Graduate School Handbook Part 14 - Final assessment

This part of the handbook includes regulations, procedures, information and guidance about the final assessment for an MPhil or doctoral level award.  The final assessment period commences once the postgraduate researcher has submitted their thesis/critical commentary to the Graduate School for assessment.

Due to the different and distinct phases within the final assessment process, procedures for each phase are included directly after each section of the regulations, rather than all together at the end of the chapter.

Regulations, procedures, information and guidance about all requirements prior to the submission of the thesis are contained within the previous Part 13 Preparing for the Final Assessment, including: the required format of the thesis, and for DPhil/MPhil by publication the critical commentary; loading the thesis onto the UWE research repository; nomination and appointment of examiners; reasonable adjustments for the viva; organising the viva date, together with  guidance and tips on preparing for the viva itself.

In all chapters concerning the final assessment process the PGR may be referred to as the ‘PGR candidate’, or simply ‘the candidate’.

Regulations about the principles and forms of PGR final assessment

PGR14.1 Principles of assessment for MPhil and Doctoral level research based awards

PGR14.1.1R To be awarded an MPhil or Doctoral level research degree by the University, candidates must demonstrate to the satisfaction of the examiners that they meet the requirements of the University’s published qualification descriptor for that degree (see PGR Part 2 Postgraduate qualification descriptors).

PGR14.1.2R In addition, candidates must successfully complete assessment of any required taught credit and fulfil any other academic or professional assessment requirements for the award as detailed in published award specifications and elsewhere in these regulations.

PGR14.2 Forms of assessment for MPhil and Doctoral level research based awards

MPhil and Doctoral level research based awards

PGR14.2.1R MPhil and Doctoral level research based awards (MPhil, PhD, Professional Doctorate degrees) are assessed by submission of a written thesis and a viva voce (oral) examination.

PGR14.2.2R Where candidates are assessed for MPhil and PhD awards with an approved creative practice focus, the assessment will be by submitted thesis and viva voce, but may also include submission of original creative work in any medium undertaken as part of the registered research project. This creative work may include but is not limited to: one or more scholarly texts, works of fiction, musical or choreographic works, designs, devices and products, short film, exhibition of works, installation or other original artefacts or examples of creative work.

Research awards by publication

PGR14.2.3R Research awards by publication (including MPhil and DPhil degrees by publication) are assessed by submission of a collection of published work together with a critical commentary setting out the nature and significance of the collection as a whole in terms of its contribution to new knowledge within the subject field, and a viva voce (oral) examination.

PGR14.2.4R Published work may include books, original and exhibited creative work in any medium, peer reviewed publications in the public domain, published patents or designs, or other forms of published scholarly output embodying original research.

Variations to the prescribed submission formats

PGR14.2.5R Very exceptionally parts of the thesis, or all of it, may be presented other than in written, printable form where it can be demonstrated that the contents can be better expressed in that form and are capable of being assessed. In all such cases the permission of the Research Degrees Award Board (RDAB) must be obtained before the final examination arrangements have been approved.

Variations to examination by viva voce

PGR14.2.6R Exceptionally RDAB may approve an alternative to the viva voce where it is satisfied that a candidate would be seriously disadvantaged on health, disability, or other grounds by being required to undergo an oral examination. Normally RDAB’s permission must be sought and obtained before the final examination arrangements have been approved.

Viva location

PGR14.2.7R All candidates are required to attend the viva voce examination in person at the location and on the date specified by the University. This will normally be at one of the University’s campus sites, unless otherwise specified for PGRs within an academic agreement or schedule thereto between the University and an affiliated institution.

Procedures about the viva location

PGR14.2.8 Where the candidate and/or Director of Studies believe there are exceptional grounds for holding the viva at another location other than specified at PGR14.2.7R, the permission of RDAB, with the agreement of the UWE Academic Registrar, must be obtained prior to the examiners being appointed. Such applications should be made to the Officer for RDAB in the first instance using the correct form.(RD21)

PGR14.2.9 In exceptional circumstances RDAB may grant permission for one examiner to be available at the viva by video link, subject to the written agreement of both the candidate and the Independent Chair, and to the technology being of a satisfactory standard. Application should be made to the Officer to RDAB in the first instance using the correct form (RD21). In the event that the technology does not permit the viva to be conducted with the involvement of all parties to a satisfactory standard e.g. visual contact is lost between the parties, the viva should be stopped and rearranged.

