Appointment of examiners

Examiners should normally be appointed well in advance of the thesis being submitted and it is essential, therefore, that the student makes his/her supervisor aware of the expected submission date so that a recommendation for the appointment of examiners can be made to the Faculty. Supervisors should ensure that proposed examiners are available to examine the thesis and complete the paperwork within ten weeks of receiving it to ensure that the student's examination is not delayed.

Students who choose to submit their thesis without first informing their supervisor should note that this may result in delays in the examination process if the examiners have not yet been appointed.

At least two examiners must be appointed.  At least one examiner must be an external examiner. Most University staff candidates are required to have two external examiners. Where there is no suitably qualified member of staff other than the supervisor, two external examiners are normally appointed. In cases where two external examiners are appointed, departments are also asked to nominate a member of academic staff to act as internal co-ordinator and to liaise with the examiners and the student concerning the arrangements for the oral examination.  Examiners should have no previous association with the candidate or direct involvement in their research project.

Some sponsors require that a confidentiality agreement is put in place to cover the examination of the thesis. If required, this will usually be stipulated as part of the terms and conditions of the student’s sponsorship. Arrangements for a confidentiality agreement should be put in place at an early stage, i.e when the examiners are nominated. Confidentiality agreements can be drawn up by Research & Innovation Services and enquiries should be directed in the first instance to the Research Degree Support Team.

Suitability Criteria for Appointing Examiners

Faculties have agreed eligibility criteria for the appointment of examiners for research degrees.  An external examiner is expected to have significant and demonstrable knowledge of the field covered by the thesis in order to provide an in-depth analysis of the thesis and in order to provide a rigorous vive voce examination. The internal examiner should be in a position to ensure that the examination process is conducted fairly and rigorously.  The internal examiner should therefore have a sound knowledge and understanding of University regulations and procedures governing the examination process.

In order that the candidate is treated in a fair and equitable manner consistent with the standards and expectations of the University of Sheffield, the examiners should have demonstrable experience of the PhD process beyond their own candidature. To this extent, the internal examiner should have experience of successfully supervising at least one doctoral candidate and/or significant experience of examining at least three doctoral theses.  Should this not be the case, the curriculum vitae of the proposed examiner and a supporting statement as to why the proposed examiner is appropriate should be provided. The case will then be assessed by the relevant Faculty Officer.

Subject to the above eligibility criteria, honorary members of the University's academic staff may act as internal examiners, provided they have necessary experience of the University's examination procedures and provided they will continue to hold their honorary status for the duration of the examination process.  Former members of the University's staff are not eligible to act as an external examiner until a period of at least 4 years has elapsed.

A more detailed document describing the eligibility criteria for examiners is available to download here.

The form for completion by supervisors is available to download from the link on the right and requires the signature of the Head of Department/Postgraduate Tutor. The form is then forwarded, along with any supporting information on the proposed examiner's qualifications/suitability, to Research & Innovation Services for Faculty approval.

In all cases, examiners must be formally appointed before the thesis is despatched to the examiners and the date of the viva voce examination is set.  If it becomes necessary to replace an examiner, the same appointment procedure must be followed and the Replacement of Examiners form must be used.

Eligibility to Work (ETW) Checks for External Examiners

To comply with the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006, departments should confirm the eligibility to work of all External Examiners. External Examiners should be asked to confirm that they are eligible to work in the UK and to provide a copy of their passport or other relevant document(s) as evidence. The Home Office provides guidance on the range of documents which they consider to be acceptable proof of eligibility, which can be found at:, or the UK Visas and Immigration website.

Eligibility to work checks should be completed, wherever possible, at the time of appointment of an examiner. Where this is not possible, eligibility to work should be checked when the external examiner attends for the viva examination before any work is undertaken.

When undertaking an eligibility to work check for an External Examiner, please do the following:

  1. Check that the presented document is on the UKBA list of accepted documents
  2. Ensure that a full copy of the document has been taken (for passports this includes: front cover, personal details page, pages with endorsements and expiry dates)
  3. Retain copies of documents and store them securely
  4. Tick to confirm the External Examiner is eligible to work in the UK on the appointment form.

It is important to note that eligibility to work checks must be conducted for all external examiners, including UK nationals. However, if a UK national is employed on more than one occasion as an external examiner, provided a copy of their original documentation has been taken and retained by the department, they should not require another check.

If it appears the External Examiner is not eligible to work in the UK contact your HR Team for further guidance. The External Examiner may be eligible for the new visitors route (permitted paid engagement). This is a category for a limited group of migrants including external examiners and visiting lecturers, to come to the UK for up to 1 month without the need to be sponsored under the points-based system. Please be aware that external examiners who are NOT eligible to work in the UK cannot legally be paid a fee and expenses UNLESS they enter the UK under the appropriate visa route.

Examiners' fees and expenses

Expenses and fees for examiners should be claimed through Research & Innovation Services, not the academic department, in line with the guidelines issued to examiners with the thesis.  Guidance and forms are available here

Internal examiners wishing to claim for expenses incurred as part of the examination process should use the University's Expenses Claim Form for Staff.