Introduction and expectations


This part of the handbook includes full details of regulations, procedures, information and guidance about preparing for the final assessment including:

  • preparation of the final thesis/critical commentary for submission by the postgraduate researcher
  • formatting and submitting the thesis/critical commentary to the UWE Bristol Research Repository;
  • submission format options for eligible MPhil and PhD candidates (the inclusion of research outputs)
  • submission requirements for MPhil/DPhil by publication
  • responsibilities of the Director of Studies
  • nominating and appointing the examining panel
  • preparing for the viva voce – further information, guidance and tips.

Note: In chapters concerning the final assessment, the postgraduate researcher (PGR) may be referred to as the PGR candidate, or simply the candidate.

You can also find a shorter summary of this information on the final viva and thesis submission page of the Graduate School webpages.


The final submission must enable the PGR candidate to demonstrate that they meet the full range of award criteria at PGR 2.2.1R/PGR2.3.1R based on their individual contribution to the creation of new knowledge through original research or other advanced scholarship.

By the time the final submission is made, the candidate must comply with the following requirements:

  • The supervisory team must have received a full draft of the thesis/critical commentary for comment and supplied comments about the draft to PGR;
  • The thesis/critical commentary must comply with current published requirements regarding formatting and mode of submission;
  • The PGR and their supervision team have discussed their preference for a face-to-face viva on an online viva (indicated on the EX1 form. Note: Subject to examiner agreement);
  • An appropriate examination team must have been identified and appointed (the EX1 process).

Note: The method and mode of submission of work for final assessment may be subject to change to reflect prevailing conditions. PGRs must ensure they follow the current advice from the Graduate School.

Regulations about preparing for the final assessment

PGR 13.1 Responsibility for submitting the thesis for final assessment

PGR13.1.1R The PGR candidate is ultimately responsible for deciding on the content of the thesis and when to submit the thesis for assessment.  Submission can only take place between the minimum and maximum registration periods.

PGR13.1.2R The candidate will submit a full first draft of their thesis to their Director of Studies (DoS) for comment and receive comments from the DoS and/or other members of the supervisory team prior to submitting the thesis for assessment.

PGR 13.2 Preparing the thesis for final assessment (PhD, MPhil, Prof Doc)

PGR13.2.1R The language of the thesis will be English unless an application for an alternative has been approved by the Taught and Research Degrees Award Board, and will be submitted electronically via the UWE Bristol research repository in the PDF format specified by the University.

PGR13.2.2R [PGR14.2.2R] Where candidates are assessed for MPhil and PhD awards with an approved creative practice focus, the assessment will be by submitted thesis and viva voce, but may also include submission of original creative work in any medium undertaken as part of the registered research project. This creative work may include but is not limited to: one or more scholarly texts, works of fiction, musical or choreographic works, designs, devices and products, short film, exhibition of work, installation or other original artefacts.

PGR 13.3 Preparing the collection of published works for MPhil or DPhil by publication for final assessment

PGR13.3.1R A candidate for an MPhil or DPhil by publication will submit a critical commentary and their collection of published works. Published work may include books, original and exhibited creative work in any medium, peer reviewed publications in the public domain, published patents or designs, or other forms of published scholarly output embodying original research.

PGR13.3.2R The language of the critical commentary will be English and will be submitted electronically via the UWE Bristol Research Repository in the PDF format specified by the University.

PGR13.4 Storage of the submission on the University Research Repository (all awards)

PGR13.4.1R The candidate’s submission will be held by the University on the UWE Bristol Research Repository on a closed access basis until the completion of the award when it will be replaced by the final version of the thesis or critical commentary.

PGR13.5 The examining panel

Appointment of the panel

PGR13.5.1R Examining panels for postgraduate research degrees are appointed by the Taught and Research Degrees Award Board (RDAB) on behalf of the Academic Board, in accordance with published procedures for the nomination and appointment of PGR examiners and are aligned to the requirements of the QAA Quality Code for Research Degrees (Principle 6).

Composition of the panel

PGR13.5.2R Candidates for MPhil, PhD and Professional Doctorates are examined by two examiners. At least one examiner will be external to the University.

