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Examination of Research Degrees: Procedural Guidance

The examining process for research degrees involves various parties - supervisors, the candidate, as well as various examining committee members. The following is a broad summary of the steps involved. If you have any queries regarding this information or the examining process you should contact the Student Programmes Office.

  1. Intention to submit 
    Candidate declares their intention to submit their thesis up to 6 months before, but no later than two months prior, to submission. Academic Registry (Student Programmes) send exam committee paperwork to the lead supervisor.
  2. Nominate exam committee 
    The lead supervisor is responsible for nominating the examining committee. The Posgraduate Research Director will provide guidance on nominating an independent chair. The Postgraduate Research Director/Head of School is required to sign off the nominated committee.
  3. Confirm exam committee 
    Academic Registry (Timetabling, Exams, & Graduation) ensures the nominated committee meets the criteria set out in the regulations and then formally invite the exam committee members to undertake their respective roles.
  4. Candidate submits 
    The candidate should normally submit their thesis at least three months before the viva date to ensure adequate time for the examiners to read the thesis.
  5. Internal examiner coordinates examination
    The internal examiner is responsible for organising the viva, coordinating the date, time and venue.
  6. Examiners submit pre-viva reports 
    The internal and external examiners are required to submit their pre-viva report forms by email at least two days prior to the viva date to the independent chair.
  7. Independent chair manages viva proceedings 
    Viva – independent chair is a non-examining member of the exam committee and will manage the viva proceedings on the day.
  8. Examiners agree viva recommendation
    Following the viva the internal and external examiners must agree the final recommendation and clearly state any requirements in terms of corrections or amendments.
  9. Joint examiners’ report submitted
    The final examiners’ report must be sent via email to Academic Registry (Student Programmes) within two weeks of the viva, by the independent chair.
  10. Candidate formally notified of recommendation 
    Academic Registry (Student Programmes) formally inform the candidate and the lead supervisor of the outcome of the viva and any requirements for resubmission or final submission.
  11. Final submission of thesis 
    If the candidate satisfies the requirements of the exam committee then they submit the final thesis to STORRE and one hard bound and one soft bound copy to Academic Registry (Student Programmes).
  • Guidance for the candidate 1

    Intention to submit your thesis

    You are required to notify Academic Registry (Student Administration Research) at least two months before you intend to submit your thesis. Do this by submitting an 'intent to submit' by emailing to Student Administration Research or to Academic Registry in 2Z, Cottrell Building.

    You'll need to submit a working thesis title (this may change, with the agreement of your supervisor, by the time you come to submit and that is fine) which will be used to give the chosen external an idea of your area of study.

    Once you've notified us of your intention to submit then your lead supervisor will be invited to nominate an examining committee. The committee will comprise an independent chair (internal to the University and non-examining), and internal examiner and an external examiner. If you are a member of staff at the University you will be assigned two external examiners.

    Submit your thesis

    You should ensure that you follow the guidance on the form and presentation of the thesis and submit a completed 'thesis submission form' along with the required number of copies of your soft bound thesis to Student Administration Research.

    Viva voce - oral examination

    The internal examiner will liaise with you regarding a date for your viva.

    You will be allowed to take your own copy of the thesis into the viva. You may find it useful to annotate your thesis with Post-it notes so that you can find particular sections of your work or jog your memory on points that you anticipate wanting to elaborate.

    A supervisor may be invited, generally by the candidate, to attend the viva as an observer.

    Your examiners will have met before your viva begins in order to discuss your thesis. They will probably have decided the sort of questions that they wish to put and who will lead each element of the questioning.

    The examiners need to establish that you know the area in which your study is located, that you are the author of the work that you have presented and that you have made an original contribution to knowledge.

    A viva typically lasts around two hours but it may take less time, and sometimes takes more time. A long viva does not necessarily mean that you are struggling to demonstrate the quality of your research - it could just mean that your examiners are thoroughly interested in what you have to say!

    Assessment

    The viva is an opportunity for you to showcase your research. The examining committee will be looking for evidence that you meet the following criteria for the various research degrees:

    Master of Philosophy - The degree of MPhil can be awarded at the conclusion of a period of advanced study when the candidate has demonstrated the ability to undertake research and to report the results of such research. 

