Doctoral Oral Examination Procedures
Participants in oral examinations for doctoral candidates who are governed by programme regulations that came into effect in or after 2020.
To specify the roles and responsibilities of the participants in the doctoral oral examination. This document is to be read in conjunction with the Doctoral Examination Procedures.
1. The purpose of a doctoral oral examination is to assist the Board of Graduate Studies (or delegate) in their determination of the appropriate outcome of an examination by exploring and assessing:
- a candidate’s command of the subject of the submitted work and of the field(s) to which the subject belongs
- the extent to which the submitted work meets the criteria for the award of the degree
- where relevant, the candidate’s capacity to successfully revise submitted work to meet the criteria for the award of the degree
- where relevant, the scale of any revisions warranted to the submitted work
- the candidate’s authorship of and contribution to the submitted work
- whether the submitted work has been conducted and/or completed in accordance with University requirements for the degree.
2. Relevance, where invoked in these procedures and unless otherwise specified, is determined by the Board of Graduate Studies (or delegate) and/or the Oral Examination Committee.
3. The oral examination must be attended by the candidate and an Oral Examination Committee appointed by the Board of Graduate Studies (or delegate), consisting of an independent chair (“the chair”), an Oral Examiner and the Academic Head Nominee of the Examination Committee (“the AH Nominee”).
4. Up to two supervisors may attend the oral examination at the invitation of the candidate.
5. The Board of Graduate Studies (or delegate) may approve the attendance of up to two further support persons on cultural and/or special needs grounds only.
6. Support persons approved under clause 5 may perform a culturally appropriate welcome before the examination commences but may not participate in the examination in any way.
7. The Board of Graduate Studies (or delegate) may approve additional persons to participate in a culturally appropriate welcome before the examination begins. Any such approved persons must leave the room prior to commencement of the examination proper.
8. The candidate must nominate any and all persons for attendance under clauses 4-5 and 7 at the time the candidate is contacted by the School of Graduate Studies regarding the organisation of the oral examination.
9. Where one or more supervisors attends under clause 4, the supervisor/s may participate in proceedings only at the invitation of the chair.
10. The chair may require any person in breach of clause 6 or clause 9 to leave the oral examination.
11. The candidate, and all persons in attendance under clauses 4-5, must withdraw from the room before the Oral Examination Committee begins to consider their recommendation.
12. A digital recording of any creative work submitted for examination may be utilised for reference purposes in the course of the oral examination with the permission of the Chair.
13. The candidate should prepare for the examination by thoroughly re-familiarising themselves with the submitted work and by reflecting on the issues raised in the examiners’ reports.
14. The oral examination will commence with an invitation for the candidate to present on their submitted work.
15. Where the candidate presents on their submitted work, the presentation is to be no more than 20 minutes in duration.
16. The chair will be given access to the examiners’ reports upon appointment to the role.
17. The Dean of Graduate Studies (or nominee) (who may also be the delegate of the Board of Graduate Studies for the purposes of the examination) may, at their discretion, brief the chair on the history of the examination, on any special circumstances (e.g. special needs requirements) and on any matters of University policy, procedure or regulation the Dean (or nominee) deems relevant to issues raised in the examination reports.
18. At least fifteen minutes before the oral examination, the chair is to meet with the AH Nominee and Oral Examiner to discuss the examiners’ reports and process for the oral examination, including the roles of the Oral Examination Committee members, the allocation of questions, and the procedural options as to the recommended outcome.
19. If some or all members of the Oral Examination Committee attend the oral examination in person, the chair will ensure that the room is appropriately set up with a view to the comfort of the candidate.
20. At the commencement of the examination, the chair is to introduce the Oral Examination Committee members and explain their roles.
21. The oral examination usually lasts between one and two hours; participants may request a pause in proceedings after two hours.
22. The chair may stop the candidate’s presentation at any time if it exceeds 20 minutes.
23. The chair must ensure that the requirements of clauses 6, 9 and 11 of these procedures are met.
24. If one or more persons is attending the examination by video conference and there are serious problems with the electronic link, the chair may adjourn the examination. In such cases, the chair is to inform the School of Graduate Studies that the examination needs to be reconvened at a later date.
25. When the Oral Examiner and AH Nominee are satisfied that the issues in the examination reports and any other matters of concern and interest have been adequately covered, they are to signal their readiness for closure to the chair, who may offer the candidate the opportunity to ask questions of the Oral Examiner regarding the research and/or examiner comments.
26. When the chair is satisfied that the provisions of clause 25 have been appropriately actioned, the candidate and attendees other than the Oral Examination Committee will be asked to leave the room. The Oral Examination Committee will then discuss the examination.
27. The chair may invite the supervisor/s to return to the room to discuss points of clarification.
28. The candidate may be invited back into the room and advised of the Oral Examination Committee’s recommendation. For the avoidance of doubt, there is no requirement for the Oral Examination Committee to advise the candidate or supervisor/s as to their recommendation.
29. The chair is to initiate a report, for endorsement by the AH Nominee and Oral Examiner and submission to the Board of Graduate Studies (or delegate), on the oral examination and recommendation on the outcome of the examination.
30. Once finalized, and endorsed under clause 29, the doctoral oral examination report is to be submitted, in confidence, to the Board of Graduate Studies (or delegate).
