Examination guidance for examiners

Information for internal and external examiners

Examiners play a crucial role at the end of a Postgraduate student’s journey. All of our examiners, both internal and external, are carefully selected for the knowledge and expertise they bring to the role.

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Each examiner is nominated by the student’s First Supervisor to the Research Degrees department. This can occur up to 6 months before the student’s thesis submission. External Examiners will be subject to a Right to Work check. This involves sending a copy of the CV and passport. These are required in order to comply with UK Visas and Immigration rules on ensuring that all those given an appointment at the university are eligible to work in the UK.

After checks have been completed the nominations are forwarded to the relevant Faculty Director of Postgraduate Research (FDPGR) for approval.

Once the examination team is in place, and the thesis has been submitted, the First Supervisor is responsible for arranging the date of the viva. The Research Degrees team will send a copy of the thesis to each examiner individually, accompanied by further information about the examination team, a link to the Regulations for Research Degrees, and the following attachments:

  • Guidance Note for the Examination of Higher Degrees by Research
  • The Preliminary Report form (UP7A)
  • An expenses claim form (SAL6) for External Examiners

Preliminary examination assessment

The Regulations for Research Degrees state that these should be returned to the Research Degrees team 10 days before the viva voce. This is to ensure that the required checks can be made and to allow time for a consensus to be reached in cases where examiners submit conflicting outcomes.

The report has two options available to the examiners:

  1. To recommend the candidate defends the thesis at viva voce
  2. The thesis is unacceptable and examination should be deferred pending amendment and resubmission

In cases where the examination is deferred the examiners will provide a clear and explicit written summary on the shortcomings of the thesis and the required additional work. The student will have one year in which to resubmit the required work.

Pre viva information

Prior to the viva voce taking place the Research Degrees department will send each Examiner a further email outlining the core instructions. This includes a checklist for the Examiners plus the following attachments:

  • The UP7A reports from all examiners
  • The UP7B form which is completed after the viva voce
  • A guidance note for Examination for Higher Degrees by Research
  • A guidance note for viva voce by video conferencing (if applicable)

A link to the Regulations by Research Degrees is also included along with a video which guides the examiners through the UP7B form.

The viva voce

The arrangements for the examination will be confirmed by the First Supervisor. It will take place at a time mutually convenient to the attendees and can be face to face, online or hybrid. It is recommended that there is a one month period between the dispatch of the thesis to the examiners and the date of the viva voce.

For Professional Doctorates the viva voce will be preceded by a presentation which can be to the examination panel only, or open to a wider audience.

The viva voce may not proceed unless all the examiners, the Independent Chair (where applicable) and the candidate are present.

Unless an Independent Chair has been appointed, the examination will normally be conducted under the chairship of the External Examiner. If two External Examiners are appointed then it is normally the most senior who chairs but may be either, by mutual agreement. 

The tone of the questioning during the oral examination should be such that it provides the candidate with the opportunity to show their full potential in their understanding of the research, appropriate research methods, and to defend their views and interpretation without being confrontational. 

The Examiners will test the candidate’s knowledge of matters relevant to the subject of the thesis. The purpose is to enable the Examiners to clarify any ambiguities in the thesis and to satisfy themselves that the thesis is the candidate’s own work. 

On completion of the viva voce examination the candidate will leave the room while the Examiners discuss their recommendation. The candidate will be asked to return and will be advised of the intended recommendation to the Academic Registrar on behalf of Academic Council.

Post viva reports

Following the examination the examiners shall complete a joint report (UP7B) which will be sent to the Research Degrees department who will formally notify the PGRS in writing of the Examiners’ decision. This report should be sent to the Research Degrees department one day after the viva voce and will include one of the following recommendations:

  • The degree is awarded
  • The degree is awarded subject to minor amendments (within 3 months)
  • The degree is awarded subject to major amendments (within 6 months)
  • The degree is not awarded but the candidate will be allowed up to one year to submit a revised thesis for further examination (with or without a second viva voce)
  • The degree is not awarded
  • If a PhD was submitted the Examiners may award an MPhil, subject to appropriate amendments (minor, within 3 months)

Minor or major amendments

In cases of amendments the student will send these directly to the examiners.

The Research Degrees department will forward a copy of the UP7C Final Recommendation form to the examiner responsible for signing off the amendments. In some cases this will require both examiners to agree on the decision and sign the UP7C form before returning to the Research Degrees department.


Should the student have been given the outcome of resubmission at the original viva voce they shall submit their updated work to the Research Degrees department. The procedures followed will then mirror those of the original submission.

If a second viva voce is required this will be organised again by the First Supervisor.

The options for outcome after a re-examination are the same as for the original viva voce except there is no available recommendation for a further resubmission.

The Research Degrees department will forward a copy of the UP7C Final Recommendation form to all examiners, for recording the outcome of the re-examination. This will require all examiners to agree on the decision and sign the UP7C form before returning to the Research Degrees department.