Purposes of the oral examination
The purpose of the oral examination is:
- To enable the candidate to demonstrate his/her knowledge and understanding of the discipline or field of study, the appropriateness of the research methodologies and methods of analysis, and the validity of the conclusions
- To clarify any matters that the examiners regard as being unclear
- To allow the examiners and candidate to discuss any amendments which may be required
- To assist the candidate in understanding the full import of the examiners' comments
- To assist the examiners to reach a decision where the thesis is on the borderline between pass or failure
Who has an oral examination
An oral examination will be held for all candidates enrolled in the PhD, EdD, SJD and DMA programmes.
Oral examinations of MPhil candidates do not usually occur unless recommended by the examiners.
The oral exam
The oral examination is organised by the Chief Supervisor after the examiners' reports have been approved by the Postgraduate Research Committee. Once the time and venue has been arranged, the Chief Supervisor is required to inform the School of Graduate Research at least two weeks before the examination is due to take place so a convenor, or chairperson, can be appointed.
The format of the oral examination will vary from case to case. Normally, it will include the following:
- A brief overview of the thesis by the candidate;
- Questions from the examiners on the substantive issues communicated to the candidate beforehand; and
- Other questions and free discussion.
Usually the venue for the oral should be on the University campus and be comfortable, quiet, of adequate size and be in such a location as to ensure the examination is conducted in privacy and without interruption. The Chief Supervisor is responsible for finding and booking the venue and for ensuring that any necessary arrangements for videoconferencing are made.
The participants in the oral examination are the convenor, a supervisor (normally the Chief Supervisor), at least one of the examiners (normally the New Zealand examiner), and the candidate. The overseas examiner may be requested by the Postgraduate Research Committee to participate through a videoconference link. Chief Supervisors also sometimes make a case through the Associate Dean (Postgraduate) for participation of the overseas examiner by video conference or in person, with financial approval of the Faculty/School.
The University expects that the candidate will attend the oral examination in person, attendance by the candidate through a videoconference link is prohibited unless approval has been granted by the Postgraduate Research Committee prior to examination day.
The candidate can have whānau and/or support people present at the oral examination provided the thesis is not under embargo. If the thesis is under embargo, only the examination panel (convenor, supervision panel and examiner) are allowed in the room for the duration of the oral examination. Whānau and support people do not have speaking rights at an oral examination and may be asked to leave if the convenor has concerns about interruptions to the examination. For more information, please read the Whānau Information Sheet for oral exam attendees.
Role of the Convenor
The convenor is a senior and experienced University academic. He/she is appointed by the Postgraduate Research Committee to chair the meeting, but does not act as an examiner. He/she ensures that the examination is fair, the requirements of the examiners are understood by the candidate, and that the questions and views of the overseas examiner are put to the candidate. The convenor also facilitates the production, by the participating New Zealand examiner, of a final oral exam report.
In the event of a convenor not being satisfied that the oral examination was conducted in a fair and proper manner, the convenor will provide a confidential report to the Postgraduate Research Committee indicating the grounds for such dissatisfaction. The convenor may be invited to attend the meeting of the Postgraduate Research Committee at which the matter is formally discussed. The Committee will determine the nature and occurrence of any remedial action required to address the issues raised.
The convenor is not an examiner, but is expected to:
- Check that the venue is suitable and that teleconferencing arrangements have been made in necessary
- Ensure that the examination is conducted in a fair and proper manner
- Ensure that the examiner's report of the oral examination is received by the School of Graduate Research as soon as possible following the oral examination
- Complete a convenor's report where appropriate
- In exceptional circumstances, where the examiners are unable to agree on a recommendation, the convenor should report the circumstances to the Postgraduate Research Committee
Role of the Chief Supervisor
The Chief Supervisor is not an examiner, but is also expected to:
- Select a venue that is comfortable and situated in a quiet location
- Participate fully in the oral examination as support to the candidate
- Be present during the deliberation stage on the examination
- Be available to discuss the Chief Supervisor's report with the examiners
- Advise the convenor of any whānau or support people who may be in attendance at the oral examination
Role of the supervisory panel
When confirming arrangements for the oral examination with attending examiners, the Chief Supervisor and members of the department should limit their communications to the process of setting up the examination and should not discuss matters relating to the thesis or the candidate.
