- Nomination of examiners
- Conflict of interest and the appointment of examiners
- Chair of examiners
- Duration of examination
- Examiner's report
- Assignment of a mark for a Masters
- Marking requirements for examiners
- Grade requirement
- Amendments to a thesis
- Minor amendments
- Disagreement between examiners
- Research misconduct
- Notification of pass result
- Confidentiality of names of examiners
- Final copies of the thesis and copyright
- Restricted access to a thesis
Nomination of examiners
The head of department, in consultation with the candidate's supervisors and senior academic members of the department, is responsible for the nomination of examiners. The Chair of the Research Higher Degrees (RHD) Committee approves the appointment of the nominated examiners. The head of department is required to nominate two examiners together with a reserve should a third or replacement examiner be required. In the case of creative arts disciplines where a thesis consists of creative works and a dissertation, and where the creative work component includes performance or exhibition of visual art works, either two or three examiners will be appointed. In all cases a durable record of the performance or exhibition must be made and submitted with the dissertation. The examiners shall be external to the University and must not have had a formal association with the University within the last five years. Formal association is normally interpreted as meaning employment at the University in teaching and/or research as either a full-time, part-time or sessional staff member, or in an honorary capacity or through direct involvement with the candidate's research project (including reading drafts or discussing the research). Staff of the Outside Institutions list are not permitted to examine theses (refer to Appendix A, section F. Candidates Based at Outside Institutions). Examiners who have a readily apparent conflict of interest with the candidate, or the supervisor(s), or the institution, of either a personal, professional, or commercial nature, should not be nominated as examiners.
All examiners must be from different institutions. It is encouraged that at least one examiner, of the first two nominated, is based overseas. In the case of creative arts disciplines where a thesis consists of creative works and a dissertation, and where the creative work component includes performance or exhibition of visual art works, it is permitted that all examiners can be appointed from within Australia and normally, one examiner will be from interstate.
Examiners will usually be a member of a university or research institution within the last five years. Examiners who are not a member of a university or research institution must hold equivalent demonstrable research expertise in the field.
Names of nominated examiners must remain confidential and are not to be revealed to candidates under any circumstances. However, candidates should be asked to identify any person whom they would consider unsuitable to examine the thesis. Candidates may nominate up to two individuals whom they do not wish appointed as examiners and should provide a written statement with the names and the reasons for such exclusion, to the head of department at the time of submission of their 80-word summary. In exceptional circumstances, candidates may nominate further individuals whom they do not wish to act as their examiners.
Conflict of interest and the appointment of examiners
Examiners must be impartial and be free from bias either for or against the candidate. Where a nominated examiner is from within Victoria, assurance of independence is required. If there has been in the last five years, or will be in the near future, any formal association between the proposed examiners and the candidate, or the supervisor(s) or the University of either a personal, professional or commercial nature that may be considered as a conflict of interest, they should not be nominated.
Individuals who have directly collaborated in work with the candidate and/or with the candidate's supervisor(s) should not be nominated as examiners, and individuals who have indirectly collaborated with the candidate and/or with the candidate's supervisors may be appointed only if it can be clearly demonstrated that there has been no direct relationship that would lead to an actual conflict of interest. For example, if the supervisors and potential examiner have worked together with a small number of others on a paper or a grant application within the preceding five years, there is direct conflict of interest, and that individual may not be appointed as an examiner. On the other hand, where the relationship is one in which many individuals are engaged, such as may happen when papers or grant proposal arise from large multi-centre projects, if the supervisor and potential examiner have no direct contact with each other, the Chair of Examiners may make a submission to the Chair of the Research Higher Degrees Committee, that documents the relationship and argues that there is no substantive conflict of interest.
Any variation to the eligibility of examiners as above requires submitted justification explaining that their unique expertise is essential to the examination, and documenting the relationship between the supervisor(s), candidate and proposed examiner, so that the extent of any possible conflict of interest introduced into the examination process as a consequence of the proposed appointment can be independently determined. Failure to disclose conflicts of interest or cases where a conflict of interest might reasonably be perceived to exist may be considered grounds for research misconduct, as outlined in the Misconduct Procedure (MPF1164).
Chair of Examiners
The head of department normally acts as Chair of Examiners, unless they are the candidate's supervisor. The candidate's supervisor may not act as Chair of Examiners under any circumstances. If the Chair of Examiners is absent from the University for long enough to delay the progress of the examination, another Chair of Examiners is appointed from senior academic members of the department. The latter will remain as Chair of Examiners until the end of the examination.
The Chair of Examiners makes recommendations to the RHD Committee based on the reports submitted by the external examiners, but does not have a vote in deciding the outcome of the examination and does not submit a report on the thesis.
