Research Student Handbook

Submission, Examination and Completion

Before a postgraduate research student submits their thesis for examination, examiners must be appointed. It is a requirement of the University that examiners be formally appointed at least three months prior to when the student expects to submit. You may discuss potential examiners with your supervisor at this stage. It is then the responsibility of the lead supervisor formally to nominate both external and internal examiners, and if necessary a Non-examining Independent Chair, for approval. Examiners are nominated by the lead supervisor on the MyPGR screen of their student.

In the UK system there are normally two examiners, one from within your own University (the internal examiner) and one from outside (the external examiner). It is up to the College Director of PGR or Associate Dean for Research, with the recommendation of your supervisor, to nominate suitable examiners. Your supervisors may discuss possible examiners with you. Examiner(s) must be nominated at least three months before the expected submission date. Your supervisors cannot act as internal examiners (though they may be present during the viva as a non-speaking observer).   The internal should be someone in or close to your field of study. They do not necessarily have to be in the same discipline or College of the University.  The external examiner should be from a reputable University and normally hold the academic rank of Senior Lecturer (UK) or above.   Once examiners have been appointed and the thesis submitted neither you nor your supervisors should have direct contact with the examiners, except to arrange the formalities of examination. It is the responsibility of the internal examiner to arrange, with the external and the student, examination of the thesis.   The two examiners will read the thesis, provide preliminary reports on it and then meet the student for an oral examination (‘viva voce’ or ‘viva’) if applicable. For more information please see the University's Code of Good Practice: Boards of Examiners for Degrees by Research.

 The contacting of external examiners by students regarding any aspect of their programmes of study is prohibited and will be treated as an offence under the University's Disciplinary Procedures.  External examiners are requested to inform the University's Examinations Office should such an occurrence take place.

Submitting your thesis is the final act before examination. Students must follow the University guidelines on the submission of MbyRes, MPhil and PhD theses. For access to the Submission form that you and your supervisor will need to complete, and for further advice, see the Registry website.

The University does not require MbyRes and MPhil students to undergo a viva. Nonetheless, a viva examination may be deemed necessary in one of the following cases:

  • a viva examination is judged to be necessary by one or more of the examiners
  • there is substantial disagreement between the examiners
  • the examiners are inclined to make a recommendation other than award of the degree for which the work was submitted (in such circumstances, the examiners may still require the satisfactory completion of minor amendments appropriate to the award in questions.)
  • the student is keen to have a viva examination.

The examination of PhD thesis requires a viva in all instances.

It is important that you prepare for the viva . You are recommended to visit the University’s Researcher Development Online service, which has an e-learning course on ‘Preparing for your Viva’, and Researcher Development also has a ‘Preparing for your Viva’ session.

Off-campus students will normally be required to visit the campus to attend their viva voce oral examination.   

On the basis of reading your thesis and the oral examination, the examiners will produce a joint report with a recommended outcome. At the first examination of an MbyRes, MPhil and PhD the recommendation will be made that either the degree may be awarded, or that the award of the degree should be subject to minor or major amendments being made to the thesis within a stated period. In many cases the outcome of the examination will be for the candidate to make minor amendments (such as corrections of typographical, spelling and grammatical errors and /or limited revisions of material in the thesis). Minor amendments should be made within 12 weeks of receipt of the examiners’ instructions regarding what changes are required. Sometimes the examiners require major amendments, where more extensive revisions than that implied by a decision of minor amendments need to be made, but which will not normally require any significant extension of the original research to be undertaken. Major amendments need to be completed within 6 months of receipt of the examiners’ instructions regarding what changes are required.

There are other possible outcome to the examination. For full details and regulations, see the Code of Good Practice: Boards of Examiners for Degrees by Research

After the examination and any required amendments have been approved, the examiners will recommend that the relevant research degree should be awarded. Once this has been confirmed by the University’s Senate the doctorate can be said to be completed.

Please bear in mind that there will be a period of time elapsing between submission of your thesis and the examination, as the examiners need to read it and write their preliminary reports. The examiners also need to write their recommendations after your viva regarding amendments. In addition, you may need to spend some time making these amendments, which will have to be approved by the examiner(s).  All this takes time, which is why it is very important to try to submit your thesis prior to your viva as soon as possible, provided that this is academically appropriate.

Useful University documents relating to the examination process:

Calendar: Regulations governing academic programmes

TQA: Chapter 12 - Handbook for Examination of Postgraduate Research programmes