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The MPhil/PhD examination process

Birkbeck is proud to support a large number of research students across all our Departments. Each of these students will go through an examination at the end of their course, in order to obtain the degree of either MPhil or PhD. This page lays out the examination process from the point of view of the examiners, to inform them of the different stages and their responsibilities.

Nomination of examiners

Each research student is expected to be examined by at least two examiners. Normally one of them is internal to the University of London, and the other is an external examiner. In exceptional cases two external examiners can be appointed. The student’s supervisor is required to officially nominate the examiners, who shall be approved by a panel of senior academics within Birkbeck. This process in administrated by the Research Student Unit within Birkbeck Registry.

Invitation of examiners

Once the panel has approved both examiners, they will be officially invited to act by the Research Student Unit. This initial invitation letter includes the candidate’s name, thesis title, supervisor’s name and information about the co-examiner. Examiners are asked to indicate their ability to act as examiner by returning the reply slip that is sent together with the invitation. Alternatively, they can email the Research Student Unit to confirm their ability to act. Furthermore, all examiners should supply proof of eligibility to work in the UK. Details of accepted proof are attached to the initial invitation letter.

Sending out the thesis

For the examination, each student is required to submit two hard copies of their thesis to the Registry. These will only be sent out by the Research Student Unit once both examiners have indicated their availability to act. Please note that examiners are only allowed to accept hard copy theses from the Research Student Unit. In some cases the examiner may prefer to receive the thesis in digital format. The student and/or supervisor are welcome to send digital copies of the thesis to the examiner, but this does not exempt the student from having to submit two hard copies as well. Likewise, the hard copies will usually always be sent on to the examiner, regardless of whether they have also received a digital copy.

The oral examination

Each research student is required to be examined orally upon the first submission of their thesis. This examination is usually arranged by the candidate’s supervisor, supported by departmental administrative staff. The Research Student Unit does not have an active involvement in the arrangement of viva voce examinations. The Birkbeck Regulations, supplemented by the University of London regulations, outline the conduct of the examination and the possible outcomes. Birkbeck does not use Chairs for viva voce examinations; with the student’s permission, the supervisor is allowed to attend, but they cannot partake in the examination.

Examiner reports

Each examiner is required to write a preliminary report on the thesis, before the viva voce examination. After the examination, both examiners are required to produce a joint report that reflects their decision on the outcome of the examination. In addition, the examiners are asked to complete the ‘MPhil/PhD examination (1EX) form’ which is sent, together with the thesis, to the internal examiner. (When there are two external examiners the form is sent to one of them). It is requested that this report form, together with the joint and preliminary reports are sent no later than 14 days after the date of the viva to the Research Student Unit.

Minor corrections

If the candidate is passed conditionally, with up to 12 months to make minor corrections to the thesis, one of the examiners, or the supervisor, is nominated to review the revised thesis and confirm that the required corrections are made. The examination form should specify who is required to check the minor corrections. The student can resubmit the thesis directly to the examiner or supervisor. Once the nominee has established that the required corrections are completed, they are requested to send the ‘Completion of Minor Amendments’ form to the Research Student Unit.

Major corrections/resubmission

If the examiners decide that the thesis requires major revisions, the candidate is given 12 months (MPhil) or 18 months (PhD) to resubmit the thesis in revised form. Examiners can exercise their discretion to decide whether a student will be submitted to a further oral examination, or not. The resubmission will have to go through the Registry in the same way as the initial submission. Examiners will normally be contacted by the Research Student Unit when the student has re-submitted their thesis, and the thesis will be dispeatched with the regular forms. Examiners are again expected to submit preliminary reports, a joint report, and the completed ‘MPhil/PhD examination (1EX) form’, to the Research Student Unit.

Fee payments and expenses

Birkbeck College pays examiners £150 for a PhD examination and £100 for an MPhil examination. In addition to this it reimburses expenses up to £250. All expenses claims should have hard copy receipts attached to them. In order to be able to process fee and expenses payments, examiners should submit a completed BACS form with their bank details.

Contact details

Research Student Unit
Birkbeck College
Malet Street
020 7380 3050