Examination, graduation and beyond

Find out about the examination process and the possible outcomes.

PhD examination: an overview

The examination process is rigorous. It aims to ensure that candidates meet the highest standards of scholarship and that the degrees conferred by Victoria are of the highest quality.

Being under examination

Once you have submitted, you will be considered "under examination". You will not be required to pay fees, but you will retain access to University facilities and resources until the examination process is complete.

Three examiners

There will normally be three examiners: an examiner from Victoria, an examiner from another New Zealand university and an overseas examiner.

The reading of your Thesis

The examiners will independently read your thesis, write reports on it and make recommendations about its acceptability.

Oral defence

If the examiners are satisfied that your thesis is of sufficient quality, you will undergo an oral examination. You will be expected to defend your thesis to an examination committee: to elaborate on your arguments; to explain how your thesis is set in a wider disciplinary context; to discuss the implications of your work.


The oral examination will take place at Victoria approximately four months after you have submitted your thesis for examination.

The outcome

After the oral, the examination committee will make an overall recommendation on your thesis. You may be required to make corrections and amendments. Sometimes these will be minor. But some candidates are required to substantially revise and resubmit the thesis.

The final version of your Thesis

Once the examiners are satisfied that your thesis meets the requirements of a PhD, you will need to deposit both a hardcopy and electronic version in the University Library.

Examiners' recommendations after reading your Thesis

The first stage of the examination process involves an independent review of your thesis by the examiners. The examiners are asked to report within eight weeks. They are not permitted to consult, nor to communicate with either you or your supervisors.

Recommendations on the Thesis

Each examiner is asked to make one of the following recommendations.

  1. The thesis is of sufficiently high standard to meet the requirements of the PhD, although it may require minor editorial changes.
  2. The thesis is not yet of a standard to meet the requirements of the PhD, and there are matters that must be addressed.
  3. The thesis is substandard with respect to the requirements of the PhD.

Examiners' reports

Each examiner then sets out the grounds for their recommendation in a detailed report.

Examiners are asked to help the University gauge the quality of the thesis by commenting on such things as originality, critical insight and contribution to knowledge. They are also asked to provide guidance for revision and to indicate areas requiring exploration in the oral defence.

Reviewing Examiners' Reports

The Dean of the Faculty of Graduate Research (FGR) is responsible for reviewing the examiners' reports and approving your move to the oral defence.

In cases where the examiners disagree fundamentally about the quality of the thesis, the Dean FGR may coordinate consultation between examiners.

Oral defence

The oral defence is an integral part of the examination process. The way you perform in the oral will have a bearing on the overall recommendation submitted to the Dean FGR.

Date, time and place

You will be advised of the date, time and place for the oral and of other practical arrangements by the Doctoral Examinations Administrator.

You must make arrangements to attend your oral examination in Wellington.

International students may need apply to extend your visa to cover the examination process. For more information visit the renewing your visa page, or email the Visa Officer at Victoria International to discuss your situation.

Examiners' reports

You and your Victoria supervisor will be sent copies of the examiners' reports at least five working days before the oral.

If you wish to waive your right to five days between receipt of the reports and the oral, please use the form below.

Waiver to Receive PhD Examiners Reportsdoc227KB

Preparing for your oral

For advice on the oral, please see the document below.

Advice on the PhD Oral Defencepdf273KB

Support people and audio recording

You may ask for a small number of people to be allowed to attend your oral for moral support, and your school may request to have observers present. You may also request to have your oral defence audio-recorded. You and the chairperson of the oral must consent to all arrangements.

The Doctoral Examinations Administrator will contact you with a date for confirming these requests.

People present at the oral

The oral will be chaired by a senior and independent academic from the University.

The internal examiner and the New Zealand examiner will be present in the room. The overseas examiner may be linked by telephone or video or have their questions put by one of the other examiners.

Your primary supervisor is expected to attend. Your other supervisors may also attend. Your supervisors will not take part in discussion during the oral, though they may make a statement to the examiners at the end of your defence.

Any support people in attendance will not have speaking rights.

Format of the oral

Oral examinations generally take place as follows.

  • The chair will commence with a welcome and introductions of all present.
  • You will then have an opportunity to address the examiners for 10 to 15 minutes without interruption.
  • The examiners will question you on your thesis and engage you in discussion about your research.
  • The chair may invite you to make a closing statement.
  • The chair will ask you and any support persons or observers to leave the room.
  • Your supervisors will be given an opportunity to make a statement to the examiners and will answer any questions the examiners wish to pose.
  • The supervisors will then leave the room.
  • The examiners will discuss your thesis and agree on what recommendation to make to the Dean of the Faculty of Graduate Research.
  • The chair will recall you to the room, and you will be advised of the examination committee's recommendation.

The whole examination should take around three hours.

Examiners' recommendations following the oral defence

The examination committee will recommend one of the following:

  1. that you be awarded the PhD subject to preparing a corrected copy of the thesis and making, if desired, other improvements as suggested in the examination
  2. that you be awarded the PhD subject to satisfying the conditions set out in the examination report, preparing a corrected copy of the thesis, and making (if desired) other improvements as suggested in the examination
  3. that the Dean FGR consult with the chair of the oral and seek additional information from appropriate interested parties in order to determine the outcome of the examination.

After the oral, you will be sent a copy of the examination committee’s report.

Recommendation 1

Under outcome 1 above, you will be asked to address any typographical errors, presentation issues and other editorial matters. Basically, the thesis needs little done to it, and you can decide on any changes beyond the superficial ones.