PGR14.2.10 It is not permitted for the candidate to be interviewed by video link, Skype or other electronic means.

Regulations about the final assessment process for postgraduate research degrees

PGR14.3 Regulations about the final assessment process for postgraduate research degrees

PGR14.3.1R A candidate for PhD, MPhil or Professional Doctorate is assessed by a panel of at least two and normally not more than three examiners, of whom at least one must be an external examiner and one an internal examiner. Candidates for MPhil and DPhil by publication are assessed by two external examiners.

PGR14.3.2R The final assessment has two parts

  • The examiners’ independent reports (one per examiner) containing a preliminary assessment of the work submitted* by the candidate;
  • A viva voce (oral) defence by the candidate of the submitted work in the context of the field of study in which the research lies.

The viva voce will normally be conducted in English.

(*NB. ‘Submitted work/work submitted’ in this context means the thesis, or the published work and critical commentary, or other approved variant).

PGR14.3.3R Both the viva voce examination and examiners’ reporting process are overseen by an Independent Chair appointed by RDAB for this purpose.

PGR14.3.4R No candidate may be failed and the degree not awarded without having had the opportunity of a viva voce examination, either at first attempt or where a resubmission attempt has been granted. But there is no automatic right to resubmission.

NB. Part 15 Assessment Offences, PGR15.2.2R provides the exception to this regulation in the case of a proven serious assessment offence.

PGR14.3.5R At final assessment a candidate may be referred for resubmission and reassessment once only, and may undergo a maximum of two viva voce examinations in total, unless RDAB permits otherwise on the grounds of accepted personal circumstances or other exceptional grounds.

Procedures about conducting the assessment, the outcomes report and feedback to the candidate

PGR14.4 Preliminary assessment the work and the viva voce examination

Preliminary Reports

PGR14.4.1 Each examiner must make an independent preliminary assessment of the submitted work using the report form provided and return these to the Graduate School before any viva voce is held. This report should indicate whether the work submitted, prima facie, satisfies the requirements of the qualifications descriptor for the award on which the candidate is registered. The report should also include the examiners’ recommendations about:

  • Issues to explore with the candidate at the viva;
  • The merits and/or deficiencies of the submission;
  • The appropriateness of the proposed thesis title;
  • Where possible, a provisional outcome recommendation, conditional upon the outcome of the viva voce examination.

PGR14.4.2 Examiners should be mindful of the requirements of the Code of Good Research Conduct and the University’s policies concerning research ethics, and academic integrity and assessment offences, and follow procedures at part 15 of this handbook Assessment Offences should any concerns arise in this respect.

PGR14.4.3 The examiners’ preliminary reports are confidential. The candidate and supervisory team will not normally receive copies. At the discretion of the Independent Chair an examiner may see the other examiner’s report once all reports have been received by the Graduate School.

The Viva

PGR14.4.4 The examining panel will meet for a period of at least 30 minutes prior to the viva in order to plan the viva. The Independent Chair is responsible for ensuring that the viva is conducted according UWE academic regulations.

PGR14.4.5 With the consent of the candidate, supervisors and/or a representative of the Research Degrees Award Board may attend the viva voce examination but may not participate in the discussion with the candidate unless invited to do so by the Chair.

PGR14.4.6 Following the viva the examining panel will consider its recommended outcome in private. Any representative of RDAB may remain while the examiners decide on their recommended outcome, but shall not participate in that discussion. Neither the candidate nor the supervisors may be present during the panel’s deliberations.

