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Index of Definitions


Abilities and Knowledge Demonstration for Confirmation of Registration

  • Effective knowledge of the literature in the field and other fields that may be relevant to the topic
  • Ability to successfully communicate and present research; in writing, orally, and by other means as necessary
  • Ability to successfully plan, design and implement research and related tasks
  • Ability to successfully interpret data and findings
  • Successful demonstration of any other abilities relevant to the research topic as may be required by the confirmation committee
  • Satisfactory completion of any required coursework to the specified standard


Additional co-supervisors

Additional co-supervisors should bring expertise and experience relevant to the conduct of the doctoral project and the training and development of the candidate. Those external to the University (may include Honorary Research Fellows/Associates or Adjunct Academics) are not remunerated by Massey for their supervisory contributions. Doctoral candidates are not permitted to be doctoral supervisors until their own doctorate has been completed.


Appeal of Doctoral Examination Result 

Appealing is only allowed based on procedural irregularities in the examination process. In the event of an appeal being lodged, an Ad Hoc Appeals Committee will be established by the AVC Research Academic and Enterprise. For an appeal to be considered, applications must be received by the Doctoral Research Committee within three months of formal notification of the examination result by the Graduate Research School.

Commercial sensitivity

Candidates whose research is funded from commercial sources should have a very clear understanding as to their obligations to the funding organisation and its obligations to them. For example, should a candidate’s research findings prove commercially valuable, the candidate should not be hindered by the funding organisation from completing the requirements for the Doctoral degree. In turn, the funding organisation must be assured of the confidentiality of such findings both before and after submission of the thesis. In particular, the examination process, involving internal and outside examiners, must be conducted with proper confidentiality (the DRC has a Confidentiality Agreement available, which is sent to the examiners at the time of thesis submission). Furthermore, candidates have the right to embargo their completed thesis in the University library for a period of up to two years to enable them and/or the funding organisation to protect their intellectual property rights and to exploit the initial commercial advantages of the research. Please note however, that under University regulations, the abstract must still be available online, so this should be written with sufficient generality to protect the embargo. (A more detailed abstract may be supplied for examination purposes only).


Confirmation Committee

The committee typically  consists of the Head of Academic Unit (Nominee); the candidate’s primary supervisor; one or more of the candidate’s co-supervisors; and, at least one other knowledgeable academics in a relevant field who have not been directly involved in the project and who are experienced doctoral supervisors (they may or may not be Massey staff).


Confirmation of Registration ProposaL

The confirmation proposal typically comprises:

  • A concise statement of the research thesis
  • The rationale and importance behind the research
  • A critical summary and analysis of relevant literature
  • An explanation of the conceptual framework to be used and/or a summary of experimental methods and equipment requirements appropriate to the research topic
  • A budget summary detailing resources
  • A summary of progress to date including preliminary data and resources developed
  • A proposed schedule and timeline for the phases of the study, including a date for submission
  • A brief bibliography

Conditionality of Named Doctorate Offers

The offer of a Named Doctorate place is always conditional on satisfying the DRC that the prospective candidate meets the application criteria for provisional registration and the conditions of candidacy. Prospective candidates for a Named Doctorate must therefore apply successfully for provisional registration before they commit to, and pay for, the programme of study at Massey. International candidates in particular are urged to note this.

Conditionality of PhD/DOCTORAL Offers

The offer of a PhD/Doctoral place is always conditional on satisfying the DRC that the prospective candidate meets the application criteria for provisional registration and the conditions of candidacy. Prospective candidates must therefore apply successfully for provisional  registration before they commit to, and pay for, Doctoral study at Massey.


Contact Details

Graduate Research School
Research & Enterprise
Massey University
Private Bag 11222
Palmerston North 4442

Phone: +64 6 951 9440
Internal extension: 86440

Phone: +64 6 951 9444
Internal extension: 86444


Convenor Role

The convenor is responsible for facilitating the oral examination for Doctoral degrees, and the subsequent follow-up to completion of the examination. Convenors are experienced researchers who are senior academic staff members of the University and who have been involved in Doctoral supervision. To aid neutrality, a convenor will not be an expert in the area of the thesis research.

