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Regulation 3: Research Degrees

In this document the words “thesis” and “dissertation” shall be interpreted synonymously.


1. General

I. The assessment of candidates for the M.Phil., M.Litt, Ph.D. or any other degree designated in particular cases by the Senate as a research degree shall be in the form of:

(a) Assessment of coursework and prior learning (where required);
(b) Assessment of the dissertation or thesis.

II. Where a programme leading to the degree of Ph.D. has included coursework all such work must be submitted and accepted as being of suitable quality before progression to the thesis work can be sanctioned. The examiners of the thesis shall be provided with details of the coursework assessment.

2. Procedure

III. All arrangements and details in connection with the candidacy, to include the appointment of examiner(s), must be approved before the examination may take place.

IV. The candidate must be instructed about the regulations and guidelines for the submission of the thesis, to include any specific conditions that must be satisfied before the submission may be presented for examination.

V. The Research Degrees Committee is responsible for ensuring that all assessments and examinations of research degree submissions are conducted in keeping with University Regulations and procedures.

VI. The Mentor for the individual candidate shall be responsible for the nomination of their examiners having taken the candidate’s suggestions on the matter into account. This nomination should be provided to the Research Degree Committee not later than 60 days prior to the proposed examination. The Research Degree Committee may also directly recommend and nominate examiners.

VII. Examination may take place only where approved by the Research Degree Committee.

VIII. Where the Research Degree Committee becomes aware of a failure to comply with all University requirements related to the examination process, it has the authority to declare the examination invalid, requiring the appointment of new examiners, with the aim that a new examination take place.

IX. Even if the candidate’s mentor(s) may have advised the candidate not to submit their thesis for examination, it is the candidate’s prerogative to override such advice and submit their thesis notwithstanding. On the other hand, no candidate should assume that having received agreement from their mentor(s) to the submission of the thesis in any way implies a guarantee that the degree for which it is submitted shall be awarded.

3. Oral Examination

X. All examination for all programmes is principally undertaken as the assessment of written work although the creative nature of this work may also admit other media, for example, a performance of a musical score or a visual representation of an art work.

4. Posthumous Awards

XI. The degree of M.Phil., M.Litt. or Ph.D. or other degree designated as a research degree may be awarded posthumously where the completed thesis has been assessed and there is agreement among the examiners that the submission is of sufficient standard to warrant the award.

5. Irregularities

XII. If evidence is provided of procedural or other irregularities in the examination process, the examination may be declared invalid, with the appointment of new examiners and a new examination taking place.

6. Responsibilities of the Candidate

XIII. The candidate must ensure that the thesis is submitted in accordance with the procedures established and communicated through this and other documents and guidelines.

XIV. The submission of the thesis shall be at the sole discretion of the research degree candidate concerned. See also regulation 3.2.IX. above. While the appointed mentor(s), University academic staff and administration shall be assisting the candidate to the best of their knowledge, it is not their responsibility or purpose to make any guess or prediction as to the expected outcome of the assessment of the thesis; this element is entirely in the hands of the assessors. Mentors are thus not able – nor should they be willing – to make any form of guarantee that a thesis will succeed in the assessment phase.

XV. The candidate must have no formal contact with the Examiner(s) whilst the examination is taking place.

XVI. The candidate must confirm, by a declaration bound into the thesis, that the thesis has not been submitted for any comparable academic award. Notwithstanding, a candidate shall not be excluded from incorporating in a thesis, covering a wider field, work which has already been submitted for a degree or comparable award, if it is clearly indicated in the thesis which work has been so incorporated.

XVII. The candidate must ensure that the thesis is bound and formatted in accordance with University requirements, see also ‘Guidelines for Dissertation and Thesis Presentation‘. Failure to comply will lead to rejection of the thesis. The appeals procedure will not consider cases of rejection on the basis of failure to comply with ‘Guidelines for Dissertation and Thesis Presentation’.

