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External examiners (research degrees) guidance

Examiners for research degrees are invited to use the information below to assist in the external examination process.

You can find a brief overview of the MPhil and PhD examination process on this page, which highlights the different stages of the process and the responsibilities of supervisors and examiners. For full details, please refer to guidance on the conduct of oral examinations.

Examination process

Nomination of examiners

Sending out the thesis

  • Theses will only be sent out by the BGRS once both examiners have indicated their availability to act. Theses will be sent in a digital format, but examiners can have a hard copy delivered on request.
  • Theses should only be accepted from the Graduate Research School. If one is received from any other source, the BGRS should be informed.
  • Each examiner is required to write a preliminary report on the thesis, before the viva voce examination.

The oral examination

  • The viva may take place in person or through use of video conferencing. A viva that takes place with any member participating remotely must be arranged in accordance with guidelines for online research degree vivas.
  • Birkbeck regulations outline the conduct of the examination and the possible outcomes. With the student’s permission, the principal supervisor is allowed to attend the viva, but they do not partake in the examination.
  • The date and time of the examination is usually arranged by the candidate’s supervisor, supported by departmental administrative staff. Where the viva takes place remotely, the BGRS will set up the video conferencing meeting and appoint an independent chair. 

Examiner reports

  • Any required forms and paperwork (see below) will be sent to examiners. 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 an ‘MPhil/PhD examination form’ which is sent, together with the thesis, to the internal examiner and which the examiners must use to confirm the outcome of the viva. This report form, together with the joint and preliminary reports, should be sent to the BGRS no later than 14 working days after the date of the viva.

Minor corrections

  • If the candidate is passed conditionally, with minor corrections to be made 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 should send a Completion of Minor Amendments form to the BGRS:

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 BGRS when the student has re-submitted their thesis, and the thesis will be dispatched with the regular forms. Examiners are again expected to submit preliminary reports, a joint report, and the completed MPhil/PhD examination form, to the BGRS.

Fee payments and expenses

  • Birkbeck College pays examiners £150 for a PhD examination and £100 for an MPhil examination. In addition, it reimburses expenses up to £250. All expenses claims should have original receipts attached to them. When an examiner requests a hard copy of the thesis, the cost of printing and delivering this will form part of the expenses to be claimed.
  • In order to be able to process fee and expenses payments, examiners should submit a completed BACS form with their bank details. They should also provide information required to demonstrate eligibility to work in the UK as requested.

Further information

Forms and guidelines

Below are the forms and guidelines that external examiners may need during the research degree examination process. All of these are also sent out in hard copy to each examiner.

Guidelines for travelling expenses and subsistence allowances

  • Examiners are asked to pay particular attention to the following notes relating to travel and subsistence allowances. Examiners are asked that travel and other expenditure is the cheapest consistent with reasonable comfort and the best use of the examiners’ time. Examiners must supply receipts with all travel and subsistence claims. Expenses are normally capped at £250; please contact the if this is likely to be a problem.
  • For each occasion when an examiner is required to travel from their usual place of work or residence to attend an oral examination, or to perform other duties necessitated by examination work, travel expenses can be claimed as below. Examiners travelling from outside the UK should seek clearance from the College for claims to travel to the UK.
    • Standard class rail travel to and from home/place of work
    • Economy class airfare where applicable
    • Mileage allowance if travelling by car to and from place of work at 45p per mile
    • All London underground fares
    • Car parking charges at railway station or airport
  • Please note that examiners are advised to book travel tickets in advance of the day of travel. The College does not normally reimburse first class travel tickets.
  • Subsistence allowances (daily rates):
    • Necessary overnight bed and breakfast accommodation to a maximum of £146.68 in London (or £105 outside of London)
    • Midday meal to a maximum of £9.85
    • More than 10 hours' absence to a maximum of £30 (including VAT).