University of London guidance on the conduct of PhD oral examinations and related matters
Revised July 2007
GUIDANCE ON THE CONDUCT OF ORAL EXAMINATIONS AND RELATED MATTERS
Guidelines and Checklist for Examiners for UCL PhD examinations
Eligibility to Examine
1. Examiners are asked to inform the Chair of the Graduate Education Executive Sub-committee (GEESC) via UCL Registry (firstname.lastname@example.org) if they have had any connections with the candidate or his/her supervisor/adviser which they consider would make it desirable for UCL to reconsider the appropriateness of their appointment as one of the examiners. These connections could be either personal or professional. Of the latter it is considered, for example, that an Examiner, whether Internal or External, who has played a significant part in advising the candidate is inappropriate and particularly so where the collaboration has led to the publishing of papers by the candidate and the Examiner jointly. It is stressed that it is accepted that Examiners will usually be acquainted with the supervisor, and sometimes the candidate, and that this in itself is not a bar to acting as an Examiner. Any connections so notified will be considered by the Chair of GEESC in consultation, as appropriate, with the appointing body.
Timetable for Examination
2. In the interests of the candidate the UCL expects that the examination will
be completed and that the examiners will have submitted their final joint report
and other relevant documents to UCL within three months of the despatch of the
thesis to the examiners. If there is difficulty in complying with this request,
please inform UCL Registry (email@example.com)
Preliminary Independent Reports
3. Each examiner is asked to write an independent preliminary report on the thesis. It is expected that this will be written by each examiner after reading the thesis but before conferring with the co-examiner about it. Typically the preliminary report identifies particular areas which the examiner believes should be explored with the candidate during the oral examination, and, if possible, a tentative recommendation, based on an assessment of the thesis, for the result of the examination. Tentative recommendations should not be indicated to the candidate in advance of the oral, which is an integral component of the examination.
4. The examiners should exchange their preliminary reports with each other and send copies of these reports to UCL (firstname.lastname@example.org) before conducting the oral examination.
5. If the examiners have any queries about the thesis which they wish to raise with the supervisor in advance of the oral examination, they are at liberty to do so. If the examiners have any queries about the UCL's requirements for the award of the PhD and about the regulations please contact UCL Registry, Curricular Development and Examiners Section. (email@example.com) or telephone the Policy Officer (Examiners) 020 7679 2025) Please note that all matters relating to the examination are confidential and examiners should not contact any third party, other than the supervisor as provided for in the regulations and this guidance. Otherwise all queries must be pursued through the UCL Registry, Curricular Development and Examiners Section.
6. The educational needs provisions of the Disability Discrimination Act require institutions to make reasonable adjustments for candidates with physical and special learning difficulties in their assessment. Examiners will be advised of any special arrangements for a candidate with their appointment letters. However, if examiners are informed directly by the supervisor or candidate of any disability, even in confidence, they should seek the advice of the UCL Registry, Curricular Development and Examiners Section in order that they might be properly briefed.
7. An oral examination must be held other than in those circumstances for which provision is made in the regulations (i.e. on resubmission of a thesis following referral).
8. When the thesis is despatched to the examiners the candidate's supervisor 1is asked to contact the examiners and the candidate to arrange and confirm a mutually convenient time and place to hold the oral examination.
9. UCL makes no special requirements about where the oral examination is held (other than a normal requirement that it be held in London). The oral is frequently held in the office of the supervisor or the internal examiner if that is convenient. The holding of an oral examination by telephone or by video-conferencing is not normally permitted, and any enquiries about this should be addressed in the first instance to the UCL Registry, Curricular Development and Examiners Section.
10. The supervisor can attend the oral examination as an observer, provided that the candidate has not indicated that his/her supervisor should not be present. (The examiners will be informed if that is the case.) Individual supervisors follow different practices in regard to their attendance at oral examinations, some making it their practice routinely to attend, others not attending.
11. The examiners should indicate in the appropriate place on the Summary Report, the date of the oral examination and whether or not the supervisor was present.
12. No persons other than the examiners, one supervisor and the candidate may be present at an oral examination.
13. The purpose of the oral examination is to examine the candidate on the subject of the thesis and, if the examiners see fit, on subjects relevant thereto. The examiners should discuss, prior to meeting the candidate, the strategy they propose to adopt during the oral examination and, at its outset, outline this to the candidate.
14. During the oral the examiners should seek to establish whether all the requirements for a thesis submitted for the PhD have been met (these are set out in the Regulations for the MPhil and PhD Degrees), and that the thesis is genuinely the work of the candidate.
15. If the examiners have any doubts that the thesis is genuinely the work of the candidate they should contact the UCL Registry, Curricular Development and Examiners Section.
