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This section of the Code of Practice for Research Degree Programmes (RDPs) relates to regulation 7 of the Study Regulations for Research Degree Programmes.

  • Criteria for the Award of a Research Degree

    Regulation 7.2 (and guidelines provided by Student Services and Systems) specifies the presentation and formatting requirements for each RDP, including the requirements for a creative practice research submission, and the requirements for the PhD by Published Works submission.

    A new submission option, With Publications, is currently in development, which will allow students registered on a Research Degree Programme to incorporate material within their submission which has been published or is in a format suitable for publication. A pilot scheme involving several University Schools is underway. The With Publications submission option will be available to Research Degree Programme students in the academic year 2024-25.

    Guidelines for With Publications Pilot Scheme

    Regulation 7.3 outlines the criteria for a Master’s degree by Research, including the expected abilities and qualities of the holders of the qualification.

    Regulation 7.4 outlines the criteria for a Doctoral degree, including the expected abilities and qualities of the holders of the qualification.

  • Final Assessment Procedures

    The final assessment of a RDP comprises both the submission and an oral examination (viva).  For Professional Doctorates and Integrated PhDs, the assessment will also have included the assessment of taught elements at earlier stages of the RDP.

    Regulation 7.5 outlines the procedure for the submission or a re-submission.

  • Appointment of Examiners

    Regulation 7.6 outlines the criteria used in appointing examiners.  Examiners have an obligation of confidentiality regarding the submission and the examination.  Schools have a responsibility to ensure no conflict of interest exists between the student and the examiners which could be perceived to influence their judgement. 

    Internal Examiner

    Schools appoint the internal examiner (Microsoft Word) and the independent convenor (Microsoft Word) and nominate the external examiner(s), for approval by the Chair of the Education Committee (Quality and Standards) (or nominee).  The external examiner nomination process is managed via Qsis.

    External Examiner(s)

    Two external examiners should be used in any instance where a student has held an employment contract with Queen’s during the course of their research degree, or in any other case where personal interest might be involved.

    A formal appointment letter is sent to the external examiner, by email, along with links to appropriate regulations and guidance.  The letter will also indicate a neutral point of contact within the School to whom the external examiner can raise any concerns prior to the completion of the Independent Report.  This ensures that the internal and external examiners have not been in contact before they have completed an independent assessment of the submission, and so assures the quality of the examination process.

    If, following approval by the Chair of the Education Committee (Quality and Standards) (or nominee), an external examiner needs to be replaced, a new nomination must be processed on Qsis. The student should be informed that the external examiner has changed, as the original examiner is unavailable. Where this is the case for a resubmission, the new external examiner should be provided with the Joint Examiner Report from the original examination. The internal examiner should meet with the new external examiner in advance of them receiving the resubmission, to provide the context of the previous examination and the changes required for the resubmission.  As a new examination will take place, both examiners must be satisfied that the resubmission is of doctoral standard to make the award.

  • Roles and Responsibilities

    The Head of School designates a member of staff to make the arrangements for the oral examination, in consultation with the student and the examiners.  This should not be the internal examiner, in order to assure the quality of the examination process.

    Only one supervisor may attend the oral, with the agreement of the student, and may speak only with the examiners’ agreement.  The supervisor’s main role is to comment on any practical or administrative difficulties in the pursuit of the research raised by the student.

    External Examiner

    The external examiner is a specialist in the subject area of the submission and will take the lead in the examination.  The internal examiner is a full examiner and is expected to have sufficient knowledge and understanding of the topic to provide a judgement on the quality of the submission and to play a full part in the examination.

    Internal Examiner

    The internal examiner is a full examiner, and is expected to have sufficient knowledge and understanding of the topic to provide a judgement on the quality of the submission and to play a full part in the examination.

    In any instance where an internal examiner is not appointed (see regulation 7.6.2), the Head of School appoints an independent member of the internal staff to co-ordinate the examination process.

    Independent Convenor

    A University Director of Research (or nominee from the University of equivalent experience, i.e. senior lecturer or above) is appointed as an independent convenor of the oral examination panel.  The independent convenor is in attendance to monitor the conduct of the examination, to provide a report, and to collate all the necessary paperwork after the viva has taken place.

