Thesis examinations

About thesis examination

A successful examination of both written and oral components leading to the award of the degree signals that the University of Queensland certifies the candidate as an independent researcher (for PhD graduates) or a developing researcher (for MPhil graduates) in their chosen discipline by having developed the appropriate graduate attributes. All Higher Degrees by Research theses are assessed by two examiners, external to the University.

Preparing for thesis submission begins with Progress Review 3 and nomination of examiners outlined on the Candidature Progression page. At this point a Chair of Examiners is also nominated. The Chair can access training on the role via our Chair of Examiners online course.

Nomination of examiners

Nominating appropriate examiners is an important step for you to manage with your candidate in the examination process. Examiners must be research active, and have sufficient expertise relating to the thesis, or a substantial part of the thesis. Advisors should also consider the conflict of interest guidelines as described in the Australian Graduate Research Good Practice Principals. When selecting examiners it is often helpful for you, the principal advisor, to make informal contact with the examiner to determine their interest and availability to perform the examination. When contacting examiners we recommend you cover the details of the program, thesis topic, expected date of submission, and mention that they are only being nominated and, if selected, a formal invite from a UQ system will follow after the candidate uploads their thesis. You may also wish to refer them to UQ's examiner’s guide for further information. You may wish to use this template for contacting examiners PA Email Template-Examiners-final.docx

Upon successful attainment of Progress Review 3, the Graduate School will initiate a HDR Thesis Examination request with a nomination of examiners task to you, the principal advisor, through the myUQ Candidature Management System (CMS) (login required). The due date for this form to be returned is set for 1 month prior to the submission date, which is when the first reminder will be sent. A justification on the relevance and expertise of each examiner should be provided in the comments section of the Electronic Nomination of Examiners Form that is sent to you via my.UQ/CMS. If you need help completing this form please refer to the Systems Training Hub guides. 

Once nominated, a preliminary conflict of interest (COI) (refer to guidelines) check is conducted[1] and if no COI is apparent the nominee will be formally invited by the Dean of the Graduate School to examine the thesis. If the nominee is not able to assist with the examination or does not respond to the formal invitation, the Graduate School will move to the next nominee on the form.

From this point, all correspondence with examiners should be conducted through the Graduate School. While it is generally understood that all theses are dealt with in a confidential manner by examiners, in some cases examiners may be asked to sign a confidentiality agreement if the thesis contains commercial in confidence material or is subject to a third party agreement.

[1] Note: If there is a COI then this will go to the Dean for review, who may still proceed with the examiner, or request an additional examiner as a replacement. If the nominee is not able to assist with the examination or does not respond to the formal invitation, the Graduate School will move to the next nominee on the form.

Thesis submission process

Once your candidate has completed the thesis document and it is ready to submit, they will share an iThenticate similarity report with you, as their Advisor. If you support their submission they will submit their thesis via the UQ Research Data Manager, for you to endorse. You will receive a notification to log in to UQRDM to review and endorse the submission. Guides for candidates on thesis submission via UQRDM can be found here.

If the nomination of examiners or thesis upload is outstanding, they will be given instructions on how attend to these in order to progress the submission. Examiners will then be sent the electronic version of the thesis for review.

If the submission date was delayed the examiners may need to be re-invited with new dates.

Examination criteria

Examiners are asked to generate a written report against the examination criteria and also provide the candidate with areas for improvement or revisions to the thesis. These reports together with the report from the oral examination panel will inform the Dean in deciding the outcome of the examination. 

Outcomes and conferral of degree

There can be a range of outcomes from the examination process (login required) – not simply pass or fail. The most common outcome is that the thesis is passed pending changes as described in the examiners’ reports as well as the report from the oral examination committee. In some cases, no additional changes are required and the thesis is passed as is. Alternatively, if the thesis and/or performance of the candidate does not meet the expectations of the examiners, the candidate may be required to revise the thesis and resubmit it for examination and/or repeat the oral component of the examination.

Once the candidate has completed all the required changes to the thesis, these are confirmed by the Chair of Examiners (login required) and forwarded to the Dean for approval. The Dean then recommends to the Provost that the degree should be conferred. Degree conferrals for HDR candidates occur every two weeks throughout the year.

Related training

Chair of Examiners training - this session will outline the role of the Chair of Examiners in the thesis examination process, with particular emphasis on the Oral Examination.  It will identify the requirements of being a Chair of Examiners and outline the duties and responsibilities of that role.  Examples and case studies will be used to ensure participants gain an accurate and realistic understanding of the Chairs obligations and responsibilities.