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The three examiners

Once candidates have advised us of their intention to submit, the thesis will usually be assessed by three examiners:

  1. one from outside New Zealand ("Overseas External")
  2. one from within New Zealand but external to the University ("New Zealand External")
  3. one internal to the University ("Internal")

Normal patterns for examiners may be varied in exceptional circumstances. For instance, where no suitably qualified examiner is available to fulfil the role of “New Zealand External”, a further “Overseas External” will be appointed. A supervisor, ex-supervisor or member of the Departmental Advisory Committee will not be appointed as an examiner.

The identities of the examiners are not divulged to one another until after their reports have been submitted, nor are their identities released to the candidate until after the examination result is made known by the Doctoral Office. If an oral examination is held, however, their identities will be divulged at that time.

Confidentiality agreement

If the thesis contains particularly sensitive intellectual property (usually in conjunction with an external funder), then confidentiality agreements may be required with the examiners prior to submission. If in doubt, consult with the Research and Enterprise Office.

Examiner experience

Examiners should be suitably qualified to undertake the task. Suitably qualified examiners:

  • preferably have a PhD (or if not, some other higher degree but with appropriate research experience at a high level. It is unusual, however, for someone without a PhD to be nominated to examine a PhD thesis)
  • should be knowledgeable in the area/field/discipline of the topic of the thesis to be examined (i.e. the examiner should have the necessary background to be able to make an informed judgement about the thesis)
  • should be research active.

When nominating examiners, consideration should also be given to the examining experience of the examiners (i.e. rather than an exclusive focus on identifying three examiners with narrowly defined subject expertise). Where it is not feasible to secure a panel of three experienced examiners (defined as experience of examining three or more PhD theses), it is recommended that heads of department seek advice from Graduate Research School.

While nominations of examiners can be approved where one of the three examiners does not have the requisite examining experience, a strong case  will be required for consideration of a variation in regulations; this should include details of efforts to secure experienced examiners, and be supported by the HoD and AD.

Convener of examiners

An independent Convener of Examiners convenes the examination. The Convener is not an examiner of the thesis but is a person who coordinates the examiners' reports and submits a report on the recommendation of the examiners. If an oral examination is held, the Convener prepares for, and chairs, the oral examination (see below).

Conveners are drawn from Heads of Department and other senior academic staff. A Convener is not necessarily a member of the same department as the PhD candidate. A supervisor, ex-supervisor, or member of the Departmental Advisory Committee will not be appointed as Convener.

List of approved Conveners of PhD Examiners (PDF)

It is essential that departments begin the process of selecting potential examiners before the thesis is submitted so that the examination process is not unnecessarily protracted. The nominations for examiners are made by the Head of Department after consultation with the supervisors on the appropriate form which is available from the PhD website. The nomination of a Convener is made at the same time. It is the Head of Department's responsibility to ensure that the nominated examiners and Convener are agreeable to performing their respective roles before the Nomination of Examiners form is submitted to the Doctoral Office.

The Graduate Research Committee, under the delegated authority of the Senate, approves examiners and the Convener.

To add a new convener into the database, Heads of Department must nominate them via the Pro-Vice Chancellor (PVC) to the Graduate Research School. The PVC approves new conveners who are senior academics (Associate Professor or Professor) and who have considerable experience in examining doctoral theses.

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