    Doctor of Philosophy - The degree of Doctor of Philosophy can be awarded at the conclusion of a period of advanced study to a candidate who has demonstrated the ability to conduct original investigations, to assess ideas critically, and to relate the investigations to a wider field of knowledge. The degree of Doctor of Philosophy may be awarded through submission of either a thesis or a series of publications.

    Professional doctorates - A named professional doctorate degree can be awarded at the conclusion of a period of advanced study to a candidate who has satisfactorily completed the necessary taught element and undertaken critical investigation and evaluation of a relevant professional practice or theory. The degree may be awarded following the oral defence of a submitted thesis to the satisfaction of the examiners.

    Examiners will consider the following questions:

    • Does the thesis indicate adequate knowledge of the field of study and associated literature?
    • Does the thesis indicate the ability to assess critical ideas and relate the investigations to a wider field of knowledge?
    • Is the thesis derived from a coherent study, reasonably achievable within the accepted timeframe?
    • Is the thesis properly presented, both in literary terms and overall structural terms?
    • Is the thesis properly and adequately referenced?
    • In the viva, did the candidate demonstrate an adequate defence of the thesis?
  • Guidance for the candidate 2

    Recommendations of the examining committee

    The examining committee will explain their recommendation (the outcome of your viva) to you following your viva. Details of any corrections, amendments or additional work required for resubmission will be outlined - you should be sure you understand what is being asked of you.

    The options available to the examining committee are summarised below. A full explanation is available in the code of practice under section 12.6.

    Viva outcomes

    Master of Philosophy

    Doctor of Philosophy

    Professional Doctorates

    Award MPhil

    Award PhD

    Award Doctorate

    Corrections

    Corrections

    Corrections

    Amendments

    Amendments

    Amendments

    Resubmit for MPhil

    (additional viva as option)

    Resubmit for PhD

    (additional viva as option)

    Resubmit for professional doctorate

    (optional - with additional viva)

    No award

    Award MPhil

    Award taught qualification

     

    Resubmit for MPhil

     
     

    No award

     

    Academic Registry (Student Administration Research) will write to you to formally notify you of the outcome of your viva and they will provide you with a copy of the examining committee report.

    If you have any queries about the requirements for resubmission it is important that you highlight these as soon as possible with Academic Registry (Student Administration Research).

    Corrections/amendments to your thesis

    Corrections or amendments to a thesis are generally reviewed and signed off by a nominee from the original examining committee. You should make the necessary changes to your thesis and submit to the nominated examiner. The nominated examiner will then confirm with Academic Registry (Student Administration) that the necessary changes have been made.

    Resubmission of your thesis

    If you are required to resubmit following significant revision then you should complete the 'thesis resubmission form' along with the relevant number of copies of the amended thesis and pay the thesis resubmission fee. You may be invited to attend a further viva. This will depend on how well the original viva goes and whether the resubmitted thesis clearly meets the requirements of the relevant award. If a second viva is required then every effort will be made to ensure that the examining committee is the same as for the first viva.

    Lower awards or no award

    On occasion an examining committee may recommend, based on the thesis and the viva, that a candidate is awarded a lower award. So a candidate being examined for a PhD may be awarded an MPhil, for example or be denied any award.

    These situations are relatively infrequent but can be extremely distressing for candidates.

    The academic appeals process exists so that students can appeal the decisions of examiners. It should be noted, however, that the grounds for appeal lie solely in the procedural aspects of the assessment/examination as no appeal can be made against academic judgement.

    Submitting the final thesis

    Once you have been given approval to submit the final version of your thesis (you'll receive this formally from Academic Registry - Student Administration Research) then you should:

    • deposit a copy of your thesis in the University's digital repository (before submitting the hard copies) – see: How to submit your electronic thesis
    • arrange to have you thesis hard bound according to the instruction in the code of practice
    • complete the and submit this along with one hard bound thesis, a separate a copy of the title page, abstract and contents page (for the library) and one soft bound thesis (for your supervisor).

    Please note: The University's Graphics and Print Services offers a binding service.

  • Guidance for the external examiner(s) 1

    The lead supervisor of the candidate will approach you regarding your willingness to act as external examiner in the oral examination.

    Nomination process

    As part of the examining committee nomination process you may be asked to provide a short CV, including details of your research degree examining experience, and evidence of your right to work (usually a photocopy of your passport outer cover and inside details page although other evidence may be necessary).

