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Frequently asked questions about the PhD examination process

How long will it take to examine my thesis?

  1. The examination of a PhD thesis is a serious and time-consuming process involving a large number of steps, documents and participants. There are, therefore, many possible sources and causes of delay. The staff of the Doctoral and Scholarships Office will do their very best to facilitate a smooth and timely process for you, however you should bear in mind that delays are common and so it is important to be realistic about how long it will take before a result is available.
  2. The usual time between submission and receiving the initial outcome, based on historical data, is approximately 4 months.
  3. This period does not include the time needed for doing amendments and submitting your final hard-bound thesis.
  4. The assessment of a PhD thesis is a large and serious undertaking and it usually requires a substantial period of uninterrupted time. The time of the year at which the thesis is submitted can also be a significant factor.
  5. The Doctoral and Scholarships Office will remind examiners about two weeks before their reports are due. A reminder will also be sent if an examiner's report has not been submitted within the timeframe suggested. This usually results in a renegotiated deadline for the report. If the response is unsatisfactory, senior management will attempt to expedite matters.
  6. Once all the examiners' reports have been received, the oral will be held (see Oral Examination). The Convener of Examiners is responsible for reaching a final consensus recommendation regarding the results in consultation with the examiners at the conclusion of the oral examination. Candidate’s will usually be informed of the result at this point but if no consensus has been reached, this will be conveyed to the candidate, together with a likely timeframe for a decision.

May I contact the Doctoral and Scholarships Office during the examination period?

  1. For any queries about the progress of your doctoral examination, please contact the Doctoral and Scholarships Office. Should there be any unusual delays, you will certainly be informed.
  2. It is essential that you keep the Doctoral and Scholarships Office informed of your current postal and email addresses during the examination process.

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Do I need to be on campus for an oral examination or to make corrections to my thesis, if required?

  1. The answer is preferably yes as it will greatly facilitate the completion of your examination process. If it is unavoidable for you to move away from the campus, you should discuss the implications with your supervisor, HOD and the Convener of Examiners before making a decision.
  2. By special arrangement it is possible to arrange an oral examination by video or audio conference but this will need the approval of the Convener of Examiners.

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Do I have to enrol and pay fees if I have amendments/revisions to make?

Usually not since fees are waived during the examination period. However, there are expected time frames in which amendments/revisions are to be completed. After this time, you will be required to (re-)enrol and pay fees. For general amendments resulting from the two "accept" results, this is a period three months (full-time study); for a "revise and resubmit" result, this is extended to 6 months (full-time study) or 12 months (part-time study). 

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Do I have to be on campus when I am receiving a Postgraduate Publishing Bursary?

The Postgraduate Publishing Bursary Regulations (which are printed on the reverse side of the application form) state the student must prepare the publication(s) “with the direct involvement of their supervisor”. As long as this criterion is met, students may be off-campus or overseas during the tenure of the bursary; however, payment will only be made into a nominated New Zealand bank account in the name of the student.

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May I take up employment during the examination process?

The University does not have any regulations that prohibit you from taking up employment, including post-doctoral positions, during the examination process. It is your, and your prospective employer's, decision whether you wish to do this. If you are contemplating employment, it is recommended that you carefully consider the implications of that employment should you be required to make amendments/revisions or attend an oral examination.

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Why do I have to make amendments/revisions?

  1. It is important that thesis candidates understand that, as a result of the examination of their thesis, revisions may be required. Sometimes these are relatively straightforward and will not take very long to complete. However, examiners may decide that more substantial work has to be undertaken.
  2. The examination of a thesis is similar to the critical scrutiny that academic work receives when it is submitted for publication in a scholarly journal or by scholarly publishers. When you submit your work for publication, you will have two to three critical readers of your work. It would be unusual for work to be accepted without revision. Often the revisions required can be very substantial before your article or chapter will be accepted for publication. In that case you have a choice: either you do the revisions to the satisfaction of the reviewers and editor, or you do not get your work published. The examination of theses is similar to the processes involved in peer review for scientific journals.
  3. Candidates should be aware that when they submit their thesis for examination it is read and critically evaluated by three examiners. There is no guarantee of the outcome of any examination process. A thesis may pass; it may fail; it may require revision. When you submit your thesis, you and your supervisor may believe that it is ready to be examined. However, submitting the thesis for examination does not mean that you have "completed" your thesis. It means that you have reached the point where you believe that your work is ready to be scrutinised by people knowledgeable in your field of study.
  4. If you are required to undertake revisions, please remember that this is part of the process of being a thesis candidate. The revisions will make your thesis a better thesis. This means that you will achieve a higher quality of work than you initially submitted. That is good for both the completed thesis on the library shelf and for your own training as a researcher.
  5. When you submit your revised thesis for checking by the Convener and/or internal examiner, please ensure you include a cover letter that details how the examiners' concerns have been addressed. Also, contact your Convener to determine in which format they want the revised thesis to be submitted.

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If I submit now, can I graduate at the next graduation ceremony?

  1. Probably not! The nature of the PhD examination process unfortunately means that it is simply not possible to guarantee any particular graduation date.
  2. If amendments are required, then this will also affect when you are able to graduate. It is important to be realistic about that. A thesis will not be passed unless, in the view of the examiners, it reaches the standard required for a PhD degree.

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