Postgraduate Examiner Appointment Procedures


University staff members involved in the appointment of examiners of doctoral theses and masters research theses/portfolios (of 90 points or more) and other parties involved in the examination process


To outline the procedures and responsibilities of parties involved in thesis and research portfolio examinations


  • Candidates
  • Examiners
    • Expectations
    • Requirements
    • Exclusions
  • Examination committee
  • Chair of the oral examination
  • Conflicts of interest

Procedures and Responsibilities


1.    Candidates must not be involved in the selection of examiners or members of an examination committee and will not be advised of the identity of the nominees

Note: The PhD Statute allows that, if the candidate has reason to believe that any person would be unsuitable to serve as an examiner on the grounds of conflict of interest, the candidate must submit the name of that person and a written statement as to the nature of the conflict of interest to the School of Graduate Studies at the time they give notice of their intention to submit

2.    For doctoral degrees, the identity of the oral examiner is only to be made known to the candidate when the oral examination has been approved by the Board of Graduate Studies

3.    Masters candidates are not to be advised of the identity of their examiners at any stage

4.    Any breach of confidentiality in the examination process, e.g. a doctoral candidate being made aware of the identity of the examiner prior to an examination report being released, may result in a new examiner being appointed




5.    Recommendations for examiners are to be made with a view to ensuring that the examination process is rigorous, fair, impartial and timely

6.    Examiners are normally to be academics associated with an institution of appropriate standing and with substantial recent research experience

Note: For some degrees, the appointment of recognised professional practitioners may be appropriate

7.    The frequent use of any particular external examiner by an academic unit must not occur for the examination of doctoral theses



8.    All examiners are to:

  • be expert in the topic and/or methodology of the thesis and be sufficiently experienced to evaluate whether or not the thesis fulfils the requirements for the degree
  • normally hold a degree at least at the same level as the thesis under examination. For some degrees, the examiner may have equivalent research expertise but not hold a degree at the same level. In such cases the examiner’s experience in research degree supervision and examination will be taken into consideration
  • normally be research active. For some masters degrees the examiner may be active in an appropriate profession but not directly in research

9.    When appointing doctoral thesis examiners, at least one examiner must be from outside New Zealand


10. Examiners of doctoral theses and external examiners of research masters theses/portfolios (of ≥90 points) must not:

  • have been involved in the supervision of the candidate as a main supervisor, joint supervisor, co-supervisor or adviser
  • be, or have been, involved in any research collaboration with the candidate or provision of advice to the candidate beyond a minor consultative role on some aspect of the candidate’s research
  • be currently enrolled in a degree in the same subject and at the same level as that being examined
  • currently hold any appointment, paid or honorary, at the University or have held such an appointment during the candidate’s enrolment in the degree under examination (other than thesis examination)
  • have any current or previous familial or personal relationship with either the candidate or members of their supervisory team

11. Examiners of doctoral theses and external examiners of masters theses/research portfolios (of ≥ 90 points) must not normally:

  • have been employed by the institution at which the candidate completed their qualifying degree, in the same or a related discipline and at the time when the candidate was studying for their qualification
  • be, or have been, involved in any substantial research collaboration with any of the candidate’s supervisory team within the last 5 years
  • be a graduate of the University in the same or a related discipline unless the examiner’s degree studies at Auckland were completed prior to the candidate’s enrolment for the degree under examination

Note: Exceptions to these exclusions may be applicable in individual cases where there is clearly no conflict of interest


Examination committees

12. The chair of the Examination Committee must not be from the same academic unit as the candidate

13. Members of the Examination Committee must not have a personal or business relationship with the candidate or a close personal relationship with a member of the candidate’s supervisory team

14. Members of the Examination Committee must not have been involved directly in the research or supervision of the candidate


Chair of oral examination

15. The chair must be a member of the academic staff of the University

16. The chair must not be a member of the faculty in which the candidate is registered

17. The chair must not have been involved with the research or supervision of the candidate

18. The chair must not have a personal relationship with the candidate or a member of their supervisory team


Conflicts of interest

19. Conflicts of interest or potential conflicts of interest must be declared by all members of the appointment process – see Postgraduate Examiner Conflict of Interest Guidelines


The following definitions apply to this document:

Academic unit may refer to a faculty, school, department or institute

Chair of oral examination is the person appointed by the Board of Graduate Studies to act as an independent chair of a doctoral oral examination

Doctoral candidates are students enrolled in a doctoral degree at the University

Examination Committee refers to the committee formed for the purpose of considering the examiner/s evaluations of theses and portfolios. The composition of the committee varies according to the type of thesis under examination (see PhD Statute for composition of doctoral theses Examination Committees and the Instructions to Examiners and Assessors for masters theses/portfolios)

External examiner is an examiner outside the University i.e. not a staff member, honorary or otherwise

Masters candidates are students enrolled in a masters degree which includes a thesis/portfolio component

Oral examiner refers to the doctoral thesis examiner appointed by the examination committee to attend the doctoral candidate’s oral examination, either in person or by video conference

Staff member refers to an individual employed by the University on a full or part time basis

University means the University of Auckland and includes all subsidiaries

Document management and control

Owner: Dean of Graduate Studies

Content manager: School of Graduate Studies

Approved by: Board of Graduate Studies

Date approved: March 2018

Review date: March 2021