Thesis examination

Once you submit your thesis, it will be examined by external examiners. The examiner's reports and classification of your thesis will determine the final result in your degree.

Appointment of examiners

A Nomination of Examiners form, to be completed by your Principal Supervisor and appropriate Centre or Institute, must be lodged at least two months before you expect to submit your thesis.

You can give your supervisor a list of suitable/unsuitable candidates but it is their responsibility to nominate. The names of your examiners will remain confidential and will not be released to you.

The following factors are considered by your supervisor when nominating potential examiners:

  • Masters by Research examiners must be qualified experts , one of which is to be of international standing in their discipline/field*.
  • Doctoral examiners must be appropriately qualified experts of international standing in their discipline/field*.
  • examiners should be associated with a university or research institution
  • examiners should be specific to the research area
  • examiners should be available to mark the thesis at the anticipated time of submission and be available to provide a report within a two month period
  • examiners have not been associated with the supervisor or candidate in the program
  • avoid two examiners from the same institution
  • former VU staff members may be considered, however all prior contact with the student or the thesis must be disclosed to determine the appropriateness of the appointment

*International standing is defined as:

  • publications or grants of international standing
  • international collaboration
  • international research experience

The role of Chair of Examiners is normally undertaken by the College Director, Research Training. 

For further information, please refer to HDR Procedure 9 available at policy.vu.edu.au

Conflict of interest in thesis examinations

The Graduate Research Centre has responsibility for the integrity of the examination process for all Higher Degree by Research theses.

To ensure that all theses are assessed independently and that the examination process is free from any perception of bias or preferential treatment, Victoria University has developed and approved Conflict of Interest Guidelines to manage the declaration and assessment of any potential conflicts of interest in the examination process.

It is important to note the following:

  • a conflict of interest may be with the institution, the supervisor/s or the HDR candidate.
  • the existence of a conflict of interest does not automatically preclude a nominee being approved by the University as a thesis examiner. When considering a nominee, the University considers carefully the nature and severity of any conflict(s) of interest.
  • the aim of the Conflict of Interest Guidelines is to protect the candidate, examiner and VU against potential negative perceptions during the thesis examination process. It is not a presumption that an individual will behave inappropriately.

If a potential conflict of interest is not declared by the College, the candidate or the examiner but discovered during or after the examination, the University may annul one or more of the examiners' reports and replacement examiner/s will be appointed.

For more information please contact the Graduate Research Centre.

Number of examiners

The number of nominated examiners varies depending on your degree and discipline. If an examiner can no longer assess your thesis an additional examiner will be appointed and given two months to submit an examination report.

Degree/discipline Possible number of nominated examiners
Masters by Research 2
Doctor of Psychology 2
PhD & Professional Doctorates 2
Masters by Research thesis including a performance or exhibition 2 plus a reserve
Doctorate thesis including a performance or exhibition 2 plus a reserve

When we receive the examination report we will pay the examiner in accordance with the honorarium set by the Australian Vice-Chancellors' Committee.

Examiners reports

Examiners will assess your thesis in accordance with the guidelines that apply to your degree:

Each examiner will prepare an examination report that recommends one of the following:

  • PASSED without further correction
  • PASSED subject to minor corrections being made to the satisfaction of the Chair of Examiners
  • PASSED subject to substantial amendment, as outlined in the examiner's report, being made to the satisfaction of the Chair of Examiners
  • DEFERRED and the candidate should be permitted to resubmit the thesis in a revised form
  • FAILED

Masters by Research examiners will also be required to provide a numerical and honours level assessment.

If the majority of examiners classify your thesis as 'passed' (either passed without further change or subject to minor/substantial changes) your thesis will be classified as passed by the Dean, Graduate Research once the required changes have been made

Examiners recommend different classifications

If your thesis is assessed by two examiners and each recommend a different classification - such as a 'pass' and a 'deferral' or 'fail' - a third examiner will be nominated to assess your thesis. The majority of the three examiner's reports will determine the classification of your thesis.

If your degree or discipline requires your thesis be assessed by more than two examiners, the majority of the examiner's reports will also determine the classification of your thesis.

Examples Classification
passed + passed (subject to minor/substantial corrections) + passed
(subject to minor/substantial corrections)
passed (subject to corrections)
passed + passed (subject to minor/substantial corrections) + failed passed (subject to corrections)
passed + passed (subject to minor/substantial corrections) + deferred passed (subject to corrections)
passed (subject to minor/substantial correction) + failed + failed failed
passed + failed + failed failed
passed + deferred + deferred deferred (returned to examiners who classified as 'deferred')
passed (subject to minor/substantial corrections) + deferred + deferred deferred (returned to examiners who classified as 'deferred')
passed + deferred + failed deferred (returned to the examiner who classified as 'deferred')
passed (subject to corrections) + deferred + failed deferred (returned to the examiner who classified as 'deferred')
deferred + failed + failed failed
failed + deferred + deferred deferred (returned to examiners who classified as 'deferred')

Deferred classification

If a majority of examiners recommend the thesis be deferred you will need to re-enrol and undertake a major re-write of the thesis. You normally resubmit your thesis for re-examination within 12 months of receiving notification.

When you submit your thesis for re-examination you must include a detailed letter addressing the substantive changes made to your thesis. Your thesis, letter and initial examiner reports will be sent to the same examiners who deferred the thesis for assessment. The examiners will have two months from the date they receive your thesis to grade it as passed or failed.

Failed classification

If the majority of examiners recommend the thesis be classified as failed and you disagree with the feedback, please discuss with your supervisor and Chair of Examiners to determine how to proceed.

If you are still not satisfied with the classification of your thesis you may appeal against the outcome of the thesis examination or classification on on limited grounds (refer to HDR procedures).

Once your thesis has been examined you must apply for classification of your thesis as passed and conferral of your degree by the VU Council.

Contact us

If you require further information please contact the Graduate Research Centre.