    Assuming you meet the University’s criteria for external examiners then Academic Registry (Exams Office) will formally invite you to act as external examiner as part of the examining committee.

    Communication to the examining committee includes all members – the internal examiner(s) and the independent chair.

    The thesis

    You will receive a soft bound copy, normally at least two months in advance of the viva. You will also receive the pre-viva and final examining committee report pro formas, a link to the code of practice section on examinations and an expense claim form.

    The examination and reports

    The internal examiner has responsibility for arranging the viva (this may be delegated to administrative colleagues) and will contact you regarding scheduling of the viva.

    The independent chair is appointed to provide guidance on the process and University regulations, and to intervene where there might be activity that is not ‘rigorous, fair, reliable or consistent’ or which contravenes the University’s equality and diversity policy.

    Pre-viva report

    The pre-viva report will be the basis for discussions at the pre-viva meeting and all examiners should submit a copy of their pre-viva report to the independent chair, normally at least two days before the viva.

    Pre-viva meeting

    A pre-viva meeting of the examining committee gives examiners the opportunity to meet and agree an agenda for the viva. The independent chair will chair both the pre-viva meeting and the viva.

    The viva

    The viva is chaired by the independent chair who will introduce the examiners and the candidate and outline the roles of each. The independent chair is charged with ensuring that the candidate is given a full opportunity to defend their thesis. The independent chair can pause the viva for comfort breaks or where there are concerns regarding the candidate’s wellbeing.

    The purpose of the oral examination is:

    • to enable the examiners to assure themselves that the thesis is the candidate’s own work;
    • to give the candidate the opportunity to defend the thesis and to clarify any obscurities in it;
    • to enable the examiners to assess the candidate’s general knowledge in the particular field of learning.

    Criteria for awards

    Master of Philosophy - The degree of MPhil can be awarded at the conclusion of a period of advanced study when the candidate has demonstrated the ability to undertake research and to report the results of such research.

    Doctor of Philosophy - The degree of Doctor of Philosophy can be awarded at the conclusion of a period of advanced study to a candidate who has demonstrated the ability to conduct original investigations, to assess ideas critically, and to relate the investigations to a wider field of knowledge. The degree of Doctor of Philosophy may be awarded through submission of either a thesis or a series of publications.

    Professional doctorates - A named professional doctorate degree can be awarded at the conclusion of a period of advanced study to a candidate who has satisfactorily completed the necessary taught element and undertaken critical investigation and evaluation of a relevant professional practice or theory. The degree may be awarded following the oral defence of a submitted thesis to the satisfaction of the examiners.

  • Guidance for the external examiner(s) 2

    Post-viva deliberations

    Each examiner is asked to consider the following questions:

    • Does the thesis indicate adequate knowledge of the field of study and associated literature?
    • Does the thesis indicate the ability to assess critical ideas and relate the investigations to a wider field of knowledge?
    • Is the thesis derived from a coherent study, reasonably achievable within the accepted timeframe? (See period of study)
    • Is the thesis properly presented, both in literary terms and overall structural terms?
    • Is the thesis properly and adequately referenced?
    • In the viva, did the candidate demonstrate an adequate defence of the thesis?

    The possible recommendations that an examining committee can make are as follows:

    i. Award - the degree

    ii. Corrections - the candidate be awarded the degree subject to specific corrections to be signed off by a nominated examiner within one month.

    The thesis requires correction of presentational and or/typographical errors before it is fit for the public domain.

    iii. Amendments - the candidate be awarded the degree subject to specific amendments to be signed off by a nominated examiner within a maximum of six months (all candidates).

    Work in the thesis requires re-presenting or existing text needs restructuring.

    iv. Resubmission - the thesis requires significant revision and/or additional research to reach the standard required for the award. The candidate must undergo a further period of study and potentially a further viva, normally by the same examining committee, within 18 months of the initial examination (all candidates).