PGR13.5.3R All candidates for doctoral or MPhil awards, including candidates for DPhil/MPhil by publication, who are members of permanent staff at UWE Bristol (PGR13.23), or an affiliated academic institution, or otherwise defined in UWE Bristol procedures (PGR3.2.4R), are examined by two examiners who are external to the University, or external to the relevant affiliated academic institution where appropriate. An internal examiner will not normally be required.  

PGR13.5.4R All examinations will be overseen by an Independent Chair appointed by RDAB. The role of the Independent Chair is to make sure the assessment is fair and held in line with the Regulations.

Criteria for examiner appointment

PGR13.5.5R External examiners for postgraduate research degrees:

  • will be independent of the University and affiliated institutions registering candidates with the University for research degrees, and any collaborating establishment linked to the research project;
  • must not have acted previously as the candidate’s supervisor or adviser;
  • Their own work must not be the focus of the research being examined.

PGR13.5.6R Internal examiners for postgraduate research degrees will be:

  • a member of staff of the University; or 
  • a member of staff of the candidate’s collaborating establishment; or 
  • a member of staff of an affiliated institution where the candidate is registered;
  • will not have acted previously as the candidate’s supervisor or advisor.

In addition:

  • An internal examiner who is also a candidate for a research degree at UWE Bristol may only be used if the Board is confident there is no potential for conflict of interest;
  • Members of staff who have previously acted as an independent reviewer for the candidate may be appointed as internal examiners but must also meet examiner appointment criteria (see also PGR13.5.8 to 9 below).

Note: Directors of Studies who are unsure about the eligibility of a member of staff for appointment as an internal examiner should seek advice from the Officer to the Taught and Research Degrees Award Board before submitting the EX1 examination arrangements form.

Independence, objectivity and impartiality

PGR13.5.7 The University expects that individuals appointed as examiners of postgraduate research degrees (PGR examiners) will always exercise professional and academic integrity with regard to potential conflicts of interest. To this end, the following criteria will apply:

Conflicts of interest

PGR13.5.8 Conflicts of interest that will normally preclude an individual from acting as a PGR examiner

Individuals who:

  • are related to the candidate, or have a close professional or personal relationship with the candidate;
  • have published with the candidate, or who have had significant input into the design of their research project;
  • are related to, or have a close [professional or] personal relationship with a member of the supervisory team;
  • have acted as an external examiner for a UWE Bristol postgraduate research degree three times in the last five years.
  • In addition, former members of UWE Bristol staff are not permitted to act as an external examiner until five years after their employment has ceased.

PGR13.5.9 Potential conflicts of interest where proposed examiners should consider carefully before confirming that they can exercise independent judgement:

  • Publication with a member of the supervisory team in the last five years;
  • Any other interaction with the personal or professional activities of the candidates, their supervisors or the other examiner which might be, or be perceived to be, prejudicial to the exercise of independent judgement.

Professional standards

PGR13.5.10 Professional standards, external examining and confidentiality:
Examiners will refrain from using information gained during the examination for their own or another’s advantage, or to disadvantage or discredit others. In addition, they will have no direct contact with the candidate at any point during the final assessment period, other than that during the viva itself.

Procedures about preparing for the final assessment

These procedures set out the responsibilities of each person or party involved in the preparation for final assessment.

PGR13.6 Responsibilities of the PGR candidate

PGR13.6.1 ThePGR candidate is responsible for deciding on the content and when to make their submission for the final assessment. The submission must be made before the end of the registration period.

Note: PGRs who reach the end of their registration (i.e. their maximum registration end date) without having submitted for final assessment, and who have not submitted an eligible personal circumstances application, will be withdrawn and no award will be made.

PGR13.6.2 The PGR candidate will not take part in any of the arrangements for the examination and will have no contact with the proposed or appointed internal and/or external examiner(s) in connection with the examination either before the viva voce or at any other point during the final assessment period other than during the viva itself.

