Final Thesis Examination


The following guide is here to help you understand the examination process. If you have any questions after reading this information, don't hesitate to contact your supervisor, School PGR Admin Team or

Owing to the Covid-19 pandemic, all viva examinations will take place virtually until further notice. For further guidance please see our Virtual viva exam protocol.


Notifying us of your intention to submit

There is a lot of administrative work needed to ensure that your examination goes smoothly, so it is essential that you give your supervisor and School PGR Admin Team enough time to get things ready for you. The best timescale is to let them know about 6 months before your intended submission date to ensure that your examination process is not delayed. 

Please ensure that you follow our guidance on preparing your thesis for submission


Who are the examiners?

All students will usually have one external examiner and one internal examiner. For staff candidates, two external examiners are required in addition to one internal examiner.

We review the credentials of all external examiners before they are appointed, to ensure that they are the right person to understand your subject.

Although you may discuss potential examiners with your supervisor, it is their responsibility for choosing appropriate examiners. You must take no part in the arrangement of your examination and have no contact with the examiner(s) in connection with your research between the appointment of the examiners and the viva examination.

Once you notify your School of your intended submission date, your supervisor will approach the potential examiners (they can, of course, do this earlier but should not leave it any later than this) who must comply with the University's Criteria for the Selection and Appointment of Examiners for Research Awards.

Once the potential examiners have been informally agreed, your supervisor will complete the:

Following the United Kingdom's departure from the EU, our process for checking the eligibility of external examiners' right to work in the UK has changed. Please see our Information for External Examiners for further details. 

The eligibility of the proposed examination team is checked and the documentation is reviewed, first by your School Director of Education and then forwarded to Registry with the appropriate supporting documentation.

Where possible, your examiners should oversee your whole examination process, from your initial submission right through to the conferment of your award. However, in some instances, this isn’t always possible, for example, examiners may leave their academics posts or they may be on long term sick leave. We have created Guidance on Changes to your Examination Team that explains what will happen should there be a change to your examination team. It is the school’s responsibility to ensure that alternative arrangements have been put in place, so if you have any further queries, please contact your School PGR Admin Team.


After submission – what comes next?

Once your thesis has been received by your School PGR Admin Team, your thesis and all the supplementary submission forms will then be sent to the Registry team who oversee the examination stage. If your examination team has not been approved at the point that you submit then this may delay the commencement of the examination process.  

You will receive an email from Registry to confirm when they have received your thesis - if you have not heard from us within two weeks of your submission then you should speak to your School PGR Admin Team in the first instance, who will provide you with an update.

For Doctoral candidates it is normally expected that your viva will take place within three to four months after your submission. However, please note that this is dependent on whether your examination team is in place when you submit and the availability of your examiners.

For Master’s candidates it is normally expected that you will receive your outcome within three months after submission.

For further details regarding the examination process and associated timeframes, please see our Examination Timelines further below.   


What if I require reasonable adjustments for my viva?

PGRs who have a long-standing disability or condition may require support arrangements or reasonable adjustments to be put in place for the viva. Guidance on appropriate adjustments will be sought from the PGR's Personal Learning Support Plan (PLSP). If you do not have a PLSP or your plan does not make recommendations that are relevant to the viva, please contact Disability Services.

If a student requires any support arrangements or reasonable adjustments owing to a short-term or temporary medical issue that is experienced in the lead up to the viva, then they should submit a request to as soon as possible. This should include details of the condition or problem, specify the adjustment/s being requested and be supplemented by medical evidence. 


Preparing for your viva examination

Please see our guidance on how to prepare for your viva.


Will I have an Independent Chair?

The University may also appoint an Independent Chair to facilitate your viva examination. Some examples of circumstances in which a PGR will have an Independent Chair include:

  • Where the internal examiner will be undertaking their first research degree examination at an equivalent level;
  • Where exceptional or non-standard examination arrangements are agreed;
  • Where the PGR has a Personal Learning Support Plan in place that recommends the appointment of an Independent Chair.  

It is important to highlight that the Independent Chair does not have an examining role. They will oversee the examination process to ensure that it is conducted fairly and adherence to University regulations, and they will be on hand to provide advice to the examiners and you, should it be required.  

You will always be notified in advance if your examination is to have an Independent Chair and who they are.


What happens at the viva examination

The viva examination is an oral exploration of your work, how it fits into current academic thinking and how it has made a novel contribution of knowledge to your chosen field.

Before the viva

In the months leading up to the viva, the Internal and External Examiners will have independently read and assessed your thesis. They will have written independent reports on the work, reflecting on its strengths and weaknesses and identifying areas they would like to investigate further at the viva. These reports are not shared with you prior to the exam.

Before the exam begins, the examiners will discuss their reports together to determine the key issues they wish to raise with you, the order they will raise these in and who amongst them will lead on the issue.

Once they are satisfied with the process, you will be called into the room.

During the viva

Like most of us facing exams, you are likely to be nervous. The examiners will expect this and they will take nerves into account when questioning you. Take your time in answering, draw on your expertise and show the examiners what you know.

The examiners are not there to catch you out - they want to see that you meet the required doctoral level (or Master's, if a viva is required). So, if you do not understand a question, do not be afraid to ask for clarification or for them to re-phrase it. As long as you can demonstrate your knowledge to them in response to the clarification, then you will not be penalised. 

After the viva

Once the examiners have asked all of their questions and are satisfied that they have all of the evidence they need, they will inform you that the viva is over. You will have the opportunity to offer any concluding remarks in relation to the process that you think are necessary.

Once you have left the room, the examiners will discuss their recommendations and come to a final decision. You will then be asked back into the room and told informally what the recommendation to the University will be. The supervisor may accompany you, even if they did not attend the viva.  


Possible examination outcomes

A full list of the possible outcomes can be found in the Regulations for Awards (Research Degrees) within the section for your particular degree.

Do not worry if you are asked by the examination team to make amendments to your original submission. This is completely normal - fewer than one in five doctoral candidates will finish the examination process without requiring amendments to the thesis, which ranges from editorial corrections to complete within two weeks or a resubmission over 12 months. Your official outcome letter from Registry will confirm all of the details you need, including your new deadline, what amendments are required and what you need to re-submit. 

Whatever research award you are being examined for, please remember that you should not contact any member of the examination team directly, for either results or for clarification of the amendments required. Any requests for information from the examination team should be made either via your supervisor or by email to

Where a full resubmission of your work has been requested, it is possible that you may be asked to undertake a second viva examination. This is at the discretion of the examiners, who can decide that a viva is required upon receipt and review of the amended thesis. 

A full list of the possible outcomes following any type of amendments or resubmission can be found in the Regulations for Awards (Research Degrees) within the section for your particular degree. 


When will I receive my results?

For Doctoral candidates

You should receive your outcome informally on the day of your viva and receive your official outcome normally within 10 working days. It is important to wait until you receive the official confirmation of the examiners' recommendation, along with the definitive list of amendments required before attempting to make any changes to your work. You will receive a letter (via email) from Registry with the details of how and what to present when re-submitting your thesis.

For Master’s candidates 

It is normally expected that you will receive your outcome within three months of making your submission. If the examiners require a viva then this normally takes place three to four months after submission and you will normally be informed of the requirement for a viva about six weeks after the thesis has been dispatched to the examination team.


Examination timelines

To help you understand the different processes that take place after you have submitted your thesis, and the amount of time each stage of the examination process will take, we have created some Research Degrees Indicative Examination Timelines. This document should be taken as a guide of the average time it takes for examination processes to be completed. Where we identify a delay at any stage we will endeavour to notify you of this as soon as is possible.


Training and resources