***Amendments to Regulation 38 were last approved by the University Council at the meeting held on 16 May 2018, with changes taking immediate effect. The previous version, which applies to all assessment decisions prior to the 2 October 2017, can be viewed here.***
Regulation Governing Research Degrees
1. Where the post of a University official is named in the Regulation, this refers to the member of staff concerned or their authorised nominee.
2. Text in italics is included to provide explanation. Sub-headings in italics are intended to help users of the regulations to find the relevant section.
This Regulation applies to Research Degrees at the University, except for Higher Doctorates. Detailed information on individual courses is listed in the Course Regulations.
The Regulation on Collaborative Postgraduate Degrees applies to research degrees offered in collaboration with one or more institutions.
This Regulation sets out a list of research degrees awarded, general requirements for the award of degrees and specific provisions.
38.1 Research degrees awarded by the University
1. The University awards the following degrees by research:
Master of Arts (MA)
Master of Science (MSc)
Master of Laws (LLM)
Master of Surgery (MS)
Master of Medical Science (MMedSci)
Master of Philosophy (MPhil)
Doctor of Clinical Psychology (DClinPsych)
Doctor of Education (EdD)
Doctor of Engineering (EngD)
Doctor of Medicine (MD)
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
European Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
2. Degrees by research are normally awarded in a specific subject. A student may pursue research across more than one subject. A degree may be awarded that names more than one subject if:
(a) A supervisor is appointed in each of these subjects.
(b) The examiners appointed are deemed to be competent in each subject.
(c) The examiners recommend the award of the degree in each of the relevant subjects.
38.2 Registration for a research degree
There are detailed Guidelines for students registered for a research degree and staff involved in supervision of research students, approved by the Board of Graduate Studies. All research students and supervisors are expected to familiarise themselves with the relevant Guidelines, which are available on the Graduate School website. Departments also have specific requirements for research degrees, which are set out in departmental handbooks and on websites. In addition to these Guidelines, the Regulation on student registration, attendance and progress applies to all students at the University, including those registered for research degrees.
Some research degrees include a compulsory taught component. Detailed information on individual course requirements, including course length and assessment methods, is set out in the Course Regulations.
1. A student registered for a research degree must have at least one supervisor. Supervisors are normally members of academic staff at the University. Supervisors are nominated by Heads of Departments in accordance with the Guidelines on the Supervision and Monitoring of Research Degree Students and their appointment is subject to approval by the Chair of the Board of Graduate Studies.
2. Registration for a research degree is subject to monitoring, review and upgrade procedures specified by each department.
3. A student registered for a research degree may be required to pursue taught courses or training preparatory to or alongside research.
4. A student registered for a research degree may spend part of the period of study away from the University, as set out in the Guidelines on the Supervision of Research Students based away from the University.
38.3. Periods of study
1. The standard period of study for research degrees as set out below is determined by the Senate.
Master’s by Research (MA, MSc, LLM, MMedSci, MS)
2 to 5 years
MPhil and MD
3 to 6 years
3 years (applicable to students who commenced their course at the University prior to 1 August 2011)
4 years (applicable to students who commenced their course at the University on or after 1 August 2011)
5 years (applicable to students who commenced their course at the University prior to 1 August 2011)
7 years (applicable to students who commenced their course at the University on or after 1 August 2011)
Guidance for this Regulation, Requirements for the award of Research Degrees, sets out specific requirements for the award of the degrees listed above, including the award of a PhD awarded on the basis of published work.
2. Part-time study is normally permitted if a student is only able to study on a part-time basis because of employment or other commitments for a significant part of the working week. Requests to study part-time are subject to approval by the Chair of the Board of Graduate Studies.
Reductions to a period of study
3. The Chair of the Board of Graduate Studies may approve a shorter period of study, particularly if a student has completed part of a period of study for a similar degree elsewhere.
Changing registration to another course or qualification
4. A student may upgrade to a higher qualification subject to satisfactory progress.
5 For students registered on the University of Warwick - Monash University Joint PhD programme only, a student may be required to discontinue their registration for a PhD if their progress is not deemed to be satisfactory after a probationary year. They will normally have the
option of transferring to an MPhil or an appropriate Masters degree by Research, subject to immigration advice.
6 A student may, with the agreement of their department, seek permission from the Chair of the Board of Graduate Studies to change mode of attendance or to transfer to a different research degree.
7. A student registered for a research degree is expected to submit their thesis by the end of the period of study. Applicable to students who commenced their course at the University prior to 1 August 2011: An extension to this deadline of a maximum of twelve months may be permitted.
8. A student may apply to the Chair of the Board of Graduate Studies for a further extension of the period for submission, following the process set out by the Academic Office. A further extension will only be granted in exceptional circumstances.
9. Applications for extensions of more than twelve months at a time will not be considered.
10. A student who wishes to submit before the deadline may make a request to the Chair of the Board of Graduate Studies, with the support of the department concerned. Normally there will be no reduction in the total fee payable over the standard period of registration if a thesis is submitted early.