PGR 13.6.3 The PGR candidate must ensure that:

  • A full draft thesis/critical commentary has been submitted to the Director of Studies for comment in sufficient time for comments on the draft to be received and acted upon prior to the final submission deadline. Comments from the DoS/one or more supervisors must be received prior to submission for final assessment;
  • The work submitted for assessment to the UWE Bristol Research Repository, i.e., the thesis or the critical commentary and bibliography of published work, is in the  format specified by the University;
  • Any research outputs included in the ‘body of work’ within the written thesis are formatted correctly (eligible MPhil and PhD candidates only);
  • Any other published work is included with the thesis/critical commentary in accordance with specific award requirements;
  • When hard copies are required, the correct number of copies of thesis/critical commentary and published work are submitted to the Graduate School for distribution to the examining panel.
  • The thesis/critical commentary and bibliography listing the published work submitted are uploaded to the UWE Bristol Research Repository;
  • Where figures, tables or large amounts of text are included in the thesis/critical commentary which were not originated by the PGR, copyright permission must be obtained. All relevant permissions must be added to the relevant items in the thesis/critical commentary.
  • Where required by procedures at PGR10.4.1 and PGR14.13.3, the core research data underpinning the thesis, together with a metadata record, has been deposited on the UWE Bristol  Research Data Repository in accordance with published UWE Bristol guidance. (Mandatory for PGRs with initial registration on their award on or after 1 October 2021).
  • They have discussed with their supervision team their preference for a face-to-face viva or an online viva (indicated on the EX1 form. NB. Subject to examiner agreement).

PGR 13.6.4

  • Further guidance about preparing your thesis and copyright (PDF).
  • Where copyright permission cannot be obtained, the PGR should consider removing these items or apply to redact the items using form RD22
  • See also Part 10 of this handbook Research Governance (PGR10.5) about restricting access to a thesis. No award can be made if there are outstanding items in a thesis/critical commentary without copyright permission.
  • Obtaining third-party copyright permissions can be time-consuming. abbr title="postgraduate researcher">PGRs are strongly advised not to leave this to the last minute.
  • The UWE Bristol Library provides online guidance about how to set up a research data management plan and what should be included in it.

PGR13.7 Responsibilities of the Director of Studies

PGR13.7.1 The Director of Studies must ensure that:

  • They have, or at least one member of the supervisory team has, read and provided written comments on a first full draft of the PGR’s thesis/critical commentary.  These comments must be provided to the PGR to allow sufficient time to incorporate any suggestions or amendments to the draft material prior to the final submission deadline;
  • They have discussed the PGR’s preference for a face-to-face viva, or an online viva with them (NB. subject to examiner agreement);
  • An examination team has been identified and appointed by RDAB at least three months prior (and up to 12 months prior) to submission of the thesis/critical commentary and making arrangements for the viva (see section PGR13.22);
  • Where the viva must be held on-line for reasons other than COVID-19 restrictions, that RDAB permission has been obtained;
  • A date and time of the viva has been agreed with the examination team (including the Independent Chair) and PGR, and the Graduate School has been notified of these arrangements.

Procedures about preparing the thesis: PhD; MPhil; Professional Doctorate awards

PGR13.8 Title of thesis

PGR13.8.1 The title of the thesis must be the same as the one specified in the request to appoint examiners (form EX1 (DOC)) and once approved by the Faculty Research Degrees Committee cannot be changed unless specifically requested by the examiners during the final assessment.

PGR13.9 Length of thesis

PGR13.9.1 The following list the maximum word limits for MPhil, PhD and professional doctorate awards:

1. Science, engineering, and creative practice/performing arts disciplines:

  • PhD 40,000 words;
  • Professional doctorate 35,000 words, or as detailed in the programme specification;
  • MPhil 20,000 words.

2. For business and management, humanities and the arts, social sciences, health and social care and education disciplines:

  • PhD 80,000;
  • Professional doctorate 60,000, or as detailed in the programme specification;
  • MPhil 40,000.

Ancillary data, such as appendices, are not included in the maximum word limits.

Please note that examiners are not obliged to examine additional material included in the thesis beyond these word limits.

PGR13.9.2 An MPhil or PhD thesis that incorporates research outputs within the body of work submitted (PGR13.10.1,(4.)) may be expected to be longer than a written thesis submission that does not incorporate them, and may exceed the maximum permitted for that discipline by up to 10,000 words.

PGR13.10 Format of the thesis

PGR13.10.1 The submission for final assessment must be made to the UWE Bristol Research Repository in PDF format and will be updated with revised versions where required until the examiners agree to make the award.  The submission must comprise:

  1. A title page;
  2. An abstract;
  3. Contents page;
  4. The body of work to be assessed;
  5. Relevant appendices;
  6. Copies of publications arising from the research not otherwise included at 4.

