7.7 Membership and Terms of Reference of Examination Boards

Form and Structure of the Examination Board

1. Candidates for Research Degrees are examined by means of a thesis and an oral examination. Every thesis shall be examined by a board consisting of a:

(i) Chair
(ii) Internal Examiner
(iii) External Examiner

Appointment of the Examination Board

2. Members of the Examination Board shall be appointed as follows:

(i) Chair: The Chair of the Board shall be drawn from a pool of trained staff. The Graduate School arranges training and maintains a register of trained staff. The Regulations set out the criteria to be considered as a Chair; this should be a senior academic staff member with appropriate experience.The role of the Chair is to ensure that procedures are correctly and consistently followed across the University.
(ii) Internal Examiner
(iii) and External Examiners

The members of the Board shall be appointed in accordance with the University's Regulations and the Standing Orders for the Degree. The candidate's supervisor shall not be appointed Internal Examiner. Where staff candidates are being examined the Internal Examiner shall be replaced by a second External Examiner. A second External Examiner may also be appointed in circumstances where a suitably qualified Internal Examiner cannot be identified.

Duties of the Members of the Examination Board

3. The Board is required to examine the thesis as well as conduct an oral examination of the candidate. Where an examination of a re-submitted thesis is being conducted, and it is not deemed to be a clear pass or pass with straightforward corrections, an oral examination must be held. This may be waived in exceptional cases only, on the recommendation of the Examination Board and with the approval of the Head of the Graduate School.

4. The Chair of the Examination Board is responsible for ensuring that the correct administrative procedures for the submission and examination of the thesis are caried out, that all documentation is completer and that all members of the Examination Board are aware of their separate responsibilities.

5. The Chair of the Examination Board is responsible for ensuring that the examination, including the written report and the oral examination, is carried out in line with the University's policies and procedures. The Chair will, as far as possible, ensure the examination is fair and unbiased and will notify the University of any suspected issues in this regard.

6. The Examiners, in examining the thesis, will:

(i) Consider the thesis and abstract(s), or, in the case of PhD by Published Works or creative arts degrees, the published works and creative works and critical analysis submitted by the candidate, or;
(ii) Report on the scope, character and quality of the work submitted;
(iii) Satisfy themselves that the candidate possesses a good general knowledge of the particular field of learning within which the thesis falls;
(iv) Apply the University's criteria for the award of the degree.

7. Examiners are requested to notify the Academic Quality and Records Office (AQRO) immediately if they receive draft theses for comment and return prior to commencement of the formal examining process and must decline firmly any suggestion that a thesis should be returned to a candidate for improvement and re-consideration prior to completion of the Examining Board's formal deliberations. External Examiners are also requested to inform AQRO if they receive the thesis direct from the candidate or direct from the Department. The thesis may only be sent to the External Examiner by AQRO.

8. Any part of the thesis which has already been accepted or is being concurrently submitted for any other degree or qualification in the University or elsewhere must be excluded from the examination.

Timetable for the Examination

9. The Examiners are expected to complete the examination of the candidate and submit their report as soon as reasonably possible - normally no later than twelve working weeks from receipt of the thesis and in advance of the date of the oral examination. If this proves to be impossible, Examiners are asked to notify the Chair of the Examination Board of the reasons for the delay. The University is concerned to avoid candidates facing lengthy delays during the examination process.

Written Report

10. The Examiners’ Report and Notification of Results Forms are are intended as instruments for the reports of Internal and External Examiners, and are for use by the Examination Board when making a formal recommendation to the University on the outcome of the examination process. Examiners are advised that, under the terms of the Data Protection Act 1998 and the subsequent Freedom of Information Act 2000, candidates have the right of access to any comments made about them in these reports. A report form is also required in instances of resubmission.

11. The External Examiner should complete section 1.1 of the Report on Thesis form and take the whole form to the oral examination. The Chair of the Examination Board should arrange for the Internal Examiner’s report to be typed in, or otherwise attached to, Section 2 'Internal Examiner's Report on Thesis'.

12. The form and content of the Examiners’ reports should be sufficiently detailed to allow members of the University’s staff to assess the scope and significance of the thesis and to appreciate its strengths and weaknesses. Reports should, as far as possible, be expressed in terms that may be understood by those who are not specialists in the particular field of the thesis.

13. In completing their reports examiners are asked to address the following specific points:

(i) Summarising and analysing the argument
(ii) Structure and coherence
(iii) Methodology
(iv) Presentation
(v) Originality and contribution to knowledge
(vi) Whether and how the research might be published

Oral Examination

14. The oral examination will normally be conducted at the University, in accordance with the Regulations for the award of the degree. At the discretion of the Head of Graduate School, however, and in exceptional circumstances only, the oral examination may be conducted at another place.

15. The following must be present at the oral examination:

(i) The Chair
(ii) The Internal Examiner
(iii) The External Examiner (or the Chair and two External Examiners in the case of staff candidates)

16. The candidate’s supervisor(s) may be invited to the oral examination with the candidate’s agreement, but may only speak at the invitation of the Chair.

17. The purpose is threefold:

(i) To enable the Examiners to assure themselves that the thesis is the candidate’s own work;
(ii) To give the candidate the opportunity to defend the thesis and to clarify any obscurities in it;
(iii) To enable the Examiners to assess the candidate’s general knowledge of his or her particular field of learning.

18. The Examination Board should not communicate to any candidate any indication of the outcome of the examination until the examination is complete and all reports are finalised.

19. In exceptional cases, the Head of the Graduate School may, given sufficient notice, consider giving permission for oral examinations to be conducted by electronic means. A separate set of guidelines is published for this purpose and Examiners who have been asked to conduct an oral examination by such means are asked to familiarise themselves with its contents. Guidelines for the Conduct of Viva Voce Examinations by Electronic Means can be found online at: http://www.aber.ac.uk/en/regulations/viva-voce/

20. It is possible for Examiners to disagree to a greater or lesser extent in their evaluation of the work. It is, therefore, desirable that the Examiners confer before the oral examination so that, should significant divergences of opinion be identified, a strategy may be devised which would resolve these differences by agreed means (which might include the careful structuring of the oral examination). Although it is desirable that the Examiners strive to resolve their differences, should it prove impossible for them to do so, the Chair of the Board should report this fact to AQRO, and no recommendation for any, or no, award should be made. In these circumstances recourse to an additional, Arbitrating External Examiner may be had, as detailed in the regulations.

21. The oral examination is an integral part of the examination process for a research degree, with the specific purposes set out above, and Examiners are asked to exert great care to avoid giving the impression at any time during the oral examination that the oral examination is, in any sense, a mere formality.