9.5 Assessment outcomes

9.5.1 Examiners’ reports

Prior to the oral examination, the examiners each complete an independent preliminary report in English. A joint report is then completed after the oral examination. Examiners’ report forms are available online.  

Reports should, where appropriate, include discussion of the:

(a)   purpose of the research and the overall approach taken;

(b)   candidate's application of research methods;

(c)   candidate's review of the literature;

(d)   extent of any collaboration;

(e)   candidate's contribution to the advancement of knowledge in the subject represented;

(f)   suitability for publication of the work reported;

(g)   literary form and quality of presentation of the work submitted, and the inferences that can be drawn about the candidate's ability to present and defend intellectual arguments in writing;

(h)   candidate's general knowledge of the subject; and

(i)    candidate's performance in the oral examination, and the inferences that can be drawn about the candidate's ability to present and defend intellectual arguments verbally.

Each examiner must complete an independent preliminary report on the dissertation (or published work) before the oral examination, noting areas that should be explored with the candidate during the examination. Examiners must exchange their preliminary reports in advance of the oral examination.

The preliminary reports must be completed in English.

The examiners’ judgement is based both on the work presented by the candidate and on the candidate’s performance in the oral examination. Examiners should refer to the criteria for research degrees set out in Annex 7 and in the regulations for the degree in question to ascertain the standard required.

If an Independent Chair has been appointed, they must complete a report on the conduct of the examination. Similar information is collected from the internal examiner on the Examiners’ Joint Final Report for examinations where there is no Independent Chair.

9.5.2 Examiner Recommendations

If the examiners have agreed on a recommendation, they may make this known to the candidate, but they must make it clear that the final decision rests with the RDEB, which may arrive at a different verdict.

After the oral examination, the examiners must complete a joint report that sets out clearly their recommendation with its supporting rationale. The joint report must be completed in English.

Examiners may recommend that:

A - The degree sought be awarded unconditionally.

B - The degree sought be awarded subject to the correction of minor errors to the satisfaction of the internal examiner. In examinations where there is no internal examiner, an external examiner, the Independent Chair, or another University of Bristol academic nominated by the School will perform this role.

C - The degree sought be awarded once errors or omissions of substance have been corrected to the satisfaction of the examiners.

D - The degree sought not be awarded but that the candidate be permitted to re-submit a revised form of the dissertation or published work for examination.

E - (doctoral candidates only) The relevant degree of Master by research be awarded unconditionally.

F - (doctoral candidates only) The relevant degree of Master by research be awarded, subject to the correction of minor errors to the satisfaction of the internal examiner.  In examinations where there is no internal examiner, an external examiner, the Independent Chair, or another University of Bristol academic nominated by the School will perform this role.

G - (doctoral candidates only) No degree be awarded but that the candidate be permitted to re-submit a revised form of the dissertation or published work for examination for the relevant degree of Master by research.

H - No degree be awarded and permission be not granted to re-submit the dissertation or published work.

Award of the degree of Master by research (doctoral candidates only)

A Masters degree is not to be awarded merely because the dissertation has failed to reach the requirements for the award of a doctoral level degree. Examiners should only recommend the award of a Masters degree when the dissertation and oral exam meet the criteria for a Masters degree by research as specified in Annex 7.

If the conclusions of the examiners' joint report differ significantly from those of any of the preliminary reports, the examiners should justify the changes in their joint report.

If, exceptionally, the examiners cannot agree on a joint report after the oral examination, they should submit separate final reports.

9.5.3 Corrections

The candidate should receive written guidance on any corrections as soon as possible after the oral examination. They may meet with the internal examiner on one occasion or may alternatively seek one e-mail response from the internal examiner to clarify the changes required by the examiners. In cases where there is no internal examiner, the candidate may make a request for clarification of corrections to the Independent Chair who is permitted to contact the examiners once for this purpose. Any further clarification and advice should be sought from the candidate's supervisors (see Section 5.1.2 on the expectations of supervisory support for corrections).

The time allowed for correction of errors of substance or for resubmission is irrespective of whether the candidate was previously registered as a full-time or part-time student. If, in exceptional circumstances, a candidate requires an extension of the agreed period, they must make an application in writing to the RDEB, via the Academic Quality and Policy Office, indicating their reasons and providing supporting evidence if appropriate, and stating a date by which the corrections will be made or the dissertation resubmitted.

Minor errors

Annex 9 sets out guidance on what constitutes minor errors in a dissertation. Examiners should make clear what, if any, corrections are required. Annex 10 provides information on the guidance examiners should provide on corrections and resubmissions.

Where there are numerous instances of errors that are individually minor but when taken together are deemed by the examiners to form a significant undertaking for the candidate to correct, a recommendation of errors of substance may be made.

Minor corrections should be submitted within 28 days of the notification from the Research Degrees Examination Board at which the examiners’ reports are considered.

