Faculty of Graduate Research

The Appointment of Examiners and the PhD Examination

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PhD Examiners

There will normally be an internal examiner, a New Zealand examiner and an overseas examiner.

Qualifications of Examiners

All examiners are normally expected to:

  • have expertise and standing in the field of the thesis being examined
  • have a PhD and/or an established research record
  • be research active
  • have supervised and examined at PhD level.

Examiners must be in a position to provide a fair and impartial assessment of the thesis.

  • Examiners should have no conflict of interest.
  • Examiners should have no significant personal, professional or contractual relationships with PhD candidates.
  • Examiners may not have been the primary or co-supervisor of the thesis.

The Internal Examiner

The internal examiner:

  • will normally be an academic staff member at Victoria University of Wellington (former Victoria academics and persons under contract to Victoria may, in some cases, be appointed as internal examiners provided their main employment is not with another tertiary institution)
  • must be based in Wellington (the internal examiner may be required to oversee corrections to the thesis)
  • may not be a visiting scholar at Victoria
  • must not be enrolled as a PhD candidate at any university
  • will not necessarily be a subject specialist in a narrow sense.

The New Zealand Examiner

The New Zealand examiner:

  • will normally be employed at another New Zealand tertiary education institution or recognised research institution
  • may be replaced by someone from Australia if there are good reasons for this.

The Overseas Examiner

The overseas examiner:

  • will normally be employed by a tertiary institution outside New Zealand
  • will normally have a good research record in the general area of the thesis
  • will be an active researcher in the specific field covered by the thesis
  • may be replaced by someone from New Zealand if the topic of the thesis concerns New Zealand and the main specialists in the area are in New Zealand.

Expectations made of Examiners

Please note that:

  • all examiners must be willing and able to examine the student's thesis within eight weeks from the time they receive the thesis
  • both the internal examiner and the New Zealand examiner are expected to attend the oral in person.

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The Process of Appointing Examiners


The process of selecting examiners needs to begin three months before the student submits.

The school must recommend examiners to the Faculty of Graduate Research at least one month before the student submits.

The Victoria Supervisor's Role

It is the Victoria supervisor's responsibility (following consultation with other members of the supervisory team) to suggest examiners to the School Research Committee (or equivalent) and to provide sufficient information to convince the committee that the nominations are wise ones.

The Victoria supervisor should:

  • ensure students know to give three months’ notice of their intention to submit in order to allow time for examiners to be approved
  • ask the student to provide an abstract of the thesis which may be forwarded to potential examiners (the abstract must be attached to the Request for Approval of Examiners form)
  • discuss and agree on potential examiners with the other supervisors (the student may also be consulted)
  • approach potential examiners informally to check that they are willing and able to examine the student's thesis within the expected timeframe of eight weeks and that the internal and NZ examiners are able to attend the oral in person
  • nominate examiners for appointment using the Request for Approval of Examiners form (below).

Supervisors may discuss potential examiners with the student, though the final decision about who to appoint rests with the University. Candidates should not be told which examiners have been nominated or appointed until after the thesis has been examined.

Document File size File type
icon-word Request for Approval of Examiners Form 103 KB .doc

The School's Role

The School Research Committee considers the supervisors' recommendations. The examiners must be approved by the Head of School.

The school must forward the Request for Approval of Examiners form to the Dean of the Faculty of Graduate Research (FGR) at least one month before the thesis is submitted.

Supervisor's recommendations should always be seriously considered, though the school may have reasons to reject examiners that have nothing to do with their inherent suitability. Supervisors must not expect that their recommendations will always be accepted.

Role of the Faculty of Graduate Research

The Dean FGR appoints the PhD examiners. The Dean FGR will accept school recommendations provided that the case is properly made and unless there are factors of which the school is unaware.

Examples of reasons to reject an application are:

  • the relevant forms are incomplete
  • a proposed examiner is not an active researcher or scholar
  • a proposed examiner has proved unreliable in the past
  • a proposed examiner has already undertaken several examination tasks in a short period
  • sufficient justification for the nomination of an examiner has not been provided.

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The Examination

The examination is in two parts. It involves an examination of the thesis by three examiners and an oral defence of the thesis by the candidate.

For details of the examination process, please read our guide for students

Initial Examination of the Thesis

Once the thesis has been accepted for examination, the Faculty of Graduate Research will send the thesis to the examiners, along with the documents below. The examiners are required to write independent reports and make independent recommendations which are submitted directly to the FGR.

During this part of the examination process, neither the candidate nor the supervisors should have any contact with the examiners.

Document File size File type
icon-pdf Notes for Examiners of PhD Thesis 127 KB PDF
icon-word Examiner's Recommendation on PhD Thesis 223 KB .doc

The Oral Defence

Supervisors should discuss the examination reports with the candidate and help them prepare for the oral.

The Victoria supervisor (who will normally be the primary supervisor) is expected to attend the oral defence in person. If different from the Victoria supervisor, the primary supervisor should also attend.

Read more on the oral from our guide for students

Recommendation following the Oral

The chair of the oral committee must use the following form to make a recommendation on the outcome of the examination.

Document File size File type
icon-word PhD Examination Outcome Summary 259 KB .doc