Note: For new PGRs registering on the MPhil or PhD award for the first time on or after 1 October 2019, and for existing PGR candidates on these awards who are due to complete their PR3 Progress Review on or after 1 October 2020, the body of work to be assessed (4.) may incorporate research outputs.

This option is not currently available for PGRs registered on Professional Doctorate awards, or on PhDs with an approved creative practice focus, or for existing MPhil or PhD PGRs whose deadline for completing their PR3 progress review is before 1 October 2020.

PGR13.10.2 The thesis must be typewritten, legible and formatted using the following rules:

  • A4 portrait format must be used and the margin on the left edge of the page must be a minimum of 40mm.  All other margins may be a minimum of 15mm;
  • The size of the letters in the main text shall not be smaller than 2.0mm for capitals and 1.5mm for x-height (that is the height of a lower-case x).  Depending on the font chosen, this may be a minimum of 10pt or 12pt text;
  • Line spacing of double (2.0) or one-and-a-half (1.5) is required for the main body of the text except for indented quotations or footnotes where single (1) line spacing is acceptable;
  • Pages must be numbered in order and in the margin throughout the main text, including photographs and/or diagrams included as whole pages;
  • Standard British English conventions should be used throughout, e.g. spelling, numbering and symbols;
  • The examined draft of the thesis shall include a word count of the main body of the thesis, i.e. excluding appendices.  Note, this is not required in the final publishable version of the thesis;
  • Where approved, copies of other materials must be submitted in PDF format at the same time as the thesis;
  • An abstract of approximately 300 words must be included  after the title page (see PGR13.11.1);
  • The title page must include the following information, in order:
    i) The full title of the thesis;
    ii) The full name of the author;
    iii) The following text “A thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements of the University of the West of England, Bristol for the degree of (add the degree here, eg. Doctor of Philosophy, Master of Philosophy, Professional Doctorate in (add full title of the award being studied)”;
    iv) Where there is a collaborating organisation their details must be included as follows: “This research programme was carried out in collaboration with the (name of the collaborating organisation)”;
    v) The faculty where the PGR was based and any affiliated institution;
    vi) The month and year of submission for the final assessment (this will need to be updated for each occasion the thesis is submitted).A sample title page can be found at the end of this part of the handbook.


  •  A sample title page (PDF) is provided. 
  • These requirements ensure that the Graduate School can arrange for a spiral bound, printed copy of your thesis should this be required by examiners.

PGR13.10.3 Written research outputs incorporated in the body of work within the thesis should, where possible, be formatted as per PGR13.10.2 and be in a format consistent with the rest of the submission. Other kinds of research outputs informing the written thesis should be represented by a written and/or visual record of the output, or details of how they can be freely accessed. Each written research output and each record of other research output must be accompanied by a cover page that includes a statement of the origin of the work and a declaration of the nature and extent of the candidate’s individual contribution to the work.

See additional guidance about incorporating research outputs in the body of work (PPTX) from the Graduate School.

PGR13.11 Abstract

PGR13.11.1 An abstract of approximately 300 words must be included in the thesis after the title page to provide a synopsis of the thesis stating the nature and scope of the work undertaken and of the contribution made to the knowledge of the subject. The abstract will be in English. Candidates may include a second version of the abstract translated into a language other than English if they wish. This should follow the first abstract in terms of the order of presentation of material within the submission.

PGR13.12 PhD/MPhil the body of work to be assessed

PGR13.12.1 For MPhil and PhD ‘the body of work to be assessed’ at PGR13.10.1, above will include: introductory and contextual material; the body of work; material summarising the PGR’s claim to meet the award criteria and to establish their ownership of the work submitted.

PGR 13.13 MPhil or PhD creative practice

PGR13.13.1 [See also regulations at PGR1.5R and PGR14.2.2R] Where candidates have followed an MPhil or doctoral programme with an approved creative practice focus the thesis submission may also include original creative work as listed in the PGR regulations listed above. Where the form of the original creative work to be submitted is significantly different from that approved at project confirmation (RD1) stage, the permission of the Taught and Research Degrees Award Board, on recommendation from the Faculty Research Degrees Committee, must be obtained prior to the appointment of the examining panel (EX1 process). Applications must have the support of the Director of Studies and should be made to the FRDC in the first instance, whose recommendation to RDAB will be forwarded with the EX1 recommendation.

