Section N: Criteria for the selection and appointment of research degree examiners
N1. Examination team composition
The following are absolute requirements of the examination team:
- As a minimum, two appropriately qualified examiners are appointed for the purpose, at least one of whom is internal and one external to the University.
- In cases where the research student is also a member of staff, at least two external examiners should be appointed, in addition to one internal.
- Additional external examiners may also be appointed where the thesis is highly interdisciplinary, for example, where the thesis is highly disciplinary or where the team as a whole would benefit from additional experience or expertise.
- Where more than two examiners are appointed, the majority must be external to the University.
- None of the candidate’s supervisors may be appointed as an examiner.
- Examiners should normally have relevant qualifications at least equivalent to that being examined.
- Examiners should understand the procedures which operate within the University of Huddersfield and have a clear sense of the expectations and standards associated with a successful Huddersfield award.
- Where one of the examiners is new to the process, the other examiner(s) should have sufficient experience to ensure academic rigour: the examination team as a whole must be able to demonstrate appropriate prior experience and training in the examination procedure and will normally have examined at least three research degrees equivalent in level to the award being examined.
- The examining team must be able to reach an independent and authoritative judgement about the candidate’s work, free from bias and conflict of interest.
It would be exceptional for an examiner not to meet the following criteria:
N2. Standing, expertise and experience
All examiners should:
- Have expertise in the area of research to be examined.
- Be experienced in research.
- Have published in a relevant area.
- Normally be able to demonstrate appropriate prior experience in the examination procedure, at least equivalent in level to the award being examined.
- Understand the regulations and procedures that operate within the University of Huddersfield, and have a clear sense of the expectations and standards associated with a successful research award.
- Where one of the examiners is new to the process, the other examiner(s) should have sufficient experience to ensure academic rigour: the examination team as a whole must be able to demonstrate appropriate prior experience in the examination procedure and will have examined at least three research degrees equivalent in level to the award being examined.
- Hold a research degree at least equivalent to the level of the award being examined or have at least national standing in the subject area.
Internal examiners only must have attended University training for the role.
Emeritus Professors and other non-contracted staff may not act as the internal examiner for a research degree candidate.
N3. Close involvement
No-one in the following circumstances or categories should be appointed as an examiner:
- Anyone who has been a member of the student’s supervisory team or been directly involved in the research of the candidate.
- The supervisor’s former supervisees who have graduated in the last 5 years.
- Anyone with a contractual or personal relationship with either the candidate or his / her supervisor(s), or who has a financial interest in the candidate’s research. Relationships in this category will be on a spectrum such that appointing bodies may exercise an element of discretion and consider carefully whether the relationship presents a potential risk of perceived or actual bias – particularly in the case of research contracts. “Personal” here is taken to mean social and/or family connection.
In addition, no one in the following circumstances or categories should be appointed as an external examiner:
- Anyone significantly involved in recent or current substantive research activities with the candidate or supervisors. Recent will normally mean within the last 5 years. Examples include co-authorship of papers, acting as co-investigators on research projects of having acted as co-supervisors for other research candidates.
- A member of a governing body or committee of the University or a current employee of the University.
- Former staff or students of the University, unless a period of two years has elapsed since their departure.
In addition, no one in the following circumstances or categories should be appointed as an internal examiner:
- The current PGR Tutor/Pastoral Mentor for the candidate where they have provided substantial personal or academic support, and the extent of the involvement could result in a conflict of interest. If the internal examiner requires any further clarity, please seek advice from either the Dean of the Graduate School or the Assistant Registrar (PGR Provision & Events).
- Anyone that has had direct involvement in the candidate’s research. For example, where collaborative data collection has been undertaken or where papers have been co-authored between the candidate and the proposed internal examiner that directly link to the research area.
- Where the supervisor and the internal examiner have been the principal investigator and co-investigator for a research bid/s as partners, which resulted in this candidate gaining a studentship.
Internal examiners who assessed the work of a candidate at progression stage may also act as the internal examiner for the final examination. In the case of staff candidates, the external assessor for progression monitoring may also act as the external examiner for the final examination.
N4. Frequency of appointment
Careful consideration should be given to whether the same external examiner should be appointed for successive students of the same supervisor.
An external examiner for a doctoral thesis should not normally be appointed more than three times in any two-year period. Such examiners may also be appointed to examine master’s theses in the same period – eligibility to examiner for doctoral degrees and master’s awards will be considered independently.
For Master’s by Research examinations only, an examiner may be appointed for a three-year period, and in that time may examine an unlimited number of master’s theses, as long as they meet the criteria for expertise and experience above. Following the three-year tenure, an examiner may not act as a research degree examiner for a five-year period.4.4: Individuals who have been, or are currently acting as, the external examiner for a University of Huddersfield taught course may also be appointed as an external examiner for a research degree candidate.
In cases where the appointment would be an exception to the above criteria, the Director of Graduate Education may appoint an independent chair or seek ensure that other examiners on the team compensate in terms of standing, expertise and experience.
All exceptions must be agreed by the Assistant Registrar (PGR and Events).
N6. Appointment of an independent chair
The Director of Graduation Education may appoint an independent chair under the following circumstances:
- Where the internal examiner will be undertaking their first appointment as a research degree examiner.
- Where the internal examiner is still under probation and this will be their first appointment as internal examiner at Huddersfield.
- Where neither the external nor internal examiner holds a senior academic position.
- Where there are a limited number of previous UK PGR examinations across the team.
- Where a second viva is required on a resubmission following referral.
- Where approval is given for the viva to be conducted via video streaming.
- Where exceptional or non-standard examination arrangements are agreed
- Any other circumstance which the Director of Graduate Education considers it necessary.
N7. Termination of an examiner’s appointment
An examiner’s appointment may only be terminated prematurely in exceptional circumstances.
Any decision to terminate an appointment prematurely must be referred by the School’s Director of Graduate Education and to the Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research and Enterprise) in writing, giving reasons for the request. The grounds for premature termination may include the following:
- Failure to participate in the examination without due reason.
- Failure to submit a report without due reason.
- Failure to comply with all the procedures of the examination process or the University’s regulations and policies more generally.
Upon approval from the Director of Graduate Education and the Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research and Enterprise to terminate the appointment, the School should follow the Guidance on how to proceed when a change of examiner is required.
N8. Loss of an examiner / failure of an examiner to respond
There may be certain scenarios where an examiner is no longer available to review and sign off amendments following referral, or where an examiner fails to comply with the examination process (including unacceptable delays in the submission of reports). In these circumstances, the School should follow the Guidance on how to proceed when a change of examiner is required.