Recommendation 2

Recommendation 2 above means that you will be given specific guidance on what needs to be done to make the thesis acceptable.

Recommendation 3

If the recommendation is 3, the Dean FGR may determine any one of the following:

  • that you be awarded the PhD subject to meeting the conditions set out in the examination report (equivalent to number 2 above)
  • that you be declined a PhD, but invited to revise and resubmit the thesis for a second examination
  • that you be declined a PhD, but offered a Master's degree, subject to meeting any conditions in the examination report (or in an amended version of the report)
  • that you be declined a degree, with no further option or conditions.

Corrections and amendments

It is very common for examiners to ask candidates to make changes to the thesis before it is accepted. The examiners will discuss with you the corrections you need to make and negotiate a timeframe for completing them. They will also provide you with written guidelines.

Typographical errors and minor editorial matters

It is preferable that there are no spelling mistakes in your thesis. While it is unlikely that all spelling mistakes will be found, you are advised to remove as many as possible.  Examiners often mark those they find, but there will be others. You should correct them.

You should also tidy up other minor errors and inconsistencies of presentation. It is often possible to make corrections of this type before the oral defence takes place.

See our presentation, editing and proofreading guidelines.

Required corrections and amendments

Beyond the editorial corrections, examiners will frequently require that certain things are put right before you deposit the thesis in the University Library. Required changes may be small but important, such as replacing an incorrect use of a technical term or getting the notation right, or they may be major.

Changes candidates are commonly required to make include:

  • rewriting a particular chapter to take account of material that has been overlooked
  • reorganising material in the thesis
  • omitting some material
  • improving or clarifying an argument.

All required corrections will be detailed in the report that emerges after the oral defence.

Assistance with corrections

A committee in your school is responsible for ensuring that required corrections are completed. Often the committee will delegate this job to the internal examiner. You may need to discuss how to make the relevant corrections with your supervisor(s) and/or the internal examiner.

Voluntary corrections and amendments

Often the examiners will note matters in your thesis which they view as weaknesses (possibly even errors) but which they don't require you to correct. You will find these matters referred to in the examiners' reports, and they may also be raised during the oral. In such cases, you may choose whether or not to make additional corrections.

Timeframes for making corrections and amendments

Your examination committee will indicate a timeframe for making changes. You may be given anything from one or two days to make relatively minor changes to several months for substantial amendments.

If you find you cannot complete the corrections in the time allowed, you must apply for an extension using the following form.

Request for Extension to Complete Doctoral Thesis Corrections and Amendmentsdoc233KB

Revise and resubmit

If the changes to your thesis are substantial and likely to require more than six months full-time work to complete, your examination committee will require you to re-submit.

  • You will be required to re-enrol.
  • You will receive further supervision.
  • You may be assigned a new primary supervisor.
  • You will receive written advice explaining which parts of the thesis require revision and for what reasons.

Once you have re-submitted by the due date, your thesis will be re-examined. Only in exceptional circumstances will the Dean FGR consent to a change of examiners. You may be required to have a second oral examination.

Depositing your Thesis in the Library

Once your examiners have agreed that your thesis meets the requirements of a PhD, you must deposit one hard-bound copy of it in the University Library along with a PDF version of reasonable file size. For files sizes over 2GB please contact the library.


Please ensure that the year included on the title page is the year of deposit in the Library, not the year you submitted your thesis for examination.

Printing and binding

The hard-bound copy of the thesis must:

  • be identical to the PDF version (you should print from the PDF file)
  • be clearly printed on good quality plain white paper of A4 size (the thesis may be printed double sided)
  • have your name and the title printed on the cover and on the spine
  • have no marking comments.

Any appendices must be bound into the hard copy. Appendices in electronic form may be burned onto CD and attached in a pocket.

Works which do not fall within the usual A4 format, such as musical scores, may be bound or boxed in a fashion appropriate for their preservation.

You must pay all charges associated with printing and binding.

Format Requirements for Research Thesespdf121KB

Where to deposit your Thesis

The bound copy must be delivered to the Metadata Librarians, South end of Level 7, Central Library, Kelburn Campus.

You may either bring the electronic copy on a USB stick or CD when you deposit the hardcopy, or send the thesis as an email attachment to the Library's Cataloguing Team: address

Thesis availability

Once in the Library, your thesis may be consulted, borrowed and copied in accordance with the regulations. The electronic version will published online via ResearchArchive.


Eligibility to graduate

Before your eligibility to graduate can be confirmed, the Dean of the Faculty of Graduate Research must receive:

  • a statement from the oral chair that the oral was held and that you were informed of the outcome
  • a statement from your school that you have made all corrections required by the examiners
  • a receipt from the University Library saying that you have deposited your thesis.

Once all confirmations are in order, you will be informed that you have fulfilled the requirements of the PhD and that you are eligible to graduate.

Applying to graduate

You will be sent an email about the graduation process which will contain instructions on how to apply to have your qualification granted.

You may graduate in person at a graduation ceremony or you may have your qualification granted in absentia and then posted to you.

View the Graduation Office website for more information.

After graduation

After graduation, you are encouraged to remain involved in the life of the University.

You will be automatically enrolled on the Register of the Court of Convocation, which elects five members to the University Council.

You may join the Alumni Association, which will help you keep up-to-date with news and events at Victoria.

You may also be interested in the Victoria University Foundation, a charitable trust which raises funds for a variety of projects with the help of graduates.

Vic Careers will be able to provide you with advice about employment and career options.