Convenors are responsible for overseeing the arrangements for an oral examination, and for ensuring that the candidate is advised of the examination outcome. This latter includes transmitting information to the candidate about any emendations or other actions that are required by the examination committee. The  convenor consults with the candidate, the three examiners, supervisors and the Graduate Research School.

A convenor is appointed by the GRS following receipt of thesis assessment reports from all three examiners. Convenors are supplied by the GRS with an exam check list. When the GRS has received all three examiners reports, these are made available to the convenor and examiners prior to arranging the oral examination. A convenor should also either meet with the candidate or telephone the candidate a few days before the examination to advise on the final arrangements for the oral examination. At the conclusion of the oral examination the convenor will obtain a written and signed report from the examiners present which details any mutually agreed emendations and the final recommendation. The candidate and supervisor will then be advised of what is required. The convenor will also submit to the GRS a confidential report on the conduct of the examination outlining also the balance of examiner opinions, including that of the overseas examiner.  This convenor's report will conclude by confirming the examination committee’s recommendation to the DRC.

As part of their training and development, a new convenor is required to attend an examination as an observer alongside an experienced convenor prior to being allocated their first solo convening opportunity.

Dean’s List of Exceptional Doctoral Theses

Candidates whose research is assessed by the examiners as being of exceptionally high quality, may be considered for the Dean’s List. If approved they will receive a certificate, and have the award noted on their academic record. To be considered the thesis needs to be in the top ten percent of Doctoral theses in its field and all examiners need to agree that it is of exceptional quality.  It needs to pass with no more than minor editorial changes of a typographical or grammatical nature, and not alterations which add or remove information, or change an interpretation or conclusion. The candidate also needs to perform well at the oral and submit the thesis before or by the official submission date, without having to apply for an extension to their study. The Dean of the Graduate Research School reserves the right to vary these conditions in exceptional circumstances


Desired Examiner Characteristics

The Doctoral Research Committee (DRC) vets and appoints the examiners nominated by a supervisor. This makes for a robust, two-stage selection process for examiners at Massey. Examiners should be recognised, independent experts with a list of current research publications in a field which equips them to evaluate the thesis and the candidate. They should have supervised other PhDs successfully, understand the nature of the PhD in the NZ context, be senior in experience to the candidate, and not have been involved in supervisory or significant advisory roles in the candidate's research.  Ideally, they would have prior experience of PhD/Doctoral examination. External examiners should not have been a recent student within the Academic Unit concerned and would normally be associated with an academic institution, or be eminent and well respected specialists in their field.


English Language Requirement

For those whose first language is not English, admission to the PhD requires a minimum academic IELTS score of  6.5 with no band less than 6.0; or  a minimum TOEFL score of 575 paper based test along with a minimum TWE score of 4 (Essay Rating 4.0 or Writing 20). In some academic units this may be higher. English requirements are further detailed in the calendar.


Entry level research experience

Prospective students are expected to demonstrate some previous research experience. This most commonly is a thesis as part of an honours or masters project with a minimum B+ grade. Students can also be considered,  if they have undertaken a research methods course and/or have published or have experience of working as a research assistant.

Exit Qualifications

The are two reasons for exiting:-

  • Candidates may withdraw for personal reasons
  • Candidates may be required to withdraw because they fail to meet the demands required of a doctoral degree (this may be through the confirmation process or general lack of progress). In some cases it may be possible to convert the PhD to an MPhil but this is a decision made at the department level not through the GRS. Where an MPhil is an option the candidate is required to withdraw from the doctoral programme and enrol in the Masters programme

Candidates enrolled in the DClinPsych are able to apply for specific exit qualifications.  Due to the nature of the programme some exit qualifications do not enable graduates to practice as Clinical Psychologists.

