower award, where eligible.