How the research degree examination process works

This overview of the research degree examination process aims to assist research students in understanding how their dissertation will be examined.

Examiners

  • You will usually have at two examiners: one internal examiner and one external examiner. Under certain circumstances, the examining panel may have different membership and may have an Independent Chair.
  • None of your examiners will have seen your work before. They will read your dissertation and arrange a time for the oral examination.

Oral examination (also referred to as a viva)

  • All research students will have an oral examination unless an exemption has been granted in exceptional circumstances.
  • Your internal examiner (or Independent Chair if there is no internal examiner) should give you at least ten days’ notice of the date of the oral examination.
  • If approved, observers – which could be your supervisors – may attend but are not permitted to participate in the exam.
  • Fully online oral examinations have been the standard approach during Covid-19 restrictions. In line with current guidance, it is now also permissible for oral examinations to be held partly online (two or more participants in the same room with others attending remotely) or fully in-person. All participants must agree to the arrangements and no pressure must be put on anyone to assent to the oral examination being conducted partly online or fully in-person. No participant must be required to attend in person if they do not wish to do so.
  • The oral examination arrangements must be specified in the 'Appointment of Research Degree Examiners' form, or if this has already been approved and a change in the arrangements is required, on the separate 'Changes to oral examinations and/or appointment of an Independent Chair' form. You should discuss this with your supervisor in the first instance.

Examiners’ reports and guidance on corrections

  • Your examiners will complete preliminary reports to assist them in their preparations for the oral examination. After the exam, they will also complete a joint final report and make a recommendation on the outcome. The reports, which are confidential until they are considered by the Research Degrees Examination Board (RDEB), will be shared with you and your supervisors at the end of the process.
  • If your examiners recommend minor errors, errors of substance or a resubmission, they will provide you with guidance (which they will also attach to their joint final report) soon after the oral examination so that you may begin to make revisions. This is on the understanding that RDEB may require enhanced guidance or may reach a different decision on the outcome. You may however undertake revisions and, for minor errors or errors of substance, submit your corrected dissertation in the meantime if you wish.

Research Degree Examination Board (RDEB)

  • RDEB meets six times a year to consider examiners’ reports and to make awards.
  • The RDEB Chair may agree to consider examiners’ reports outside of the meeting cycle if there are exceptional circumstances, such as employment or visa considerations, that require an urgent decision. Requests for a decision by Chair’s action should be made via pgr-exams@bristol.ac.uk.

Notification of award

  • If RDEB approves your award, you will receive an award letter by email. Awards can also be viewed on studentinfo. Separately, you will be emailed a copy of the examiners’ reports.

Corrections and resubmissions

  • If RDEB decides that you must undertake further work on your dissertation, you will be informed by email after the RDEB meeting at which your examiners’ reports were considered. The email will include a copy of the examiners’ reports.

Minor errors

  • If you are required to correct minor errors, your will receive your award on the understanding that you will make the corrections in good time.
  • You will receive an award letter and you will be invited to a degree ceremony, but you will not receive your certificate until the corrections have been confirmed as being complete.
  • You should complete the corrections within 28 days of notification of RDEB’s decision and email your corrected dissertation to your internal examiner (or Independent Chair if you do not have an internal examiner). You may however work on and submit your corrected disseration before the RDEB decision.

Errors of substance

  • If you are required to correct errors of substance, you will be emailed a letter confirming the decision and setting a deadline for the corrections, which is normally six months from the notification of RDEB’s decision. You may however work on and submit your corrected dissertaion before the RDEB decision.
  • In exceptional circumstances, you may request an extension to the deadline – please contact pgr-exams@bristol.ac.uk.
  • You must email the corrected dissertation to your internal examiner (or Independent Chair if you do not have an internal examiner) and all examiners will consider your corrected work.
  • When they are satisfied, the examiners will write to RDEB to confirm that the award should be made. The confirmation will be considered at the next scheduled RDEB meeting.

Resubmission

  • If you are required to resubmit, you will be emailed a letter confirming the decision and setting a deadline for the resubmission, which is normally twelve months from the notification of RDEB’s decision.
  • In exceptional circumstances, you may request an extension to the deadline – please contact pgr-exams@bristol.ac.uk.
  • You must resubmit through the standard submission route for examination and for the Turnitin check. You will be required to pay a resubmission fee.
  • The examiners will conduct a full re-examination, usually including another oral examination, and they will provide new reports for consideration by RDEB.

Degree certificates

  • Your degree certificate will be available after your degree ceremony but will only be released when any minor errors have been completed satisfactorily and when you have deposited a final version of your dissertation with the Library.
  • Degree ceremonies are normally held in February and July each year, but during the pandemic certificates have been posted instead.

Appeals

  • You may appeal against a decision made by RDEB, as set out in the examination regulations.
  • An appeal must be submitted to your Faculty Education Manager within 15 working days of the notification of the decision.

Regulations and code of practice

The Regulations and Code of Practice for Research Degree Programmes provides a framework of procedures and practices to support research degree candidates and their supervisors.

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