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Durham University

Learning and Teaching Handbook

8.6.1: Appointment, Roles and Responsibilities of Examiners

Appointment of Examiners

1. The University requires that all research degrees are examined by an Internal Examiner and an External Examiner. Where a candidate is also a member of staff within the University, or where appropriate examining expertise cannot be found within the University, a second External Examiner will replace the Internal Examiner. Staff candidates include those who have become staff since completing supervised study.

2. Where two external examiners are nominated, an Independent Chair must also be appointed. The Independent Chair is usually an experienced member of academic staff within the department concerned. Independent Chairs may also be nominated if the Department, or FEC Chair, consider it appropriate. Circumstances where it might be appropriate include the following:

  • where the internal examiner is not post-probation, or has not examined previously, or where the examining team is otherwise relatively inexperienced;
  • where the internal examiner is a more experienced member of staff, but one who has not examined in the UK, or at Durham, previously;
  • where the viva is to be conducted by video conferencing;
  • subject to the prior agreement of the parties concerned (student and examiners), at the request of the student, internal or external examiners.

3. Examiners are nominated by the relevant Board of Studies using the Appointment of Examiners form (Appendix A8.03).Following appointment, examiners are sent:

  • a letter of appointment which includes a copy of the initial independent report, a copy of the joint report (Internal examiners only or Independent Chair where two external examiners are appointed) and fee and expense claim forms (External Examiners only);
  • a copy of the thesis submitted by the candidate in fulfilment of the requirements for the award;
  • links to the relevant guidance to examiners
  • a copy of the University Core Regulations for Research Degrees by thesis or composition (if appropriate);
  • a copy of the University Core Regulations for Professional Doctorates (if appropriate);
  • a copy of the University Core Regulations for PhDs with Integrated Studies (if appropriate);
  • a copy of the relevant Degree Regulations (if appropriate);
  • Guidance on the Conduct of Oral Examinations

Roles and Duties of the Examiners and Independent Chair (if required)

4.The function of the examiners is to make a recommendation on the thesis in accordance with the University Core Regulations for Research Degrees by thesis or composition or the University Core Regulations for Professional Doctorates.

Internal and External Examiners

5. The Examiners are responsible for:

  • considering the written work submitted by the candidate;
  • arriving at an independent evaluation of whether the work submitted meets the criteria for the award and, if not, in which aspects it is deficient;
  • writing an initial independent report and sending it to the Curriculum, Learning and Assessment Service;
  • consulting with the other examiner and comparing initial reports;
  • following examination of all written and, where appropriate, oral evidence, deciding whether the candidate has met the standards for the award;
  • deciding upon an appropriate recommendation to the University;
  • writing a final report with the other examiner on the candidates performance and submitting it to the Curriculum, Learning and Assessment Service;
  • in all cases where the recommendation is that the degree be revised and resubmitted for the original or a lesser degree, agreeing with the other examiner a full list of the changes to be made and the work to be undertaken. A copy of this should be attached to the final report.

In addition to the above, the internal examiner is responsible for the following:

  • if an oral examination is required, making arrangements for the candidate's oral examination and notifying the external examiner, the Curriculum, Learning and Assessment Service and student of these arrangements.

In addition to the above, the external examiner is responsible for the following:

  • for chairing the oral examination (unless an Indepedent Chair is appointed, see below).

Independent Chair (if required)

6. The Independent Chair is expected to:

  • attend the preliminary meeting with the examiners prior to the oral examination, where initial reports are discussed;
  • advise the examiners on process and procedures before, during and after the examination;
  • ensure that the examination is conducted fairly and professionally, and in accordance with University regulations;
  • if required by the chair of the relevant PG FEC or other University Officer, to provide a report on the conduct of the examination process.

Although the Independent Chair is present when the oral examination is held, he/she is not an examiner and is not expected to question the student about the work being examined. It is not expected that the Chair should receive or to read a copy of the thesis or portfolio in preparation for the examination.

In the case of disagreement between the examiners, the Chair's role is to advise the examiners on the regulatory options. The Chair does not have an additional casting vote but should endeavour to help the examiners reach an agreed position.