    Further substantive work is required is necessary. This work will strengthen the thesis and may include any or all of the following: new data, fieldwork or practice; new analysis; substantial new literature review.

    v. No award - the thesis is substantially deficient in all or any of the requirements for the degree and cannot be revised to satisfy these requirements, or the requirements of any other research degree. [Professional doctorate students will achieve an exit award based on taught credits accumulated.]

    vi. [In the case of PhD] Award MPhil - The thesis is substantially deficient in one or more requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy and cannot be revised to satisfy these requirements, but the thesis satisfies the requirements of Master of Philosophy.

    vii. [In the case of PhD] Resubmission for MPhil - The thesis is substantially deficient in one or more requirements for the doctoral degree and cannot be revised to satisfy these requirements. However, the thesis may satisfy the requirements for the degree of Master of Philosophy subject to specific substantial revisions. The revisions should be completed within a period of 18 months from the initial examination.

    Post-viva

    Once the examining committee have agreed the outcome they reconvene with the candidate and informally share the outcome (the formal notification comes in writing from Academic Registry – Student Administration) and feedback the nature of the recommendation that will be made in the examining committee report. The independent chair will chair the reconvened meeting but it is typically the external examiner who informs the candidate of the examining committee’s decision.

    The examining committee report

    The report is a joint statement about the outcome of the viva and comprises the pre-viva reports, an agreed comment on the defence of the thesis and the recommended examination outcome. It is expected that a clear list of any corrections or amendments is included with the examining committee report.

    Please note that the examining committee reports, including the pre-viva reports, are routinely copied to the candidate and their lead supervisor when the official notification of the outcome of the examination is conveyed to them.

    Ideally, the examining committee will complete their report and submit this to Student Administration Research immediately after the conclusion of the viva. However, it is often the case that the examining committee is unable to do this and so the independent chair is asked to gather together the completed report, to ensure that the final recommendation and any requirements (corrections, amendments or further work) are in line with what was agreed at the viva and conveyed to the candidate.

    The candidate should receive the report from the examining committee (via Student Administration Research) within two weeks of the viva.

    Commitment to future requirements

    If the outcome of the viva is a resubmission then the University will contact you to act again as the external examiner for re-examination. This may include a further viva. Examiners’ expenses and fee will be payable for re-examination.

  • Guidance for the lead supervisor

    When your student is approaching the point of submission (at least two months before they submit) they must indicate their intention to submit. They do this by submitting an ‘intention to submit form’ by emailing to Student Administration Research or sending to Academic Registry (Student Administration) in 2Z, Cottrell Building. On occasion a student will decide to submit their thesis without the prior knowledge of their lead supervisor. If you have concerns about this please notify your Posgraduate Research Director and Student Administration Research.

    Nominating the examining committee

    Once the student has indicated their intention to submit then the lead supervisor will receive a request to nominate the examining committee. Details of the criteria of the members of the committee can be found in section 12 of the code of practice.

    The examining committee must have:

    • an external examiner (for staff members an additional external is required);
    • an internal examiner (where an internal is inexperienced a further internal may be proposed);
    • an independent chair.

    External examiner(s)

    You will need to evidence the examining experience of your proposed external examiner and it is suggested that you request a short CV which should include details of previous examining experience (UK research degrees).

    Externals are also required to provide evidence of their right to work. Evidence is typically a copy of the front cover and personal details page of a passport but for non-UK/EU nationals and domiciles further details may be necessary – please see additional guidance of right to work available from HR and OD.

    Internal examiner

    The internal examiner is generally a member of staff from the same school as the candidate with knowledge of the general field but with no connection to the candidate. The seniority of the internal examiner generally depends on that of the external. Where the external is an experienced examiner then the internal may be less so, and vice versa.

    Independent chair

    Each school should maintain a list of colleagues qualified to act as an independent chair and you should contact the Postgraduate Research Director/tutor in your school for further guidance.

    Approval of the examining committee

    The examining committee is approved (and signed off) by the head of school. You must submit the completed 'examining committee nomination form' to TEG and Academic Registry (Timetabling, Exams and Graduation) will formally invite each member to participate in the exam. Roles and expectations for the examining committee are explained in the code of practice and in this guidance paper.

    Once the examining committee has been confirmed your role in the viva set up process ends. You should ensure that the student is progressing appropriately to submission.

    If there is likely to be a significant delay to thesis submission please notify Student Administration Research.

    Attending the viva

    A supervisor may be invited, generally by the candidate, to attend the viva as an observer.

    Outcome

    The lead supervisor will be copied into the communication confirming the outcome of the viva.

