Appendices: Guidelines on the Appointment and Roles of Chairpersons and Examiners of PhD Thesis Examination Committees

(Version July 2019)

​​AnchorA.   Composition and Appointment of an PhD Thesis Examination Committee

  1. Upon the recommendations of the department and the School, the Office of Postgraduate Studies (PGSO) shall appoint a PhD Thesis Examination Committee (TEC) to examine the candidate who has expressed the intention of defending the thesis.

  2. A PhD TEC shall consist of:
    1. A Chairperson from outside the student’s department
    2. The thesis supervisor(s);
    3. Two academic staff members, in addition to the thesis supervisor(s), from the student’s department;
    4. One academic staff member, other than the thesis supervisor(s), from outside the student's department; and
    5. One faculty external to the University who has expertise in the field being examined.

  3. The Chairperson from outside the student’s department is selected by the School from a pool of faculty holding the rank of Associate Professor or above. He/she should have had experience in the conduct of PhD thesis examinations.

  4. The external examiner must be a faculty holding the rank of Associate Professor or above. He/she should normally be professionally detached from the thesis supervisor(s), the student and the University.
    1. A person who has engaged in close research collaboration with the thesis supervisor(s) or the student within five years prior to the conduct of the thesis examination, including advisor/advisee relationship in research studies, and joint work in research projects or co-authored publications, should not serve as an external examiner.

    2. A person who has been on the teaching staff of HKUST, even in a visiting or adjunct faculty capacity, within the past three years, or who will join the University service before the assessment is completed, is not eligible for appointment as an external examiner.

  5. Other than the thesis supervisor(s), at least two other examiners (including the external examiner) must hold the rank of Associate Professor or above. If a thesis supervisor holds the rank of Professor, at least one other examiner must hold the rank of Professor and be present at the thesis examination, and one other examiner must hold the rank of Associate Professor or above.

  6. The Chairperson presides over the examination, but is not one of the voting members. There are normally five voting examiners on a PhD TEC, four internal and one external to the University.

  7. The Chairperson and all examiners must be present throughout the thesis examination. In exceptional cases where the external examiner from an overseas institution is unable to attend the examination, a written report should be submitted by the external examiner prior to the thesis examination.

  8. If the composition of the proposed membership of a PhD TEC varies from the above requirements, approval of PGSO must be sought in advance.

 

AnchorB.   Roles of the Chairperson and Examiners

  1. Chairperson
    1.1The role of the Chairperson is to ensure that:

    1.1.1He/She skims through the thesis in order to get a rough understanding of the structure and organization of the thesis.

    1.1.2The examination is conducted in accordance with the regulations and requirements of the University, and in a fair and unprejudiced manner.

    1.1.3The questions addressed to the candidate are fair and clearly expressed.

    1.1.4The examiners are all given sufficient opportunity to ask questions and the candidate is given sufficient opportunity to respond to the questions.

    1.1.5There is sufficient opportunity of questions from the floor addressed to the candidate.

    1.1.6In the case of the external examiner from an overseas institution not being able to attend the examination, the comments and questions raised in the written report are addressed to the candidate by the Chairperson and the responses are reported to the external examiner after the examination.

    1.1.7The recommendations of individual examiners are carefully considered, such that an overall recommendation may be arrived at in a fair and unprejudiced manner.

    1.1.8The recommendation of the TEC reflects the majority view of the examiners.

    1.1.9The recommendation of the TEC conforms to the regulations of the University that govern thesis examinations.
    1.2The Chairperson may cancel a scheduled thesis examination if on the day of the thesis examination,

    1.2.1There is no sign of the candidate 15 minutes after the scheduled time of commencement of the thesis examination; or

    1.2.2There is no show of an examiner 15 minutes after the scheduled time of commencement of the thesis examination; or

    1.2.3The external examiner neither attends the thesis examination in person nor submits a written report prior to the conduct of the thesis examination.
    1.3Toward the end of the thesis examination, the Chairperson is required to (i) collect Part 2 of the “Report on Thesis Examination Result for Research Postgraduate Degrees” from all the examiners (including the “External Examiner’s Report” provided by the external examiner in absentia), and (ii) complete Part 3 and Part 4.1 of the report, with the assistance of the examiners.
     
    The complete set of documents should be forwarded to the department head/program director or the thesis supervisor(s) as appropriate.  For details, please refer to Section D of Guidelines on the Conduct of MPhil and PhD Thesis Examinations .
    1.4The Chairperson is also required to submit a Chairperson’s Report on Thesis Examination” to PGSO within one week from the date of the thesis examination, reporting any irregularities observed during the conduct of the thesis examination.
  2. Examiners
    The role of the examiners includes the following:
    2.1Examiners must thoroughly read the thesis prior to the examination, and must critically assess the quality of the research, the originality of the thesis and its impact on the field of study.
    2.2Examiners should prepare questions and discussion materials, to be asked of the candidate in the thesis examination.
    2.3As a result of the reading of the thesis and the performance of the candidate in the examination, the examiners must be satisfied that:
    1. The candidate has clearly demonstrated the ability and skills to conduct a major intellectual study, and arrive independently at a successful conclusion.
    2. The thesis represents the candidate’s own significant and original contribution to the discipline that is publishable in major international journals.
    3. The candidate, both verbally and in writing, is able to present the thesis clearly, systematically, and coherently.
    4. The candidate has convincingly and lucidly defended the thesis.

    2.4Both internal and external examiners must each submit Part 2 of the “Report on Thesis Examination Result for Research Postgraduate Degrees” to the Chairperson at the end of the thesis examination.

    2.5To arrive at a final assessment of the quality of the thesis and the performance of the candidate, the examiners, in open consultation with the Chairperson, must jointly arrive at a recommendation which reflects the majority view. The examiners then adopt the majority decision.

    2.6The examiners should assist the Chairperson to prepare the “Report on Thesis Examination Result for Research Postgraduate Degrees” recommending the outcome of their assessment of the thesis examination.

    2.7An external examiner from overseas, who is unable to attend the thesis examination, should submit an “External Examiner’s Report on PhD Thesis Examination” to PGSO at least five working days prior to the conduct of the examination.  Before completing the report, the external examiner may conduct a telephone interview, or through other means of communication, to seek clarification with the candidate.  The report will be forwarded to the Chairperson, who will ask the questions on behalf of the external examiner in absentia in the examination session.  If deemed necessary, the candidate may also provide the external examiner with a written response to the questions raised.