In accordance with the PoRD, a recording is made of second and final progress review meetings (ie where a PGR is making a second attempt at meeting the relevant University progression criteria and the written evidence submitted is not sufficient to satisfy the progression panel that the PGR has met or exceeded the relevant University progression criteria) and final oral examinations.
The recording (audio or audio-visual) provides an objective record of a second progress review meeting/oral examination that can be used (i) in the event of an appeal (see below), or (ii), in the case of an oral examination only, in the event that the examiners have failed to agree between themselves whether or not the candidate has satisfied the requirements for a particular degree and the departmental Graduate School Board has been unable to resolve the disagreement. In the latter case, the recording will be heard by the subsequently appointed adjudicating examiner. The recording will not be copied or replayed except in situations (i) or (ii) above, which are the sole purposes for which the recording is made. The University’s understanding of the position in relation to statutory disclosure is set out below.
Graduate School Boards shall ensure that all second progress review meetings/oral examinations for which they are responsible are recorded, or, in the exceptional cases detailed below, that permission from the SCA is obtained for the use of an independent observer. To ensure availability of equipment, a diary should be kept by each Graduate School Board of all prospective second progress review meetings/oral examinations for which they are responsible. Only the official recording is permitted; participants are not permitted to make their own recordings.
Graduate School Boards are asked to inform external examiners prior to nomination that the oral examination will be recorded and to confirm their assent on the Appointment of Examiners form. Prospective external examiners should be notified that the recordings will be held and treated in confidence.
Graduate School Boards are asked to ensure that their PGRs are aware that second progress review meetings/oral examinations will be recorded and understand the reasons for this. PGRs should be notified that the recordings will be held and treated in confidence.
The recording will be made using equipment/technology authorised for this purpose by the SCA (and in the case of the former, supplied by departments from the University’s Audio Visual Centre). Departments should ensure that there is a back up means of recording the second progress review meeting/oral examination (this might include recording using a mobile phone) in case the chosen method fails. If the back-up recording method is used, everyone present should be asked to give their consent when the recording starts and the recording should be treated in accordance with the policy.
Where participation by video-conferencing has been approved, participation in a second progress review meeting/oral examination should always start as an audio-video conference call. Should connection problems arise at a point where the examiners can not reasonably conclude the second progress review meeting/oral examination, the review meeting/oral examination can move to audio-only (ie audio-only conference call or telephone call), but only if: i) all parties consent (and continue to do so: this consent should be be recorded), and ii) the recording of the review meeting/oral examination can be continued in an appropriate format. If consent to continue as audio-only is not given and /or recording cannot be continued in an appropriate format, PGRA must be informed and the remainder of the second progress review meeting/oral examination must be rescheduled as soon as possible (within 48 hours unless permission is requested from SCA for a longer delay).
If the recording fails completely during a second progress review meeting/oral examination (ie there is a failure of the original and all backup means of recording), at a point where the examiners cannot reasonably conclude the review meeting/oral examination, PGRA must be informed and the remainder of the review meeting/oral examination must be rescheduled as soon as possible (within 48 hours unless permission is requested from SCA for a longer delay). Any notes taken by the examiners during the second progress review meeting/oral examination should be copied by the department and sent to PGRA where they will be kept for 12 months, or until the investigation of any appeal or complaint arising from the second progress review meeting/examination is complete, whichever is later.
The department is responsible for ensuring that a designated person is available before the start of the second progress review meeting/oral examination to assist the progression panel/examiners with recording equipment/technology. Before the second progress review meeting/oral examination, the designated person should ensure that the PGR’s name and student number and the date of the second progress review meeting/oral examination is appropriately linked to the recording.
The chair of the progression panel/internal examiner (or, in cases where there are two external examiners and no internal examiner, the independent chair) will inform those present at the start of the second progress review meeting/oral examination that the recording is starting and at the end of the second progress review meeting/oral examination that it is being stopped. The recording should end when the second progress review meeting/oral examination is complete, and the PGR leaves the room prior to the private discussion of the progression panel/examiners. Neither the private discussion of the progression panel/examiners, nor any subsequent discussion between the PGR and the progression panel/examiners, should be recorded.