11. Non-submission of a research thesis by the end of the student's period of study constitutes grounds for permanent withdrawal under University Regulation 36.4.10.
38.4 Upgrading from MPhil to PhD
1. Students who aim to complete a PhD normally register in the first instance for the degree of MPhil unless otherwise approved by the Board of Graduate Studies. Subject to satisfactory progress, registration may be upgraded to the degree of PhD. Departments may apply to the Chair of the Board of Graduate Studies to allow a student to register directly for the degree of PhD.
2. Departments are responsible for advising students of departmental requirements and procedures for upgrading to PhD in line with the Guidelines on the Supervision and Monitoring of Research Degree Students. If a student successfully completes departmental upgrading procedures, the department will then recommend upgrading to the Chair of the Board of Graduate Studies.
3. If a student fails to upgrade to the degree of PhD at the first attempt, they will normally be permitted to submit a further upgrading proposal. If the second attempt fails, the student may be allowed to continue their registration, but only for the degree of MPhil. Alternatively, the department may recommend that the student be required to withdraw in accordance with the Regulation on student registration, attendance and progress.
4. The appeals procedure set out in Regulation 42 will be used.
38.5. Requirements for theses submitted for research degrees
A summary of requirements for different research degrees is contained withinthe Guidance to this Regulation, Requirements for Research Degrees. More detailed requirements for the presentation of theses are set out in the Guide to Examinations for Higher Degrees by Research, approved by the Board of Graduate Studies, which is available on the Graduate School website.
1. A thesis shall consist of one or more pieces of work as specified in the relevant course regulations or departmental guidance. The length should not exceed the word limit specified for that degree, unless prior permission is obtained from the Chair of the Board of Graduate Studies.
2. A student will not be permitted to submit a thesis which has been, or is being, submitted for a degree at another university, unless this is part of arrangements for an approved collaborative degree. A student may incorporate work submitted for a degree that has already been awarded, provided that the extent of this work is clearly indicated in the thesis. This work may provide support for a thesis but will not be taken into account when evaluating the thesis.
3. A student must indicate any joint work included in the thesis, stating their share in such work. Joint work includes work undertaken with the student’s supervisor.
4. A thesis submitted for examination for a higher degree by research shall include a declaration that the research has been undertaken in accordance with University safety policy and Guidelines on Ethical Practice.
5. A final copy of the thesis must be deposited in the University Library following the conclusion of the examination, in a format specified in the Guide to Examinations for Higher Degrees by Research.
Languages other than English
6. A thesis or dissertation shall be written in English unless a student has obtained prior approval from the Chair of the Board of Graduate Studies for the use of another language.
7. The Chair of the Board of Graduate Studies may permit doctoral students of Modern Language Departments in the Faculty of Arts to write their theses in the language taught in that department. The primary reason for use of a language other than English should be that it allows a fuller historical or critical engagement with the materials discussed. An abstract of 1500 words in English should be submitted alongside the thesis for inclusion in the Library copy. All students must meet entry requirements for English language competence.
There is a detailed Guide to the Examination of Higher Degrees by Research, approved by the Board of Graduate Studies that sets out detailed information on examination procedures. This is available on the Graduate School website. Some research degrees have specific examination requirements. These are set out in Annex 1 to this Regulation, Requirements for Research Degrees.
Boards of Examiners for taught components of research degrees
1. Where a Board of Examiners is appointed to examine a compulsory assessed taught component of a research degree as set out in the Course Regulations, the appointment of the Board and the process followed should be in line with the provisions of Section 3 of the Regulation on Taught Postgraduate Courses and the Senate Examination and Degree Conventions published by the Academic Office.
2. A Board of Examiners may reach one of the following decisions for each student:
(a) To permit the student to proceed to the next part of the course, as set out in the Course Regulations;
(b) To require the student to resit an examination or resubmit specified work within a stated period, before proceeding to the next part of the course.
(c) To require the student to withdraw from the course. In this instance the Board may recommend the award of a qualification, if the student has met the requirements set out in the Course Regulations.
Appointment of examiners and examination advisors for research degrees
3. A Head of Department is required to nominate examiners for each research degree, following the process set out by the Academic Office. The Chair of the Board of Graduate Studies considers these nominations on behalf of the Senate. Normally, one external examiner and one internal examiner are appointed. A fee is payable to examiners.
4. A former member of University staff is not normally eligible to act as an external examiner, unless at least three years have elapsed since their resignation. Heads of Departments are required to monitor the nomination of examiners to ensure that, other than when required because of the nature of a student’s research project, the same external examiners do not regularly examine students supervised by a single member of staff.
5. If the student is a member of University staff, or has been a member of staff during their course, two external examiners will be appointed. For these purposes, a member of staff is defined as someone with a formal contract of employment with the University.