    The following guidelines outline the role of the independent convenor:

    1. The convenor is responsible for ensuring that the oral is conducted in a fair manner, and must be present for the duration of the examination.  However, the convenor is not one of the examiners and will not participate in the examination of the student, nor is there a requirement to read the submission.
    2. The convenor introduces those present at the oral examination, and ensures that all parties understand the procedures to be followed, and the expectations of each member.  The convenor offers assistance and facilitation where necessary.
    3. The convenor is responsible for ensuring that the oral is of a reasonable duration.  Where the oral is longer than two hours, it is recommended that the student be offered a short intermission.  Where difficulties arise, the convenor will decide whether an adjournment is required.
    4. The convenor intervenes if there is a danger of unfairness, bias or unprofessional behaviour.
    5. Towards the end of the oral examination, the convenor asks the supervisor to withdraw so that there is an opportunity to say anything that the student would prefer to say without the presence of the supervisor.
    6. At the end of the oral examination, the convenor asks the student to withdraw while the examiners deliberate.
    7. If the examiners wish to advise the student of their decision, the convenor ensures that the student knows that this decision is provisional only.  The student must await a formal communication from Student Services and Systems.
    8. The convenor is required to submit a report on the standard template provided by Student Services and Systems covering the procedural conduct of the examination.
    9. The convenor should collate the paperwork (examiners reports and their own report) after the viva, for the School Office to present to the Chair of the School Postgraduate Research Committee (SPRC), or Head of School nominee, for signature.
  • The Preparatory Period Prior to the Oral Examination

    In order to provide an opportunity for students to become familiar with the typical examination conditions, requirements and expectations of the oral examination, all postgraduate research students should be invited to experience a mock viva approximately two weeks before the student’s scheduled oral examination.  It is recommended that the principal supervisor meets with the student for approximately one hour to role-play the viva experience, taking on the role of the external examiner, and questioning the student about the submission and associated research areas, and then providing feedback to the student at the end of the session.  The Graduate School provides additional information and student resources regarding preparing for the oral examination.

    Guidelines for students on the submission process are provided by Student Services and Systems, which is responsible for sending the submission to the examiners, along with the template examination reports.

  • Academic Offences

    The research and the written submission must be the student’s own work.  An examiner who, in reading a submission, discovers evidence of plagiarism, fabrication of results or other research misconduct, should report the matter immediately to the Head of School.  Any allegation of plagiarism or duplication will be dealt with under the Procedures for Dealing with Academic Offences. Any other allegation of research misconduct will be dealt with under the Regulations Governing the Allegation and Investigation of Misconduct in Research.  The examination will not continue until this process is complete, and may not continue at all if a substantive misconduct in research case is established.

  • Internal and External Examiner Preparation

    Each examiner is required to complete an Independent Report on the submission before the oral examination, without consulting the other examiner.  Each examiner indicates in this preliminary report whether the submission provisionally satisfies the requirements for the research degree and makes an appropriate provisional decision subject to the outcome of the oral examination.

    The internal examiner contacts the external examiner(s) a few days before the oral (once the Independent Reports have been completed) to discuss how the examination is to be handled.  This enables them to identify the major issues which will be raised in the examination and to decide whether the student needs to submit any additional material (e.g. raw data).  The internal examiner informs the supervisor at once if additional material is needed.  In any instance where an internal examiner is not appointed, the Head of School appoints an independent member of the internal staff to co-ordinate the examination process.

    Examiners meet briefly before the oral examination starts, to exchange and discuss the Independent Reports.

    The student may not communicate with the examiners about the submission before the examination.

    The oral examination must take place without undue delay, normally within three months from the date the submission is sent to the examiners.

  • Format of the Oral Examination

    The oral examination may be held in-person (on campus), fully remote or through a hybrid model where one or more participants attend remotely.  The School Postgraduate Research Committee is responsible for determining the specific viva arrangements for each examination and should formally inform all parties involved once the decision is made.  Factors contributing to this decision may include:

    1. Preference of the examiners, the student and the supervisory team.
    2. Availability and cost of the examiners and the student to travel to the University.
    3. Support available for the student.
    4. Technology available to participants to conduct the viva online.