7. Examiners

XVIII. The thesis shall be examined by not less than two and normally not more than three examiners. Examiners may be either internal or external as circumstances permit. The identity of examiners will only be disclosed to the student where the examiner in question has given specific permission to be so identified. Where possible the examiners will meet in person.

XIX. Internal examiners may be:

a. a mentor or advisor of the candidate;
b. a member of staff of the collaborating establishment(s) concerned with the programme of supervised research under examination;
c. an officer or member of faculty of the University.

XX. If a candidate’s mentor is appointed as an internal examiner, an additional examiner, either external or internal, shall be appointed.

XXI. Each examiner must satisfy the normal University requirements for the appointment of examiners.

XXII. At least one examiner shall normally have substantial experience of examining research degree candidates. In an examination for the degree of Ph.D., at least one examiner shall normally have substantial experience of examining at Ph.D. level.

The term ‘substantial experience’ shall be taken as the person appointed as an examiner having acted in that capacity in three or more examinations.

XXIII. Each External Examiner shall be independent of the University and of any collaborating establishment(s).

XXIV. No candidate for a research degree may act as an examiner of a candidate for the University’s degree of M.Phil., M.Litt., Ph.D. or another degree designated as a research degree.

8. The examination

XXV. Each examiner shall assess the thesis.

XXVI. If an examiner does not believe that the thesis satisfies the University’s minimum requirements for the degree of M.Phil., M.Litt., Ph.D., or another degree designated as a research degree, the University must be informed in writing.

XXVII. The examiners shall, when in agreement, prepare and submit a joint report and recommendation relating to the award of the degree. When not in agreement, they shall submit separate reports and recommendations. These reports are treated as confidential and unless the examiners specifically decide otherwise, will not normally be made available to the candidate.

XXVIII. The examiners may recommend either of the following:

(a) the candidate should be awarded the degree for which examined;
(b) the candidate be awarded the degree for which examined, subject to minor amendments being made to the thesis;
(c) the candidate be permitted to re-submit for the degree and be re-examined;
(d) the candidate be not awarded the degree for which examined and be not permitted to be re-examined;
(e) in the case of an examination for the degree of Ph.D., the candidate be awarded the degree of M.Phil. or M.Litt., subject to the presentation of the thesis being amended to the satisfaction of the examiners.

XXIX. Where the examiners are satisfied that the candidate has generally reached the standard required for the degree for which examined, but consider that the candidate’s thesis requires minor amendments and corrections not so substantial as to call for the submission of a revised thesis, and recommend that the degree be awarded subject to the candidate amending the thesis to the satisfaction of the examiners, they shall indicate to the candidate in writing the amendments and corrections required.

XXX. Where the examiners are not unanimous in their recommendations, the University may:

(a) accept a majority recommendation;
(b) accept the recommendation of the External Examiner(s);
(c) appoint an additional examiner.

XXXI. An additional External Examiner shall prepare an independent preliminary report on the basis of the thesis. That examiner shall not be informed of the recommendations of the other examiners.

XXXII. The examiners shall not recommend that a candidate fail outright without allowing for additional assessment.

XXXIII. Where the University determines that the degree be not awarded and that no re-examination be permitted, the examiners shall prepare an agreed statement of the deficiencies of the thesis and the reason for their recommendation to be forwarded to the candidate.

XXXIV. The decision as to whether to accept the reports and recommendations of the examiners of a research degree candidate and to forward those recommendations concerning the award of the degree of M.Phil., M.Litt., Ph.D. or another degree designated as a research degree to the Chancellor shall rest with the Research Degrees Committee.

XXXV. All formal communications by the examiners at every stage of the examination must be supplied to the Research Degrees Committee.

XXXVI. The joint recommendation given by the examiners should give sufficiently detailed comments as to the scope and quality of the research and resulting thesis by the candidate to enable the Research Degrees Committee to fully satisfy itself of the solidity of the basis for the recommendation made.

