Objectives of the examination process

In addition to forming part of the thesis examination process, the oral examination provides candidates with an opportunity to discuss their research directly with recognised experts who have been appointed as their examiners and also helps them establish stronger ties and networks across their discipline of study.

The main objectives of the oral examination are to:

  • provide candidates with a developmental learning opportunity
  • establish that the candidate fully understands the work and its wider implications;
  • provide the candidate with an opportunity to reply to criticism or challenge;
  • enable the examiners to clarify issues in the thesis which may be unclear;
  • help the examiners to decide on the nature and extent of any corrections or revisions which may be required;
  • provide the examiners with an opportunity to clearly communicate required corrections or revisions to the candidate;
  • authenticate the contribution made by the candidate to the thesis and ensure that the candidate has a clear understanding of the contribution of collaborators to the thesis.

The oral examination will include assessment of the candidate's ability to:

  • demonstrate detailed knowledge of the thesis;
  • locate their research in the broader context of their discipline;
  • demonstrate the originality of the thesis and the contribution it makes to state of knowledge in the field;
  • defend the methodology and conclusions of the thesis;
  • display awareness of the limitations of the thesis.

Duration and format

The oral examination is intended to be a stimulating, professional, and constructive intellectual exchange. A typical oral examination may take up to 3 hours which includes:

  • a pre-meeting of the Chair and the examiners before the oral examination lasting approximately 20 minutes; 
  • the oral examination, including presentation by the student lasting approximately 20 minutes and questions from the examiners on substantive issues;
  • a meeting of the oral examination panel without the student present; 
  • where appropriate, feedback to the student. 

The typical duration and format as described above may vary from case to case. The Chair will advise the Dean of the Graduate School of any likely significant variations to the standard format as soon as practical so that the student is informed in a timely manner. 

Pre-Oral

The Chair will should contact the examiners before the oral examination for the purpose of agreeing on the agenda for the oral examination. This contact is especially important when issues and disagreements have been identified in the preliminary reports.

The student and the supervisors are not permitted to engage in any correspondence with the examiners before the oral examination commences. Any dialogue with the examiners must be via the Chair or the Dean of the Graduate School.

Examination result

  • Once the oral examination has concluded, the Chair and the examiners will confer in private and the examiners will decide on their joint recommendation to the Dean with regard to the award of the degree.
  • Concurrently, a list of matters to be corrected and amended must be produced. This report should be written by the Chair and agreed between both examiners. The final report should take account of both the initial examination of the written thesis and the oral examination, and be submitted to Dean of the Graduate School. In exceptional circumstances, where additional consultation between examiners is required before the report can be finalised, the final report may be submitted up to 2 working days after the oral examination. 
  • Following their deliberations, the Chair and examiners may verbally communicate their recommendation and any required corrections or revisions to the student. This is not an opportunity for the student to challenge the recommendation. In the event that consensus recommendation cannot be reached between the examiners about a joint recommendation, no immediate feedback will be provided to the student or supervisors. 
  • If the examiners disagree about the result and a consensus cannot be reached, the Dean of the Graduate School should be advised, and may determine that an adjudicator or other form of referee is required. 
  • The final outcome of the examination will be communicated to the student and principal advisor following consideration by the Dean. 

Duties

The Chair of Examiners acts as the delegate of the enrolling AOU’s PGC for academic matters regarding the candidate’s thesis examination. Where a Chair of Examiners is not appointed, the PGC retains this role for that candidate unless the PGC is part of the candidate’s advisory team in which case the head of the enrolling AOU will assume this role.

The Chair of Examiners 

  • Is nominated for each HDR candidate whose thesis is submitted for examination;
  • Is identified at the thesis review milestone;
  • Is an academic staff member of UQ;
  • Is a member of UQ's Principal Advisor Registry;
  • Must hold a degree of a level equivalent to or greater than the one the thesis is being examined for;
  • Must be familiar with the research discipline represented in the candidate's thesis, or in the case of multi-disciplinary theses, be familiar with part of the research discipline represented by the thesis;
  • Must not be a current or former member of the advisor team.

Duties of the Chair of Examiners 

  • Conduct the oral examination meeting;
  • Coordinate the oral examination committee report;
  • Review and determine the adequacy of the response of the candidate to the examiner(s) comments and recommendations;
  • Provide specific academic advice to the Dean on an examiner(s)' recommendation when requested. This may occur when the examiners' recommendations are highly divergent or when there is a recommendation of revise and resubmit. The Chair of Examiners is expected to confer with the candidate's advisory team and must confine his/her comments to the matters raised in the examiner(s)' reports.