Research Thesis and Project Examination Policy

Fact box

Purpose

The purpose of this policy is to outline the procedures to regulate the examination of an Alphacrucis College (AC) research thesis or project.

Scope

All delivery sites of the College

Policy

Research theses and projects completed by AC students will be examined by appropriately qualified experts. The thesis and project examination process is an integral part of ensuring the academic quality, originality and integrity of AC courses. It adheres to international benchmarking standards and promotes dissemination of the research

Responsible for implementation

Director of Research

Key stakeholders

Students, Supervisors, Program Directors


Procedures

Research Thesis and Project Examination Procedures

Appointment of Examiners for HDR theses

Each Master of Philosophy (MPhil), Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) and Doctor of Ministry (DMin) thesis is examined by a minimum of two external examiners of international academic standing. A total of three potential examiners is suggested by the principal supervisor; but they must be approved by the Research Committee. An examiner should:

  • hold a degree of a level at least equivalent to the one of the thesis being examined;
  • have research and/or professional expertise appropriate to the candidate's research topic;
  • have been active in research and/or scholarship within the preceding five years;

The candidate is advised of potential examiners before the thesis is sent for review, and asked to declare if there is any potential conflict of interest or other reason why the appointment of an examiner may be inappropriate. The Director of Research, in consultation with Dean of Faculty, will then choose the examiners from this selection whose names will remain confidential.

The examiners and the candidate are not to make direct contact until after the examination report has been received and approved by the Research Committee.

The examiners, however, are allowed to engage with one another during the examination process.

Appointment of Examiner for coursework project

Some coursework awards require the completion of an externally marked research project. Such projects will be marked by one qualified external academic whose area of expertise is aligned with the topic of the project. Potential markers can be suggested by the principal supervisor but they must be approved by the Research Committee. A marker should:

  • hold a degree of a level at least equivalent to the one of the project being marked;
  • research and/or professional expertise appropriate to the student's research topic;
  • have been active in research and/or scholarship within the preceding five years.

The student is advised of potential markers before the project is sent for review, and asked to declare if there is any potential conflict of interest or other reason why the appointment of a marker may be inappropriate. The supervisor, in consultation with the Program Director, will then communicate the final choice of marker to the Chair of the Research Committee.

The Research Committee will make the final appointment of the marker, and the Program Director is to send out the project to be marked. The marker is to send the result to the Program Director, would inform the supervisor. The marker and the student are not to make direct contact until after the examination report has been received.

Conflict of Interest

A conflict of interest may be with the candidate, the examiner and/or the College. It does not automatically exclude the appointment of an examiner but depends on the nature and severity of any conflict of interest. The aim of these guidelines is to protect the candidate, the examiner and the College against potential negative perceptions during the thesis examination process. There are two categories of conflict of interest:

1.  Major conflicts which normally result in the non-appointment of the examiner. In general, include:

  • Examiner has or has had a working relationship with candidate;
  • Examiner had directly employed or was employed by the supervisor during the past five years;
  • Examiner has provided advice regarding the thesis during the period of candidature;
  • Examiner is in negotiations to employ or be employed by the candidate or supervisor;
  • Examiner has acted as an employment referee for the candidate;
  • Examiner is a friend or family member of the candidate;
  • Examiner is a family member of the supervisor;
  • Examiner is in a romantic relationship with the candidate or supervisor;
  • Examiner is a current member staff of Alphacrucis College or has held a professional position with the College during the candidature;
  • Examiner has a direct commercial interest in the outcomes of the research;
  • Examiner has co-authored a publication with the supervisor within the past three years.

2.  Minor conflicts that should be reported to the Director of Research. These include:

  • Examiner has a current professional relationship, such as shared membership of a board or committee, with the candidate or supervisor;
  • Examiner has had personal contact with the candidate or supervisor which may be perceived as influencing the examiner’s objectivity.