XXXVII. Examiners shall be allowed to indicate informally to the candidate the recommendations they intend to propose to make on the result of the examination if they so wish, but must make it clear that the final decision rests with the University.

9. Re-examination

XXXVIII. One re-examination is permitted, subject to the following requirements:

(a) a candidate who fails to satisfy the examiners at the first examination, or any further examination required, shall be permitted to revise the thesis and be re-examined;
(b) the examiners shall provide the candidate with written guidance on the deficiencies of the first submission, and;
(c) the candidate shall submit for re-examination within one calendar year from the date of the latest part of the first examination. Where there is good cause, an extension of the period for re-submission and/or re-examination may be approved.

XXXIX. At its discretion, the University may appoint an additional External Examiner for the re-examination.

XL. The form of re-examination shall be that approved by the University on the recommendation of the examiners at the first examination.

XLI. The form of re-examination shall be essentially that required for a first examination, with the proviso that the examiners may not recommend a further examination be held. It should be noted that the Research Degrees Committee may require an additional External Examiner to be appointed.

XLII. No re-examination, in whatever form, shall be held without the approval of the Research Degrees Committee.

10. Review of the Examiners’ Decision

XLIII. Any request for a review of the decisions of the examiners submitted by a candidate for the degree of M.Phil., M.Litt., Ph.D. or another degree designated as a research degree shall be considered in accordance with the procedures established by the University.

XLIV. The only grounds on which a review shall be approved are:

(a) that there were circumstances, such as illness or other factors, adversely affecting the candidate’s performance of which the examiners were unaware and which the candidate was unable, or for valid reasons unwilling, to divulge before the examiners reached their decision, provided that the candidate’s request is supported by contemporaneous medical certificates or other documentary evidence acceptable to the University;
(b) that there is evidence of administrative, procedural or other irregularity in the conduct of the examination of such a nature as to warrant doubt as to whether the result might have been different had there not been such irregularity.

XLV. The following shall not constitute grounds for a review:

(a) any complaint or grievance made by the candidate for alleged inadequacy in the supervision or other arrangements during the period of registration;
(b) any disagreement with the academic judgement of the examiners in assessing the merits of the thesis and the programme of supervised research or in reaching any assessment decision based on the candidate’s performance.

XLVI. If the Research Degrees Committee considers that the request for a review made by a candidate is clearly frivolous, vexatious or outside the permitted grounds, the request will be referred to the Chancellor.

XLVII. If it is determined that there is no prima facie case, the candidate will be immediately notified of this decision; at the same time, the decision shall be submitted to the Senate for a final decision to either confirm the finding or consider further investigation or action on the request for a review. There shall be no appeal possible against the decision of the Senate.

XLVIII. If it is determined that there is a prima facie case for a review, the Research Degrees Committee shall compile such evidence as considered necessary and relevant to assist a review panel to review the case. That evidence may include written or oral testimony by the examiners, by mentors or other members of the academic staff, or further evidence or statements from the candidate.

XLIX. The review takes place in stages:

(a) the first stage shall be to determine whether there is a prima facie case for a review. At its discretion, the University may designate an appropriate person to undertake an initial investigation to determine, prima facie, the validity of the case and to advise the candidate accordingly; notwithstanding such advice, provided that the grounds for the request satisfy the University’s requirements, the appellant shall have the right to decide whether to put the case to the review panel;
(b) if it is considered that there is a prima facie case for review, a panel shall be established specifically to review the examiners’ decision. The members of the review panel shall be persons who have had no direct involvement with the candidate, the programme or supervised research or the examination of the candidate. No student or research degree candidate shall be a member of any such review panel.

L. The review panel is not constituted as an examination nor does it have the authority to recommend the award of a degree.

LI. Where it concludes that there are grounds for a review, the panel may recommend:

(a) that the examiners be required to reconsider their decision, or;
(b) that new examiners be appointed to re-assess the thesis and re-examine the candidate.

