Loughborough Doctoral College

7. Guidance for examiners and examination procedures

How examiners are chosen and what they do to examine research students' theses.

7.1 Eligibility of Examiners

Examiners for a research degree submission will be appointed by the Associate Dean (Research) of the School on the recommendation of the student’s Supervisors.

External Examiners will normally be research active members of academic staff at another institution of higher education or research institute.

Examiners must normally have previous experience of supervising and examining theses for the degree they are being nominated to examine. Examiners should hold a record of completed research comparable to that required for the higher degree in question.

In a highly specialised area it may be necessary exceptionally to approach a proposed External Examiner who may have had little previous experience of research degree supervision and/or examination. In such circumstances, provided that the proposed External Examiner's expertise was unquestioned, they may be appointed in conjunction with a highly experienced Internal Examiner or a second External Examiner with a general and complementary knowledge of the subject area.

Exceptionally where a second External Examiner is appointed an independent non-examining chair of the viva panel would also attend the oral to represent the University in the absence of an Internal Examiner.

It may be appropriate exceptionally to nominate an Examiner who is not an academic member of staff of another University, provided that they are an expert in the student's field of research. The first time the nomination is made evidence of their research activity shall be submitted. In the event that they have little or no previous examination/supervision experience they may be appointed in conjunction with a highly experienced Internal Examiner or in exceptional circumstances a second External Examiner with general, complementary knowledge of the subject area. Where a second External Examiner is appointed an independent non-examining chair of the viva panel will attend the oral examination to represent the University.

In the event that a member of staff of a non-UK University is proposed as an Examiner familiarity with the UK research degree system either through previous employment or previous supervision/examination of research degree students should be demonstrated. If this is not possible then an experienced Internal Examiner should be appointed alongside who will undertake to brief the External Examiner on the expectations of a research degree submission.

A former member of staff of Loughborough University may not act as an external examiner for a research degree submission within a period of two years from the date of their leaving the University.

Emeritus Professors may be considered for appointment as Internal Examiners if they have only recently retired from the University. A maximum interval of five years should be taken as a guideline.

The independent non-examining viva chair shall be a member of the academic staff of the University from a School other than the one in which the candidate is registered. The appointment will be made by the ADR of the School where the candidate is registered. The candidate’s supervisors shall identify the chair in the first instance. The role of the chair is to facilitate the oral examination and to ensure it is appropriately conducted. In the absence of an internal Examiner the chair may provide or seek guidance on University regulations as appropriate. The chair is required to keep a written record of the conduct of the examination and to submit the report to the Research Student Office with the Examiners’ reports following the viva. Where no internal Examiner has been appointed the chair shall make the arrangements for the viva with the support of the candidate’s School.

7.2 Oral Examinations

Examiners must ensure that adequate time is set aside for the oral examination. This should include time for any pre-viva discussion between examiners, the viva itself and the drafting of the examiners’ report.

The oral examination should be held at Loughborough University. In exceptional circumstances, it may be necessary for arrangements to be made to conduct the oral examination at an alternative location or by video conference link. The permission and advice of the Doctoral College and the AD(R) should be sought and followed prior to making any such alternative arrangements which must be agreed by all parties.

The purpose of the oral examination is to enable the examiners to be confident that the content of the thesis is the student’s own work. It provides an opportunity for the student to demonstrate the significance of their contribution to knowledge and to clarify any points which may have been unclear to the examiners. It will also be helpful for the understanding of any deficiencies in the work and to provide context to the decision of the examiners.

Attendance at an oral examination by the candidate for a higher degree may be waived only by the Director of the Doctoral College with the advice of the Counselling and Disability Service. In the case where attendance at the oral examination is waived a second or third External Examiner should be appointed as considered appropriate.

Where a candidate's attendance at an oral examination has been waived, the candidate's Examiners should meet to discuss their recommendation. If it is not possible for all the Examiners to meet this must be part of the case made to the Director of the Doctoral College when seeking to waive the requirements for a candidate to attend an oral examination.

Examiners should be cautious about their comments on the potential outcome of the examination at the outset of the viva, given that the viva is an integral part of the examination process.

7.3 Examiners’ Recommendations

The Examiners will normally recommend that the degree be awarded or that the candidate's work be either referred or failed.

If the Examiners' recommendation is that the degree be awarded they may still require the candidate to make corrections to his/her thesis to the satisfaction of the Internal Examiner before his/her degree is conferred. The corrections must be completed within 6 months.

If the thesis, though inadequate, is deficient in certain respects only, the Examiners may recommend that it be referred for revision, and subsequent re-examination with or without a further oral examination. This revision must be completed within 12 months.

If the thesis is deemed to be adequate but the candidate fails to satisfy the examiners at the oral examination particularly in respect of paras 11.12 and 11.2.3 of Regulation XXVI, they may recommend that the candidate should undergo another oral examination on one occasion only, within a period specified by the Examiners not exceeding 12 months. In the case of a referral the revised thesis shall be submitted to all the original examiners via the Doctoral College Office (Registry) the examiners shall consider whether the corrections have been undertaken and whether the overall standard for the award of the research degree has been reached.

Where corrections are required or a thesis is referred the Examiners are required to submit a list of corrections or to specify the points which require further work. The list of corrections will be attached to the Examiners' report form and returned to the Doctoral College Office (Registry) normally within ten working days of the oral examination.

In the case of a candidate for the award of Doctor of Philosophy the Examiners may recommend that the candidate be failed but be offered the degree of Master of Philosophy instead, having reached the required standard for that award.

7.4 Examiners’ Reports

The Internal and External Examiners will complete a written preliminary report on the thesis prior to conducting the oral examination of the candidate. The report should be completed, on the pro forma supplied, prior to any consultation between Examiners. Individual preliminary reports should be submitted to the Doctoral College Office (Registry) together with the Examiners' joint final report on the thesis and viva as specified below on completion of the examination.

A joint report is preferred following the viva but each Examiner may give a brief statement of the grounds for his/her recommendation on the form provided. The formal written report should be submitted to the Doctoral College (Registry) Office as soon as possible and normally within 10 working days of the oral examination.

7.5 Further Advice

In the event that a student is required to undertake further work on the thesis submission to meet the Examiners' requirements, the Examiners may be approached through the student’s Supervisors for further clarification regarding the work to be accomplished if it is felt that additional guidance is necessary. It is the student’s responsibility to undertake the additional work seeking advice from their Supervisors as necessary. Examiners should not be expected to comment on the revised submission prior to re-examination.