Confidentiality

The cover letter to the examiner should include a statement that "the thesis under examination is to be treated as confidential".

Thesis Submission

A HDR candidate who is preparing for submitting a thesis for examination is strongly advised to participate in a pre-submission seminar at least six weeks prior to the intended date of submission. An electronic copy of the thesis should be submitted to Moodle, as per usual assessment submission process. Additionally, depending on the preference of the external examiner(s), the student may be required to submit hard copies for examination. If so, the requested number of hard copies is to be submitted to the Director of Research.

Examination of a Research Thesis

Examiners are given eight weeks to complete their examination. Each examiner provides a detailed written report to the Director of Research. The report should detail how the thesis has or has not met the learning outcomes of the course and provide the candidate with feedback for improvements or revision of the thesis.

Once all reports have been received, the Director of Research would send these to the principal supervisor, who then has one week (five working days) within which to raise any concerns with the examiners’ reports. Such concerns need to be submitted in writing to the Director of Research, with clear reasoning behind any disagreements with the examiners’ grading or other concerns.

This would then be reviewed by the Research Committee and a solution would be devised within three weeks (fifteen working days) of the receipt of the supervisor’s response. This solution could involve the following:

  • Request for further clarification/explanation/or re-examination from the relevant examiner(s) to whose feedback the supervisor’s comments pertain;
  • Examination of the thesis by another examiner;
  • No further action, with written explanation to the supervisor as to why no further action will be taken. If the supervisor can show cause that there has been a breach in process by the Research Committee, s/he may appeal a “No further action” decision by the Research Committee by submitting a written appeal to the Chair of the Academic Board. The Academic Board would then review the facts and decide whether the decision of the Research Committee stands or not. If not, the board might recommend the thesis to be re-examined. The decision of the Academic Board is final.  

No results will be communicated to the student until the supervisor has had the opportunity to submit his/her initial response to the examiners’ reports. If the supervisor raises no concerns, the results will be communicated to the student by the Director of Research. If the supervisor raises concerns that need to be addressed by the Research Committee, and if the matter cannot be resolved within three weeks, the student will be notified that the results are undergoing a process of review and that outcome will be released at the end of this process (normally a timeframe should be provided for the process). The student may raise any questions with the supervisor during this time.

A research thesis at the MPhil level will be graded according to AC marking criteria: High Distinction, Distinction, Credit, Pass, or Fail, according to the marking criteria.

A research thesis at doctoral level will have the following possible outcomes:

  1. Passed with No changes
  2. Passed with Minor changes – including grammatical, typographical, formatting and layout changes. Changes are checked by the Director of Research. Candidates have two months to complete these changes and resubmit to the Director of Research for approval.
  3. Passed with Major changes – all submissions for re-examination must be accompanied by a list of the corrections and amendments completed by the candidate, then submit to the Research Committee for approval. Candidates have four months to complete these changes. If the Research Committee is dissatisfied with the changes, the candidate might be asked to revise and resubmit, in consultation with the examiners.
  4. Revise and Resubmit - candidates must resubmit a revised thesis after a further period of research, substantial reorganisation or reconceptualisation. Candidates have 12 months to complete these changes and then re-submit the thesis for examination.  Only one resubmission is allowed. Resubmitted theses will follow the usual examination process.
  5. Fail - the thesis is not of the appropriate standard for a research higher degree and no further submission is allowed.

Once a satisfactory final report has been submitted, the student is eligible to graduate.

If candidates disagree with the examination outcome, they may follow the AC appeals process.

Permission for submitting a thesis for examination:

The principal supervisor can advise against submission of the thesis if further work is necessary and must provide a written report to the Research Committee outlining the reasons. However, supervisors cannot forbid the candidate to submit the thesis to the Research Committee for approval if the candidate disagrees with the supervisor’s assessment. The Research Committee will determine whether the thesis will be submitted for examination. The supervisor’s report will not be communicated to the examiners before the examination process is completed.