After the second progress review meeting/oral examination, the recording should be sent to PGRA for secure storage. No copy of the recording should be made, nor should it be listened to in the department.
The recording will be stored securely by the PGRA. It will be erased one year after the final result of the progression attempt/final examination has been confirmed by the SCA, or, if an appeal is received, after consideration of the appeal within the University or subsequent consideration by the OIAHE.
The recording has the status of examination script and is therefore exempt from subject access requests under the General Data Protection Regulation (the Regulation does not restrict the media that can constitute an examination script). However, this exemption does not extend to the progression panel/examiners’ comments on the PGR’s performance, or any other form of feedback or conversation beyond the requirements of the second progress review meeting/oral examination. Provided these are not recorded, the recordings are exempt from data requests by the PGR. The recording cannot be released to a third party under the Freedom of Information Act because it holds the PGR’s personal data, the wider disclosure of which is likely to be unfair and contrary to the purposes for which the data were obtained (see above).
Grounds for appeal:
a) PGRs may not appeal against the academic judgement of progression panel/examiners;
b) PGRs may appeal against a decision reached as a consequence of assessment if they believe that a procedural irregularity has occurred, or that the assessment was conducted unfairly or improperly; or if, for good reason, relevant exceptional circumstances can be shown which could not reasonably have been brought to the attention of the progression panel/examiners before a decision on the PGR’s academic performance was reached.
Procedure for consideration of appeals:
a) In considering an appeal SC may request information from the academic department concerned or other relevant parties concerning any matter raised by the appellant. The recording may form part of the evidence considered by the Chair. The recording will not be released to the PGR or any other party as a means to preparing an appeal;
b) The Chair may ask the Graduate School Board concerned if, in the light of the evidence presented by the appellant, it is prepared to reconsider its recommendation or decision and the Board may agree to do so. The appellant will retain the right to appeal against a subsequent recommendation or decision;
c) The Chair will give reasons for any decision that an appeal should not be heard;
d) If the Chair decides, wholly or partly on the evidence of the recording, that the appeal should be heard, a copy of the recording or, at the Chair’s discretion, of relevant parts, shall be made available to the members of the panel, the appellant and the other participants in the case review.
The circumstances in which permission may be sought to employ an independent observer in place of a recording are if recording would present a PGR with difficulties on medical or psychological grounds. In these circumstances, the Graduate Chair must seek permission from the SCA for an independent observer to attend the second progress review meeting/oral examination, supplying appropriate documentation from a medical practitioner or counsellor. The Graduate Chair shall nominate the proposed observer (on the form for the appointment of examiners in the case of an oral examination).
The independent observer should be an academic member of University staff in the PGR’s discipline or a related area, but need not be an expert on the subject of the thesis. The PGR’s supervisor cannot fulfil this role. The observer will submit a brief report to the SCA on the conduct of the second progress review meeting/oral examination, noting the main subjects discussed and any areas of concern voiced by the progression panel/examiners. They must be prepared to provide an independent viewpoint on the second progress review meeting/oral examination should there be an appeal based on its conduct. In the event of an appeal, the observer’s report will be made available to SC. If SC decides that the appeal should be heard, the observer’s report will be made available to the members of the panel, the appellant and the other participants in the case review. The observer should not intervene during the second progress review meeting/oral examination unless an exceptional situation should arise.
It is essential that these arrangements are made well in advance of the second progress review meeting/oral examination and conveyed to the PGR and progression panel/examiners.
- Appendix 1: Policy on the recording of second progress review meetings and oral examinations for research degrees
- Appendix 2: Policy on PhD/EngD and MPhil PGR progression
- Appendix 3: PGR Academic Misconduct policy
- Appendix 4: Paid parental leave policy
- Appendix 5: Policy framework for distance learning PGR programmes
- Appendix 6: Policy framework for collaborative off-site and collaborative split-site PGR programmes
- Appendix 7: Policy framework for integrated PhD programmes
- Appendix 8: Policy and process for the appointment of examiners for research degrees
- Appendix 9: Guidance for Examiners on Degree Outcomes