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Guidelines Oral Thesis Exam
Guidelines for Conducting an Oral Thesis Examination
- Objectives of an oral examination.
To provide an educationally rewarding and personally satisfying finale to the candidacy;
To provide the candidate the benefit of advice from an external expert in the field of the thesis who has read the thesis in detail;
To clarify points either of principle or of detail in the thesis;
To assess the contribution made by the candidate to the content and presentation of the thesis;
To establish a firm deadline for the preparation of examiners' reports, to decrease the time taken for the examining process.
- Advice to the Candidate.
The option of an oral examination must be discussed with all research higher degree candidates during their Pre-Completion Evaluation.
Circumstances under which an oral examination can be held.
A candidate may elect to undertake an oral examination as a part of a normal examination process. Under such circumstances, the Primary Advisor must advise the Graduate Research School in writing of the proposed arrangements as part of the HDR Nomination of Examiners Procedure.
In addition, a candidate who wishes to submit their thesis before the relevant minimum period of candidature specified in the HDR Degree Requirements will normally be required to undertake an oral examination by the Dean, Graduate Research Studies.
- Matters that must be addressed at the time of approaching the examiners.
When approaching potential examiners informally the Primary Advisor must:
Advise them of the requirement to submit their reports at least one week prior to the proposed date of the oral examination, which should be scheduled for approximately seven weeks after the submission date;
Ask the proposed Chief Examiner if s/he is prepared to conduct an oral examination on a mutually agreed date according to the procedure listed below.
- Matters that must be addressed at least four weeks prior to thesis submission.
The Head of the College (or nominee) must advise the Graduate Research School of:
The agreed date of oral examination;
The name of the Chief Examiner (who must have agreed to conduct the oral examination on that date in person or by video or teleconference);
The College’s agreement to meet any costs associated with the oral examination and to make the logistical arrangements.
- Matters that must be addressed at the time of thesis submission.
The Graduate Research School must appoint an independent convenor for the oral examination who will normally be a trained member of the Research Education Sub-Committee Executive who is independent of the candidate and their Advisory Panel. The convenor's role will be to ensure the oral examination is conducted according to the guidelines outlined below.
At the time of sending formal invitations to examiners, the Graduate Research School must advise them that their contact details will be forwarded to the chief examiner as part of the oral examination process;
At the time of sending the thesis to the examiners, the Graduate Research School must request all examiners to include, on a separate sheet, questions to be included in the oral examination.
- Matters that must be addressed two weeks before the oral examination is scheduled.
The Graduate Research School will advise the College Dean (or nominee) whether the examiners’ reports have been received and whether the Dean, Graduate Research Studies considers that an oral examination is still appropriate. For example, the examiners’ reports may make very different recommendations, and/or suggest that major problems exist with the thesis and that re-submission is required. In such a situation, the Dean, Graduate Research Studies may decide that the closed session be abandoned or postponed until the situation is assessed by an external assessor and/or the candidate has completed required changes to the thesis.
The Head of the College (or nominee) will arrange:
- the travel and accommodation of the chief examiner if required;
- the venue and any necessary tele- or videoconferencing arrangements for the oral examination and inform all parties of the arrangements.
- Matters that must be addressed at least five University working days before the oral examination is scheduled.
The Graduate Research School will distribute the examiners’ reports and questions to the candidate, the members of their Advisory Panel and all examiners.
The Advisory Panel will assist the candidate to prepare his or her response to any questions posed by the examiners and/or major concerns identified by the examiners and commence minor corrections as required by the examiners.
The chief examiner will discuss the questions posed by the examiners with the other examiner(s) in person or by email or tele- or video-conference.
The convenor, as a representative of the Dean of Graduate Research Studies, will:
- meet with the candidate in advance, to discuss the nature of the oral examination, noting that candidates are expected to prepare their own defence with the assistance of their Advisory Panel;
- explain to the candidate that the oral examination will not exempt the candidate from making textual corrections and such changes as might be recommended by the examiners;
- advise the candidate, before the oral examination, of the main issues to be raised by examiners observing, however, that examiners would have the right to ask additional questions;
- assure the candidate that the oral examination is intended to be constructive and helpful;
- advise the chief examiner of the need to discuss the questions of the other examiners with them.
If the timing of this process is delayed, the Graduate Research School must advise the candidate accordingly as soon as possible.
- The oral examination.
The examination will be conducted by the Chief Examiner.
The Candidature Committee will not be present at the oral examination, but may be asked for input.
The duration of the examination will be flexible. However, it is expected that the examination will last between one (1) and two (2) hours.
As the candidate would normally have presented a Pre-Completion Seminar, he/she is not required to give a seminar as part of the oral examination process.
The examination will consist of a closed session in which the Chief Examiner (and the other examiners if available), will have discussions with the candidate in the presence of the convenor.
The Chief Examiner will conduct the examination in a constructive manner with a view to clarifying points either of principle or of detail in the thesis raised by any of the examiners in their questions; assessing the contribution made by the candidate to the content and presentation of the thesis; provide advice to the candidate, especially about publishing his/her research.
The examination will conclude with a period of deliberation without the candidate in which the Chief Examiner and the convenor will reach a recommendation on the award of the degree and any additional work to be completed by the candidate. The other examiner(s) may be consulted by tele- or video-conference.
The Chief Examiner may advise that the written recommendation of the examiners be revised if they changes their opinion about one or more of the following as a result of the oral examination:
- the understanding of the candidate of the context of the thesis;
- the candidate’s explanation of principles or details in the thesis, raised by any of the examiners;
- the ownership of the contribution made by the candidate to the content and presentation of the thesis;
- the level of response and/or responsiveness of the candidate to macro and micro level policy questions raised by the examiners.
- After the oral examination.
The convenor will:
- As soon as possible, advise the candidate, on behalf of the Dean of Graduate Research Studies, of the recommendations arising from the examination;
- Write a report endorsed by the Chief Examiner outlining the procedures followed, the recommendations developed and advice given to the candidate;
- Provide the Chair of the Candidature Committee with the opportunity to append comments to the convenor's report on the oral examination ;
- Submit the report of the oral examination to the Graduate Research School within five (5) University working days of the oral examination;
The report of the convenor and the outcome of the examination will be handled by the Graduate Research School in accordance with the HDR Consideration of Examiner Reports Procedure.