B5-16 First examination

  • 16.1 General

    16.1.1 The examination for MA, MSc or LLM by Research shall have two stages, (with the exception of practiced based work - see paragraph 6.3.7): firstly the submission and preliminary assessment of the thesis and secondly its defence by oral or approved alternative (see paragraph 16.3.1) examination.

    16.1.2 The candidate shall satisfy any conditions of eligibility for examination required by the Research Degrees Sub-Committee.

    16.1.3 A candidate who has been required to undertake a programme of formally assessed studies (see paragraph 8.3) shall not be permitted to proceed to research degree examination until the course work examiners are satisfied with the candidate’s performance. The result of the assessment shall be communicated to the examiners of the thesis.

    16.1.4 The Research Degrees Sub-Committee shall ensure that all examinations are conducted and the recommendations of the examiners are presented wholly in accordance with the University’s regulations. In any instance where the Research Degrees Sub-Committee is made aware of a failure to comply with all the procedures of the examination process, it may declare the examination null and void and appoint new examiners.

    16.1.5 Where evidence of plagiarism in the preparation of the thesis or other irregularities in the conduct of the examination come to light subsequent to the recommendation of the examiners, the Academic Conduct Officer must be informed immediately, who will deal with the matter in line with the University’s Student Conduct Regulations and Disciplinary Procedure.

    16.1.6 The degree of MA, MSc or LLM by Research may be awarded posthumously on the basis of a thesis completed by a candidate, which is ready for submission for examination. In such cases the Research Degrees Sub-Committee shall seek evidence that the candidate would have been likely to have been successful had the oral examination taken place.

    16.2 Preliminary assessment of the thesis

    16.2.1 The Research Degrees Team shall send a copy of the thesis to each examiner, together with the examiner’s preliminary report form - RDSC-MR(A) or RDSC-MR(B)and the University’s research degree regulations, and shall ensure that the examiners are properly briefed as to their duties. Examiners should be appointed before the thesis is submitted so that the thesis may be sent for examination within days of submission. In exceptional circumstances, where examiners have not been appointed in advance of submission, the examining team must be proposed and approved within a maximum of two weeks from the date of submission.

    16.2.2 Each examiner shall read and examine the thesis and submit on form RDSC-MA/MSc/LLM by Research(A), an independent preliminary report and send it to the Research Degrees Team at least one week before any oral or alternative form of examination is held. In completing the preliminary report, each examiner shall consider whether the thesis provisionally satisfies the requirements of the degree and where possible make an appropriate provisional recommendation subject to the outcome of any oral examination.

    16.2.3 The Research Degrees Team shall ensure as far as possible, that all the examiners have completed and returned their preliminary reports to the University at least one week before the oral examination takes place.

    16.2.4 Where the examiners are of the opinion that the thesis is so unsatisfactory that no useful purpose would be served by conducting an oral examination, they may recommend that the Research Degrees Sub-Committee dispense with the oral examination and refer the thesis for further work. In such cases the examiners shall provide the Research Degrees Sub-Committee with written guidance for the candidate concerning the deficiencies of the thesis. The examiners shall not recommend that a candidate fail outright (see sub-paragraph 16.5.1(d)) without holding an oral examination or other alternative examination (see paragraph 16.3.1). 

    16.3 Oral examination

    16.3.1 A candidate shall be examined orally on the programme of work and on the field of study in which the programme lies. Where for reasons of sickness, disability or comparable valid cause the Research Degrees Sub-Committee is satisfied that a candidate would be under serious disadvantage if required to undergo an oral examination, an alternative form of examination may be approved. Such approval shall not be given on the grounds that the candidate’s knowledge of the language in which the thesis is presented is inadequate.

    16.3.2 It is the responsibility of the internal examiner to make all the necessary arrangements for the oral examination. This will include agreeing the date of the oral examination and notifying the candidate, external examiner(s) and supervisors in writing of the date and the arrangements for the oral examination. Where the internal examiner is external to the University, the Faculty Postgraduate Research Tutor shall take responsibility for organising the oral examination.

    16.3.3 The candidate shall take no part in the arrangement of the examination and shall have no formal contact with the external examiner(s) between the appointment of the examiners and the oral examination.

    16.3.4 The oral examination shall normally be conducted within two months from the date of receipt of the thesis by the examiners and within a maximum of three months. The oral examination shall not be arranged less than one month from the date of receipt of the thesis by the examiners in order to give the examiners a reasonable period to assess the work. Where circumstances arise which prevent the oral examination being conducted within the maximum period, the Research Degree Team shall be notified of the reasons for the delay. Following consultation with the Chair of the Research Degree Sub-Committee, a decision will be taken as to whether an extension to the period for examination shall be approved or if a new examining team should be appointed.