PGR 13.14 Collaborative work in the thesis

PGR13.14.1 Where the thesis is the result of collaboration, a statement must be included identifying the separate and distinctive nature of the PGR’s individual contribution to the overall project, both in the thesis and any supporting published work.

PGR 13.15 PhD, MPhil and Professional Doctorates: Published work not otherwise included at PGR13.10.1 (4.)

PGR 13.15.1 Reference must be made in the thesis to any publications that have arisen from the research due to be assessed which have not otherwise been included as at PGR13.10.1 (4.). PDF copies of the documents must be submitted at the same time as the thesis, and completion of form RD20 (DOC) is also required. The only exception is where the published programme specification requires that these are included in the thesis in a specified way, (for example for some Professional Doctorate awards). 

Awards by publication (DPhil and MPhil) will follow submission requirements for their award in this respect (see PGR13.17PGR13.20).

PGR 13.16 Other variations to the prescribed submission format

PGR13.16.1 [See regulations at PGR14.2.5R] Where the candidate wishes to submit part or all of the thesis other than in the standard format currently required, permission must be obtained from RDAB. The application must describe how the contents can be better expressed in the preferred format and how it is capable of being assessed. Applications are made to the Officer to RDAB on the correct form (RD20 (DOC) as early as possible in the PGR's registration and before the examination arrangements for final assessment have been approved (EX1 process).  All applications must have the support of the Director of Studies.

Procedures about preparing the submission for MPhil or DPhil by publication

PGR13.17 Assessment for MPhil or DPhil by publication

PGR13.17.1 An MPhil or DPhil by publication submission will be assessed on two elements:

  1. A critical commentary;
  2. A collection of published works.

The two elements form the submission for assessment.

PGR13.18 Length of the critical commentary

PGR13.18.1 The maximum word limit for the critical commentary for an MPhil/DPhil by publication will be 20,000 words. The word limit may vary considerably depending on the discipline, however, it is expected that most will be significantly shorter than the maximum limit. There is no minimum word count. Ancillary data, such as appendices, are not included in the maximum word limits. Please note that examiners are not obliged to examine material beyond the maximum word limit.

PGR13.19 Published works for MPhil or DPhil by publication

PGR13.19.1 Published works may include: books; original and exhibited creative work in any form; peer reviewed publications in the public domain; published patents or designs; or any other form of scholarly publication.

PGR13.19.2 There is no specified minimum or maximum number of published outputs that may be submitted, and no specified level of contribution to each output. However, the published work, combined with the critical commentary and any professional training or development undertaken, must be sufficient to demonstrate that the candidate as an individual meets the requirements of the MPhil or doctoral qualification descriptor (see Part 2 of this handbook PGR Qualification Descriptors). The candidate’s critical commentary should clearly demonstrate the nature and extent of their contribution to each of the outputs presented, and also show how each is relevant to the candidate’s own contribution to current knowledge in the field.

Additional guidance about published works

It is expected that the candidate’s contribution to the papers or other published outputs submitted will demonstrate that they have played a significant role in developing and directing the research.

  • It is unlikely that a single publication, eg. a book (unless it is the accepted seminal work in the field), or a small collection of joint/multiple authored journal papers will be sufficient to evidence the creation of new knowledge through original research required by the doctoral descriptor. Likewise, a collection made up solely of patents or designs without the inclusion of any peer reviewed journal publications may not be sufficient evidence of scholarly research activity.
  • Where outputs submitted were published some time ago, the critical commentary should show how they are still relevant to current thinking/knowledge and research within the discipline.
  • Candidates should avoid overloading the examiners with non-essential outputs above and beyond that required to demonstrate compliance with the qualification descriptor; the critical commentary must show how each output is relevant to the candidate’s own contribution to current knowledge in the field.