    Where a viva is held remotely, or in hybrid, the examination should be conducted in compliance with the Study Regulations for Research Degree Programmes (7. Assessment/Award).

    Remote Viva Guidelines (under review) are available which provide the panel and the student with additional support and considerations relevant to an online examination environment.  

    • The Oral Examination Process and Communicating the Result to the Student

      Regulation 7.7 outlines the oral examination process, award decisions, and the procedure to be followed if the examiners cannot reach agreement on a decision.

      An oral examination is compulsory for all RDPs (including for all resubmitted theses following an outcome of revise and resubmit).  It may serve a number of different functions, including the following:

      1. It provides the student with the opportunity to defend the submission through high-level debate with experts in the subject.
      2. It gives the examiners an opportunity to explore any doubts they may have about the material presented in the submission.
      3. It can be used to determine that the student is the author of the written materials submitted.
      4. It enables the examiners to check that the student has a thorough understanding of the theoretical framework, issues, methods and statistical analysis involved.
    • Reports

      Independent and Joint Reports

      An agreed Joint Report, signed by both examiners, is completed after the oral examination, and should be submitted to the School within five working days of the oral examination.  The Joint Report reflects the examiners’ assessment of both the written submission and the student’s performance at the oral examination, and includes a decision in accordance with regulation 7.7.5.  It need not repeat comments already made in the Independent Reports.  The Joint and Independent Reports taken together should be of sufficient length and provide sufficient evidence to justify the examiners’ decision.

      If the examination decision requires submission corrections or revision and resubmission, the examiners list the required amendments within the Joint Report.  If, in accordance with regulation 7.7.5 iv, the examiners have recommended that the submission be revised and resubmitted for the Doctoral degree, and have also proposed a possible alternative option for the award of a Master’s degree subject to corrections, the examiners should list the amendments required for each scenario so that the student can decide on the preferred option.  (The student must confirm the preferred option with Student Services and Systems within ten working days of the date of the examination outcome notification, which is sent by Student Services and Systems.)

      Independent Convenor Report

      The independent convenor submits a report covering the procedural conduct of the examination, to the School, within five working days of the oral examination.

    • The Role of the Chair of the SPRC/ Head of School (or Nominee)

      The Chair of the School Postgraduate Research Committee (SPRC), or Head of School nominee, considers the Independent Reports, the Report of the Independent Convenor, and the Joint Report, and may refer the case back to the examiners if the Joint Report does not justify the decision made.  Otherwise, the Chair of the SPRC, or Head of School nominee, signs the Joint Report to confirm that the result has been justified.

    • The Role of Student Services and Systems

      The Independent Reports, Joint Report, and Report of the Independent Convenor are sent to Student Services and Systems, normally within eight working days of the oral examination.

      Upon receiving the examiner report forms, the Head of Registry Services or nominee signs the Joint Examiner report and viva outcome letter.  Student Services and Systems then notifies the student of the outcome of the examination, and sends the student a copy of the examination reports (containing the list of required amendments, if appropriate), within two weeks of receipt of the examiner reports from the School.  Amendments must only be made as directed by the examiners, and not to other areas of the submission.

    • Requirement to Revise and Resubmit

      Where a student is required to revise and resubmit, Student Services and Systems will change their academic load to Thesis Resubmission and the student will be liable for a resubmission charge. The student has not passed their examination at this stage. The outcome of revise and resubmit reflects that substantial revisions are required to make the submission acceptable, and students should re-engage with their supervisory team to address the issues identified by the examiners within the 12-month period.   A new oral examination, with the same examiners, is required for the resubmission.  The same examination processes as the original examination, including Notice of Intention to Submit; Nomination of Examiners; and Examiner Report Forms, will apply.