6. For examinations where no internal examiner has been appointed, the department is required to nominate an examination advisor to advise and assist the examiners with University and departmental procedures. A Head of Department may choose to nominate an examination advisor for any research degree examination. An advisor shall be a member of staff from the student's Department, School or Faculty. The advisor may chair and maintain a record of the oral examination but shall not otherwise participate in the examination process.
7. A student’s supervisor may not be involved in the examination. A supervisor is not entitled to attend the oral examination and may normally only be present at the request of the examiners. If present, the supervisor shall play no part in the oral examination.
38.7 Examination process
The method of examination for each research degree is set out in Annex 1 to this Regulation, Requirements for Research Degrees. This Annex also specified whether an oral examination is required for each degree.
1. Each examiner is required to make an independent report prior to any oral examination on the work submitted. Both examiners shall be present at any oral examination.
2. In all cases, even if an oral examination is not held, the examiners are required to complete a joint report with a final joint recommendation. The reports shall be sent to the Graduate School. The examiners' reports shall be treated at all times as confidential to those involved in the examination process, any appeal process, the Head of Department, Director of Graduate Studies, the supervisor and the student.
3. The recommendations of examiners are subject to approval by the Chair (or Deputy Chair) of the Faculty Education Committee of the Board of the appropriate Faculty. Degrees by research are awarded by the Senate.
4. If, at any point, the examiners suspect a candidate of cheating as defined under University Regulation 11 governing the Procedure to be Adopted in the Event of Suspected Cheating in a University Test, the examination process shall be stopped. The case will be referred to the Head of Department as set out in Regulation 11.
Appointment of external adjudicator
5. If the examiners are unable to agree a joint recommendation, or if for any other reason a further opinion is required on the work submitted, the Chair of the Board of Graduate Studies may appoint an external adjudicator. The adjudicator shall be appointed on the recommendation of the Head of the appropriate department after consultation with the original external examiner. A fee is payable to adjudicators.
6. The adjudicator shall consider the work submitted and will also be sent the reports of the original examiners. The adjudicator shall make an independent report which shall conclude with one of the recommendations available to the examiners, as set out below.
7. The adjudicator’s report shall be sent, together with the original examiners’ reports, to the Academic Registrar for consideration by the Chair of the appropriate Faculty Education Committee. The recommendation of the adjudicator will normally prevail.
38.8 Decisions of the examiners
1. The examiners shall reach one of the decisions listed below and set out their recommendation in their joint report.
(a) That the degree be awarded.
(b) That the degree be awarded, subject to minor amendments or corrections as defined in 8.3 below. In this instance, the examiners should advise the student of the required corrections and the deadline.
(c) (First submission only, not available for a resubmitted thesis). That the degree be awarded, subject to major amendments or corrections as defined in 8.4 below. In this instance, the examiners should advise the student of the required corrections and the deadline.
(d) (MA, MSc and LLM by research) that the thesis (or exceptionally a revised thesis submitted within a prescribed period) be re-examined for the degree of MPhil.
(e) (MPhil only) that the thesis (or exceptionally a revised thesis submitted within a prescribed period) be re-examined for the degree of PhD.
(f) (MA, MSc, LLM only) that the degree be awarded with Distinction.
(g) That the degree be not awarded, but that the student be permitted to submit a revised thesis. The examiners must set a deadline for resubmission of the thesis, within a maximum of 12 months from official notification by the University. In the case of a PhD by published work, the examiners may permit the submission of a revised covering document and/or a different selection of published material.
(h) That a degree of lower status be awarded. The degrees available are listed below. The award of a degree may be subject to minor amendments as defined in 8.3 below. In this instance, the examiners should advise the student of the required corrections.
PhD; the degrees of MPhil or the appropriate Masters degree by Research may be awarded.
MD; the degree of MMedSci may be awarded
EngD; the degrees of MPhil or MSc by Research in Engineering may be awarded
EdD; the degree of MA or MSc by Research in Education or in Applied Linguistics and English Language Teaching
LLM; the Diploma in Legal Studies.
(i) That no degree be awarded.
2. A student shall normally be permitted to resubmit a thesis on one occasion only.
Minor amendments or corrections
3. Minor amendments or corrections must be completed by the candidate to the satisfaction of the internal examiner. Minor corrections should consist of the correction of typographical errors, minor errors of logic or referencing only. The examiners must specify the time available for completion of the corrections, up to a maximum of three months. The internal examiner shall ensure that the one copy of the thesis has been amended. In the case of a PhD by published work, the examiners may require minor amendments to the covering document.
Major amendments or corrections
4. Major amendments or corrections must be completed by the candidate to the satisfaction of at least one examiner (usually the internal examiner, where appointed). Major corrections should not entail a significant amount of further research or analysis. The examiners must specify the time available for completion of the corrections, up to a maximum of six months. At least one examiner, usually the internal examiner, shall ensure that one copy of the thesis has been amended. In the case of a PhD by published work, the examiners may require major amendments to the covering document.
Regulations applying to collaborative research degrees