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Role and appointment of examiners for research degree programmes

This page sets out the role of internal and external examiners for research degree programmes, including policy, criteria and appointment requirements. Its content is primarily directed at staff across all of the UK, China and Malaysia campuses.

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Please be aware that additional guidance has been produced in response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. For more information, please consult the following:

Covid-19 and doctoral examinations – additional guidance for examiners for doctoral candidates at the University of Nottingham


1. Policy

Every research thesis will be evaluated by Examiners who have appropriate academic qualifications, relevant expertise in the area of research being examined, and a suitable level of experience in examining research degree submissions.

Every member of academic staff of this University or another institution who is appointed to act as an Internal or External Examiner will receive information on the role of the Examiners.

 

2. Notification of intent to submit

Includes: Submission information pack for postgraduate research students document

The submission by the student of a Notification of Intent to Submit form (available in the Submission Pack below) which has been signed by the supervisor will trigger the procedure for nomination of Examiners.

The Notification form should be submitted at least three months in advance of the proposed submission of the thesis so that there is sufficient time to organise the appointment of Examiners before the thesis is submitted.

On receipt of the Notification form, the Head of School will nominate individuals whom they wish to act as Internal and External Examiners for the research submission. The Head of School may involve the supervisor(s) and candidate in discussions on suitable examiners, but will be responsible for making the final decision on the nomination.

Once discussions are completed, the nomination should be sent by the Head of School on the standard form to Student Services or equivalent for approval by the University. There should be no contact between candidates and examiners from the appointment of the examiners up to the date of the viva voce examination, other than to make arrangements for the viva to take place.

 

3. Internal and External Examiners

Includes: normal expectations; alternative arrangements; risks; duration of appointments

Normally each research submission will be examined by one Internal Examiner who is a member of staff of the academic School at Nottingham to which the student belongs (or, if appropriate, a member of staff of another academic School), and one External Examiner who is a member of staff of another academic institution.

Alternative arrangements (except that the examining board for any research submission must include at least one External Examiner) may be approved. For example, it is possible that in a small academic School there is no member of staff (apart from the supervisor who, of course, is disqualified from acting as an Examiner) with the expertise to act as Internal Examiner in the research area. In this case it would be appropriate for the Head of School to recommend to Quality and Standards Committee (QSC) that the submission be examined by two External Examiners, with a member of the internal staff acting as a co-ordinator of the examination proceedings. One of the two External Examiners should be identified as the chair of the viva voce proceedings.

Where a candidate has a contract of employment with the University of Nottingham, Schools should consider whether the appointment of an Internal Examiner would risk the introduction of the perception of bias into the examination process. Where such a risk is identified, Schools should always take the option of appointing two External Examiners.  

The role of the coordinator will be to organise and operate the administrative arrangements for examination of the student's thesis and to facilitate the smooth-running of the viva voce examination.

The examiner appointments will last for the duration of the examination process, including re-submissions where this is the outcome of the first examination, unless exceptional circumstances arise.

 

4. Role of examiners

Includes: overview; submission of independent report

The role of the Examiners is to consider whether the information, arguments and results of the student's research work as presented in the thesis and as defended in the viva voce examination (if appropriate) meet the academic standards relevant to the degree.

The Examiners are required to submit independent reports on the thesis, a joint report on the viva voce examination (if a viva voce examination is required by the regulations), and a joint recommendation regarding the award of the degree.

For more information about viva voce examinations, please consult the following:

Viva voce examinations

 

5. Role of the Internal Examiner

Includes: participation in viva voce examination; student defence of work; responsibilities

The Internal Examiner must read the student's thesis and participate in the student's viva voce examination, and come to a view as to whether the student's research work and knowledge meet the standard which would normally be expected of a student in the School submitting for that degree, and the University's criteria for the award of the degree.

They will receive the PDF version of the examination copy of the thesis and where appropriate share this with the External Examiner, subject to the agreement of the Supervisor(s). 

In addition s/he should act as the facilitator of the administrative arrangements for the examination of the thesis and of the viva voce examination.

They should seek to ensure that, during the viva voce examination, the student is given a fair opportunity to defend their work and that the External Examiner is aware of any extenuating circumstances which have a bearing on the student's case. Following a viva voce examination, the student should be given immediate informal feedback on the outcome of the examination and should be advised that more formal details will be transmitted later in writing. The Internal Examiner should also write to the student formally conveying the joint views of the Examiners on the submission, describing in detail the academic and presentational reasons for their recommendation, and (if appropriate) providing clear advice about what matters should be addressed in any resubmission.

For more information about viva voce examinations, please consult the following:

Viva voce examinations

 

If corrections have been recommended, they will be responsible for checking these and confirming with the Student Services that these have been completed.

