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Nomination and Criteria for Appointment of Examiners

Three months prior to a candidate’s submission deadline, the Doctoral College will contact the relevant faculty administrative support team requesting the initiation of the process for appointing examiners. The supervisor, in consultation with the relevant faculty Research Director and in accordance with the following guidelines, will recommend one suitable external examiner (two for candidates who are full time members staff of the University and who have had more than two years’ service with the University), one internal examiner and a chairperson (who is not an examiner). The composition of the Board of Examiners must then be approved by the Board of the Faculty and also by the Doctoral College Board.

In appointing Boards of Examiners, the Doctoral College will consider the overall composition of the Board in order to achieve an appropriately qualified, experienced and independent set of examiners.

Click to view Criteria for Appointment of Examiners

Appointment of Examiners and Duties/Responsibilities

Upon appointment, examiners are provided with the following by the Doctoral College:

  • formal notification of their appointment
  • a link to this Handbook (including rules and regulations for the specific degree programme) and guidance on the expenses policy and procedures
  • a copy of the work submitted for examination
  • a link to set up a user account within the PhD Manager system

The main duties of examiners of research degrees are:

  • to determine whether the submitted work meets the standards of the award and if not, in which aspects it is deficient
  • to submit a preliminary report via PhD Manager at least one week prior to the date of examination
  • to consult with the Chair of the Board of Examiners if a case has been made for the oral examination to be waived
  • to agree with the supervisor a date and time for the oral examination
  • to meet with the other examiners prior to the oral examination in order to compare reports and agree procedures for the oral examination
  • to finally decide, following the examination of all written and where appropriate oral evidence, if the candidate has met the standards for the award
  • in consultation with the other members of the Board of Examiners to make a recommendation to the Board of the Faculty
  • in consultation with the other members of the Board of Examiners to write a joint report on the candidate’s performance
  • where a thesis is to be revised, to agree with the other examiners a list of the amendments to be make or additional assignment(s) to be completed
  • where a thesis has failed, to agree with the other examiners a list of deficiencies in the thesis.

Pre-examination procedures

The candidate will submit an electronic version of their thesis through PhD Manager and may additionally be required to provide the Doctoral College with copies of the thesis in temporary binding for the internal and external examiners if requested.  The electronic version of the thesis will also be used in order to facilitate the use by examiners of software designed to detect plagiarism. Examiners should not accept copies of the thesis directly from the candidate.

Once the composition of the Board of Examiners has been approved, the supervisor will consult and arrange with the candidate, the Chair of the Board of Examiners, and the examiners, a suitable date, time and venue for the oral examination, allowing a minimum of four weeks from receipt of the thesis by the examiners to the oral examination date. Where possible, and where the External Examiner is attending in person, the supervisor will attempt to schedule the oral examination to allow the External Examiner to travel to and from the University on the same day. Thereafter, the Doctoral College will make corresponding administrative arrangements.

The examination will be held on the campus of Ulster University where the candidate is registered (unless prior approval has been sought from the Doctoral College Board) and the candidate will be examined in person in a face to face oral examination in the presence of the entire Board of Examiners. In situations where the External Examiner or candidate is unable to attend campus in person, remote viva arrangements will be facilitated by a nominated viva coordinator.  Under no circumstances will examination by telephone be permitted.

It is expected that an oral examination will be held in all but exceptional cases. Exceptional cases include instances where the thesis is deemed to be of an acceptable standard for the immediate award of the degree and no amendments, revisions or additional work is required and  where the candidate is ill or otherwise incapacitated to the extent that he/she cannot defend the thesis, and in instances where the thesis is a re-submission and the examiners deem it to be of an acceptable standard for the immediate  award of the degree and no amendments, revisions or additional work is required.

In the event that an oral examination is not held the examiners should agree the final report.  The final report, in instances where the candidate has failed, should include a comprehensive list of the deficiencies of the thesis.

Preliminary Reports

Following receipt of the thesis and prior to the oral examination the examiners are required to submit independent preliminary reports via PhD Manager at least seven days before the oral examination; examiners are asked not discuss the thesis or the report with any other member of the Board of Examiners until such time as all reports have been submitted.

The supervisor is also required to submit a short report prior to the oral examination; the purpose of this report is to confirm that the thesis is the researcher’s own work, to inform the panel of any circumstances that may have affected the production of the thesis and to comment on the impact of the research.

In their reports the examiners may, exceptionally, recommend that the requirement to hold an oral examination should be waived although the University would advise that an oral should be held unless the circumstances strongly suggest otherwise. The Chair of the Board of Examiners must gain agreement from all examiners and the candidate if the oral examination is to be waived under this provision.

Recommendations of the Board of Examiners

The examiners are required, where they are in agreement, to present a joint report and recommendation to the Board of the Faculty for the award or otherwise of the degree; if the examiners are not in agreement, they are required to present separate reports and recommendations; the Board of the Faculty may then either accept the recommendation of the external examiner(s) or require the appointment of a further external examiner.

Where the decision is that the candidate must revise and resubmit the thesis for examination or where no degree should be awarded and no further submission accepted, the examiners should agree on the wording of the final report, clearly indicating the deficiencies which have prompted the decision.

If the examiners are satisfied that the standard required for the degree has been reached, but are, nevertheless, of the opinion that the candidate should make some corrections or clarifications to the thesis not so substantial as to call for the submission of a revised thesis, they may make their recommendation that the candidate should be awarded the degree subject to the completion of corrections, within either three or six months, depending on the extent of the corrections.

Corrections refer only to those changes which can be explicitly documented by the examiners; these include grammatical or typographical errors, or errors in referencing, minor restructuring, such as faults in subsidiary arguments which do not significantly affect the conclusions of the thesis, or the requirement for an additional piece of work which clarifies and/or enhances the work; any amendments requiring an academic judgement or input from the external examiner(s) should be classified as revise and resubmit.

Click here for the possible Recommendations available to the Board of Examiners

Post-examination procedures

Once a decision is reached by the examiners, the Chair may indicate informally the recommendation to the candidate but should make it clear that the final decision rests with the Board of the Faculty.

Once formal approval of the Board of the Faculty has been confirmed, the candidate will receive formal notification of the outcome via the PhD Manager system within two weeks of the date of the oral examination.

A candidate has ten working days, from the date of formal receipt of the examiners recommendation, in which to request further clarification of any associated requirements. Any such request should be addressed to the Doctoral College, following consultation with the supervisor.

Where the degree has been awarded subject to minor amendments, the internal examiner will liaise with the candidate to ensure that the amendments have been carried out satisfactorily and confirm this within PhD Manager.

Examiners and supervisors should note that in the event of an appeal by an unsuccessful candidate ALL papers relevant to the examination and supplied to the Appeal Committee will also be supplied to the candidate. This should be borne in mind when preparing preliminary reports and the final report.

In the case of a candidate who is recommended for the award of the degree, candidates shall submit an electronic version of the thesis along with the Ulster EThesis Deposit Agreement via PhD Manager. This will normally be one month after the meeting of the Board of Examiners in cases where there are no corrections, or three or six months after formal notification of the examiners’ requirements for corrections.

In this section

Recommendations of the Board of Examiners

Details of the possible outcomes available to the Board of Examiners in relation to research degree examinations.