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Degree Committee and Graduate Education


The information in this section outlines procedures and arrangements specific to the Faculty of Mathematics and should be read in conjunction with the University’s regulations and guidance as explained below.  The Faculty Degree Committee is responsible for overseeing PhD and MSc examinations, and administration is undertaken by the Faculty Postgraduate Office.

Examination overview

The examination is undertaken in two parts:

  1. Following submission by the candidate, the written thesis is scrutinized by two examiners. The examiners are required to make an independent report and recommendation on the work submitted for examination.
  2. Following their independent report the examiners are required to hold an oral examination with the candidate. After the oral examination the examiners are required to make a joint report and recommendation.

Once the examination is complete, the independent and joint reports and recommendations are submitted to the Degree Committee for consideration at the next available meeting. The Degree Committee evaluates the reports and recommendations put before it and determines whether or not the degree should be awarded.  The Degree Committee's decision is sent to the Student Registry, who will confirm the outcome directly to the candidate and advise them of the next steps as appropriate. This can take approximately 5 working days (longer in busy periods) from the date of the Degree Committee meeting.

Possible outcomes are:

  • Unconditional approval
  • Conditional approval subject to minor or major corrections, and/or (Doctoral students only) subject to submission of an electronic and hard bound copy for the library.
  • Revision and resubmission of the work for a fresh examination
  • Doctoral students only:  Revision and resubmission of the work for a fresh examination or acceptance of the MSc/MLitt without further examination (but possibly subject to corrections)
  • Doctoral students only:  Not to be allowed to revise the thesis, but offered the MSc/MLitt without further revision or examination (but possibly subject to corrections)
  • Outright failure

Declaration of authorship and work done in collaboration

Under University Ordinances all candidates for the Ph.D. or M.Sc. are required to:

‘… state, generally in a preface and specifically in notes or in a bibliography, the sources from which their information is derived, the extent to which they have availed themselves of the work of others, and the portions of the thesis which are claimed as original. They shall also be required to declare that the thesis submitted is not substantially the same as any that they may have submitted for a degree or diploma or similar qualification....’

(Chapter VII: Degrees, Diplomas, and Other Qualifications / Doctor of Philosphy, Maste of Science... / Regulation 9)

It is accepted that in carrying out research a certain amount of collaboration is inevitable. In every case, the candidate must indicate clearly which portions of the thesis, if any, describe work done in collaboration. This may be achieved through acknowledgements, references and in the text. A student wishing to include work completed in collaboration with others (including the supervisor) must provide a statement in the preface to the thesis setting out which portions of the thesis were completed in collaboration. Collaborators should be named and an indication of the extent of their contribution provided. This is particularly important where the degree of collaboration is other than minimal and/or where joint publications are included or will result from the collaboration. Ultimately the examiners must be in no doubt about which aspects of the work submitted for examination have been undertaken in collaboration and which are the candidates own work.

See also:

Appointment of examiners, approval of title and planned submission date

The Degree Committee is responsible for the appointment of examiners for PhD and MSc examinations, and for approval of the final title of the thesis. Both are confirmed as part of the same process which is as follows:

  1. Two months in advance of the intended submission date the candidate should submit the following to
    • Appointment of Examiners Application Form (Part I) - pdf editable form
    • Thesis summary
  2. Upon receipt of the above application form from the candidate, the Degree Committee will contact the registered Principal Supervisor and ask them to complete the following form recommending two examiners:
  3. The Degree Committee will consider the recommended examiners in light of the information provided either at a physical meeting or at a meeting by circulation (see meeting dates).
  4. Once the appointments have been confirmed, this will be communicated to both the student and their supervisor.


  • So you can make an informed decision, you are encouraged to discuss the likely format of the oral examination with your supervisor, including whether you have a preference for this to be held in-person or by video conference when you submit this form.
  • As part of this process you are asked to provide your planned submission date.  This can change if it really needs to (let us know if it does), but the date you provide will be used as a guideline to set the timetable for your oral examination, and may influence who we appoint as your examiners.
  • Students may submit whenever they are ready and do not have to wait for their examiners to be formally appointed to do so.  However, the thesis will not be sent to the examiners until formal appointment has been confirmed by the Committee.  The two month lead-in time allows the necessary steps to be taken prior to submission of the thesis avoiding potential delay to the examinations process. 
  • If you are to commence employment this may be conditional upon your having submitted/been awarded your PhD, which in turn may impact your preferred viva timing.  If you are on a visa, there may also be timing factors to consider.  Discuss your situation with your supervisor so that this can be considered when examiners are nominated, and it can be ascertained if the timetable is achievable. You will also need to factor in Degree Committee meeting dates. If you need a letter confirming where you are in the exam process, for example as an interim document for your employer, please contact

Please also see:

Voluntary disclosure of additional requirements of relevance to the oral examination

A student who wishes the examiners to be aware of any disability or chronic illness when arranging or conducting the oral examination should complete the 'Voluntary disclosure form' and submit it to  The Degree Committee will review any Student Support Documentation already in place, and if appropriate contact the Disability Resource Centre for advice on what additional requirements should be made.  Students may wish to consult the Disability Resource Centre directly.  Please note that it may take up to three weeks for the Disability Resource Centre to communicate recommendations on any given case, and longer for the Degree Committee to determine whether the recommendations are reasonable.  Students are advised to take action at an early stage. 

