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Convening of Doctoral Examinations without an Oral Examination Procedure

Category Research
Type Procedure
Approved by Senate
Date Procedure Took Effect 30 June 2021
Last Approved Revision
Sponsor Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research & Enterprise)
Responsible Officer Dean, Graduate Research School
Review Date 29 June 2026

Purpose

The regulations for professional doctorates require that Doctoral thesis examinations be overseen by an independent Convener. The role of the Convener is to ensure the examination is fair and run according to the high standards expected by the University. This procedure provides details on the steps to be taken by the Convener in overseeing a Doctoral thesis examination that does not include an oral examination.

Organisational Scope

This procedure applies to all doctoral thesis examinations without an oral examination. The Doctoral of Clinical Dentistry degree does not require an oral examination, the Doctor of Education degree usually does not require an oral, and the Doctor of Philosophy degree may not require an oral only if the candidate began study before 2014.

Definitions

Convener of Examiners/Convener
An approved and independent facilitator who oversees the Doctoral Examination Process. The Convener is a facilitator, not an examiner, and need not be an expert in the subject matter of the examination. They may or may not be drawn from the candidate’s supervising department, but a candidate’s supervisor cannot be a Convener.
Examiner’s Reports
The individual written reports of the examiners of the Doctoral thesis, which each examiner formulates independently based on their reading of the candidate’s thesis. Each report will be accompanied by an initial recommendation for the examination result.
Exceptional Thesis
A Doctoral thesis judged by the examiners to be in the top ten percent of theses examined. Final decisions on the granting of ‘Exceptional Thesis’ status are made by the relevant Pro-Vice-Chancellor.
External Examiner
An examiner external to the University of Otago.
Internal Examiner
The thesis examiner from the University of Otago. Where no Otago examiner is used, an external examiner shall be designated as the ‘internal examiner’.
Primary supervisor
The principal supervisor who provides academic advice and practical support. They are the main point of contact for the candidate and the administration of their postgraduate research.
Referee
An adjudicator from outside the University, not previously involved in the thesis examination, who makes an assessment and recommendation for a final examination result in a case where the examiners cannot reach agreement on a result.
Supervisors’ Report
A report by the candidate’s supervisor(s) on the thesis, including information on publications arising from the work, the role of the supervisors, and the supervision process.
Supervising Department
The academic unit with which a Doctoral candidate is administratively associated, usually the unit in which the candidate’s primary supervisor is based and/or the unit in which the candidate is physically located.
Thesis
The body of work submitted for examination. The term ‘thesis’ is used throughout this procedure, but note that for some professional doctorates, an exegesis rather than a thesis may be submitted.

Content


1. Induction into convening

  1. Conveners are normally more senior academic staff and must have some experience examining Doctoral theses. Conveners are nominated by the Head of the supervising department, and approval is given by the relevant Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Dean of the Graduate Research School.
  2. The Convener must complete a brief (5 minutes) training session on eVision processes for convening via Blackboard in order to gain access to examination management in eVision. Before convening their first examination, conveners are strongly recommended to attend a workshop for Conveners of Doctoral examinations provided by the Graduate Research School.
  3. New conveners are added into the convener database (linked below), and are sent a resource pack with detailed information about the convening process, including template emails for liaising with examiners.
    List of PhD Conveners of examiners (PDF)

2. Nomination and approval to convene a Doctoral examination

  1. A Convener should be approached informally by the primary supervisor or Head of the supervising department, to determine their availability and willingness to act as a convener for a specific examination.
  2. Having confirmed availability, convener details are entered by the Client Service Administrator in the supervising department into the ‘Nomination of Examiner’ form in eVision. Following approval, once the examination begins, conveners are advised by an alert from eVision that provides details of the candidate and examiners, as well as links to key examination policies. They are asked to confirm that there is no conflict of interest in convening the examination, and acknowledge that any information received is given in confidence for use solely in relation to assessment of the thesis. In a separate email they are sent a link to a digital copy of the thesis and a Convener Recommendation Form.

3. Receiving supervisors’ and examiners’ reports

  1. Administrators in Student Experience receive supervisors' and examiners' reports directly, and will upload and enter the results in eVision. The Convener will receive a notification via eVision as each report is entered. If the Convener receives reports directly from the supervisors or examiners, these should be emailed to phd@otago.ac.nz for processing. Administrators and/or the Dean of the Graduate Research School will follow up on any late reports, but may enlist the assistance of the Convener.
  2. The supervisors’ report is for the Convener’s information in the first instance. It should not be circulated before the examiners’ reports have been received. In the interests of facilitating an examination result, and providing the supervisors’ report contains relevant context, the Convener may wish to make this report available to the examiners after all three examiners’ reports have been submitted. The candidate does not normally receive a copy of the supervisor’s report at any stage in the examination process.
  3. The examiners should report independently on the thesis; the content of the independent reports should not be shared amongst the examiners until all three reports are received. Occasionally a substandard report (in terms of length, tone or language) may be received. If the Convener is concerned about the quality of the report, they should confer with the Dean of the Graduate Research School, who may request a revised report from the examiner.