  • Guidance for the internal examiners(s) 1

    The examining committee comprises a non-examining independent chair, at least one external examiner and a least one internal examiner. The examining committee is proposed by the candidate’s supervisor and is approved by the head of school.

    Organising the viva

    As the internal examiner you are responsible for arranging the viva in terms of scheduling and venue booking. You are expected to liaise with the candidate/lead supervisor, the external examiner and the independent chair to find a suitable time and date. The logistics may be delegated to administrative colleagues where appropriate.

    The viva should ordinarily take place at Stirling, and requests to hold a viva elsewhere require the approval of Academic Panel. The viva needs to take place in a suitable environment and the interest of the student should be paramount when organising the examination.

    Once the viva date has been agreed please inform Academic Registry via Student Administration Research giving details of the date, time and venue.

    Viva by teleconference technologies

    In exceptional circumstances, for example where organising a timely viva is impractical due to travel restrictions or the availability of examiners to attend, a viva may be conducted using video conferencing technology (i.e. using computer networks to transmit audio and video data), including Skype.

    The internal examiner organising the viva must request permission from Academic Panel (via email to Student Administration Research) for a viva to be conducted using video conferencing technology and requests will be considered under the following conditions:

    • all participants agree to use video conferencing;
    • time zone differences are considered when scheduling the viva;
    • a two way connection is used (not three way) and video conferencing not teleconferencing is used;
    • all parties have access to and technical support for the appropriate technologies (software and hardware) and are comfortable with its use;
    • all parties understand that in the event of any failure with the technology before or during the viva it will not be possible for the examination to continue and it will be necessary for the viva to be rescheduled.

    It is preferable that it is the external examiner who participates via video conferencing, with the candidate, independent chair and internal(s) examiners co-located.

    Any candidate requesting to undertake their viva as the participant using video conferencing must accept that they may, by virtue of the medium used, feel disadvantaged in the event of an unsuccessful outcome. Appeals on the grounds that the assessment was unfair due to the setup of the viva will not be considered.

    The thesis

    You will receive a soft bound copy, normally at least two months in advance of the viva. You will also receive the pre-viva and final examining committee report pro formas and a link to the code of practice section on examinations.

    The examination and reports

    The independent chair is appointed to provide guidance on the process and University regulations, and to intervene where there might be activity that is not ‘rigorous, fair, reliable or consistent’ or which contravenes the University’s equality and diversity policy.

    Pre-viva report

    The pre-viva report will be the basis for discussions at the pre-viva meeting and all examiners should submit a copy of their pre-viva report to the independent chair, normally at least two days before the viva.

    Pre-viva meeting

    A pre-viva meeting of the examining committee gives examiners the opportunity to meet and agree an agenda for the viva. The independent chair will chair both the pre-viva meeting and the viva.

    The viva

    The viva is chaired by the independent chair who will introduce the examiners and the candidate and outline the roles of each. The independent chair is charged with ensuring that the candidate is given a full opportunity to defend their thesis. The independent chair can pause the viva for comfort breaks or where there are concerns regarding the candidate’s wellbeing.

    The purpose of the oral examination is:

    • to enable the examiners to assure themselves that the thesis is the candidate’s own work;
    • to give the candidate the opportunity to defend the thesis and to clarify any obscurities in it;
    • to enable the examiners to assess the candidate’s general knowledge in the particular field of learning.
  • Guidance for the internal examiners(s) 2

    Criteria for awards

    Master of Philosophy - The degree of MPhil can be awarded at the conclusion of a period of advanced study when the candidate has demonstrated the ability to undertake research and to report the results of such research.

    Doctor of Philosophy - The degree of Doctor of Philosophy can be awarded at the conclusion of a period of advanced study to a candidate who has demonstrated the ability to conduct original investigations, to assess ideas critically, and to relate the investigations to a wider field of knowledge. The degree of Doctor of Philosophy may be awarded through submission of either a thesis or a series of publications.

    Professional doctorates - A named professional doctorate degree can be awarded at the conclusion of a period of advanced study to a candidate who has satisfactorily completed the necessary taught element and undertaken critical investigation and evaluation of a relevant professional practice or theory. The degree may be awarded following the oral defence of a submitted thesis to the satisfaction of the examiners.