16. There are no set requirements about the conduct of oral examinations, nor about their duration, but they should be conducted in such a way that the candidate has adequate opportunity, encouragement and time to explain his/her research and to defend the thesis. It is recommended that, during a long oral examination, examiners should allow short break(s) at appropriate point(s).
17. The supervisor, if present, does not have the right to participate in the examination but may contribute if invited to do so by the examiners.
18. If the candidate becomes so unwell or distressed during the oral examination as to be unable to proceed, the examiners should, after such consultation with the candidate and supervisor as is possible at that time, decide whether or not to continue the oral examination. If they do continue it, they should note in their final report that the candidate was unwell. If they decide not to continue they should determine whether sufficient evidence has been provided to allow a decision to be taken or whether it will be necessary to hold the oral examination on another occasion.
19. If the candidate makes comments to the examiners, which put them under moral pressure (e.g. alluding to the consequences of failure for him/her), or offers any kind of incentive to the examiners to pass him/her, the examination should be terminated and a report made to the UCL Registry, Curricular Development and Examiners Section.
20. In addition to examining the candidate orally, the examiners do have the discretion to examine the candidate by means of written papers or practical examination. This provision is rarely invoked and examiners are asked to contact UCL Registry, Curricular Development and Examiners Section in the first instance if this is required.
21. At the conclusion of the oral examination the candidate and the supervisor (if present) should withdraw and the examiners should initially confer together on the result in private.
22. The examiners have discretion, after the initial private discussion, to consult the supervisor irrespective of whether he/she was present at the oral, particularly if they have doubts relating to the appropriate decision to be made.
23. It is recognised that the examiners may wish, particularly if their decision is that the candidate has passed, or will pass subject to making minor amendments to the thesis, to advise the candidate orally and informally of their decision at the conclusion of their deliberations following the oral. Examiners are advised to exercise particular care if they do this, and always to make clear to the candidate that the result is not formal and final until notified by letter from UCL to the candidate after the examiners have submitted their written report and all other requirements have been satisfied.
The Result of the Examination
24. The options open to the examiners in determining the result are set out in the Regulations for the MPhil and PhD degrees. These, in summary, are:
(b) Pass, subject to minor amendments to be completed and checked by one or both of the examiners within 3 months2.
(c) Not pass, but candidate allowed to rewrite the thesis and resubmit it within 18 months for examination by the same examiners (an oral examination need not be held on re-entry).
(d) Not pass, but be allowed to re-take a written paper(s) or practical examination (rarely used)
(e) Not pass, but be allowed to submit to a further oral examination within 18 months on the same thesis and by the same examiners.
(f) Fail PhD, but either has met the requirements for the MPhil or might after revision of the thesis during a 12 month period be able to meet the requirements for the MPhil.
(g) Outright fail. No further entry to the PhD degree will be allowed.
25. Examiners should not consider option (g) unless they have previously considered and rejected as inapplicable all the previous options.
Reporting to UCL on the Examination
26. The examiners are required to complete and sign a Summary Report that can be downloaded from UCL's website (www.ucl.ac.uk/registry/examiners) or made available by email from firstname.lastname@example.org indicating, inter alia, which one of the seven available decisions they have made; AND they are required to write a joint statement giving the grounds on which their decision is based. The statement should be on a separate sheet and should include the following at the beginning: (i) candidate's name
(ii) candidate number
(ii) thesis title; and at the end
(iii) the signatures of each of the examiners; and
27. The statement should have regard to the requirements of a thesis for the PhD (see the Regulations for the MPhil and PhD Degrees). It should not cross-refer to the examiners' preliminary reports unless the examiners wish the candidate to be sent a copy of those preliminary reports. 28. If the examiners decide to refer the candidate to revise and resubmit the thesis for the PhD in 18 months, they should indicate in what ways the current thesis fails to satisfy the requirements for the PhD degree, and should indicate clearly, although not necessarily in detail, the revisions which they consider should be made.
29. If examiners who are referring a candidate to revise and resubmit the thesis in 18 months have agreed that it will definitely not be necessary to conduct an oral on the revised thesis, they may so indicate in their statement. If they will definitely require an oral on the resubmitted thesis they should so indicate; and if they wish to reserve their position until they have read the revised thesis they should state this.
30. If the examiners' decision is to fail the candidate outright, they should indicate the basis for their decision to reject all the other options open to them.