Candidates can apply for an exit qualification under the following conditions:-

  • If a candidate has passed the course work and internship but submits the thesis for examination and subsequently fails the candidate can apply for the Postgraduate Diploma in Clinical Psychology.
  • The Diploma will be awarded subject to the candidate’s thesis being downgraded to a Masterate, or reworked for submission for the award of a Masterate where the candidate does not already have a Masters degree. The Doctor of Clinical Psychology result will show as failed.
  • If a candidate has passed their course work and thesis, but fails the internship, the candidate can apply to the DRC to transfer their thesis component to a PhD or apply to the College to transfer it to a Masterate.  The thesis can then be re-worked for submission for either the PhD or Masterate.  The Doctor of Clinical Psychology result will show as failed. The candidate will not be eligible for the Postgraduate Diploma in Clinical Psychology. 
  • If a candidate withdraws from their thesis before it is submitted for examination, or withdraws from their internship component before final assessment has started, they may be eligible for the exit qualifications as stated above.  In both cases, the candidate’s Doctor of Clinical Psychology result will be noted as withdrawn. 


Examiners’ reports are integral to the examination process. Indeed, the reports will raise issues that are likely to be the subject of the oral examination, and so are strictly confidential until all three have been submitted.

As soon as all three are submitted they will be distributed to all examiners. The GRS will then endeavor to release these to the candidate and supervisors 10 working days prior to the oral exam but will allow up to 5 working days if the report are delayed in being submitted. If the delay is such that the GRS is unable to supply these at 5 working days the examination will be rescheduled.

 It is important to note that the reports are only meant to guide the candidate. Candidates should view the oral examination as an opportunity to defend their entire body of work, and not just focus on the points raised in the examiners written reports. Consistent with the spirit of a ‘defence’ of the thesis, examiners are expected to address the entire body of the thesis and may ask questions and address points not raised in the written reports.

Examiner Guidance and Report Forms

Guidelines for Examiners Thesis Assessment Report (91 KB)

Thesis assessment recommendations (142 KB)

Thesis Assessment Report for Thesis Re-examination (34 KB)

Re-examination thesis assessment recommendation (24 KB)

Recommendation for Dean of Graduate Research School's List of Exceptional Doctoral Theses (334 KB)

Guidelines for Examiners of Doctoral Thesis Involving Creative Works.pdf (1,053 KB)  


Doctoral governance relates to the setting of consistent standards in the research, academic and candidate environments, and the application of cohesive policies and processes which define and assure the delivery of those standards.


Grounds for Embargo

The grounds for a thesis embargo might be that harm could come about through:

  • Disclosure of commercially sensitive information (the most likely situation, and one typically covered by a written agreement with an external party)
  • Disclosure of information which is personal or private (this may be covered, for example, by undertakings to research participants, or by documentation used to obtain ethical approval)
  • Disclosure of thesis contents before the author of the thesis has had reasonable opportunity to publish all or part of the thesis
  • Disclosure of material which has been provided on conditions that it not be disclosed
  • Disclosure of thesis contents before the University has had reasonable opportunity to protect all or part of any new intellectual property developed 

If a candidate and supervisor do wish to apply for an embargo they must complete the application and submit this to the GRS. The application is reviewed by the Commercialisation team and then final approval comes from the Provost.

Authority for thesis embargo

Once the grounds are agreed and declared, candidates or supervisors should make an application for the embargo, stating the reason for the embargo.

Applications for a thesis embargo should be on the appropriate form, available from the Graduate Research School. The application should be signed by the supervisor and candidate before being submitted to Research & Enterprise Office, which will then forward it to the Provost. This application should be processed before the thesis is bound and should be bound into all copies of the thesis. Note that the wording of the thesis abstract repository may need to be adjusted in the light of the need to protect Intellectual Property.


