Examiner Recommendations and What They Mean
At the end of your viva exam, your examiners will ask you to leave the room so that they can discuss what recommendation to make. Do not worry if it is some time before you are asked to come back in - your examiners will have a lot to discuss, so it is not a sign that you have done badly if this does take some time. Most research students who get to this stage are successful and are awarded their degree - try to relax and to stay positive while you wait.
Types of Examiner Recommendations
When you are asked to come back in, your examiners will normally be able to tell you immediately what recommendation they intend to make. In some cases though they may need more time to discuss this - again you should not take this as a sign you have done badly.
The types of recommendation that your examiners may make are set out in the University's Regulations for Research Degrees:
Please note that the recommendations described here are applicable to candidates for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. Candidates on other research degree programmes should consult the Regulations for Research Degrees for further advice.
You have successfully completed the viva examination and the degree for which you are registered can be awarded without any changes needing to be made to your thesis.
Award of the degree in this way is possible, but it happens rarely - much more common is for students to be awarded the degree subject to amendments.
You have successfully completed the viva examination and the degree for which you are registered can be awarded subject to you satisfactorily making the changes to your thesis recommended by your examiners. You may be required to make minor or major amendments as directed and your internal examiner will provide you with details as to what changes you need to make.
Making minor amendments usually involves correcting typographical or grammatical errors and may include corrections to references and diagrams. It may also involve the re-writing of small sections of your thesis. Where a recommendation is made of award subject to minor amendments, it is expected that you will complete and submit these to your internal examiner within one month.
Making major amendments usually involves corrections as above but will probably also involve the re-writing of more extensive sections of your thesis. Where a recommendation is made of award subject to major amendments, it is expected that you will complete and submit these to your internal examiner within six months.
In a small number of cases examiners may decide that more substantial additional work is needed, involving either further active research or extensive re-writing of the thesis. A further viva examination may also be needed. In these cases, a recommendation of referral for re-submission will be made.
Where a recommendation of referral for re-submission is made, your internal examiner will provide you with a written report that clearly sets out the shortcomings of the thesis and the actions needed to address these. They will also confirm your expected re-submission date; you will be given a minimum of six months and a maximum of twelve months in which to submit two revised soft-bound copies of your thesis to the Graduate School Office. Extensions to the expected re-submission date are not permitted.
Students required to re-submit their thesis are charged a re-examination fee of £130.00 (PhD programmes) or £90.00 (other programmes).
This recommendation is made when the thesis does not meet the criteria for a doctoral degree but does meet the criteria for a lower degree.
Award of a lower degree is possible only with students registered on PhD, EdD, or DSocSci programmes. In the case of students registered on a PhD programme, the examiners may make a recommendation to award a lower degree - i.e., an MPhil - subject to minor amendments; it is expected that these will be completed and submitted to the internal examiner within one month.
Where examiners are in a position of choosing between a recommendation for re-submission or the award of a lower degree, they may - at their discretion - take account of the student's wishes.
In the case of students registered on a PhD programme examiners can, on occasion, make a recommendation of referral for re-submission for a lower degree - i.e., an MPhil - where it is deemed that even with revisions the thesis would not meet the criteria for a doctoral degree. The procedure for re-submission is as above.
Resubmission for a lower degree is not used with other doctoral programmes (EdD, DSocSci, DClinPsy, EngD).
The thesis is failed with no right of re-submission. This happens very rarely - it is unusual for a thesis to be failed at this stage with no possibility of re-submission.
What if I am asked to make amendments or re-submit my thesis?
If you are asked to make amendments to your thesis or are referred for re-submission, it is important that you do not feel disappointed:
neither result is uncommon
most students go on to successfully complete their thesis
Your priority is to make the changes that have been asked for and to ensure that you are able to make your amendments/re-submit your thesis by the date your internal examiner advises:
minor amendments are expected to be submitted within one month
major amendments are expected to be submitted within six months
re-submission periods are a minimum of six months and a maximum of twelve months
If you have any questions about the amendments you have been asked to make, you should speak with your supervisor as early as possible. They can offer advice if you are unsure exactly what changes you need to make or when you are due to submit these.
Remember that even though you have been asked to undertake some further work, you are very close now to successfully completing your thesis. Being asked to make amendments/re-submit your thesis may feel like failure - it is not. Your thesis needs further work, and you are being given the opportunity to do this. Take a positive attitude - use the time you have been given, follow the advice provided, and seek further advice from your supervisor if needed.
What if I am awarded a lower degree or fail?
These outcomes are uncommon and it is very rare for a thesis to fail at this stage with no possibility of re-submission.
If you are awarded a lower degree or fail, it is important that you seek advice on the options that are available to you. Make time to speak with:
the Postgraduate Tutor in your School/Department
the University's Welfare Service
the Students' Union Education Unit
What if I am not happy with the recommendations the examiners have made?
If you are unhappy about the way your viva examination was conducted or the recommendation made by your examiners, please contact the Graduate School Office.