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Degree Committee for the Faculty of Physics & Chemistry


This advice is specific to examinations for the PhD, MSc and MPhil by thesis.

The Code of Practice for Research Students ​also provides useful information on the examination process.

For a view of the examination process from the student's point of view see the Current Students pages; you may also wish to see the advice for Examiners.


Q. How are Examiners appointed?

Students are asked to submit an 'Intention to Submit' form to the Degree Committee about two months before they expect to submit their thesis to allow sufficient time to identify and appoint suitable examiners. The form includes basic information about the thesis (title, supervisor, summary) and any preference for the viva to be held in-person (default) or by video conference.

The Degree Committee will then ask you to nominate two examiners using our online form; one of these must be external to the University and the other is normally a member of this University. We will send you a list of the examiner eligibility criteria to assist your choice.

Before making your nomination please check whether your nominees would in principle be willing to act and examine in the student's preferred format. The appointment of examiners is the formal responsibility of the Degree Committee following consultation with your Department, so your enquiry should be taken as informal in the first instance and a viva date should not be arranged at this point.


Q. Who can I nominate?

Examiners should normally be expert in one or more aspects of the student's thesis. It is not expected that either will necessarily be expert in the whole field covered by the thesis, and their expertise will normally be complementary.

Care should be taken to nominate expert individuals who have the academic competence to provide an independent and critical view of the candidate's research and its defence, and who have no known or potential professional or personal conflicts of interest. You may be asked to nominate an alternative examiner if, in the opinion of the Degree Committee or Department, a potential conflict may exist between your nominated examiner and the candidate. 

Non-University External: Nominations to appoint an External Examiner from outside the higher education system should be accompanied by a supporting case including details of the individual's seniority and appropriate experience and/or knowledge.

Examiner based in a non-EEA country: Appointment of an External Examiner who is based in a non-EEA country is exceptional and requires advance permission. A written case should accompany the nomination. Be aware you will be expected to reimburse the examiner for any non-eligible expenses if the viva is conducted in-person in Cambridge (such as local travel and accommodation).

Ex-Cambridge examiners: Former colleagues of the collegiate University can act as an Internal Examiner for up to 6 months after departure and can act as an External Examiner after a period of 5yrs have lapsed provided they have not been involved in the candidate's work.

Experience: In accordance with the Code of Practice for Research Students, ideally one of the nominated individuals should be experienced in examining postgraduate degrees at the University of Cambridge. If this is not the case you will be asked to make an alternative nomination. Where no alternative exists the Degree Committee will appoint an Independent Chair to support the appointed inexperienced examiners.

If you are in any doubt about examiner suitability please feel free to contact us.


Q. Who organises the viva?

Provisional plans for the viva should not be made until after the examiners have been approved and appointed by the Degree Committee.

The internal examiner is asked to co-ordinate the viva with external examiner and the candidate. Occasionally a supervisor may be consulted to identify a suitable venue for oral examination or overnight accommodation for the examiner, particularly where two external examiners are appointed.

If booking College accommodation, we recommend the examiner settles their own account and claims the cost back with their examiner fee and other expenses. There is no good mechanism for payment of College invoices.


Q. The thesis - whose responsibility is it?

While, in an ideal world, student and supervisor should collaborate in bringing the thesis to fruition, the decision on when to submit and what to submit is the student's responsibility. You are not expected to proof read the final version, but you should:

  • offer timely support in reading and commenting on drafts
  • make sure your student is aware of the University's rules for examination and advice on good practice - particularly with respect to avoiding plagiarism

If your student is dyslexic you might want to find out what support is available for helping with learning and/or the production of an acceptable thesis.


Q. The research is confidential - how will this be handled in the examination?

See the Student Registry pages on best practice in research.

If your student needs a confidentiality agreement to be put in place for the examination, please try to contact us before the thesis is submitted so arrangements can be made before the thesis is sent to examiners.

An appropriate level of access to the final version of the thesis should be requested by the student when (s)he submits the final hardbound and electronic version. You and the student are asked to agree an appropriate level of access; the Degree Committee should be consulted in the event of disagreement.


Q. What is my responsibility if my student has corrections to do?

Students who have been approved 'subject to corrections' are beyond the minimum terms for which supervision is guaranteed. You are asked to be available to offer a reasonable amount of guidance if the student requests this. Very occasionally, if the requirements of the examiners are not clear, the Degree Committee may contact you to ask your help in interpreting what is required. You do not have to 'approve' the corrections - this is the examiners' responsibility.

If you can't find the page you are looking for or find a broken link do let us know (please use the email link in the 'Contact us' section below).

Office closures

The Degree Committee for the Faculty of Physics & Chemistry will be closed from 5pm on Thursday 28 March 2024 and will reopen again on Tuesday 2 April 2024.
Research degree theses should still be submitted by your submission deadline even if that falls over the holiday period.