Health and Safety

Assessment of the health and safety risk of a proposed project should be made to ensure no action or inaction causes harm to anyone, the place of work or the environment.  The hazard and risk assessment should be used to establish appropriate controls for the research work. The supervisor is always responsible for checking and verifying the adequacy of the assessment prior to practical work commencing. The Health and Safety Office or Regional Health and Safety Advisor should be consulted for advice on methodologies that can be used for hazard or risk assessment.  More information is available on the Massey website.


Intellectual Property Rights

Candidates and their supervisors should be aware that the rights in ownership of intellectual property are subject to the Massey University Intellectual Property Policy.  In situations where supervision and/or funding are provided by another organisation (e.g. a Crown Research Institute), that organisation may, as a condition of the support it provides, seek alternative arrangements for the ownership of intellectual property.  Such arrangements, including the identification of Massey University’s background Intellectual Property, must be fully documented in a written contract administered by Research Management Services, before an offer of financial support to the student and enrolment. Each student shall be required to signify in writing his/her agreement to the terms as finally negotiated. 


Massey Co-Supervisor

The Massey co-supervisor should be a member of Massey's academic staff, and is an obligatory appointment for every PhD candidate. A Massey co-supervisor does not have to be in the same academic unit as the primary supervisor but they should, however, not be enrolled in their own Doctoral degree when supervising. It is expected that the co-supervisor will have not less than 20% of the workload apportioned to them.



In general an extension is granted only when the thesis preparation is underway and there is a clear case that the thesis can be finalised within the extension period.  An extension is not granted in cases where substantive research still remains to be done, or where the candidate has a history of slow progress. A maximum of 12 months (for full-time) or 18 months (for part-time) is allowed. Applications are considered on a case by case basis, and approval is not automatic.


Origins of Examiners

There are three examiners:

  • One from outside New Zealand (“international examiner”)
  • One from within New Zealand but external to Massey (“New Zealand examiner”)
  • One internal to Massey (“internal examiner”)

The identity of the nominated examiners should not be revealed to the candidate until the oral is organised. Where it is not be possible to find either a suitable New Zealand examiner, or a suitable overseas examiner, the Doctoral Research Committee will consider a case for the appointment of either two New Zealand examiners or two international examiners.  If two international examiners are appointed, then one of the examiners will be asked to participate in the oral examination, usually via video-conference, or in person at the cost to GRS (Up to $500) and the academic unit.


PHD/nAMED DOCTORATE Completion Timeframes

Ideally completion time should be four years for full-time candidates, and six years for part-time candidates. The target date assigned for thesis submission is a prominent milestone but it is important to note that submission is not completion. Completion actually occurs after the oral and the requisite changes to the thesis have been made. The award of the doctorate can then be approved by the University's Doctoral Research Committee when two hard bound copies and one digital copy of the final thesis are handed over to the Graduate Research School for library deposit.



Primary supervisors must:

  1. Be a member of the Massey academic staff (includes research active Emeritus Professors);
  2. Hold a Doctorate from a recognised institution; and,
  3. Have prior experience of research supervision, for example as a co-supervisor

For International PhD candidates to be eligible for domestic fees, the Ministry of Education requires a primary supervisor to be “of very good national, or international standard, with a research record appropriate to the student’s field of study”.  Massey applies this requirement to both international and domestic students.

Prior Research Experience for doctoral Entry

Research experience is typically evidenced through an Honours undergraduate degree with first class or upper second class achievement, or a Master’s degree with a substantial research component, graded overall at B+ or above. Exceptionally, research experience in the workplace may substitute for these qualifications where there is evidence of independent publication by the candidate in internationally-recognised research outlets (e.g. journal paper; research book). All applicants, other than Massey University graduates, need to provide a detailed transcript of their academic record.


