Appendices: Guidelines on Conducting MPhil and PhD Thesis Examinations

(Version August 2021)

 A.   Introduction

  1. The thesis examination is mandatory for those enrolled in research postgraduate programs. It is conducted by a Thesis Examination Committee (TEC). 

  2. An MPhil TEC normally consists of three faculty members appointed by the department head/program director. One is the thesis supervisor; if there are two thesis supervisors, they will both be on the committee, which will then comprise four members. Of the other two members, one is appointed as Chairperson. All three (or four) are voting members.

  3. A PhD TEC normally consists of a Chairperson and five voting examiners appointed by the HKUST Fok Ying Tung Graduate School (FYTGS). The examiners include the thesis supervisor(s), two faculty members from the candidate’s major department, one faculty member from outside the department, and one faculty external to the University who has expertise in the field being examined.

 B.   Protocol

  1. A thesis examination takes place in a single session, comprising four parts. The first two parts are open to all members of the University and to departmental guests. The third part is closed to all but the candidate and the TEC, and the fourth is a closed session of the TEC in the absence of the candidate.

  2. The first part is an oral presentation by the candidate, emphasizing the major elements of the research and the results obtained. The candidate is expected to apportion no more than 60 minutes for the presentation.

  3. The second part is an open questioning session, involving the TEC members, and others in attendance. During this part of the examination, all questions are addressed through the Chairperson, and any dialogue is limited to the candidate and the individual questioner.

  4. The third part is a closed session involving a less formal discussion between the candidate and the TEC. Other than the candidate and the TEC, other persons are not ordinarily allowed to attend this part. However, in exceptional circumstances, with the prior agreement of the candidate, the thesis supervisor and the TEC Chairperson, other persons may be allowed to attend as observers. It should be noted that observers are not permitted to participate in the examination or attempt to influence the examiners in their assessment of the thesis examination. At the end of this part of the examination, the candidate and any observers must leave the examination venue.

  5. The fourth and final part is a closed session involving only the TEC, who then assess the quality of the thesis, and the performance of the candidate during the examination. In arriving at a decision, the votes of members of the TEC carry equal weight. If the external examiner is absent, the Chairperson will advise the TEC on his/her vote.

  6. The TEC will convey the outcome of the thesis examination to the student immediately after the thesis exam. The outcome will be recorded in a proforma report, the Report on Thesis Examination Results for Research Postgraduate Degrees, as described below.

 C.   Reports

Report on Thesis Examination Results for Research Postgraduate Degrees

  1. The examination result will be reported in a proforma entitled “Report on Thesis Examination Results for Research Postgraduate Degrees” and submitted by the TEC Chairperson.
    1.1 This Report comprises several parts, to be completed by the examiners. Some parts need to be completed before the examination.
    1.2 The TEC Chairperson shall collect Part 2 of the report from all the examiners and complete Part 3 and Part 4.1 of the report.
    1.3The report must include all comments that the TEC or the Chairperson wishes to make on the conducting of the examination, the quality of the thesis, the contribution of the thesis to the field of study, the performance and competency of the candidate in the thesis examination, and any other remarks relating to the thesis and the examination.
    1.4All TEC members must sign the report.
    1.5The TEC Chairperson shall return the completed form to department for further follow up, as described below.

Chairperson’s Report on Thesis Examination

  1. The Chairperson is also required to submit an online “Chairperson’s Report on Thesis Examination” to FYTGS within one week from the date of the thesis examination, reporting any irregularities observed during the conduct of the thesis examination. 

 D.   Outcomes

A thesis examination, whether MPhil or PhD, will have one of the following results:

  1. Passed;
  2. Passed subject to minor corrections;
  3. Passed subject to major corrections;
  4. Failed but may be resubmitted; or
  5. Failed.

The protocols for handling each outcome are described below.

  1. Passed
    1.1 Procedure. The Chairperson will forward the completed “Report on Thesis Examination Results for Research Postgraduate Degrees”, together with the final thesis, to the head of the candidate’s department. After signing the report, the department head/program director will forward it to the Dean or the Dean’s designee for endorsement. Finally, the department will forward it to the Academic Registry for action and record.
    1.2 Thesis submission deadline. If a thesis has been graded “Passed”, the candidate must, within one week of the date of the thesis examination, submit an electronic copy of the final thesis, together with the electronic copy of the authorization page containing the student’s signature, and a signature page containing signatures of the thesis supervisor(s) and department head/program director, to the University’s Thesis Submission System. 
  2. Passed subject to minor corrections
    2.1 Procedure. In this case, the Chairperson should pass the entire set of documents to the thesis supervisor(s) who should keep the report until the candidate has submitted a revised thesis to his/her satisfaction before the deadline as described below. The full set of documents, with the final thesis, should then be forwarded to the department head/program director and the Dean or the Dean’s designee for endorsement before passing to the Academic Registry for action and record.
    2.2

    Thesis submission deadline. In this case, the final thesis and the iThenticate report must be submitted within three months from the date of the thesis examination, or a date specified by the TEC, whichever is earlier. Students are required to submit the final theses for originality check via iThenticate. The iThenticate report should be handed in to the supervisor(s), via the department for review and endorsement. 


