Submission and Examination Process

Submitting your thesis is the final stage before examination. Research students must follow the University guidelines on the submission of MbyRes/MPhil/PhD theses. These guidelines also provide guidance on the presentation of your thesis and how, and where, it should be submitted.  Students studying on a ‘by Practice’ basis should also follow the guidelines on format of submission provided in section 15.7 ‘Variations to submission requirements’ below. 

Research Council funded students

Please be aware that if you have been in receipt of a Research Council studentship to fund your PhD you must ensure that you have acknowledged the support you have received in your thesis.

In the UK system there are normally two examiners, one from within your own University (the ‘internal’) and one from outside (the ‘external’), although in some instances three examiners will be appointed, two of which will be ‘external’. It is up to your supervisor to nominate suitable examiners for approval by the College Director of Postgraduate Research. Your supervisors will discuss possible examiners with you, and should then complete the appropriate nomination form on MyPGR. Examiners must be nominated at least three months before your expected submission date. 

Your supervisors cannot act as internal examiners, but one supervisor may be present at your viva as an observer only; if you wish to invite a supervisor to attend this should be indicated on the submission form. The internal examiner should be someone in or close to your field of study; however they do not necessarily have to be in the same subject area or college of the University. The external examiner should be from a reputable research-led University and normally hold the academic rank of Senior Lecturer (UK) or above. 

In some instances a Non-Examining Independent Chair (NEIC) may also be appointed to attend your viva. NEICs are normally appointed when any member of the examination team is examining a PGR thesis for the first time, or for the first time at Exeter, or if the thesis being examined has been submitted in an alternative format. 

The NEIC’s role is however distinct to that of the Board of Examiners and is not a member of the Board. The NEIC does not take any part in the assessment of the quality of the thesis, and should not therefore have read the thesis.  The NEIC need not be a subject expert, nor even a member of the discipline of the student.

Once examiners have been appointed and the thesis submitted neither you nor your supervisors should have direct contact with the examiners, except to arrange the formalities of examination. It is the responsibility of the internal examiner to liaise with the external and with you, the student, in arranging the date and time of the examination of the thesis. 

Your examiners will read the thesis, provide preliminary reports on it and then meet with you for an oral examination (‘viva voce’ or ‘viva’). 

In the College of Humanities a viva examination for MPhil and MA by Research degrees is not always necessary and may be waived if the examiners agree either a straight pass or pass with minor corrections. 

A viva must be held however if it is judged to be necessary by one or more of the examiners; or there is substantial disagreement between the examiners; or the examiners are not inclined to recommend the award of the degree for which the work was submitted (aside, if necessary, from minor corrections); or the student wishes a viva examination to be held.   

The University has a Handbook for Examination of Postgraduate Research programmes which should be consulted for full details. It is important that you prepare for the ‘viva’ and your supervisors will be able to help you with this preparation. The University’s Researcher Development team run an excellent session ‘Preparing for your viva’ which is available as both a face-to-face session and as an online module which can be accessed on the Exeter Learning Environment, ELE, and we strongly recommend that you attend this session ahead of your viva. A good guide is also provided by Rowena Murray, How to Survive Your Viva (OUP-Magraw Hill, 2003). 

On the basis of reading your thesis and the oral examination, the examiners will produce a joint report with a recommended outcome. 

At the first examination of a PhD this can be:

  • the award of the degree,
  • the award of the degree subject to minor or major amendments being made to the thesis,
  • a requirement to revise and resubmit the thesis within a stated period. 

On resubmission, the possible outcomes are award of the PhD (possibly subject to minor or major amendments), award of an MPhil (possibly subject to minor amendments) or outright failure. 

In the case of an MPhil, the examiners may recommend to:

  • award the degree,
  • award the degree subject to minor or major amendments
  • require revision and resubmission within a stated period. 

On resubmission, the possible outcomes are award of the MPhil (possibly subject to minor or major amendments) or outright failure. 

In the case of an MA by Research, the examiners may recommend to:

  • award the degree,
  • award the degree subject to minor or major amendments; require revision and resubmission within a stated period. 

On resubmission, the possible outcomes are award of the MA by Research (possibly subject to minor or major amendments) or outright failure.