    Post-viva deliberations

    Each examiner is asked to consider the following questions:

    • Does the thesis indicate adequate knowledge of the field of study and associated literature?
    • Does the thesis indicate the ability to assess critical ideas and relate the investigations to a wider field of knowledge?
    • Is the thesis derived from a coherent study, reasonably achievable within the accepted timeframe? (See period of study)
    • Is the thesis properly presented, both in literary terms and overall structural terms?
    • Is the thesis properly and adequately referenced?
    • In the viva, did the candidate demonstrate an adequate defence of the thesis?

    The possible recommendations that an examining committee can make are as follows:

    i. Award - the degree

    ii. Corrections - the candidate be awarded the degree subject to specific corrections to be signed off by a nominated examiner within one month.

    The thesis requires correction of presentational and or/typographical errors before it is fit for the public domain.

    iii. Amendments - the candidate be awarded the degree subject to specific amendments to be signed off by a nominated examiner within a maximum of six months (all candidates).

    Work in the thesis requires re-presenting or existing text needs restructuring.

    iv. Resubmission - the thesis requires significant revision and/or additional research to reach the standard required for the award. The candidate must undergo a further period of study and potentially a further viva, normally by the same examining committee, within 18 months of the initial examination (all candidates).

    Further substantive work is required is necessary. This work will strengthen the thesis and may include any or all of the following: new data, fieldwork or practice; new analysis; substantial new literature review.

    v. No award - the thesis is substantially deficient in all or any of the requirements for the degree and cannot be revised to satisfy these requirements, or the requirements of any other research degree. [Professional doctorate students will achieve an exit award based on taught credits accumulated.]

    vi. [In the case of PhD] Award MPhil - The thesis is substantially deficient in one or more requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy and cannot be revised to satisfy these requirements, but the thesis satisfies the requirements of Master of Philosophy.

    vii. [In the case of PhD] Resubmission for MPhil - The thesis is substantially deficient in one or more requirements for the doctoral degree and cannot be revised to satisfy these requirements. However, the thesis may satisfy the requirements for the degree of Master of Philosophy subject to specific substantial revisions. The revisions should be completed within a period of 18 months from the initial examination

    Post-viva

    Once the examining committee has agreed the outcome it reconvenes with the candidate and informally shares the outcome (the formal notification comes in writing from Academic Registry) and feedback the nature of the recommendation that will be made in the examining committee report. The independent chair will chair the reconvened meeting, but it is typically the external examiner who informs the candidate of the examining committee’s decision.

    The examining committee report

    The report is a joint statement about the outcome of the viva and comprises the pre-viva reports, an agreed comment on the defence of the thesis and the recommended examination outcome. It is expected that a clear list of any corrections or amendments is included with the examiners committee report.

    Please note that the examining committee reports, including the pre-viva reports, are routinely copied to the candidate and their principal supervisor when the official notification of the outcome of the examination is conveyed to them.

    Ideally, the examining committee will complete its report and submit this to Student Administration Research immediately after the conclusion of the viva. However, it is often the case that the examining committee is unable to do this and so the independent chair is asked to gather together the completed report, to ensure that the final recommendation and any requirements (corrections, amendments or further work) are in line with what was agreed at the viva and conveyed to the candidate.

    The candidate should receive the report from the examining committee (via student administration research) within two weeks of the viva.

    Corrections, amendments and resubmissions

    The internal examiner is often the examiner responsible for reviewing corrections/amendments. The candidate will contact you with the amended thesis and you are required to complete the 'Amendment or correction form' to confirm when you are content that the requirements have been met.

    Commitment to future requirements

    If the outcome of the viva is a resubmission then you will be contacted to act again as the internal examiner for re-examination. This may include a further viva.

  • Guidance for independent chair

    The role

    The independent chair is a member of staff internal to the University. They are a non-examining member of the viva voce committee. Their role is to ensure that the examination is conducted appropriately and in accordance with the University of Stirling postgraduate research regulations and associated code of practice. The chair may be required to provide advice on regulations, procedures, policy and practice, and to intervene where there is any activity that is not 'rigorous, fair, reliable or consistent' or which contravenes the University's equality and diversity policy.

    The examination and reports - Pre-viva

    All examiners and the independent chair receive a link to the relevant section of the code of practice, which outlines the expectations in terms of their roles. The independent chair will receive pre-viva reports from the examiners and should read these and chair the pre-viva meeting. At the pre-viva meeting the independent chair should ensure that the examiners have a shared understanding of their respective roles.

