Convenors of Examining Committees (Information for)

1. The Convenor’s role is to ensure the examination is conducted fairly and in accordance with the University’s regulations.  The Convenor must remind the examining committee that the proceedings of the oral exam and the contents of accompanying documentation are confidential.

2. The Convenor is responsible, in consultation with the supervisor, for arranging a suitable time and venue for the viva voce examination.  This must take place no longer than 3 months after the thesis has been submitted.  The Convenor should inform the candidate in writing, with 4 weeks notice where possible, of the composition of the Examining Committee and the date, time and place of the examination.  A copy should be sent to the supervisor.  On the examination day, transport for the examiner, accommodation where appropriate, refreshments/lunch will be the responsibility of the supervisor unless otherwise arranged.

3. The Convenor is responsible for organising and advertising a pre-viva seminar to be given by the candidate immediately prior to the oral examination.  The seminar, which should last for about 45 minutes including 5 minutes for questions, should be open to all University staff and students, and be attended by all of the examiners.  Whilst the seminar is part of the examination process, it does not constitute part of the oral exam, and the examiners should not, therefore, participate in the questioning.  In the rare event that either of the examiners is delayed, the pre-viva seminar can take place in his/her absence, as the seminar is not itself examined.

4. The precise format of the examination itself is a matter for the external examiner with advice from the Convenor.  It is recommended that the Convenor reminds the candidate and the Committee of the role of the viva and its aims in the assessment of the thesis before the viva begins.

The aim of the viva is to provide an opportunity for the examiners to question the candidate on aspects of the thesis.  It should be designed to elicit information on any or all of the following:

  •         Explanation of the structure of the thesis
  •         Justification for the inclusion or exclusion of material
  •         Explanation for the use of particular research methods and techniques
  •         Defence of the originality of the thesis
  •         Clarification of any ambiguity within the thesis
  •         Justification for the conceptual approach taken in the thesis
  •         The depth of knowledge of the contextual background to the subject of the thesis

The convenor should also ensure that the candidate is aware that, if required, a short break may be taken, and it is the student’s responsibility to request this.

5. The Convenor need not take a major part in the questioning of the candidate and does not need to have specialist knowledge of the topic of the thesis being examined.

6. If major concerns have been raised by the Examiners prior to the oral exam, the Convenor should ensure that these are raised during the examination.

7. It is the responsibility of the Convenor to handle potentially difficult situations during or following the examination (see also VIII), hence the requirement that the Convenor should be a relatively senior member of staff and an experienced examiner.

8. Where there is disagreement among the members of the Examining Committee, the Convenor is expected to clarify and, where possible, reconcile those differences.  If such issues cannot be reconciled, each member of the Examining Committee should submit a separate report to the Academic Secretary who will then refer the case to Senate.

9. At the end of the examination, where there is unqualified acceptance of the thesis, acceptance with minor corrections/revision or outright failure, the candidate may be informed orally on the day of the viva.  In other cases the candidate should be advised that the decision of the Committee will be conveyed in writing by the Convenor by a specified date.  This should be within 7 days of the viva voce examination.  In cases where minor corrections or revisions are required, the Convenor should provide the candidate in writing with a list of the corrections to be made, and advise the candidate of the timescale for completion (1 month for minor editorial corrections or 2 months for minor revision).

10. The Convenor is responsible for ensuring that all the paperwork relating to the examination is completed and forwarded to the Postgraduate Registry.  The examination report form should be submitted to the Registry as soon after the viva as possible, whatever the outcome of the viva.  A copy of the examiners' report should be sent to Debbie Smith, Graduate School Secretary, Level 6, Ninewells Hospital and Medical School.  Where major revision to the thesis and resubmission has been requested, the Convenor is responsible for providing a written statement, agreed by the other examiners, comprising the comments upon which the resubmission should be based.  A copy of this should be attached to the Report Form and returned to the Postgraduate Registry.  The statement should also be copied to the candidate and the supervisor.

11. Once corrections/revisions (minor or major) to the thesis have been checked and approved, the Convenor should immediately inform the Registry in writing.

12. The Convenor should check that the thesis is bound satisfactorily (see University Calendar).