    2.2.1The thesis supervisor will record whether the corrections are satisfactory in the “Report on Thesis Examination Results for Research Postgraduate Degrees”.

    2.2.2Upon approving the thesis, the supervisor forwards the signed report, together with the final thesis, to the department to obtain signatures of department head/program director.

    2.2.3Candidates should allow sufficient time for the above approval processes.

    2.2.4Finally, the candidate must submit an electronic copy of the final thesis, with the electronic copy of the authorization page containing the student’s signature and the appropriate signatures of approval, to the University’s Thesis Submission System.
  3. Passed subject to major corrections
    3.1 Procedure. In this case, the Chairperson should pass the entire set of documents to the thesis supervisor(s) who should keep the report until the candidate has submitted a revised thesis approved by the TEC before the deadline as described below. The full set of documents, with the final thesis, should then be forwarded to the department head/program director and the Dean or the Dean’s designee for endorsement before passing to the Academic Registry for action and record.
    3.2

    Thesis submission deadline.  In this case, the final thesis and the iThenticate report must be submitted within 12 months from the date of the thesis examination, or a date specified by the TEC, whichever is earlier. Students are required to submit the final theses for originality check via iThenticate. The iThenticate report should be handed in to the TEC via the department for review and endorsement. 


    3.2.1The revised thesis requires the approval of the full TEC.

    3.2.2The TEC may recommend that a re-examination be held before a final assessment is arrived at. If a re-examination is required, the TEC membership should be the same as that for the first examination, unless otherwise recommended by the department or FYTGS. In this case, the protocol is repeated, as for the first examination.

    3.2.3The TEC will need to indicate whether the major corrections are satisfactory by completing the “Report on Thesis Examination Results for Research Postgraduate Degrees”. If the members are satisfied with the revised thesis, the final thesis must be submitted, with the electronic copy of the authorization page containing the student’s signature and the appropriate signatures of approval, to the University’s Thesis Submission System.
  4. Failed but may be resubmitted
    4.1 In this case, the Chairperson should forward the duly completed “Report on Thesis Examination Results for Research Postgraduate Degrees” to the head of the candidate’s department. After signing the report, the department head/program director will forward it to the Dean or the Dean’s designee for endorsement.
    4.2Procedure. The result “Failed but may be re-submitted” requires that the entire examination process be repeated, including the re-establishment of a TEC.

    4.2.1The TEC membership may or may not be the same as that for the first examination.

    4.2.2Failure in the second attempt of thesis examination will result in the automatic withdrawal of the candidate from the program of study and termination of registration at the University.
    4.3Timeline. At least six months should pass before the second thesis examination. The protocol is repeated, as for the first examination.
  5. Failed
    In this case, the candidate is automatically withdrawn from the program of study and his/her registration at the University is terminated.

 E.   Submission of Final Thesis

  1. Thesis copy. On successful completion of the thesis examination, and after any required corrections, a candidate must submit a copy of the thesis (either hard or electronic) to the department.

    For final theses which have been graded “Passed subject to minor corrections” or “Passed subject to major corrections”, students are required to submit the thesis for originality check via iThenticate. The iThenticate report should be handed in to their thesis supervisor(s), and the Thesis Examination Committee if applicable, for review and endorsement via their department.

    The department will arrange for the appropriate signatures of approval to be obtained, and then return the signed copy to the candidate. The candidate will upload and submit the Signature Page and the Authorization Page as a PDF file and the final thesis as another PDF file to the University’s Thesis Submission System. The candidate does not need to replace the two unsigned pages in the thesis PDF with the scanned signature pages. The candidate will receive email acknowledgement of successful upload.

    Note:  Candidates should allow sufficient time for the thesis supervisor(s) to check and verify their final version of the thesis, and for the department to obtain signatures of approval before the submission deadline.

  2. The “Report on Thesis Examination Results for Research Postgraduate Degrees” will be submitted by the department to the Academic Registry.

  3. Other documents. Candidates are also required to submit other documents to the department together with the final thesis. Details are available on the FYTGS website.

  4. Failure to meet submission deadline. If a candidate fails to submit the final thesis before his/her specific deadline, the candidate will be deemed to have failed to meet the thesis examination requirements of the University and to have failed the requirements of the degree program being pursued. If the candidate fails to meet the deadline in submitting the final thesis, and the delay is no fault of the candidate, the candidate may appeal for an exception to the above rules in a written letter. The appeal must be supported by the thesis supervisor(s) and PG Coordinator of the department, and endorsed by the relevant School. It should then be submitted to FYTGS for further arrangements.