Where the creative work component includes performance or exhibition of visual art works, the examiners and Chair of Examiners will normally attend the site of the performance or exhibition. The Chair of Examiners is responsible for taking into account the availability of examiners, scheduling of the candidate and supervisors, and selection and scheduling of the venue to ensure confidentiality is maintained. The Chair of Examiners may recommend that examiners attend the public performance or exhibition at different times to prevent their identification by the candidate. Where there is normally audience participation and interaction with the presenter during public performances or exhibitions, it is the responsibility of the Chair of Examiners to ensure that the candidate cannot inappropriately influence the examiners to affect assessment.
Duration of examination
Examiners are asked to complete their report within a specified timeframe. The examination process, from submission of the thesis until candidates are contacted by the Melbourne School of Graduate Research (MSGR) with a result or notification of a delay, will usually take a minimum of four months. While the thesis is under examination specific information pertaining to the examination cannot be disclosed. The written reports will be sent to the candidate once they have been received and considered by the Chair of Examiners. Examination delays can occur, for instance where an examiner is not able to submit a report within the usual timeframe, when a replacement examiner becomes necessary, or when examiners are required to consult or if a third examiner is appointed.
Examiners are requested to submit a written report on the thesis and to award a result from the following scale from 1 to 5. Candidates submitting under the category of 'Submission of Collection of Papers', examiners are given three options only (1, 2 or 5 from the recommendations below). The five recommendations available to examiners when submitting a first report are:
- Be awarded the degree without further examination or amendment required by me
- Be awarded the degree without further examination, subject to inserting in the thesis the minor corrections and/or additions as I have specified and which may be subsequently carried out to the satisfaction of the Chair of Examiners, without further reference to me
- Be awarded the degree, subject to revising part or parts of the thesis as I have specified to either (a) the satisfaction of the Chair of Examiners, without further reference to me, or (b) my satisfaction
- Not yet be awarded the degree, but be permitted to re-submit the thesis in a revised form for re-examination. Areas requiring major amendment are identified in my attached report
- Not be awarded the degree and not be permitted to submit for re-examination.
Assignment of a mark for a masters by research
A mark is always calculated following the first examination of a thesis.
The determination of whether or not a thesis is passed is handled by the usual rules, and may include an assessment by a third examiner as part of the first examination. A third examiner may also be assigned in cases where the two initial examiners agree that the thesis should be passed, but differ widely in the mark they have recommended.
If the overall outcome of the first examination of the thesis is that it be revised and resubmitted for examination, no marks are recorded in connection with the second examination, and the examiners will be requested to assign an outcome of either pass, pass with minor amendments, or fail. The mark assigned to a resubmitted thesis that is passed as a result of the second examination will be the mark calculated by combining the marks that arose as a result of the first examination.
In the case where one or more examiners select recommendation 4 or 5 as the result of their first examination of the thesis, and the thesis is subsequently passed, the mark supplied by all examiners at the first examination will be combined to obtain the final mark for the thesis. If the final combined mark is more than 65% the mark is recorded. If the combined mark is less than 65% a result of 65% will be deemed to be awarded in order for the thesis to be passed.
Marking requirements for examiners
The thesis will be assessed and given a mark out of 100. The following scale is provided as guidance to the examiners.
Outstanding (H1) 90–100%
The candidate has demonstrated a very high level of competence with respect to the questions listed under Expected Requirements (refer to Expected requirements) AND there is clear evidence of considerable original work of high quality, including analysis or other evaluation, and the implementation and experimentation phases of the discovery have also been substantially completed, with an expectation that the thesis would be worthy of publication with only a small amount of revision and/or editing required.
Excellent (H1) 85–89%
The candidate has demonstrated a high level of competence with respect to the questions listed under Expected Requirements (refer to Expected requirements) AND there is clear evidence of considerable original work, including analysis or other evaluation, and the implementation and experimentation phases of the discovery have also been substantially completed, with an expectation that with a small amount of further research and/or analysis the thesis would be worthy of publication.
Very Good (H1) 80–84%
The candidate has demonstrated more than adequate level of competence with respect to the questions listed under Expected Requirements (refer to Expected requirements) AND the thesis provides evidence of the candidate's ability to synthesise and organise existing information in a useful and critical manner and is well written and free of error OR there is evidence of original work, including analysis or other evaluation, and the implementation and experimentation phases of the discovery have also been substantially completed, with an expectation that with a small amount of further research and/or analysis the thesis would be worthy of publication.
Good (H2A) 75–79%
The candidate has demonstrated a minimum level of competence with respect to the questions listed under Expected Requirements (refer to Expected requirements) AND the thesis provides evidence of the candidate's ability to synthesise and organise existing information in a useful and critical manner and is well-written and largely free of error OR there is evidence of original work, including analysis or other evaluation, and some amount of research, with an expectation that with research and/or analysis the thesis might be worthy of publication.