    The pre-viva reports are a good starting-place for the examining committee to agree an initial assessment of the quality and standing of the thesis. The independent chair should ensure the examiners agree the lines of questioning and the agenda for the viva.

    If, in advance of the viva, examiners express significant concerns regarding the thesis, then Academic Registry should be notified as soon as possible.

    The viva

    The independent chair should explain their role in the viva voce - which is to act as the student’s supporter, ensuring that due process is followed and that the student is offered a full opportunity to defend their thesis. The independent chair should ensure that the candidate is given their best chance to succeed. This may require the independent chair to pause the viva for comfort breaks (agreed in advance if appropriate), and to consider the candidate’s wellbeing during the viva.

    As the viva progresses the independent chair should ensure that the items on the agenda are addressed. The candidate must be given the opportunity to respond to all questions asked by the examiners and each of the examiners should have a proper opportunity to contribute to the examination process.

    When the examiners have finished their discussions with the candidate, the independent chair should ensure that everyone, including the candidate, has had an opportunity to ask their questions. The independent chair should ask the candidate if they have had the opportunity to say everything about their thesis that they had wanted to.

    The independent chair should draw proceedings to a close and explain that the examiners will discuss the thesis and the viva, and agree a recommended outcome of the examination from the options available.

    The candidate must be asked to withdraw from the room while the examiners consider the outcome(s) of the examination and their recommendation to the University.

    Post-viva deliberations

    As well as advising on the University regulations and examination protocol, the independent chair may be required to facilitate the decision making process. The independent chair should ensure that the examiners are clear on the recommendations available to them and their interpretation of the regulations. The independent chair is not an examiner and has no additional casting vote. However, if examiners cannot agree an outcome, then the independent chair will be required to facilitate discussions and clarify positions, in order that a recommendation is agreed.

    Post-viva

    Following the viva, the independent chair should invite the candidate to return to the room. The examiners should give the candidate feedback on their thesis and performance in the viva. Any requirements for corrections, amendments and resubmission should be covered and the deadline for completion confirmed.

    The examining committee can informally communicate the recommended result of the examination to the candidate (typically the external examiner is the one to inform the candidate of the decision), but must be clear that the final decision rests with ESEC.

    The candidate should be informed that they can expect to receive the report from the examining committee and a full list of the corrections/amendments/revisions within two weeks of the date of the viva. The independent chair should ensure that the requirements for amendments or re-submission (as appropriate) are clearly conveyed to the candidate before the conclusion of the examination.

    Independent chair’s report

    Upon conclusion of the post-viva meeting the independent chair must complete the ‘independent chair form’ and return this to Academic Registry (Student Administration) without delay.

    The examining committee report

    The joint examiners’ report is a critical part of the examining process; the requirements in terms of corrections, amendments or revisions should be clear and specific in order to enable the candidate to address any weaknesses identified. It may not always be possible for the joint examiners’ report to be completed immediately following the viva.

    Where it is agreed that an examiner should use delegated responsibility for signing-off corrections or amendments, the independent chair must ensure that they are named in the joint examiners’ reports and that a deadline for submission is stated.

    The independent chair is responsible for submitting the final examining committee report to Student Administration Research. The independent chair is required to ensure that the final recommendation and any requirements (corrections, amendments or further work) are in line with what was agreed at the viva and conveyed to the candidate. The report and a complete list of corrections, amendments or revisions along with the joint examining committee report must be submitted within two weeks of the viva.

    Commitment to future requirements

    In the event that a second viva is required, it is preferable that the same independent chair presides over the examination. However the availability of the independent chair should not be a cause for delaying a re-examination and in such cases an alternative independent chair may be used.

    Authority of the independent chair

    The independent chair should intervene if the examining process appears to break with regulations or on any demonstration of bias or unfairness.

    Any deviation from the pre-agreed agenda or format should not disadvantage the candidate or compromise the University’s academic standards.

    The independent chair can call for a pause in the examination to give the candidate a break or to speak privately to the examiners if necessary.

    Under exceptional circumstances, where concerns are not resolved following a break, the independent chair has the authority to halt the viva. At that point they should contact Academic Registry and others as appropriate/available.

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