PGR13.20 Format of the submission for MPhil or DPhil by publication

PGR13.20.1 The submission for final assessment must be made to the UWE Bristol Research Repository in PDF format and be updated with revised versions where required until the examiners agree to make the award. The submission must comprise:

a. A bibliography listing the works being submitted;

b. The proposed title of the submission together with the following statement: “Published work and a critical commentary submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements of the University of the West of England, Bristol for the degree of Master of Philosophy by publication (MPhil) or Doctor of Philosophy by publication (DPhil)”;

c. A critical commentary setting out the PGR’s view of the nature and importance of the work being submitted, the claim of originality, reference to the research methodologies used and the applicant’s assessment of the contribution of the published outputs to existing knowledge in the relevant subject area;

d. Where the submission includes jointly/multiple authored works or other types of collaboration the PGR will include a statement identifying the separate and distinctive nature of their individual contribution to the overall project, both achieved so far and planned for the future;

e. A statement confirming which, if any, parts of the submission has been or is being submitted for another academic award;

f. A statement of the training completed and confirming that the minimum number of credited learning requirement has been met;

g. Where it is not possible to submit elements of the material above electronically or provide links to the material, three printed copies of these elements must be submitted to the Graduate School.

PGR13.20.2 Parts b to f of the submission will be in English. Parts a and g will normally be in English unless the subject matter involves substantial language and related studies and approval had been gained at the registration of the research project from the Faculty Research Degrees Committee to include another language.

PGR13.20.3 Formatting and submission of the critical commentary should follow the same conventions as all other PGR submissions for the final assessment and as listed at PGR13.10.2 ,1 -6) ensuring that the correct award is listed at on the title page. PGRs who are in any doubt as to how to format their submission should contact the Graduate School Assessment Team for further advice.

Procedures about making the submission for final assessment for all awards

– by thesis for PhD/MPhil/Professional Doctorate, or for MPhil/DPhil by publication

PGR13.21 Requirements at the point of submission – Form RD14. Making subsequent amendments to the submitted work required by examiners

PGR13.21.1 All submissions must be formatted as detailed at PGR13.10 – 20 and submitted to the UWE Bristol Research Repository. Once submitted for assessment, the candidate may not make further amendment unless required by the examiners. At the same time as the submission is made, declaration form (RD14 (DOC)) must be completed, signed and emailed to the Graduate School. This form requires information about whether the submission has been used as part or all of another award; confirmation that the necessary copyright permissions for any items in the submission not the original work of the PGR have been obtained, and confirmation that the submission has been uploaded to the UWE Bristol Research Repository.

PGR13.21.2 Where an amended or revised submission is required by the examiners (i.e. the thesis or critical commentary), this must be uploaded to the Repository in its entirety, following the format for the first submission.

Note: All copies of the thesis/submission will be held in a secure area of the UWE Bristol Repository until the examiners have approved the final version. Access to these versions will be by designated members of University staff and appointed examiners, where required for examination purposes.

See information on how to upload your thesis to the UWE Bristol Research Repository.

PGR13.21.3 The final version of the thesis/submission as approved by the examiners must be uploaded before any award can be conferred. This final version will be made public unless approval to restrict access has been granted previously by the Taught and Research Degrees Award Board (see PGR13.6.4 and Chapter 10 of this handbook.

PGR13.22 Optional COVID-19 Impact Statement (all awards)

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic may have affected your ability to undertake your research as planned. If this was so, the University would like to give you the opportunity to explain any enforced changes to your thesis/critical commentary in order to demonstrate to your examiners that your work still meets your award criteria (see especially the third criterion on both Doctoral and MPhil descriptors).

PGR13.22.1 Candidates may submit a COVID-19 impact statement as part of the accompanying paperwork to the thesis/critical commentary, in which they can detail the changes to their research project as planned enforced by COVID-19 and the restrictions prevailing at the time. Further guidance is available on the COVID-19 impact statement form (DOC) and this should be submitted with the completed RD14 (DOC) by email to as soon as the thesis/critical commentary has been submitted to the UWE Bristol Research Repository for assessment.

Note: The statement will be sent to the examining team and to the Independent Chair for information. It will not be included as part of the thesis/critical commentary itself, which will continue to be assessed in accordance with the published criteria for the award. PGRs are encouraged to incorporate changes to their research into the thesis/commentary where space permits and where it can help to demonstrate the award criteria.

Graduate School Handbook part 13: continued

Examination panel

Procedures for the nomination and appointment of the examination panel.

Viva voce guidance

Information and guidance to help PGR candidates prepare for the viva voce examination.

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