Satisfactory (H2B) 70–74%
The candidate has demonstrated a minimum level of competence with respect to the questions listed under Expected Requirements (refer to Expected requirements) AND the thesis is judged to be more than adequate in at least one of the questions listed under Expected Requirements OR there is evidence of original work, including some analysis or other evaluation of the proposal, even if not fully implemented or tested.
Adequate (H3) 65–69%
The candidate has demonstrated a minimum level of competence with respect to the questions listed under Expected Requirements (refer to Expected requirements).
The thesis is so deficient with respect to one or more of the questions listed under Expected Requirements (refer to Expected requirements) AND resubmission of the thesis in a revised form for re-examination is required.
The thesis is so deficient with respect to one or more of the questions listed under Expected Requirements (refer to Expected requirements) that revision and resubmission cannot be considered as an option.
A masters by research candidate must receive an average grade of at least H3 (65%) or better to be eligible for the award of the degree.
Amendments to a thesis
The majority of theses require some form of amendment before the degree is awarded. MSGR informs candidates of the corrections required and supplies the candidate with copies of the examiners' reports, edited for confidentiality. Candidates are not permitted to make any changes to their thesis not specified by the examiners (or implied in their reports). Candidates are required to consult with their supervisor and the Chair of Examiners in this matter.
Theses requiring corrections must be submitted to the Chair of Examiners in the department within the time specified. Corrections to theses should be incorporated in the body of the text. If the candidate needs more time to finish the corrections, an extension may be sought by completing the appropriate extension form, which is signed by the candidate's supervisor and Chair of Examiners, and states the grounds for the application and the period of time required. The available extension forms can be found on the MSGR website.
Minor amendments are required if either examiner selects recommendation 2 (refer to Examiners report). Candidates are usually given one month to complete minor amendments, unless otherwise advised by the Chair of Examiners. Two copies of the thesis, incorporating all amendments should be submitted to the Chair of Examiners for review. The Chair of Examiners will then send a recommendation to MSGR confirming that the amendments have satisfied the examiners' requests.
Revisions entail revising sections of the thesis to the approval of the examiner(s) who specified recommendation 3 (refer to Examiners report). An examiner may choose to delegate this task to the Chair of Examiners. Candidates are usually given two months to complete revisions. An electronic copy of the revised thesis and a separate list of the revisions made by the candidate should be submitted to the Chair of Examiners. The Chair of Examiners will then send a recommendation to MSGR confirming the thesis is ready to be forwarded to the relevant examiner(s) for review. The examiner(s) assessing the revised thesis are asked to complete their report within three weeks.
Disagreement between examiners
Where there is insufficient agreement between the examiners' reports, and the Chair of Examiners and the Chair of the Committee believe resolution is possible, the examiners may be invited to consult to achieve consensus. If the examiners are unable to agree, a third examiner will be appointed. The result of the examination shall then be in accordance with the majority recommendation of the examiners.
Where a result is deferred, candidates are usually given six months to revise and resubmit the thesis. At least three thermal bound copies of the revised thesis must be resubmitted for a second examination.
All candidates required to undertake a major revision are required to re-enrol for this period. In exceptional circumstances the head of department may make a case for this requirement to be waived. The Chair of the RHD Committee is responsible for reviewing the circumstances of any requests for exemption to the rule and approving the waiver.
Candidates should respond to any concerns raised by the examiners and may also make other changes to improve the thesis. A revised and resubmitted thesis is not examined only in regard to the advice of the original examiners, but will be judged on its merits and must be re-examined in its entirety.
Candidates are allowed only one opportunity to make major revisions to their thesis. Therefore examiners of a revised and resubmitted thesis are required to record a final decision of either pass, pass with minor amendments, or fail. A revised and resubmitted thesis is normally examined by the original examiners. The examiners will be sent their co-examiner's report on the original thesis. Candidates will be invited to write a response to the examiners' reports and if provided this will be sent to both examiners with the resubmitted thesis. If a replacement examiner is required for a resubmitted thesis, this examiner will be provided with the revised version of the thesis. A replacement or third examiner of a resubmitted thesis will receive the co-examiners' reports on the original thesis, as well as the candidate's response, along with the resubmitted thesis.
A candidate who does not resubmit will be awarded a fail result for the thesis (thereby failing to qualify for the degree).
Research misconduct may include fabrication or falsification of data or results; the use of another person's ideas, work or data without appropriate acknowledgement, including plagiarism; and misleading ascription of authorship to a publication, in a thesis. Where an allegation of research misconduct is reported an investigation will be conducted under Statute 13.1 Student Discipline.