PGR14.4.7 Having completed their deliberations, the examining panel will provide oral feedback to the candidate about the recommended outcome from the range at PGR14.6.1R and details of any requirements for amending, revising or resubmitting the material, together with any recommendations on how to improve the material for publication. It is recommended that the supervisor is present for the feedback session to take notes about further work, and act as an extra pair of ears.

PGR14.5 Outcome recommendation report (RD12) and written feedback for the candidate

Recommended outcomes report (RD12) and written feedback for the candidate

PGR14.5.1 If the examiners agree on the outcome of the examination they will submit a joint report (RD12) and recommended outcome from the range available at PGR 14.6.1R. The Independent Chair is responsible for compiling this report from feedback supplied by the examiners and submitting it to the Graduate School as soon as possible. All examiners must agree the content of the written feedback.

PGR14.5.2 Where the candidate is required to amend or resubmit work the Chair will also complete the ‘required changes and feedback’ form which should indicate the examiners’ detailed requirements. This will subsequently be forwarded to the candidate and the Director of Studies by the Research Degrees Award Board (RDAB).

PGR14.5.3 Where examiners wish any specific comments contained within their pre-viva preliminary assessment report to be made available to the candidate they must indicate this clearly to the Independent Chair, and it must be included on the post-viva required changes and feedback form. It will not otherwise be made available to the candidate.

PGR14.5.4 For the sake of convenience, annotations noted on an examiner’s copy of the thesis indicating minor presentational and typographical errors only may be passed to the candidate as indicated on the required changes and feedback form. An annotated thesis can only be used in this way in conjunction with the written feedback, not as a substitute for it.

PGR14.5.5 The preliminary reports and the joint recommendation should together provide sufficient detail about the scope and quality of the work to enable RDAB to be satisfied that the recommendation chosen is appropriate.

PGR14.5.6 If the examiners do not agree they must each submit separate reports and a recommendation for consideration by RDAB.

The viva examiners guidance document provides more information about the UWE viva process.

Regulations about the outcome of the final assessment following the viva voce examination

PGR14.6. The range of outcomes for the final assessment following the viva voce

PGR14.6.1R Following the viva voce examination the examiners may recommend to the Research Degrees Award Board one of the following outcomes:

A. The candidate fulfils the criteria for the award on which they are registered:

The candidate fulfils the Doctoral/MPhil award criteria and the candidate is recommended for the degree:

i. Without further correction or amendment;

or

ii. Subject to satisfactory correction of presentational/typographical errors within the material† (maximum 4 weeks FT/6 weeks PT). Corrections to be approved by one or all examiners;

or

iii. Subject to satisfactory minor amendment of the material† as indicated by the examiners and which can reasonably be completed within a maximum 12 weeks FT/18 weeks PT. Amendments to be approved by one or all examiners;

or

iv. Subject to satisfactory major amendments. The material† submitted displays some deficiencies of content, analysis and/or presentation in areas specified by the examiners requiring additional work which can reasonably be expected to be completed within a maximum 6 months FT/9 months PT. No further viva examination is required, amendments to be approved by all examiners.

NB. These recommendations are collectively known as Pass outcomes.)

† See not about DPhil/MPhil below.

B. The candidate does not currently fulfil the criteria for the award on which they are registered:

The examiners recommend that the candidate is referred for resubmission and re-assessment.

The candidate does not currently fulfil the Doctoral/MPhil criteria and the material† as submitted displays significant deficiencies of content and/or presentation in areas specified by the examiners. The candidate may be permitted to revise and re-submit the material for the degree and be re-assessed on one further occasion with or without viva voce examination. Revisions indicated by examiners may reasonably be expected to be completed within a maximum 12 months FT/18 months PT. The re-assessment shall be of the submitted material† as a whole and undertaken by all examiners.

(NB. This recommendation is a referral outcome; at this point the candidate has not yet passed their degree.)

