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Research degrees

York St John thesis submission and examinations

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

The York St John University Academic Board prescribes criteria, regulations and learning outcomes for York St John Postgraduate Research awards. The links below provide information on the process and requirements for research degrees:

Nomination of Examiners

A minimum of two examiners are appointed for each examination, one of whom is external to York St John University. 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 will be required. An independent chair will also be appointed. Examiners are nominated using the Application for Assessment form, as described below.

Criteria for the appointment of examiners and independent chairs are provided below:

Applying for Assessment

At least three months before a candidate intends to submit their thesis for examination, the Application for Assessment for research degrees (docx, 48.1 kB) must be completed.

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. Candidates must also confirm that they understand the exam will be recorded.

Part B of the form is completed by a member of the supervisory team and is used to confirm the suitability of the thesis title and to put forward recommendations for examiners along with their previous examination experience. If the candidate is undertaking a Practice-led PhD, details relating to any live performance of the practice element should also be recorded by the supervisor in this section.

Part C of the form is used by the School Research Lead to nominate an Independent Chair for the examination and to authorise the form for submission.

Forms should be submitted to Registry and will be considered by RDEP.  Examination teams will be notified of their appointment to an examination team following RDEP approval.

Thesis Preparation and Submission

Candidates should prepare their thesis for submission in accordance with the format regulations found in the Guide to the Examination Process for Research Degrees (docx, 1.4 MB).

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

  • PhD: 100,000 words or 300 pages
  • Practice-led PhD: 25,000-50,000 words
  • MPhil: 60,000 words or 200 pages
  • Masters by Research: 30,000 words or 100 pages
  • Practice-led Masters by Research: 5,000-10,000 words

The thesis must be submitted to the Research Degree Submission link via Moodle, along with the Thesis Submission Form (docx, 36.6 kB) and copies of any associated published work or supplementary material.  Examiners can also request a soft bound copy of the thesis. Registry will inform PGRs if a soft bound copy is required. PGRs are responsible for the preparation of their soft bound copies of the thesis. Soft bound copies should be submitted to Registry, either delivered in person to Ripon Wing or sent by post.

For further information about the presentation and submission of the thesis, see section 2 of the Guide to the Examination Process for Research Degrees (docx, 1.4 MB).

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 application for assessment 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 supervisor (if attending) 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 amendments (to be completed within 6 months)
  • Thesis to be re-submitted for the same degree
  • Fail (only possible on re-submission unless under the terms of the Research Misconduct Policy)

PhD candidates can also receive a recommendation that the degree of MPhil be awarded without amendments, with amendments, or resubmitted for MPhil.

Instructions to Examiners

Instructions to Examiners and report forms for examiners are provided below on the document directory:

Recording of Oral Examinations

Oral examinations are recorded as set out in the Recording of Oral Examinations - Policy and Guidelines (docx, 40.4 kB). This is to ensure that, in the event of an appeal against the recommendation of the examiners, there would be sufficient evidence from the examination for consideration.

An audio recording device and SD card is provided by Registry to the independent chair for each examination. The independent chair records the examination but not the examiners’ discussion before or after the exam, or the communication of the outcome to the candidate.

After the exam, the independent chair completes the recording counterpart form, confirming that the recording was undertaken successfully. The SD card containing the recording is removed and stored with the counterpart in a sealed envelope.

The recording will only be unsealed and listened to in the event that the student appeals against the outcome of the examination, or if the examiners are unable to agree on an outcome. In this case, an adjudicator appointed by the Research Degrees Examination Panel will listen to and consider the recording. The examiners, the candidate and the supervisory team will not listen to the recording.

Research Excellence

Where examiners identify research excellence in a doctoral thesis, the Research Excellence Policy should be consulted. 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 Research Degrees Examination Panel. 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 Pro Vice Chancellor (Research & Knowledge Exchange).

Further information on the examination process is set out in the documents below:

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