    16.3.5 The oral examination shall be held at this University, however in special circumstances it may be held elsewhere, for example at a Collaborating Establishment. In exceptional cases the Research Degrees Sub-Committee may give approval for the examination to take place abroad, elsewhere in the UK or to be held by Video Conference.

    16.3.6 Supervisors, advisers and the Chair of the Research Degrees Sub-Committee may, with the consent of the candidate, attend the oral examination, but shall withdraw prior to the deliberations of the examiners on the outcome of the examination.

    16.4 Independent Chair of Viva

    16.4.1 An Independent Chair may be appointed in the following situations and should be proposed when the application for approval of examination arrangements is submitted to the Research Degrees Sub-Committee for approval.

    (1)    An Independent Chair may be appointed in the following situations and should be
    proposed when the application for approval of examination arrangements is submitted to
    the Research Degrees Sub-Committee for approval.

    (2)    the internal examiner has not previously examined a higher degree or completed the Internal Examiner training, an Independent Chair should be appointed to ensure
    consistency;

    (3)    where the external examiner is not fully acquainted with UK procedures for Doctorate examinations;

    (4)    at the discretion of the Research Degrees Sub-Committee when the application for approval
    of examination arrangements is considered;

    (5)    where a student has taken longer than the normal period of time to complete, i.e.
    four years for full-time students and five years for part-time students;

    (6)    an Independent Chair must be present at all second vivas;

    (7)    at the discretion of the Research Degrees Sub-Committee if there is reason to
    feel the viva will benefit from the presence of an external party;

    (8)    a student may request that an Independent Chair is present, however the
    Research Degrees Sub-Committee may decline approval if a Chair is deemed
    unnecessary. 

    16.4.2 The following guidelines are designed to make clear the role of the Independent Chair and the extent of his/her responsibilities.

    (1)    the primary role of the Independent Chair is to ensure that the University’s processes and regulations are carried out as stated in the Research Degrees
    Regulations and Guidance notes for internal and external examiners; 

    (2)    at the beginning of the viva the Independent Chair should introduce the candidate
    to the examiners and then hand over all matters related to the viva to the
    examiners and remain in the room as an observer;

    (3)    the independent Chair should not:
       (i) read the thesis;
       (ii) make any contributions to the academic examination of the thesis;
       (iii) make any contributions to the academic evaluation of the thesis by the examiners.

    (4)    in difficult situations the independent Chair may advise the examiners of the
    particular regulations and procedures that may be applied; 

    (5)    an Independent Chair is not expected to have any academic expertise in the
    area being examined, nor to bring to the examining process any such
    expertise she/he may coincidentally possess;

    (6)    at the end of the viva the Independent Chair will complete the relevant section of
    the final report form confirming the examiners’ recommendations and detailing
    any issues that may have arisen;

    (7)    in the event of a review or appeal against an examination decision, the
    Independent Chair of the examination may be approached by the Chair of the
    University’s Research Degree Sub-Committee or the review panel for further
    information.

    16.5 Final report and recommendation

    16.5.1 Following the oral or approved alternative examination the examiners may recommend that:

    (a) the candidate be awarded the degree;
    (b) the candidate be awarded the degree subject to minor amendments being made to the thesis (see paragraph 16.5.5);
    (c) the candidate be awarded the degree subject to major amendments being made to the thesis (see paragraph 16.5.7);
    (d) the candidate be permitted to re-submit for the degree and must be re-examined with an oral examination (see paragraph 16.5.6 and Section 17); However, if exceptionally the examiners agree that the quality of the revised thesis was outstanding, the degree may be awarded without the second viva;
    (e) the candidate be not awarded the degree and be not permitted to be re-examined (see paragraph 16.5.8); or

    16.5.2 The examiners shall inform the candidate of their recommendation on the result of the examination but they shall make it clear that the decision rests with the Research Degrees Sub-Committee.

    16.5.3 The examiners shall, where they are in agreement, make their joint report and recommendation relating to the award of the degree on the appropriate form - RDSC-MA/MSc/LLM by Research(B). This shall be submitted to the Research Degrees Team as soon as possible after the completion of the oral examination and definitely within 24 hours of the completion of the examination. Where the examiners are not in agreement, separate reports and recommendations shall be submitted.

    16.5.4 The preliminary reports and joint recommendation of the examiners shall together provide sufficiently detailed comments on the scope and quality of the work to enable the Research Degrees Sub-Committee to satisfy itself that the recommendation chosen in paragraph 16.5.1
    is correct.