The Chief Supervisor, or another delegated member of the supervisory panel, participates fully in the oral examination but is not an examiner. During the examination process, the candidate is entitled to the support of the Chief Supervisor (or delegated supervisor), who continues to have a responsibility for ensuring that any deficiencies which may be of concern to the examiners are discussed. There is therefore, a responsibility for the supervisor to support the candidate, which does not conclude until the completion of the oral examination.
The Chief Supervisor, or other delegated member of the supervisory panel, is present during the deliberation stage of the examination. In arriving at a decision, the examiner(s) will take into account the report(s) of supervisor(s) and may consult with any member of the supervisory panel.
Role of the attending Examiner
The examiner is an eminent and a widely respected specialist in their research field who is external to the university and not directly connected to the candidate or the candidate's research. They have been appointed by the Postgraduate Research Committee to examine the candidates thesis and give a recommendation of whether the work is worthy of the degree. They are responsible for conveying the questions and views of both examiners at the oral examination.
Oral examination report
Following the oral examination and the deliberation stage involving the convenor and the Chief Supervisor (or delegated member of the supervisory panel) the New Zealand examiner prepares the final report and recommendation, using the Examiner's Report, Oral Examination Form. The report, which takes into account the views of the overseas examiner and is a consensus of the examiners, is conveyed to the Postgraduate Research Committee through the convenor.
The examiner(s) shall recommend one of the following options:
- That the thesis be accepted in its present form as fulfilling the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Doctor of Musical Arts or Part 2 for the Doctor of Education/Doctor of Juridical Science. The hard bound thesis is to be submitted to the School of Graduate Research within two weeks of the examination taking place.
- That the thesis be accepted as fulfilling the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Doctor of Musical Arts or Part 2 for the Doctor of Education/Doctor of Juridical Science, subject to the candidate undertaking minor amendments and/or correcting typographical errors to the satisfaction of the Chief Supervisor. These amendments are to be completed and the hard bound thesis submitted to the School of Graduate Research within four weeks.
- That the thesis be accepted subject to the candidate completing substantial amendments, provided that these amendments are not so substantial as to necessitate re-submission (but are more substantial than required under option 2). These amendments are to be completed, and the hard bound thesis submitted to the School of Graduate Research within ten weeks of the oral examination.
- That the thesis is not acceptable in its present form and should be returned to the candidate, who may revise it and re-submit it for examination after a re-enrolment for a minimum period of six months.
- That the thesis not be accepted for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Doctor of Musical Arts or Part 2 for the Doctor of Education/Doctor of Juridical Science, but be accepted as fulfilling the requirements for the degree of Master of Philosophy or Master of Education or Master of Laws.
- That the candidate has failed to meet the required standard and that no degree be awarded.
It is important to note that only one period of re-enrolment, revision and re-submission is allowed. If the examiners recommended that a candidate be required to re-enrol, revise and resubmit as a result of the written examination of their thesis, this option will not be available as an outcome of the oral examination.
After the oral examination
After the oral examination, the convenor will deliver the signed examiner's recommendations and any noted amendments to the School of Graduate Research. The Postgraduate Research Committee will then review the examination outcome before a formal outcome letter is issued to the candidate.
Resolution of divergent views of examiners
In exceptional circumstances, where the examiners participating in the oral examination are unable to agree on a recommendation, the convenor shall report the circumstances fully to the Committee, who will decide whether the degree should be awarded or what other action is necessary. The Postgraduate Research Committee has discretion to appoint an external mediator who will be asked to consider the thesis and the written reports of the examiners and convenor and will be invited to recommend one of the following:
- changes to thesis and re-submission to the mediator as sole judge
A candidate is only entitled to one re-enrol, revise and resubmit period and one oral examination. Where a thesis has been resubmitted, a further resubmission will not be permitted irrespective of the contents of the examiners' reports. An oral examination will only be held once, either following the initial recommendation of the examiners, or if recommended following the resubmission of a thesis.
Candidate's access to examiner's reports
Candidates will usually have received either full or partial copies of the examiners' reports before the oral examination, via their Chief Supervisor. If this has not occurred, and an examiner requested the report to be kept confidential until after the oral exam, these reports will be made available to the candidate after the examination.
If the examiners have recommended that the thesis should be failed, then copies of the examiners' reports should be given to the candidate after the result has been approved by the Postgraduate Research Committee.