C. Additional outcomes for PhD or DPhil assessment only:

i. MPhil with amendments

The candidate does not fulfil the doctoral award descriptor criteria but does meet the award criteria for MPhil and may be recommended for this award subject to satisfactory amendment of the material† in a manner and to a timescale as recommended by the examiners (up to a maximum of 6 months FT/9 months PT). No further viva voce examination is required. Amendments to be approved by one or all examiners.

or

ii. Resubmit and be assessed for MPhil

The candidate does not fulfil the doctoral award criteria but has the potential to meet the award criteria for MPhil and may revise and resubmit the material† as indicated by the examiners for assessment for the award of MPhil (within a maximum of 12 months FT/18 months PT). The assessment shall be of the submitted material †as a whole, conducted by all examiners and a viva voce examination will be required.

†NB. Material and/or amendment of material in the case of DPhil/MPhil by publication: material refers to the critical commentary element of the submission only, since the publications/outputs will already be in the public domain.

D. Degree not awarded

The candidate is not recommended for the award of any degree and is not permitted to resubmit for re-assessment. Unsuccessful candidates for DPhil/MPhil by publication may be permitted to re-apply after a period of three years.

(NB. This recommendation is a Fail outcome, the candidate has not passed their degree).

PGR 14.7 Regulations in the event of disagreement between examiners

PGR14.7.1R Where the examiners’ recommendations are not unanimous, this will be reported by the Independent Chair to the Research Degrees Award Board (RDAB) which may:

a. uphold the recommendation of the external examiner (where there is one external examiner);

or

b. uphold a majority recommendation provided that the majority includes at least one external examiner (where there is more than one external examiner);

or

c. appoint an independent external assessor to review the thesis and make an independent report together with an outcome recommendation to RDAB. No further viva voce examination of the candidate will take place within that assessment attempt. RDAB will consider all reports and agree an outcome decision in accordance with regulations at PGR14.6.1R.Where this process takes place in the context of resubmission assessment, however, outcome B (i.e. a further resubmission for that degree) cannot be granted.

PGR14.8 Regulations about PGR14.6.1R category A outcomes and in the case of unsatisfactory amendments

PGR14.8.1R Should the amendments submitted, whether major or minor, not be considered satisfactory by the examiners the candidate will be given 12 additional weeks to make the necessary adjustments.

PGR14.8.2R If after this additional time the examiners confirm that they are not yet content with the amended material, RDAB may exceptionally permit the candidate up to a maximum of 12 further weeks to make final adjustments. There is no automatic right to this further time.

PGR14.8.3R If the amended material continues to be unsatisfactory the candidate will be considered not to have complied with the academic requirements of the award, will be withdrawn by RDAB and the degree will not be awarded.

Procedures about corrections, minor or major amendments viva outcomes

Minor Amendments

PGR14.8.4 Where the award outcome is pass subject to minor amendments this means that the candidate has met the requirements of the qualification descriptor for the award and the amendments should normally be limited to amending representational errors, or re-presenting and restructuring existing text/material only. New work should not normally be required.

Major amendments

PGR14.8.5 Where the award outcome is pass subject to major amendments this means that the candidate has met the requirements of the qualification descriptor for the award, but the material submitted does not reflect the quality of the research undertaken and requires some additional work. Some new work may be required to bring the thesis up to publishable standard including:

  • Limited extra research or analysis;
  • Limited new experiments, or repeating existing ones;
  • Re-writing some sections of material.

This should not, however, amount to a significant extension or fundamental change in the direction of the original research and will not involve a complete re-write of the material as a whole. The examiners should be confident that this work can be completed within 6 months full-time or 9 months part-time.

PGR14.8.6 Where the award outcome is pass subject to major amendments, the Research Degrees Award Board may recommend that some further supervision would be beneficial. Where the candidate chooses to take up this recommendation they will be required to pay the appropriate pro-rata fee.

Deadlines for submitting corrections, minor or major amendments

PGR14.8.7 Deadlines for the submission or required corrections, minor or major amendments are calculated from the date of notification of the outcome of the final assessment by the Research Degrees Award Board.

PGR14.8.8 Amendments should be made in accordance with specific requirements of the examiners. However, candidates are ultimately responsible for deciding the manner in which to improve the material and when the amended material should be submitted within the maximum time stipulated. Candidate can choose to submit before the maximum time allowed.