Note that examiners do not take into account any disability or chronic illness when judging the merit of the thesis itself.  The thesis will stand on its own merits as a piece of written work.  The purpose of the voluntary disclosure is therefore only to allow reasonable adjustments to be made to the oral examination arrangements (e.g. for rest breaks or access arrangements).

Submission for examination

In preparation for submission students are advised to consult the Student Registry website. In particular the section Preparing to submit which includes information on the thesis summary, word limits and format requirements for the thesis.

The thesis for examination must be submitted online following procedures set-out by the University:

Submission is via a dedicated Moodle site. Candidates will be given access to the site and further instructions by the Postgraduate Office following receipt of the Appointment of Examiners (Part I) form and thesis summary.

Once the thesis has been received, it will be sent electronically to the examiners with further guidance and instructions. Hard copy is only provided in exceptional circumstances, with examiners expected to print their own copy if required. Examiners should not request a hard copy of the thesis either directly from the candidate, or via the supervisor. If hard copy is supplied it must be identical in every way to the final version submitted on Moodle.

Further information on:

Research Impact Statement

In recognition that external events (e.g. COVID19 or the situation in Ukraine) may have impacted on their research, candidates are invited to submit a Research Impact Statement with their thesis. Guidance can be found here. If you would like to do this, please make sure it is signed by your supervisor and submit with your thesis on Moodle. 

The Oral Examination

The oral examination gives the opportunity for:

  • you to defend your thesis and clarify any matters raised by your examiners,
  • the examiners to probe your knowledge in the field,
  • the examiners to assure themselves that the work presented is your own and to clarify matters of any collaboration,
  • the examiners to come to a definite conclusion about the outcome of the examination.

At the end of the oral examination you will normally receive an unofficial indication of the recommendation that the examiners will make to the Degree Committee. If there are corrections, you may also be supplied with a list either at the meeting or shortly afterwards.


Arranging the oral is the responsibility of the Internal Examiner. The University’s guidelines say that the oral should take place within 6-8 weeks of submission, but candidates are advised that it may take longer. If you do not hear from your Examiners within six weeks of submitting your thesis, please contact


The oral examination may be held in-person or via video conference. Your preference, which you are asked to provide on your appointment of examiners form, will be communicated to your examiners following appointment, and they will be asked to accommodate your wishes as far as possible when finalising arrangements. If your preference cannot be accommodated and an alternative solution cannot be agreed, an alternative examiner may need to be appointed. It is recommended that you discuss your options fully with your supervisor prior to submitting a preference, even if you do not have one.

The Degree Committee recognises that instinctively candidates may prefer their examination to be conducted in-person, that there are natural benefits to being co-located with your examiners, and that it may provide a greater sense of achievement after many years of work. We do, however, strongly encourage you to also consider the potential benefits of an oral examination by video conference, in as much as it may enable the Degree Committee to appoint your external examiner from a broader pool of international examiners, and/or speed up the examination process. It should not, with appropriate preparation, detract from the overall experience of the examination and there will still be an opportunity to celebrate!

Preparation and what to expect

An oral examination will normally take somewhere between 1.5 to 3 hours, and there is no set format. Your supervisor will not be present at the examination, but you should consult them about what to expect. You may also find it useful to ask colleagues who have recently completed their examination about their experiences. In preparation for your oral examination, make sure that you know your thesis well. You should expect to be asked to summarise your work, talk about the key points and answer detailed questions. Whilst there is no requirement for a formal presentation to be given, your examiners may ask you to prepare one, or you may decide to ask to give one. This should be finalised when arrangements for the oral examination are put in place. You are encouraged to discuss your work with colleagues, your supervisor or advisor, getting them to ask you questions, so you can practise your answers.

Other things you might consider when preparing for your oral:

  • Why did you tackle this research? Why are you interested in it? How does your work sit in the wider context of your field?
  • What, if any problems did you encounter? Have you noticed any errors in your thesis since submitting it?
  • What type of questions might your examiners ask?
  • What do you need to have with you? (e.g., water, pens, paper, chalk, copy of thesis)
  • If the oral is via video conference, are you comfortable with the application to be used? If you need to write mathematics or draw a diagram to explain a point, how will you do this?

University resources:

Submission of the final approved thesis

All PhD students must submit a final hard bound copy of the approved thesis to the Student Registry for deposit in the University Library, as well as depositing an electronic copy to University of Cambridge’s digital repository. These are both formal requirements for the PhD and MSc degrees and students will not be formally approved for the degree until the final copies have been received by the Student Registry: