Academic Services

Non-examining chair

Guidance for Schools and Colleges on when to consider appointing a Non-Examining Chair.

The Postgraduate Assessment Regulations for Research Degrees state that Schools must appoint a Non-Examining Chair (NEC) if the Internal Examiner is acting for the first time, or is a member of honorary staff. This is to ensure due process and that someone who knows the University of Edinburgh regulations is at the viva.

Examples of Non-Examing Chair appointments

Although a Non-Examining Chair is not required for all vivas, there are other times when Schools may wish to consider appointing one if it would be in the best interests of the student being assessed.

  • When the viva is to be held remotely by video link. It can be helpful to have a NEC who is not directly involved in assessing the student. For example, to ensure the student is not disadvantaged, or to pause the viva if necessary (if there are technical issues or if the student needs a break).
  • Sometimes Schools may anticipate that the viva will be complicated and having a NEC can provide added reassurance for both student and examiners, and additional rigour to the process. Examples might be
    • where a student has a history of progression issues, or
    • if the viva is likely to be particularly challenging, for example if the student faces challenges or if there are concerns about the quality of the thesis, or
    • if the pre-viva examiner reports show some disagreement on potential recommendations.
  • Where the Internal Examiner is an experienced academic but is examining at Edinburgh or in the UK for the first time.

In disciplines where there is a small pool of expertise to draw on, it can be difficult for Schools to find a NEC. However, as the NEC's role is to ensure the viva is consistent and fair, and that due process is followed, they need not be an expert in the field covered by the thesis. They do need a good understanding of the University’s procedures and regulations for the award being examined, so could come from another discipline, School or College within the University.