4. Facilitating the reaching of consensus on a result

  1. The Convener is responsible for facilitating a consensus amongst the examiners on the result of the examination and any required amendments. Sometimes the Convener may need to take on an adjudicating role in order to assist this process, for example through assessing the evidence being presented by examiners’ for their positions, but at no time should the Convener become involved in judging the quality of the thesis itself (this is the role of the examiners).
  2. Possible outcomes from the examination are recommendations that the thesis:
    1. be accepted as is, and the degree be awarded;
    2. be accepted with minor editorial corrections, and the degree be awarded;
    3. be accepted and the degree be awarded after amendments have been made to the satisfaction of the Convener of examiners in consultation with the internal examiner;
    4. be revised and resubmitted for examination;
    5. be rejected and referred to the appropriate authority within the University for consideration of the award of another degree; or,
    6. be rejected with no right of resubmission.
  3. The following steps may be taken to reach a consensus:
    1. circulating the examiners’ reports and outlining the available options and/or a possible way forward;
    2. discussing the situation individually with one or all of the examiners, or chairing an audio or web conference with all the examiners;
    3. in exceptional circumstances, following consultation with the Dean of the Graduate Research School, seeking clarification from the supervisor(s) about specific aspects of the thesis. For example, the thesis may contain co-authored published material and the examiners may want clarification over the contribution of the candidate and the co-authors.
  4. A decision should also be made on whether the examiners recommend the thesis be nominated for ‘exceptional’ status (in the top 10% of theses examined). Such a recommendation requires that all three examiners agree that the thesis is of exceptional quality, which may be demonstrated through initial examiner recommendations or through written examiner statements confirming this recommendation following discussion. Each examiner should provide brief written reasons for their judgment that the thesis is exceptional.
  5. If a consensus on a result cannot be reached, the Convener should contact the Dean of the Graduate Research School, who will advise on next steps, for example the appointment of a referee.
  6. Once consensus is reached, the Convener should draft a letter for the candidate, containing the result and required amendments, and circulate this around the examiners for final confirmation.

5. Notifying the result

  1. The Convener should email the recommendation for the result on the prescribed form, along with a letter to the candidate (see 4(f) above), to phd@otago.ac.nz for processing. The Administrators in Student Experience will send this letter to the candidate with copies to the primary supervisor.
  2. For an ‘Accept’ result (see 4(b)I, ii and iii) the Administrators at Student Experience will formally advise the candidate of the result via an alert from eVision; the Convener’s letter and the examiners’ reports will be sent to the candidate and copied to the primary supervisor. The Convener may also inform the candidate of the result prior to formal notification being sent.
  3. For a ‘Revise and Resubmit’ result (see 4(b)iv,) the Dean of the Graduate Research School will normally liaise with the candidate’s primary supervisor, who shall inform the candidate of the result in person. The Convener’s letter and anonymised copies of examiners’ reports will be emailed to the primary supervisor to share with the candidate, and documents will be copied to the Convener, and the head of the supervising department. This process is intended to provide additional support to the candidate.
  4. For a ‘Reject’ result (see 4(b) v and vi) the Dean of the Graduate Research School shall manage communications to the candidate. The result letter, the Convener’s letter and copies of examiners’ reports will be provided to the candidate, and documents will be copied to the Convener, the Primary Supervisor and the head of the supervising department. The candidate will also be advised of the process to seek leave to appeal.
  5. Where the result includes amendments or revisions, the Convener should be available to the candidate to provide clarification on the nature and scope of additional work required.
  6. A candidate has the right to seek leave to appeal if they believe there has been an unfair examination process.

6. Approving the required corrections or amendments

  1. For an ‘Accept’ result (see 4(b)ii and iii), the Convener is responsible for ensuring that any required corrections or amendments have been completed. For this result the candidate should submit the corrected thesis directly to the Convener. The Convener should confirm with the candidate the format in which they would prefer the amended thesis (electronic, hard copy or both).
  2. For a ‘Revise and Resubmit’ result (see 4(b)iv), the thesis will be fully re-examined, preferably with the same examiners and Convener; in this case the candidate will work on revisions under the guidance of their supervisor(s) and the candidate should submit their revised thesis and a separate summary of changes made to phd@otago.ac.nz; the Convener will not be required until the thesis is resubmitted.
  3. Where minor corrections are required (see 4(b)ii), the Convener is solely responsible for checking that these have been made.
  4. Where amendments are required (see 4(b)iii), the Convener is responsible for checking that these have been made in consultation with the internal examiner. Note that the internal examiner is expected to check that the amendments agreed to by the examination panel are addressed; any specific concerns of the internal examiner should not be given undue weight in this process.
  5. Once any corrections or amendments required by the examiners have been completed and the Convener is happy that all amendments have been made, an email should be sent to phd@otago.ac.nz with the following text and the Administrators at Student Experience will enter the result and upload the email to eVision. Please ensure that it is a separate email and not a reply, as the document will be uploaded to eVision as a permanent record:

    "All amendments have been satisfactorily completed by NAME (ID) and my recommendation is that the degree can now be awarded."

    The Convener may also inform the candidate of the result prior to formal notification being sent.

Related Policies, Procedures and Forms

Contact for Further Information

All queries regarding the administration of the examination process can be directed to the Administrators in Student Experience:

Email phd@otago.ac.nz

Complex queries can be directed to the Dean of the Graduate Research School:

Email dean.grs@otago.ac.nz

Complex queries relating to professional doctorates can be directed to the Associate Dean Postgraduate within the respective division:

Local contacts are also provided below for Christchurch and Wellington staff.

Christchurch

Coordinator of Student Experience
Shared Service Division
University of Otago, Christchurch
Tel +64 3 364 0527 (or ext 80527)
Email postgrad.uoc@otago.ac.nz

Wellington

Coordinator Student Experience
Shared Service Division
University of Otago, Wellington
Tel +64 4 385 5543
Email postgrad.uow@otago.ac.nz