n South African Journal of Higher Education - Ph.D. thesis quality : the views of examiners

Volume 21, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1011-3487



The Ph.D. is clearly the pinnacle of formal education qualifications internationally, representing excellence and attracting resources and prestige to universities. In Australia, normally the only assessment of a Ph.D. is the reports on the thesis by two or three external examiners. The examiners effectively set Ph.D. standards. This study provides empirical information on doctoral assessment. From 2121 examiner reports on 804 theses across all discipline areas at eight Australian universities, discipline and other differences, and thesis quality are discussed. What examiners comment on, and therefore presumably value, should be of considerable use to candidates and supervisors in meeting examiner expectations. Because examiner recommendations are intended for another specific purpose, there are problems in identifying thesis quality directly from them, except in distinguishing between the best and the marginal theses. However, more fine-grained distinctions between theses would seem to be possible from a detailed examination of the written comments.

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