Regulations about the resubmission process

PGR14.9 Regulations about the resubmission process following a PGR14.6.1R category B outcome, and the range of possible outcomes at resubmission

PGR14.9.1R Only one re-assessment may be permitted by RDAB, subject to the candidate submitting for re-assessment within 12 months FT/18 months PT of the date of the formal notification of the outcome of the first assessment.

PGR14.9.2R RDAB may require that an additional external examiner is appointed for the re-assessment.

PGR14.9.3R RDAB may, where there is good reason, approve an extension of the resubmission period.

PGR14.9.4R In all other respects the re-assessment will be conducted in the same way as the first assessment, and the candidate will be required to submit a draft of the resubmission to their Director of Studies and receive comments as at regulation PGR13.1.2R.

PGR14.9.5R Following completion of the re-assessment the examiners may recommend an outcome from the list set out in PGR14.6.1R with the following exceptions:

  • Outcome option B (resubmission for the same degree) is not available;
  • A PhD or DPhil candidate may be recommended for the award of MPhil subject to satisfactory amendments (outcome option C.i), but may not be recommended for a further resubmission to be assessed for MPhil (outcome option C.ii);
  • A PhD or DPhil candidate who, as an outcome of their first assessment, has resubmitted and been assessed for the award of MPhil (i.e. outcome C.ii) may not be given a further resubmission opportunity for MPhil.

Procedures about being referred for resubmission and re-examination

Re-writing and resubmitting the material

PGR14.9.6 Where the award outcome is referred for resubmission and re-assessment this means that the candidate does not currently meet the requirements of the qualification descriptor for the award but, with substantial new work and/or re-writing of the material as a whole, the examiners judge that they have the potential to do so at re-assessment. Very exceptionally the examiners may recommend that the candidate be re-assessed by viva only, without having to resubmit revised material.

PGR14.9.7 Revision of the material may relate to theoretical and/or methodological aspects of the research and new work may be required including any or all of the following:

  • New research and/or new data;
  • New fieldwork or practice;
  • New analysis;
  • Substantial revision or addition to the literature review.

NB. At resubmission the revised thesis or DPhil/MPhil by publication submission as a whole is re-assessed, not just the new, re-written, or revised material.

PGR14.9.8 The resubmission deadline is calculated from the date of notification of the outcome of the viva examination by the Research Degrees Award Board. RDAB may recommend that some further supervision may be beneficial and where the candidate chooses to take up this recommendation they will be required to pay the appropriate pro-rata fee as advised by the Graduate School.

PGR14.9.9 Revision of the material should be made in accordance with the specific requirements of the examiners. The Director of Studies/supervisory must provide comments on the revised material (see PGR14.9.4R) but the candidate remains ultimately responsible for deciding the manner in which to improve the material and when the material is resubmitted within the maximum time stipulated. Candidate may choose to submit before the maximum time allowed.

The resubmission viva

PGR14.9.10 The candidate will be exempt from undergoing a further viva voce at resubmission only where the examiners unanimously agree, having re-assessed the resubmitted work, that there is no need for it and that the degree can be awarded on the basis of revision of the thesis/critical commentary alone. However, a candidate cannot be failed outright at resubmission and the degree not awarded without having the opportunity to undergo a further viva.

PGR14.9.11 Where the resubmission viva is required, the Director of Studies may request a copy of the examiners’ resubmission preliminary reports from the Graduate School to assist the candidate’s preparation for the viva.

Resubmission fee

PGR14.9.12 A candidate who submits a thesis or critical commentary and collection of published works for re-assessment is required to pay the appropriate fee as advised by the Graduate School.

