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Research degrees

University of Leeds Thesis Submission and Examinations

Research degree awards are referenced against the UK Quality Code and Framework for Higher Education Qualifications.

The University of Leeds Graduate Board prescribes criteria, regulations and learning outcomes for University of Leeds Accredited York St John Postgraduate Research awards. 

Appointing Examiners

A minimum of two examiners are appointed for each examination, one of whom is external to York St John University and the University of Leeds. If the candidate has been employed by the University at any time during their research degree programme, at grade 7 or above, two external examiners must be appointed. On occasion, an independent chair may be appointed.

Entering for Examination

At least three months before a PGR intends to submit their thesis for examination, the Exam Entry Form must be completed, authorised by the relevant School Research Lead and submitted to Registry.  

On the form, Part A is completed by the candidate and requires details about the thesis title, employment at the University, the inclusion of research from the thesis in published work, supplementary material to be submitted with the thesis and ethical approval details.

Part B of the form is completed by a member of the supervisory team and is used to put forward recommendations for examiners and add details relating to the previous examination experience of the nominated examiners.

Part C of the form is used by the School Research Lead to authorise the form for submission. When the form has been submitted to Registry, Part C is signed by the Academic Registrar and the form is forwarded to the University of Leeds for consideration by the Graduate Board Examinations Group.

Upon approval of the examination team, the Leeds Postgraduate Research and Operations Team inform York St John Registry. Registry will then confirm the examination team to the student and supervisory team.

Registry will contact the examination team to consider suitable exam dates once the PGR has submitted their thesis and it has been sent out to the examiners.

Thesis Preparation

Students should prepare their thesis for submission in accordance with the format regulations found in the Guide to the examination process for students.

The thesis should adhere to the programme specific word limits below:

  • PhD: 100,000 words or 300 pages
  • Practice-led PhD: 15,000-50,000 words
  • MPhil: 60,000 words or 200 pages
  • Masters by Research: 30,000 words or 100 pages

One physical copy of the thesis for each examiner must be submitted to the University of Leeds either in person at the Student Services Counter on campus or by post. A completed Thesis submission receipt should also be provided along with any copies of any associated published work or supplementary material. Students are responsible for the preparation of their soft bound copies of the thesis. The thesis should be submitted to the University of Leeds by the maximum deadline. 

The Oral Examination

Registry is responsible for the organisation of oral examinations. The oral examination usually takes place within the three months following submission of the thesis.

Once the exam entry form has been approved and the thesis submitted, Registry contacts the examiners and independent chair to consider possible examination dates. Once a provisional date has been agreed, this will be communicated to the candidate to ensure they are also available. Candidates can ask a supervisor to attend the examination as a silent observer and note-taker. Candidates are responsible for discussing the note-taker role with their supervisor.

Once a date has been agreed Registry will book a suitable exam room and make the examination panel, candidate and supervisory team aware of the date, room and time of the exam. Changes to availability should be made known to Registry as soon as possible.

A schedule for the examination day will be provided to the examination panel, candidate and supervisory team in advance of the examination day. On the day, the examination panel meets to discuss the preliminary reports and questions on the thesis before the exam. The candidate and note-taker (if requested) are met in advance of the exam and take to the exam room for the scheduled start. Refreshments are provided in the exam room.

Candidates should be prepared to engage with the examiners and discuss their research, but examinations can vary in length and there is no fixed end time.  A mock oral examination may help to prepare for the exam and should be arranged by the supervisory team if the candidate requests that one be organised.

After the examination, the examiners will discuss the thesis, the candidate’s performance in the exam and the range of recommendations that can be made. The recommendation is usually communicated to the candidate in person after this discussion, though the examiners have 24 hours to do so.

The outcome of the examination will be one of the following recommendations: 

  • Pass without amendments
  • Pass subject to editorial and presentational corrections (to be completed within 4 weeks)
  • Pass subject to the correction of minor deficiencies (to be completed within 12 weeks)
  • Thesis to be re-submitted for the same degree
  • Fail

PhD candidates can also receive a recommendation that the degree of MPhil be awarded without amendments, with editorial and presentational corrections, subject to correction of minor deficiencies, or resubmitted for MPhil.

Research Excellence

Where examiners identify research excellence in a doctoral thesis, this should be recognised. Indicators of research excellence may include:

  • Highly original contribution
  • High level of critical thought
  • Outstanding presentation of work

The Joint Examiners’ Report provides a section for examiners to comment on any research excellence which is identified 

Recommendations for research excellence are considered by the Exams Group. If approved, the text provided by the examiners in the exam report will be included in a letter of congratulations sent to the candidate from the Dean of PGR Studies.

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