Section Q: Criteria for the Selection and Appointment of Research Degree External Examiners


Q1. 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.


Q2. 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 who has, within the last 5 years, provided doctoral supervision to the candidate’s supervisor.
  • 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 of substantive research activities include co-authorship of papers, acting as co-investigators on research projects of having acted as co-supervisors for other research candidates.
  • Co-authorship will not include those who have not liaised with each other directly.
  • 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.


Q3. External Examiner - Term of Office

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 for each new candidate. 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 Masters 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. 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.


Q4. Exceptions

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.


Q5. 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.