31. The examiners are asked to agree between themselves at the end of the oral examination the arrangements for drafting and finalising their joint report and for submitting it, and their preliminary reports if not previously submitted, to UCL Registry, Curricular Development and Examiners Section (email@example.com)
32. It is important for the candidate that the examiners complete the Summary Report and send it, together with their preliminary reports and joint report, to the to UCL Registry, Curricular Development and Examiners Section (firstname.lastname@example.org) as soon as possible after the completion of the oral examination or, if minor amendments to be checked by the examiners have been required, as soon as possible after the conclusion of that process. Reports must normally be submitted within two weeks of the oral examination. [If the examiners have indicated on the Summary Report that they require the candidate to make minor amendments, a further form will be sent by the to UCL Registry, Curricular Development and Examiners Section (email@example.com) (to the examiner named on the summary report if only one, or the Internal examiner if both examiners are to check the thesis) for certification that the criteria for the degree (listed in paragraph 2 of the Summary Report) and the minor amendments have been completed satisfactorily. If, for any reason, it is not possible for the reports to be returned within two weeks of the oral examination, one of the examiners should contact UCL Registry, Curricular Development and Examiners Section to discuss the problem.
33. PhD degrees are formally awarded on the 28th day of each month. In order for the degree to be awarded to the candidate in a particular month the examiners' reports and two copies of the corrected thesis (one hard bound and one soft bound) must have been received by the Students Records Office before the 28th day of the month in question.
34. Examiners have the right to make comments in confidence in a separate report to UCL. Such reports will normally be forwarded immediately to UCL Registry, Curricular Development and Examiners Section.
Notification to the Candidate
35. If the examiners reach a unanimous decision and there are no unresolved anomalies, that decision will normally be conveyed to the candidate without prior reference to another committee. No official notification of the result of the examination can be issued to the candidate or to any other authority until the reports have been received and processed and any anomalies resolved.
36. A copy of the Summary Report and the examiners' joint report is routinely sent to the candidate when he/she is officially informed by letter from UCL of his/her result. The candidate does not normally see the examiners' preliminary reports, but may do so if the examiners so request and will do so in the event of his/her appealing against the examiners' decision or if the candidate makes a request to see the preliminary reports.
Examination of Re-entry Candidates
37. Unless it is impossible for them to do so, it is expected that the original examiners will examine the candidate on re-entry to the PhD degree.
38. In examining a re-entry candidate the examiners should have regard to the report they made on the first examination, copies of which can be made available to them.
39. Examiners have discretion on whether or not to hold an oral examination on a revised and resubmitted thesis, but will need to have regard to any statement they have made about this in their joint final report on the original examination.
40. When the revised thesis is despatched to the examiners the supervisor is asked to contact the examiners to ask if an oral is required and, if so, to consult as necessary.
41. Apart from the possibility of not holding an oral examination, the re-entry examination for the PhD is subject to exactly the same rules and procedures as the original examination and all the decisions set out in the Regulations for the MPhil and PhD degrees are open to the examiners. Although it is open to Examiners to recommend a further referral to revise and resubmit the thesis, they are advised to be cautious about this and, in particular, to consider the currency of the research contained in the thesis if re-examined after a further 18-month period.
If the Examiners are not in Agreement or Require Further Assistance
42. The Examiners may request the appointment of a third examiner at any time if they consider it desirable and should always do so before they report formally that they are unable to arrive at agreement. In these circumstances they should contact UCL Registry, Curricular Development and Examiners Section for advice in the first instance.
Examiners' Fees and Expenses
43. A fee of £150 is paid to each examiner at the PhD following the initial examination and following any subsequent re-entry examination after a referral. Payment is authorised upon receipt of the examiners' joint report.
44. Examiners external UCL may claim travel and other expenses in accordance with the relevant schedules. Claims should normally be submitted to UCL Registry, Curricular Development and Examiners Section at the conclusion of the examination, but may be submitted earlier where advance payment for tickets has been necessary.
45. All examinations are subject to the UCL's Equal Opportunities Policy, copies of which are available from the Office of the Academic Registrar. All candidates are subject to the same academic criteria and requirements.
46. UCL has a Procedure for the Consideration of Appeals by Candidates for Research Degrees, which is available on request from UCL Registry, Curricular Development and Examiners Section.
UCL Registry, Curricular Development and Examiners Section
firstname.lastname@example.org / Policy Officer, telephone 020 7679 2025.
The Curricular Development and Examiners Section, UCL Registry, is open to
personal callers and for telephone callers from 10:00 am - 5:00 pm Monday -
or other person designated by the candidate's College to undertake
|2||The examiners may require the candidate to make specified minor amendments to their satisfaction within three months. The amendments required should be set out clearly, normally in writing, and normally be provided within two weeks of the oral examination. The Examiners (or one of their number nominated by them) may arrange directly with the candidate for the amendments to be made. The Examiners may, however, wish this to be arranged through the Research Degree Examinations Office (see para 48). In either case the Examiners should complete the yellow sheet (see paras 26 and 33) and return it, with the required enclosures, to the Research Degree Examinations Office normally within two weeks of the oral.|
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