LII. There can be no appeal against the decision of the review panel.

11. Cheating and Plagiarism

LIII. Where evidence of cheating or plagiarism (see Regulation 5) or irregularities in the thesis or the conduct of the examination is exposed subsequent to the recommendation of the examiners, a subcommittee of the Research Degrees Committee shall consider the matter. It shall give the person concerned a fair opportunity to submit comments in writing and may seek a further report from the examiners. If the subcommittee is satisfied that there is a case to answer, it shall act as follows:

(a) where the person concerned remains a candidate of the University, the case shall be referred to the Chancellor, who will review the merits of the case, where required with the assistance of the Research Degrees Committee and/or the examiners. The decision and comment shall be passed to the Disciplinary Committee. If the Chancellor decides that disciplinary actions should not be taken, the matter will be returned to the Research Degrees Committee;
(b) where the degree has been conferred, the subcommittee may recommend that the person concerned should have the award rescinded, and may also recommend that a new examination be undertaken by new examiners. Before making a formal recommendation to the Chancellor, the Research Degrees Committee shall make available to the person concerned copies of all relevant documents and materials and give them opportunity to comment in writing. Once the formal recommendation has been passed to the Chancellor, the decision of the Chancellor is final.

LIV. Where the subcommittee does not invoke the disciplinary procedure for students the Research Degrees Committee may at its discretion declare invalid the examination and request the examiners reconsider their recommendation in the light of the evidence and the comments of the person concerned.

12. Thesis Amendment

LV. Where a thesis has been submitted and subject to examination for the degree of M.Phil., M.Litt., Ph.D. or other degree designated as a research degree it may be amended only as agreed or required by the examiners.

LVI. Where a candidate makes an unauthorised amendment, deletion or addition in their thesis, the examiners may submit that the University declare the examination invalid, and, where applicable, the candidate shall not be awarded the degree otherwise recommended by the examiners.

LVII. It shall be the responsibility of a candidate’s Mentor to oversee and ensure that unauthorised changes are not made in the thesis subsequent to its formal submission and prior to its deposit in the University’s archives in bound format.

13. Thesis Requirements

LVIII. General requirements:

(a) An abstract of ca. 300 words shall be bound into the thesis; this abstract shall give a synopsis of the thesis, stating the scope and nature of the work undertaken and, in the case of a thesis submitted in partial satisfaction of the University’s requirements for the degree of Ph.D., of the original contribution to knowledge of the subject at hand.
(b) The thesis shall include a statement of the candidate’s objectives and shall acknowledge published and/or other sources of material consulted (see also ‘Guide to Dissertation and Thesis Preparation’.)
(c) The thesis must include a statement by the candidate that it has not been submitted for another comparable academic award.
(d) If the candidate’s programme of supervised research has been part of a collaborative group project, the thesis shall indicate clearly the candidate’s individual contribution and the extent of the collaboration.
(e)  Any material published by the candidate in advance of the submission of the thesis must be referred to in the thesis and copies of all such published material must be included, either securely bound into the thesis or placed in a secure pocket at the end of the thesis.

LIX. Length of thesis:

(a) The text of a thesis in science and engineering should, not counting ancillary data, normally not exceed:

(i)  For the degree of M.Phil.:  45,000 words
(ii) For the degree of Ph.D.:  65,000 words
(iii) For another degree designated as a research degree, the length of thesis shall be specified by the Senate.

(b) The text of a thesis in the arts, social sciences and education should, not including ancillary data, not normally exceed:

(i) For the degree of M.Litt.:  60,000 words
(ii) For the degree of Ph.D.:  80,000 words
(iii) For another degree designated as a research degree, the length of thesis shall be specified by the Senate.

Where the thesis is accompanied by material in other than written form or the research involves creative writing or the preparation of a scholarly edition, the written thesis should normally be within the following ranges:

(i) For the degree of M.Phil. or M.Litt.:  30,000 – 40,000 words
(ii) For the degree of Ph.D.:   50,000 – 60,000 words
(iii) For another degree designated as a research degree, the length of thesis shall be specified by the Senate.