31. The Oral Examiner is to take the academic lead in the oral examination, asking questions of the candidate on the submitted work, the subject of the submitted work and on relevant matters in the field or fields to which the subject belongs.
32. The Oral Examiner is to discuss with the candidate issues raised in the examiners’ reports and may ask questions of the candidate on behalf of the other examiner(s).
33. At the conclusion of the oral examination, the Oral Examiner is to:
- endorse the oral examination report and recommendation, once satisfied with the content
- in cases of revisions to the submitted work being required by the Board of Graduate Studies (or delegate) to the satisfaction of the Oral Examiner, check the revisions made by the candidate within one month of receiving the revised submitted work (unless additional time is approved by the Board of Graduate Studies (or delegate)), and inform the School of Graduate Studies as to whether the revisions are satisfactory
- if the revisions are not satisfactory, provide the School of Graduate Studies with a rationale for that conclusion and a list of outstanding issues
34. The AH Nominee is to contribute to the oral examination process in the following ways:
Before the oral examination:
- read enough of the submitted work to know its main purpose and findings (but not as an examiner)
- read the examiners’ reports thoroughly
- read with care portions of the submitted work that are subject to specific comments in the examiners’ reports
- bring contextual information forward from the Examination Committee (where convened) to guide the chair in the process of the oral examination
During the oral examination:
- assist by ensuring that all the examiners’ comments and questions get raised
- may ask general questions from the field (e.g. discuss with the candidate the subject of the submitted work and relevant matters in the field or fields to which the subject belongs but not act as a further examiner of the submitted work)
At the conclusion of the oral examination:
- endorse the oral examination report and recommendation, usually on the grounds of a valid process rather than for substantive reasons (the latter being the purview of the Oral Examiner)
- in the event of revisions to the submitted work being required, ensure that the candidate is provided with a copy of the required revisions endorsed by the Oral Examiner. It is expected that the candidate will be provided with a written report detailing the revisions required within 5 working days of the oral examination
- in the event of a revise and resubmit outcome, supply the Associate Dean/Director (Postgraduate Research) with a written report, endorsed by the Oral Examiner, providing advice for the candidate on the revision.
35. The School of Graduate Studies is to formally advise the candidate of the outcome of the examination when the final result has been determined in accordance with the Doctoral Examination Procedures. For the avoidance of doubt, the examination outcomes referenced in these doctoral oral examination procedures are limited to those outcomes in which the AH Nominee or the Oral Examiner plays a procedural role and do not reflect the range of possible outcomes from the oral examination.
The following definitions apply to this document:
Academic Head refers to the head of the academic unit in which the candidate is enrolled or their nominee.
AH Nominee is a member of the (oral) Examination Committee nominated by the Academic Head on the basis that they have knowledge of the general field of the thesis, but not necessarily of the thesis topic, and will normally be an academic staff member of the University with a contractual obligation to undertake research.
Associate Dean/Director (Postgraduate Research) refers to the person carrying out the role of the Associate Dean/Director (Postgraduate Research) under the Doctoral Examination Procedures.
Chair of the oral examination committee is the person appointed by the Board of Graduate Studies to act as an independent chair of a doctoral oral examination. The chair must be a member of the academic staff of the University with a contractual obligation to undertake research, but will not be a member of a faculty or large scale research institute in which the candidate is enrolled.
Examination Committee is the committee, distinct from the oral examination committee, which may be formed for the purpose of considering the examiners’ reports on the submitted work. It comprises the Academic Head, an Associate Dean/Director (Postgraduate Research), and the AH Nominee.
Independent chair (chair) is the person appointed by the Board of Graduate Studies (or delegate) to act as an independent chair of a doctoral oral examination. The chair must be a member of the academic staff of the University with a contractual obligation to undertake research, but will not be a member of a faculty or large scale research institute in which the candidate is enrolled.
Oral Examination Committee is the committee, distinct from the Examination Committee, formed for the purpose of the oral examination. It comprises the independent chair, Oral Examiner and the AH Nominee.
Oral examiner refers to the doctoral examiner who attends the doctoral candidate’s oral examination, either in person or by video conference.
Revise and resubmit means that the candidate is required to re-enrol for a period of up to 12 months (full-time equivalent) to revise and resubmit the work for examination by a specified date.
Revisions may be minor (e.g. typographical errors or minor clarifications or elaborations) or major (e.g. re-analysis of data, or rewriting of chapters to address significant omissions or lapses in logic or coherence) and must be completed within a 6 month period (minor revisions will normally be completed within a 3 month period).
Staff member refers to an individual employed by the University on a full or part time basis.
Submitted work refers to the work submitted for examination in fulfilment of the thesis requirement in the case of all doctoral programmes other than the DocFA. In the case of the DocFA, “submitted work” refers to the creative work and supporting thesis submitted for examination in accordance with the programme regulations. “Submitted work”, in the case of all doctoral programmes, includes recordings made of live performances and/or exhibitions where such recordings are utilised within the examination process.
Supervisor refers to main, joint or co-supervisor.
University means the University of Auckland and includes all subsidiaries.
Key relevant documents
Includes the following:
Document management and control
Content manager: School of Graduate Studies
Owner: Dean of Graduate Studies
Approved by: Board of Graduate Studies, Senate and Council
Date approved: 19 September 2022
Review date: 19 September 2027