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:
- It provides the student with the opportunity to defend the thesis through high-level debate with experts in the subject.
- It gives the examiners an opportunity to explore any doubts they may have about the material presented in the thesis.
- It can be used to determine that the student is the author of the written materials submitted.
- It enables the examiners to check that the student has a thorough understanding of the theoretical framework, issues, methods and statistical analysis involved.
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 thesis 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 thesis 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.)
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 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 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 thesis.
Where a student is required to revise and resubmit a thesis, 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 thesis 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.
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. 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.
Students who fail to submit a corrected or revised thesis 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 of the thesis, the deadline for submission of a corrected or revised thesis 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 email@example.com 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.