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External Examiner's Reports

The (external) examiner's report
Questions for the oral examination
The recommendation
Resolution of divergent views of examiners
Reports by supervisors


Each examiner is required to:
(a) write an independent report on the thesis; and
(b) make a recommendation of assessment.
Both are sent directly to the Postgraduate Studies Office and are submitted to the Postgraduate Studies Committee for approval.

The examiner should write the report in confidence and may not confer with other examiners or with the supervisors. Neither the thesis nor any part of it should be given to any other persons for any purposes whatsoever before the examination process is complete.

If an examiner finds that (s)he is not qualified to comment on aspects of the thesis which are considered to be significant to the argument or conclusion, this should be clearly signalled in the examiner's report. The Postgraduate Studies Office should be advised of the circumstances, when the situation is identified, without waiting for the final provision of the report to the Postgraduate Studies Office. This will assist the Postgraduate Studies Office in obtaining a further person with appropriate expertise to consider this aspect of the thesis without unduly delaying the examination timeline.

The report can vary from a few pages to a lengthy statement. The content and nature of the report will vary according to the nature of the thesis, conventions relevant to the appropriate disciplines, and to the concerns that the examiners may have about the content of the thesis.

Criteria used when examining the thesis

Examiners are asked to make general comments on whether the thesis:
Literature demonstrates both a thorough knowledge of literature relevant to its subject and general field, and of the candidate's ability to exercise critical and analytical judgement of that literature
Topic deals with a topic of sufficient range and complexity to meet the requirements of the degree
Investigation of topic comprises a sufficiently coherent investigation of the chosen topic
Methodologies displays a mastery of appropriate methodology and/or theoretical material
Conduct & presentation meets internationally recognized standards for the conduct and presentation of research in its field
Original contribution makes an original contribution to knowledge in its field and contains material suitable for publication in appropriate academic journals
Publication whether any parts of the thesis, in the opinion of the examiner, are worthy of being the basis of a publication.

Examiners are asked to submit their report in three parts:
a)Information that may be released to the candidate before the oral examination
b)Confidential information that should not be released to the candidate before the oral examination
c)Questions for the oral examination - and whether these may be released to the student before the oral examination.

The initial reports of the examiners and supervisors are directed to the Postgraduate Studies Committee and are confidential until they have been approved by the Postgraduate Studies Committee. Once the thesis has been approved to proceed to oral examination, or for revisions prior to the oral, the external examiners' reports may be released to the chief supervisor and the candidate in accordance with the directions of the examiners.


Bearing in mind the purposes of the oral examination, the examiners are also requested to suggest either questions which should be put to the candidate at the oral examination, or topics which should be further explored with the candidate during the oral examination.

The questions, or topics, provided by the overseas examiner are put to the candidate by the New Zealand examiner, who takes part in the oral examination.

Once the examination process is complete, candidates have the right to see the written reports of examiners and it is therefore important that examiners accept this condition when they agree to act as examiners. The overseas examiner does have the right to remain anonymous to the candidate but this option is not available to the New Zealand examiner who takes part in the oral examination.


The examiners are asked, as part of their report, to make an initial recommendation of assessment of the award of the degree. This recommendation may be subsequently modified in the light of the oral examination.

In their recommendation, examiners are asked to comment on whether they require mandatory or recommended changes to the thesis before it can be regarded as being of an acceptable standard for the award of the degree.

The external examiner may choose from the following recommendations:
The external examiner may choose from the following recommendations:
Proceed directly to oral examination The thesis can proceed directly to oral examination with minor or no changes
Not acceptable Either: Thesis requires major revisions before proceeding to oral: the revisions are sufficiently extensive to require a period of re-enrolment.
Or: That the thesis should not proceed to oral examination and should not be accepted for the award of a doctoral degree
Recommended for an MPhil That the thesis is not accepted for the doctoral degree but is acceptable as fulfilling the requirements for the degree of Master of Philosophy/Master of Education (subject to amendments as required).


        Examiners' reports         
Examiner 1    Examiner 2
Borderline: Both examiners regard thesis as being borderline between pass and failure.
An attempt is made to obtain agreement between the examiners on a pass or fail result, following the oral examination.
Oral examination is held

Amendments may be made before or after oral examination
Moderately divergent: Examiners disagree on magnitude of required changes, but both indicate a pass is likely
Strongly divergent: One examiner indicates a clear pass, and the other considers no pass possible even with major changes.
Considered on a case-by-case basis by the Postgraduate Studies Committee. Generally if one examiner recommends an oral examination, then it will be held unless it appears detrimental to the candidate's interests to do so.
Mediation: In rare cases, where examiners cannot be reconciled in their opinions, a mediating examiner is appointed, before an oral examination is held, to examine the thesis in light of the previous examiners' and supervisor's reports.

The mediating examiner is nominated by the candidate's supervisory panel, after reading the examiners' reports. The nomination is approved by the Postgraduate Studies Committee.

The candidate does not have access to the previous examiners' reports until after the full examination of the thesis is complete.
Oral examination deferred
        Mediating examiner's report         
Mediating examiner disagrees with both of the previous examiners

Candidate is given the opportunity to rewrite and resubmit. The revised thesis is considered a new submission and is sent to two new examiners.
Mediating examiner agrees with one of the previous examiners.

Thesis recommended for a pass or a fail. If a pass is recommended thesis will proceed to oral examination
proceed to oral examination

award MPhil

Reports received from new examiners. No further pre-oral amendments are accepted and only minor amendments are acceptable after the oral examination


The chief supervisor is not an examiner but does provide a report. Following submission of the thesis the chief supervisor must submit a written report to the Postgraduate Studies Committee confirming that:

  • the work presented in the thesis is that of the candidate and that any contribution from another person has been properly identified by the candidate
  • any factors which may have influenced the work of the candidate, along with
  • any comments on the candidate's performance and the quality of the thesis.

This report is additional to the Thesis Submission Form signed by the chief supervisor and chair of department at the time of submission of the thesis.

Normally the chief supervisor will submit a report after consultation with, and endorsement by, any appointed co-supervisors. If necessary or preferred, a co-supervisor may submit an independent report.

The supervisory panel report(s) are sent to the examiners once the thesis has been approved to proceed to oral examination and will be taken into account by the examiners at the oral examination.