Public Record

After the examination has been completed two ‘hard bound’ copies and one electronic copy of the thesis must be deposited with the GRS before a final result can be recommended to the DRC.  The paper and electronic copies must be accompanied by a digital thesis declaration signed by the candidate stating that the paper and digital copies are the same.  One hard bound copy and the digital copy are deposited in the university library for public record.  The paper copy is placed in the vault for security; the digital copy will be lodged permanently in the University’s digital repository for reference. Theses which have been embargoed will be made available only after the date stipulated by the candidate on the embargo form and approved by the University. The second hard bound copy is deposited with the candidate’s Academic Unit.

Recommendations Following Oral

The examination committee makes its recommendation following the oral from the following options:

Pass without emendation The thesis is of an acceptable standard for the award of the Doctoral degree and should be passed without amendment.

Emendations required The candidate is required to complete emendations to the satisfaction of specified examiner(s) in consultation with the convenor but is not required to have a re-examination. The convenor advises the candidate in writing of the nature of the reworking and/or emendations required and advises who will approve the emendations and what time frame the candidate has to complete them. The candidate will have a maximum of six months full-time or nine months part-time to complete the emendations. If the candidate does not complete the emendations to the satisfaction of the specified examiner(s) within the stipulated time, the candidate will be failed. In this case a candidate shall not be permitted to be re-examined.

Further research and re-examination required The thesis shall be re-examined following the completion of further research and/or revisions. Such an examination shall be in accordance with Regulation 13 in the case of the PhD and the equivalent Regulations in the case of other Doctorates. An oral examination may be requested by the examiners. A candidate may only revise and resubmit a thesis for re-examination once. The candidate will have a maximum of one year full-time or eighteen months part time to conduct the required additional research and/or revisions. The candidate must re-enrol and pay tuition fees on a pro-rata basis. If the candidate does not complete the revisions to the satisfaction of all the examiners, the candidate will be failed. In this case a candidate shall not be permitted to be re-examined.

Fail The thesis is not of a standard acceptable for the award of the Doctoral degree and that the degree should not be awarded. The candidate shall not be permitted to apply for re-examination. The candidate is advised of the outcome by the Chair of the DRC.

Notification If the examination committee can readily come to a consensus, then the candidate can be invited back into the room and be informed unofficially of the result to be recommended. If the candidate has passed, he/she should be advised that the result is not officially approved until the recommendation of the examiners has been approved by the Doctoral Research Committee.

Where a consensus cannot be reached readily, the candidate should be advised that the convenor will communicate the result when all the deliberations have been concluded. The final decision is achieved by negotiating a consensus amongst all examiners. If no concensus can be reached an adjudicator will be appointed in consultation with the Head of the candidate's Academic Unit. The adjudicator's communications are with the Dean of the GRS. He or she may require clarification of points raised by the examiners with the purpose of submitting a report and recommendation to the Dean who will convey this to the DRC. The report will include the rationale for the recommendation but should not raise any new issues/requirements.

Right of Appeal No appeals are allowed except those based on procedural irregularities in the examination process. In the event of an appeal being lodged, an Ad Hoc Appeals Committee will be established by the AVC Research and Enterprise. For an appeal to be considered, it must come from the candidate in writing and be received by the Doctoral Research Committee within three months of formal notification of the examination result by the Graduate Research School.


Research Ethics

Where any stage of the research programme will involve human, animal, or genetic technology studies, the appropriate ethical procedures must be followed.  The University has codes of practice and committees to advise and give approval for

  • Research teaching and evaluation involving human participants
  • Research testing or teaching involving live animals
  • Research or teaching involving importation or development of low risk genetically modified organisms using recombinant DNA

Information on Codes of Ethical Conduct and application procedures for ethical approval are outlined on the individual websites which can be accessed from the Research Ethics section of our website.

Policy for Research Resources and Support for Post Graduate Research Candidates

This policy outlines resources and support postgraduate research candidates at Massey University can expect.

Policy for Research Resources and Support for Post Graduate Research Candidates.pdf (85 KB)



The first day of provisional registration is the academic start-date. It is also the date from which tuition and other fees are first calculated. Liability for payment occurs once the Graduate Research School has enrolled the candidate for the first time. 

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