Regulations about outcome D: Degree not awarded

PGR14.10 Regulations when the examiners recommend outcome PGR14.6.1R D: Degree not awarded and no resubmission permitted

PGR14.10.1R Where the examiners recommend that the degree is not awarded, i.e. that the candidate has ‘failed’ the award; the examiners will prepare an agreed joint statement of the deficiencies of the thesis or collection of published work and critical commentary including the rationale for their recommendation. This will be considered by the Research Degrees Award Board. Where RDAB agrees this outcome, the examiners’ statement will be forwarded to the candidate by the Board together with the formal notification of the outcome. The candidate will be withdrawn from the award.

Regulations about deciding the assessment outcome and granting the research degree award

PGR 14.11 Responsibility for deciding the assessment outcome and granting the research degree award: the Research Degrees Award Board

PGR14.11.1R The Research Degrees Award Board is the examining board approved by the University to be responsible for granting postgraduate research degree awards, or amending a properly executed decision about postgraduate research degree awards, on behalf of the Academic Board. RDAB must include a Chief External Examiner appointed by the Academic Registrar on behalf of the Academic Board.

PGR14.11.2R RDAB will decide the assessment outcome and grant research degree awards on behalf of Academic Board on consideration of the reports and recommendation of the examiners following the viva voce examination, and on consideration of outcomes from taught components/modules from the appropriate Field Boards.

PGR14.11.3R The result of the candidate’s assessment and the award granted will be produced by the Graduate School, signed by the Chair of RDAB and published in the format approved by the University.

PGR14.11.4R The candidate will be considered to have completed their award on the date that RDAB decides that the award is granted.

PGR14.11.5R The University may with hold an award from a candidate who:

  • has outstanding obligations, financial or otherwise, to the University;
  • has not successfully completed the requirement for accredited learning (i.e. taught modules) for the programme;
  • is the subject of an ongoing investigation concerning an allegation of a breach of discipline or an assessment offence allegation.

PGR14.12 Making an appeal against the RDAB decision

PGR14.12.1 Candidates may appeal against the decision of RDAB only on the grounds that:

There has been material and significant administrative error or other material irregularity such that the assessment was not conducted in accordance with the approved regulations for the award.”[Appendix H2, extract, H26.4R]

The processes governing the consideration of such appeals for all students of the University including postgraduate research degree candidates are described at appendix H2 of the UWE Academic Regulations and Procedures.

Regulations about depositing the final work and intellectual property requirements

PGR14.13 Regulations about deposition of the final version of the thesis or collection of published works and critical commentary, and intellectual property requirements

PGR14.13.1R All candidates for PhD, Professional Doctorate and MPhil awards must deposit the final version of their thesis, incorporating any amendments required by the examiners, on the UWE Bristol Research Repository before the award can be conferred. For the awards of DPhil/MPhil by publication only the critical commentary and bibliography listing the published works submitted for consideration for the award must be added to the UWE Research Repository.

PGR14.13.2R The candidate must ensure that use of any third party intellectual property complies with the requirements of the University’s intellectual property policy. The thesis or critical commentary must include the following statement:

‘Material in this thesis/commentary* is the author’s with the exception of third party material where appropriate permissions have been obtained and attributed. This copy has been supplied on the understanding that no use of material may be made without proper acknowledgement.’

*For awards by publication

PGR14.13.3R Access to a thesis or critical commentary via the UWE Research Repository may only be restricted where a previous application to do so has been agreed by RDAB.

Procedure about posthumous awards

PGR14.14 Posthumous awards

The processes governing the granting of a posthumous award to a deceased student of the University, including postgraduate researchers, are described at section H22 of the UWE Academic Regulations and Procedures. These are applicable to postgraduate researchers where a full draft thesis in assessable form has been submitted to the Graduate School in accordance with PGR regulations and procedures at PGR Part 13.

Procedure about certificates and ceremonies

PGR14.5 Conferring the award

PGR14.15.1 After designated staff from the Repository Team and the Officer to RDAB has verified that the final version of the thesis/critical commentary and bibliography has been deposited on the UWE Research Repository in accordance with University requirements and all required paperwork has been completed; RDAB will approve the production of the Certificate and Certificate of Credit. The University will not confer the award, nor may the candidate attend an award ceremony or adopt the doctoral title until the final deposition has been made appropriately.

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