    16.5.5 Where the examiners are satisfied that the candidate has in general reached the standard required for the degree, but consider that the candidate’s thesis requires some minor amendments and corrections not so substantial as to call for the submission of a revised thesis, the examiners shall recommend that the degree be awarded subject to the candidate amending the thesis to the satisfaction of the internal examiner (see sub-paragraph 16.5.1(b)). The internal examiner¬¬¬ shall collate all the comments of the examiners and shall produce an agreed written list of the minor amendments and corrections required to the thesis. This shall be forwarded to the candidate and the Research Degrees Team within two weeks of the date of the oral examination.

    16.5.6 Candidates should complete the revisions within one month of receiving the report from the Research Degrees Team and send the amended thesis to the internal examiner to approve the corrections. The internal examiner should notify the candidate of the decision within two weeks of receipt of the thesis. Once the amendments have been approved, a letter or email should be sent to the Research Degrees Team from the examiner, confirming that the amended thesis meet the examiners’ requirements.

    16.5.7 Where the examiners are satisfied that the candidate has in general reached the standard required for the degree, but consider that the candidate’s thesis requires some major amendments and corrections not so substantial as to call for the submission of a revised thesis, the examiners shall recommend that the degree be awarded subject to the candidate amending the thesis to the satisfaction of the internal and/or the external examiner(s) (see sub-paragraph 16.5.1(b)). The internal examiner¬¬¬ shall collate all the comments of the examiners and shall produce an agreed written list of the major amendments and corrections required to the thesis. This shall be forwarded to the candidate and the Research Degrees Team within two weeks of the date of the oral examination.

    16.5.8 Candidates should send the amended thesis to the examiner(s) who have been given the responsibility for approving the corrections within three months of the date the examiners’ report was issued by the Research Degrees Team. The examiners should notify the candidate of their decision within one month of receipt of the thesis. Once the amendments have been approved, a letter or email should be sent to the Research Degrees Team from the examiner(s), confirming that the amended thesis meet the examiners’ requirements.

    16.5.9 Where the examiners recommend that the candidate be permitted to re-submit for the degree and be re-examined (see sub-paragraph 16.5.1(d)), the examiners¬¬¬ shall provide the candidate with written guidance on the deficiencies of the thesis and the further work which is required. The internal examiner¬¬¬ shall collate all the comments of the examiners and shall produce an agreed written list of the revisions required to the thesis. This shall be forwarded to the candidate and the Research Degrees Team within two weeks of the date of the oral examination. The revised thesis shall be submitted to the Research Degrees Team within six months of the date of the examination. The re-examination shall be conducted in accordance with the requirements of Section 17.

    16.5.10 Where the examiners recommend that the degree be not awarded and that no re-examination is permitted (see sub-paragraph 16.5.1(e)), the examiners shall prepare an agreed statement of the deficiencies of the thesis and the reason for their recommendation, which shall be submitted to the candidate by the Research Degrees Team.

    16.5.11 A further examination in addition to the oral examination may be requested by the examiners. In such cases the approval of the Research Degrees Sub-Committee shall be sought without delay. Where such an examination is arranged following an oral examination, it shall normally be held within two months of the oral examination unless the Research Degrees Sub-Committee permits otherwise. Any such examination shall be deemed to be part of the candidate’s first examination.

    16.6 Approval of the examiners’ recommendation

    16.6.1 Where the examiners are in agreement and make a joint recommendation, the Chair shall, on behalf of the Research Degrees Sub-Committee, make a decision on the reports and recommendation of the examiners in respect of the candidate. This decision shall be reported to the Research Degrees Sub-Committee.

    16.6.2 In any instances where the Chair does not agree with the examiners’ joint recommendation, the Chair shall refer the matter to the Research Degrees Sub-Committee for consideration. The Research Degrees Sub-Committee may:

    (a) seek clarification or further information from the examiners as to the reasons for their recommendation;
    (b) refer the recommendation back to the examiners for review in the light of the Research Degrees Sub-Committee’s comments; or
    (c) require the appointment of an additional external examiner (see paragraph 16.6.4).

    16.6.3 Where the examiners’ recommendations are not unanimous, the Chair shall refer the matter to the Research Degrees Sub-Committee for consideration. The Research Degrees Sub-Committee may:

    (a) accept a majority recommendation (provided that the majority recommendation includes at least one external examiner);
    (b) accept the recommendation of the external examiner; or
    (c) require the appointment of an additional external examiner.

    16.6.4 Where an additional external examiner is appointed under sub-paragraph 16.6.2(c) or 16.6.3(c), the additional examiner shall prepare an independent preliminary report on the basis of the thesis and, if considered necessary, may conduct a further oral examination. That examiner should not be informed of the recommendations of the other examiners. On receipt of the report from the additional examiner the Research Degrees Sub-Committee shall reach a decision regarding the outcome of the examination.