Where it is determined that research misconduct has occurred, but that the examination may be allowed to continue, the result of the first examination is deemed to be 'revise and resubmit'. Any changes requested by the examiners must be incorporated into the revised thesis, and where appropriate, all unoriginal text must be removed from the thesis or must be correctly cited. The candidate must submit an index of revisions made to the Chair of Examiners and the academic misconduct committee for approval before submission of the revised thesis for re-examination. The revised thesis will then be sent to all examiners for re-examination. The examiners will not be provided with the reports from their co-examiner/s and the candidate will not be permitted to submit a response to the examiners. The examiners will be asked to record a final decision of either pass, pass with minor amendments, or fail.
Examiners who did not recommend 'revise and resubmit', and were not involved in raising the research misconduct concerns, will not be advised of any issues with the thesis other than that the outcome of the first examination was deemed by the Chair of the RHD Committee to be 'revise and resubmit' and that the University's procedures require the revised thesis to be examined by all examiners.
Notification of pass result
Masters by research candidates are considered eligible to pass once MSGR has received:
- A Completion of Degree form from the Chair of Examiners stating that any corrections required by the examiners have been completed and that the degree may be awarded without further examination or correction
- A citation (50-word summary of the candidate's research to be included in the Australian Higher Education Graduation Statement to be issued by the University)
- Two permanently bound copies of the thesis (one on archival quality paper) submitted through the Chair of Examiners, incorporating any necessary amendments or revisions
- Confirmation that an electronic copy of the thesis has been submitted on the University of Melbourne ePrints Repository (UMER).
Once these requirements have been fulfilled the candidate will receive a letter stating that they have successfully completed all the requirements for the masters by research degree and the final thesis mark is released. The candidate also receives information about graduation.
Confidentiality of names of examiners
Once the examination is complete, MSGR may inform the candidate of the identities of those examiner(s) who recommend the thesis be passed, if no objection has been made by the examiner(s), Chair of Examiners or Chair of the RHD Committee.
Final copies of the thesis and copyright
Candidates are required to provide one copy of the thesis for the University of Melbourne Library after it has been passed by the examiners and corrections have been made. The department also requires a copy to be deposited in the departmental library (refer to Final form of the thesis).
Candidates should note that once lodged in the University of Melbourne Library the thesis will be made available to any person entitled to use the libraries and may be photocopied or digitised by or on behalf of the Librarian for use for research or private study pursuant to the provisions of the Copyright Act 1968. Persons to whom a copy is furnished under such conditions may, subject to acknowledging the sources of the quotation, quote extracts from the thesis in any paper or written work prepared by the user, but may not, without the author's permission publish in a paper or other written work extracts which in total would constitute an infringing copy for the purpose of the Copyright Act.
Restricted access to a thesis
The University is committed to the openness of research findings. It is important that, at an early stage of research, the candidate and their supervisors consider restrictions which may have been placed, for example, on the use of interviews or confidential material, and whether these may jeopardise subsequent publication or communication of research outcomes. Where necessary, ethics clearance should be obtained (refer to Obtaining ethics approval).
Copyright in theses is vested in candidates and this allows for dissemination of research findings in a context of open research and its dissemination except where obligations to third parties are in place (refer to Copyright).
In almost all cases, the rights of the candidate over the intellectual property of their thesis offers adequate protection of their research in a context of open research and its dissemination, except where obligations to third parties are in place (refer to Intellectual property).
In rare cases a thesis or work deposited will be withheld from access to both the library hardbound copy and the digital version stored by UMER. The thesis will be placed on restricted access for a specific time. An application should be submitted to MSGR for a thesis to be placed on restricted access where at least one of the following applies:
- The thesis contains material which could have legal repercussions if published
- The thesis contains material for which the author intends to apply for patent protection or there are other possible commercial benefits which would be prejudiced were the thesis to be made public immediately after acceptance
- There are other exceptional circumstances and restricted access in whole or in part would not result in subverting the important academic principle of open access to research material.
Restricted access to a thesis is normally approved for up to one year in the first instance. Restriction for further periods may be approved upon further application. A candidate requesting restricted access should complete an Application for Restricted Access form available from MSGR. All applications must fully explain the reasons for which restricted access is requested, and include supporting comments and signatures from the applicant's supervisor(s) and head of department.
Melbourne Research should be consulted wherever any contract is signed which places restrictions on the candidate's or the University's rights to intellectual property, and a copy of the contract should be attached to the Application for Restricted Access form.
Before applying for any period of confidentiality or restricted access, candidates should consider carefully whether this will unduly impair their ability to publish their research, or make their work and achievements known to potential employers. These issues should be discussed with their supervisors.