The published word lengths for all degrees may be shortened to take into account the results of prior learning assessment.

LX. Copies of the thesis, and matters of copyright:

(a) Following the award of the degree one copy of the thesis shall be lodged in the University’s archives.
(b) Where, as a result of the nature of the research, approval has been granted for the thesis to be treated as confidential, the thesis shall be deposited in the University’s library with access restricted to those directly involved in the research until the expiry of the period of confidentiality.
(c) Each copy of the thesis shall remain the property of the University, but the copyright of the thesis shall remain vested in the candidate.

LXI. Format of the thesis

(a) The basic format requirements are as described in ‘Guidelines for Dissertation and Thesis Preparation’, which forms an appendix to these regulations.
(b) The candidate must submit two copies of the document to the University. The candidate is advised to keep a copy for personal use. The University will not return the document to the candidate. In addition, the candidate must submit the text in electronic format, either on a CD-ROM or in some other way to be agreed. The accepted formats are Microsoft Word, PDF or Rich Text Format, with preference in the same order.
(c) The document should be typed, or preferably set on a computer or word-processor with a spell-checker. All typing should be in black. Where a candidate requires to add symbols, India ink or other permanent black ink must be used.
(d) The document shall be submitted on white A4 size paper with double spacing between the lines and a margin of at least 50 mm on the left-hand side, using one side of the paper only. Other margins: Top 1” (25mm), right 1”, bottom 1.25” (30mm).
(e) All pages must be numbered. The title must contain the approved title, the candidate’s name, the degree for which the candidate is registered and the year in which the document is presented. A summary of the work, not exceeding 300 words in length, must be included in each copy immediately after the title page. Where possible, subsidiary papers and other material should form part of the document, but the candidate may submit any such material separately for the purpose of examination.
(f) The document shall be professionally bound and embossed with lettering on the spine only. Comb binding is acceptable if no alternative is available. The University specifies that the colour of the cover for the bound document should be as follows:

(i) M.Phil. and M.Litt.: Red
(ii) Ph.D.: Black
(iii) Any other degree designated as a research degree: Green

(g) The document shall be written in English, unless the University has given the candidate permission to use another language resulting from the nature of the subject. The summary must always be written in English.
(h) On the page following the Abstract the candidate shall include a copyright statement, using the following sample form: ©Krishna Kaushal 1996  This enables the candidate to maintain their legal rights as the owner of the copyright. University Regulations allow the University to make further copies for legitimate academic purposes.
(i) If a candidate needs fuller guidance on the format of the thesis than that given in University Regulations, including the ‘Guidelines for Dissertation and Thesis Preparation’, reference may be made to the British Standards Institution’s Specification B.S. 4821 (1990). Where B.S. 4821 and the University Regulations differ in matters of detail, either format may be used.
(j) Where copies of the thesis are produced by photocopier, these shall be of a permanent nature; where word processor and printing devices are used, the printer shall be capable of producing text of a satisfactory quality; normally, this would mean laser-printing.
(k) A specimen title page is appended to these regulations.
(l) A specimen affirmation for thesis examiners is appended to these regulations.

[Specimen thesis title page]



Submitted in partial fulfilment of the
requirements of the Western Orthodox University
for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy

April 2018

[Affirmation for dissertation examiners]

This affirmation should be on university or corporate letterhead and signed with the academic title of the person making the affirmation.

To: The Chancellor of the Western Orthodox University

Re: Candidate …….(give candidate’s name in full)

This is to affirm that the completion/published work/examined dissertation presented by ……(candidate’s name) is of a quality and significance fully matching/superior to those usually produced by persons receiving the degree of (insert the name of the degree/doctorate) [insert paragraph of adjectival comment, if appropriate]. In such context, the candidate/published paper/dissertation is recommended for the award of the degree of master of…/doctor of…

Signature of person making the affirmation, printed name and degree abbreviations, academic title.