      Corrections Approved

      Following approval of the corrections received within the deadline set by the examiners, an examiner (normally the internal examiner) signs off the Thesis Deposit forms certifying that all corrections have been completed within deadline.   The examiner may not introduce any new requests for additional corrections beyond those required in the joint report. Student Services and Systems confirms that an electronic submission has been made via Pure (see information on Open Access and Thesis Embargo below).  Student Services and Systems then notifies the student that the award has been approved.

      Failure to Submit a Corrected or Revised Thesis 

      Students who fail to submit a corrected or revised submission by the date set by the examiners will normally be regarded as having failed the examination and the decisions of the examiners will lapse.  If, in exceptional circumstances, the student is granted a period of temporary withdrawal following the original submission, the deadline for submitting a corrected or revised submission will be adjusted accordingly.  This will be managed in the normal manner by the School, unless the student has/will exceed the cumulative maximum of two years’ temporary withdrawal from the programme.  In this instance, the student/School should submit a RDP Exception Request - Temporary Withdrawal‌ Form (Microsoft Word) by email to for consideration by the Education Committee (Quality and Standards).  The School should update the examiners, and notify Student Services and Systems as appropriate, if a temporary withdrawal period has been granted.


    • Open Access and Thesis Embargo

      Increasingly, Open Access is becoming an essential component of how research is disseminated and communicated at universities. All students undertaking Research Degree Programmes (RDP) at Queen's University must make their submission open access (OA) through uploading to Pure, which is the University’s Current Research Information System. This is a compulsory requirement to successfully graduate.  It is the responsibility of the RDP student to upload to Pure before their account in Pure expires.

      All RDP students, moreover, are responsible for undertaking clearance of third-party copyright in their theses.  Where possible, and in line with current copyright legislation and publisher licence restrictions, the final corrected version of the submission will be made available open access on the Research Portal.  In all instances, it is the responsibility of the author to ensure that they meet the OA requirements outlined above.

      RDP students can embargo their submission while they seek to get their research published. Embargoed options are outlined in the thesis deposit form. Embargo options are available 1-5 years from the date of the award. There may be specific circumstances also where redaction of submission content is necessary; this may be temporary to accommodate an embargo or may be permanent.  In all cases, redaction must be discussed with the Open Research Librarian for e-theses.

      There are RDP students who are in receipt of funding in which there is an open access requirement. For example, UKRI funded students are obliged to share their submission within 12 months of the award. Where a student has such an open access mandate from a funder and is seeking to get their submission published, it may not be appropriate to upload to Pure and make available within the funder’s stipulated timeframe. Thus, it may be possible for UKRI funded students, or similar, to embargo their submission for a period between 2 and 5 years.   

      To be eligible, students must have concerns that making their submission open within 12 months would impact them or their career detrimentally. Students must select an embargo that is no longer than necessary. Students must, where possible, be willing to embrace the spirit of openness also. For example, Northern Bridge funded students may embargo their creative writing PhDs for the maximum 5-year embargo period. The full text of the submission should be made open access at the end of this period. Supplementary materials such as journal entries and work/writing samples etc. can be uploaded, especially if the full text of the submission is embargoed for the full 5 years. This is to honour the spirit of openness as insisted upon by the funder. 

      Only in the rarest circumstances would the University consider waiving the requirement to make the submission OA and offer an embargo in perpetuity. This could only occur in circumstances where sharing the submission would not be possible, for example where making the submission OA would compromise the safety or health of the student, or have significant negative ramifications to sharing e.g. legal disputes, confidentiality, sensitivity of content, employment etc. In such cases, a formal request must be sought by the student via the e-thesis team. Approval can only be granted directly from the Dean of Graduate Studies.  

      Where an RDP student has received approval for embargo in perpetuity, the student is nonetheless obliged to share the submission with the University’s Open Research Librarian for e-theses. The electronic submission will be placed in a safe and secure online storage, whereupon it will be subject to a future review decision (70+ years). 

      Hard-bound submission is no longer a mandatory requirement for RDP students from 1 September 2021, with the exception of PhD by Published Works.

      Note that advice can be sought from the Open Research Librarian for e-theses on the following areas: Embargoes, redactions and versioning of the submission, copyright issues, publication planning, visibility of research outputs and associated data connected with the submission.

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