He/she will be responsible for confirming that the final electronically submitted version of the work is that which has been approved by the examiners if no corrections were needed after examination

 

6. Criteria for appointing Internal Examiner

Includes: responsibility of Head of School; eligibility

The Head of School should ensure that the person nominated to act as Internal Examiner is a research-active member of the academic staff of the University who has the appropriate expertise in the student's research area. If Schools wish to recommend nominees who do not satisfy this criterion, this should be highlighted in the nomination form and a case provided for consideration by Quality and Standards Committee (QSC).

Post-doctoral staff, Research Fellows below level 5, holders of honorary appointments who do not receive remuneration, Emeritus Professors, staff who do not hold a doctorate themselves and retired academic staff should not be permitted to act as Internal Examiners.

 

7. Academic Staff in their first appointment

Includes: recommendation of joint supervision; application to Quality and Standards Committee for permission

An academic member of staff in their first appointment at the University of Nottingham should not normally be permitted to act as sole Internal Examiner on their first examination occasion. It is recommended that such members of staff should act jointly with a more senior member of staff on the first occasion that they act as Internal Examiner and the Head of School should monitor their performance.

However, Heads of Schools may apply to Quality and Standards Committee (QSC) for permission to allow such a member of academic staff to act as the sole Internal Examiner, if a good case can be made that the member of staff's educational and professional background makes it appropriate for him/her to act in this capacity. For more information about QSC, please consult the following:

Quality and Standards Committee

 

8. Role of the External Examiner

Includes: requirements; leading viva voce examination; judging standards

The External Examiner must read the student's thesis and should lead the viva voce examination.

The External Examiner must, in particular, come to a view as to whether the student's research work and knowledge are of a standard which are comparable to those of students being examined at other institutions for the same degree.

 

9. Appointment of External Examiners

Includes: members of staff from outside institutions; nominating individuals from other suitable environments; eligibility; approval of nominations

Members of staff from outside institutions whom Schools wish to nominate to act as External Examiners for Nottingham research degrees should be research-active Professors, Readers, Lecturers or other teachers of their institution (or of equivalent status).

However, it will be appropriate in some cases for Schools to nominate individuals from other suitable environments provided that those individuals are experts in the field of the student's topic of research and hold a professional status which is equivalent to a University Professor, Reader, Lecturer or teacher.

In order to assess the eligibility of any individual to act as External Examiner who has not previously acted in this capacity for the University of Nottingham, the Head of School should obtain a brief Curriculum Vitae which should be forwarded to Student Services with the nomination on the standard form. Student Services will retain the Curriculum Vitae for future reference.

Nominations for Examiners will be approved by the University and Student Services will write to the External Examiners informing them of the terms and conditions of their appointment and their role as Examiners. The letter will include a request that the Examiner consider whether a potential conflict(s) of interest is likely to occur as a result of examining a candidate's thesis and if so, disclose it to the University.

 

10. Ineligible categories for External Examiner

Includes: members of staff from other institutions; emeritus professors; retired academic staff

A member of staff of another institution should not be invited to act as an External Examiner if they are a University of Nottingham graduate who graduated within the last three years. Also, ex-members of staff of Nottingham who left the University less than three years previously and holders of honorary appointments for which remuneration is given at the University of Nottingham should not be permitted to act as External Examiners.  

Emeritus Professors and academic staff who have been retired for more than three years should not be permitted to act as External Examiners unless it can be demonstrated that they continue to be research active.

 

11. Disagreement between Examiners

Includes: joint decisions; when particular weight should be given

In the event of a disagreement on the appropriate outcome of a research degree examination between the Internal and External Examiner, the matter should be resolved by the Examiners on the basis of detailed argument about the specific academic points arising from the examination, and a joint decision should be reached.

In this circumstance particular weight should be given to the views of the External Examiner.

Where there are two External Examiners particular weight should be given to the chair.

 

12. Role of the Supervisor

Includes: scope; attendance; availability for viva voce examination

The Supervisor may not act as an Examiner for the student's submission.

The Supervisor may not normally attend the viva voce examination except with the agreement of the External Examiner, in which case they may attend as an observer only or where required under the terms of an approved collaborative doctorate programme, in which case they may contribute questions but may not participate in making the examiners' recommendation.

However, it is recommended that the Supervisor should be available in the School at the time of the viva voce examination in case the Examiners feel that their presence at the viva voce is required (for example, to give support to the student).

 

13. Role of the Head of School

Includes: instructions for examiners

The Head of School must approve the appointment of the examiners. For more information, please consult the following:

Appointment of supervisors

Instructions for examiners:  

 

Forms

Includes: nomination of examiners

 
If you have any problems or queries relating to this page, please email: Quality-Manual-Enquiries@nottingham.ac.uk  Email
This content was last modified on 27 November 2020

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