Bedfordshire under fire for multiple PhD resubmission

‘Seriously flawed’ decision broke university regulations, QAA finds

October 31, 2013

The University of Bedfordshire has been criticised for breaking its own rules to allow a PhD student to submit a thesis for a third time.

A Quality Assurance Agency investigation found Bedfordshire’s academic standards had been endangered by the “seriously flawed” decision, which “did not reflect the academic rigour and objectivity which would be expected”.

The case concerns a PhD student whose original thesis was submitted in July 2008, but who failed to pass the viva voce held three months later.

In March-April 2010, a resubmitted thesis was deemed worthy of a doctorate by an internal examiner, but two external examiners recommended an MPhil because significant weaknesses in the thesis had not been addressed.

However, while Bedfordshire’s rules clearly state that candidates can only “resubmit for the degree and be re-examined on one occasion”, it arranged for new examiners to assess the work again 12 months later.

In 2012, a second viva was held and the candidate passed.

Two external examiners who had previously failed the candidate raised concerns with the QAA after hearing about the student’s success.

In its report, the watchdog expresses concerns about advice given to the candidate by the internal examiner between the first viva and the first resubmission.

This intervention “may have materially affected the content of the resubmitted thesis”, the QAA says, and such advice should have been left to the candidate’s supervisory team.

The watchdog also questions why the decision to set aside the examining rules was not taken by the university’s research committee or even reported in detail to it.

In July 2012, a QAA report said that Bedfordshire’s PhD appeals processes were inconsistent, unclear and unfair, with panel decisions being both uncritical and superficial.

In light of the latest findings, the university has agreed to keep under review regulations, policies and procedures revised after last year’s report. It had also made “significant personnel changes”, it added.

You've reached your article limit

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 6 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Most Commented

United Nations peace keeper

Understanding the unwritten rules of graduate study is vital if you want to get the most from your PhD supervision, say Kevin O'Gorman and Robert MacIntosh

David Parkins Christmas illustration (22 December 2016)

A Dickensian tale, set in today’s university

Eleanor Shakespeare illustration (5 January 2017)

Fixing problems in the academic job market by reducing the number of PhDs would homogenise the sector, argues Tom Cutterham

Houses of Parliament, Westminster, government

There really is no need for the Higher Education and Research Bill, says Anne Sheppard

British dean of US business school also questions the ‘strange’ trend of increasing regulation while reducing state funding in the UK sector