The internal examiner is responsible for notifying the candidate and the Academic Quality and Policy Office in writing when the minor errors have been satisfactorily completed. In cases where there is no internal examiner, minor corrections must be approved by one of the following: (1) an external examiner, (2) the Independent Chair, or (3) another University of Bristol academic nominated by the School. The Independent Chair is responsible for ensuring that approval from any of these sources is reported in writing to the candidate and to the Academic Quality and Policy Office.

If confirmation of the satisfactory completion of minor corrections are not received by the Academic Quality and Policy Office, the candidate will be entitled to attend a degree congregation, but the degree certificate will be withheld until written confirmation is received.

Errors of substance

If substantial errors or omissions are to be corrected, examiners must provide clear written guidance for the candidate as soon as possible after the oral examination. A copy of the guidance must be attached to the examiners’ final report. Annex 10 provides information on the guidance examiners should provide on corrections and resubmissions.

Candidates are not permitted to contact the external examiner but may contact the internal examiner once for clarification of the revisions required. In cases where there is no internal examiner, candidates may make a request for clarification of corrections to the Independent Chair who is permitted to contact the examiners once for this purpose. The time permitted for corrections for all candidates is normally six months from the date of the meeting of the RDEB at which the decision is made. In exceptional circumstances, an extension beyond this period may be granted by the RDEB.

If the student has submitted the corrected dissertation within the deadline but the examiners are not satisfied with the corrections, the examiners may agree to allow up to four additional weeks for the candidate to make further, minor modifications. The additional period will start when the examiners have sent their further comments to the candidate. The internal examiner (or Independent Chair where there is no internal examiner) must inform the Academic Quality and Policy Office of the additional time given.

A dissertation corrected for errors of substance will not be accepted if it is submitted after the time permitted, in which case candidature for the degree will lapse.

The internal examiner must inform the Academic Quality and Policy Office, in writing, of the satisfactory completion of the correction of errors of substance to the satisfaction of all examiners. In cases where there is no internal examiner, the Independent Chair must co-ordinate the response from the external examiners to confirm that the corrections are approved.

9.5.4 Resubmission

If a candidate is required to resubmit their dissertation for re-examination, examiners must provide clear and comprehensive written guidance for the candidate. A copy of the guidance must be attached to the examiners’ final report. Annex 10 provides information on the guidance examiners should provide on corrections and resubmissions.

Apart from contacting the internal examiner, once only, for clarification of the revisions required, the candidate may not contact the examiners for any reason in connection with the examination. In cases where there is no internal examiner, candidates may make a request for clarification of the revisions required to the Independent Chair who is permitted to contact the examiners once for this purpose.

Supervisors will provide continued guidance to candidates who are required to resubmit. The level of support will be determined by the nature and extent of the work required by the examiners and must meet the expectations of supervisory support for a resubmission (see Section 5.1.2).

Resubmission can take place once only. The maximum time permitted for resubmission for all candidates is normally 12 months from the date of the meeting of the RDEB at which the decision is made. An extension beyond this period may be granted by the RDEB only in exceptional circumstances. A revised dissertation will not be accepted if submitted after the time permitted, in which case candidature for the degree will lapse.

To resubmit, the candidate must submit an examination copy and a Turnitin copy, as per Section 9.2.3, within the period specified by the RDEB and must pay the resubmission fee. Unless determined otherwise by the RDEB, the original examiners will be asked to undertake a full re-examination, normally including a further oral examination. 

If, once the examiners have read the resubmitted work, the examiners agree that no purpose would be served by holding a further oral examination and that the work is worthy of the award of the degree for which the work has been submitted (with or without correction of minor errors), they have the discretion to waive the second oral examination. The examiners’ reports should include an explanation of why the examiners felt that a further oral examination was unnecessary.

The examiners should provide a complete new set of examiners’ reports to RDEB. This will include a report from the Independent Chair (if appointed). External examiners will be paid a re-examination fee.

9.5.5 The procedure following the oral examination

Examiners’ preliminary and joint reports are confidential until they have been considered by the RDEB. Reports must not be shared with the candidate or supervisors prior to RDEB.

After consideration by RDEB, the reports (including any Independent Chair reports and other documentation considered by the Board) are sent to the candidate and to the main supervisor. 

The internal examiner (or the Independent Chair if appointed) should forward all examiners' reports, including the pre-oral examination preliminary reports, to the School PGR Director, via the School Office, for countersigning the joint final report. The School Office should then forward the reports to the Academic Quality and Policy Office. The report from the Independent Chair (if appointed) on the conduct of the examination should be included with the examiners’ reports. Where the School PGR Director has a close link to candidate – for example, if they are a supervisor, an examiner, or the Independent Chair – the Head of School or another senior member of academic staff in the school must sign the joint final report.

The approval process by RDEB is set out in Section 9.6

Reports should be sent to the Academic Quality and Policy Office to arrive within 14 days of the date of the oral examination.