After submission

Find out about the doctoral examination process.

PhD examination process: 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 University of Wellington are of the highest quality.

Being under examination

Once you have submitted your thesis, your official status with the University is “under examination”. This means your registration will cease and you will not be required to pay further tuition fees. You will retain access to University facilities and resources until the examination process is complete. However, ongoing use of office space in your School must be negotiated with your School Manager.

The examiners

You will have three examiners: an examiner from Victoria University of Wellington, an examiner from another New Zealand university and an overseas examiner. You should not know prior to the oral who your examiners are. If you accidentally discover who they are, please do not discuss your thesis with them as this would nullify the examination process.

Examiners are sent these information sheets to guide their examination of VUW doctoral theses:

Notes for Examiners  of PhD theses

Notes for Examiners of  Doctor of Government Theses

Notes for Examiners of a Doctor of Education (EdD) Thesis

Notes for Examiners for Examiners for the Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA)

Examiners’ recommendations after reading your thesis

The first stage of the examination process involves an independent review of your thesis by the examiners. Your thesis will be sent to the three examiners who will examine your thesis and submit a written report and make a confidential recommendation to the Dean WFGR which they are asked to return within two months. 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.

  • The thesis is of sufficiently high standard to meet the requirements of the doctoral degree, although it may require minor editorial changes.
  • The thesis is not yet of a standard to meet the requirements of the doctoral degree, and there are matters that must be addressed.
  • The thesis does not meet the standard with respect to the requirements of the doctoral degree.

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 WFGR is responsible for reviewing the examiners' reports and approving your move to the oral defence.

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

Setting an oral date

We endeavour to arrange for the oral defence to take place approximately four months after your thesis has been accepted for examination. Setting a date for your oral can sometimes be difficult due to conflicting schedules of the examiners and your supervisors. Once a date has been scheduled, we will let you know.

We are required to send you the examiners reports a minimum of five working days before the oral, so that you have enough time to prepare. Occasionally orals may be delayed if the examiners return their reports late, or if the outcome is unclear and the Dean WFGR needs to consult further, but we will keep you informed if a significant delay is likely.

We will confirm the oral as soon as possible after the three examiners’ reports have been received and the Dean WFGR has approved the move to an oral. If the Dean WFGR does not approve the move to an oral he will write to you outlining alternative options.

The oral defence

After the Dean WFGR has considered the examiners reports and has approved the move to an oral, you will undergo an oral examination. You will be expected to defend your thesis to an examination committee (normally consisting of your internal and New Zealand examiners and chaired by a independent, senior academic Victoria University of Wellington staff member): 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 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 WFGR.

More detailed information on the oral defence is available.

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. If you are in New Zealand you are expected to attend your oral examination in person, however if this is not possible for you due to travel restrictions, you may discuss with the Doctoral Examinations Administrator the possibility of attending your examination via video conference.

International students that remain in New Zealand after submission may need apply to extend your visa to cover the examination process. For more information visit the renewing your visa page, or email for more information.

Examiners’ reports

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

Dean’s List

Your examiners are also invited to consider whether your thesis is worthy of nomination for the Dean’s List and make a confidential recommendation.

The Dean’s List recognises theses that have been judged by their examiners to be of exceptional quality and whose work makes an outstanding contribution to their field of research.