School of Computer Science

Submitting your Thesis (and Graduating)

This page is designed to guide you to appropriate sources of information about submitting a thesis for the University of Birmingham (once you have written it) and to answer some of the most frequently asked questions.

Sources of information from the University

Research Student Administration provides some sources of information which you should look at and bookmark now. They are:

How long should my thesis be?

The regulations lay down word limits for theses - for example, 50,000 words for a Computer Science PhD -, and when you submit you must fill in a word length declaration form declaring the word length. Your thesis will not be accepted if your declared word length is greater than the limit.

Why so strict?

  • It is good to be concise in your writing, but it can be hard work to achieve that conciseness. The word limit forces you to make that effort.
  • You may think that the more material a thesis has, the better it is. This is not so. A thesis should have just the right amount to argue the case.
  • Examiners are busy people and they will be annoyed (which you want to avoid) if you give them more to read than is necessary. The regulation gives them the right to reject a thesis if you miscounted and the thesis is longer than it should be.

There are provisions for approving (before the thesis is submitted) a higher word limit in exceptional circumstances. In applying for this you need your supervisor and the School to say whether they support your application.

Note also that supplementary material such as tables, diagrams, appendices, references, the bibliography and any bound published material are not included in the word count.

Can I submit early?

The University's regulations require you to study for a minimum period of time before submitting your thesis. (For a PhD this is three years full-time or its part-time equivalent.) It is possible to submit earlier but you have to have permission to do so from the University.

Guidance notes and application forms are online.

Can I submit late?

"Late" means after the submission deadline, or "end of maximum period of study". Late submissions, even if only a day late, will not be accepted - you will have to apply for an extension.

  • To find the exact deadline, consult the Program Details section of the on-line registration facility at my.bham. Deadline dates provided by the School, for instance on RSMG forms, are not guaranteed to be accurate to the nearest day.
  • If the submission deadline is at a weekend or in a period of University closure, you may submit on the first working day after the deadline.

Your "Notice of Intention to Submit" form

The University requires you to tell Student Services that you intend to submit a thesis. Guidance and downloadable forms are online. Fill in the form and send it in three months before you intend to hand in your thesis. (In practice, the University will accept this form less than three months before you hand in your thesis but you may find that your viva will be delayed.)

What is this form for? From your point of view, the main function of this form is that it starts the process of appointing your examiners and chairperson for your viva. So, it is important to:

  • complete this form in time;
  • ensure your supervisor has your examiners selected.

Choosing examiners

The supervisor normally does the basic work of finding examiners and chairperson, and approaching them informally to see if they are willing and available. The School checks their suitability and nominates them to the University, which then formally approves and appoints them. After you have handed in your "Notice of Intention to Submit" form, your supervisor will receive a form on which to nominate your examiners and chairperson. This form has to be counter-signed by the Research Students Tutor. A copy is placed in your School student file (in case anyone needs to consult it).

For almost all PhD vivas, your supervisor will need to find:

  • An external examiner

    This should be someone with a good research reputation in your field who can impartially assess your work. It is usually an academic from another university. If the proposed external is from outside the university system, your supervisor will discuss the choice with the Research Students Tutor.

  • An internal examiner

    This should be a member of staff who is not your supervisor or co-supervisor. Normally he or she can be a member of your Thesis Group; however, you *cannot ask your internal examiner to read drafts of your thesis before your viva,* as this would compromise their independence. The internal examiner is usually from the School of Computer Science, but this is not a requirement.

  • A chairperson

    The chair is not an examiner. He or she ensures that the viva is run properly and fairly, taking notes and helping where necessary to clarify misunderstandings. Your chairperson should be a member of staff who has had some experience of PhD vivas and supervision.

It is very rare for there to be more than two examiners and a chairperson. If there are to be more examiners, then your supervisor will discuss this with the Research Students Tutor.

Supervisors vary in how they nominate examiners. Some supervisors essentially let the student choose; other supervisors choose examiners without consulting the student. These extremes are unusual. Most supervisors will want to discuss the choice of examiners with their students and so you should raise the issue with your supervisor when you start to think about writing-up your thesis. In any case, the University Code of Practice says that you should be able to comment on the choice of examiners before the Research Students Tutor signs off the nominations form.

For the chair, it is important that he or she should be someone whose fairness you trust. Your supervisor should ask you to choose someone. However, remember that your first choice might be unavailable or busy.

Formatting your thesis

You should follow the guidelines for formatting theses given in Presenting your Thesis: Notes on the Arrangements of Theses and their Preparation for Binding. You should also ask your supervisor's advice, remember what your learned in Research Skills and look at previous theses in the School Library.

Whatever you do, ensure you at least lay out the title-page correctly and that your thesis is not too long.

Can I submit a thesis printed double-sided?


For many years theses had to be printed on one side only of the paper, but that rule has now (2009) been repealed.

Notify the School!

When you submit your thesis, please notify the School Research Student Administrator of the date of submission and the exact title of the thesis.

The date can be important to the School, and we don't receive direct notification from the University.

At the same time you can also get guidance on the procedure for submitting your thesis electronically to Turnitin.

What forms do I need to fill in?

The Research Student Administration page Thesis Submission and Examination gives a list of the forms you need to complete. (You should complete these before you take your thesis to the Bindery as they may need to be bound in your thesis.)

Binding your thesis

When you submit your thesis before your viva, you will need to provide two copies in a "temporary" binding. This is simple. Take two copies of your thesis (and your forms to the Print Me digital shop or use the online thesis binding page and they will bind your thesis for you for a modest charge.

After you have successfully completed your viva, and made any required modifications, you will have to provide two copies of your thesis in a permanent binding. (Otherwise you will not be able to graduate.) This is also simple. Take two copies of your thesis (and your forms to the Print Me digital shop or use the online thesis binding page and they will bind your thesis for you for a slightly less modest charge - but it will look beautiful.

Where is the Print Me shop?

The Print Me shop is at the University Centre (Building R23)

The opening hours of Print Me are 09:00 - 17:00 Monday to Friday.

Where do I hand in my thesis?

Of your two final, permanently bound theses, one goes to Research Student Admin for the University Library. The other is for the School library, and you should give it to the School Librarian.

Theses are handed-in at the Student Hub in the Aston Webb building(at R7 on the campus map)

Turnitin submission

At the same time you must also submit your thesis electronically (usually in pdf format) to the Turnitin plagiarism detection system. The School Research Student Administrator will assist you in this. You must also give the School a copy of your thesis declaration form, in which you sign a declaration that the electronic copy submitted to Turnitin is an exact copy of the copies submitted for examination.

Note: you submit your hard copy to Research Student Admin and electronic copy to Turnitin at the same time. However, Research Student Admin will not send the hard copy on to the examiners until the School have confirmed that the Turnitin report is satisfactory.

Can I keep my desk?

By the end of your writing up, this normally means a desk in Chemistry West. Once you have submitted, you may be asked (at any time) to vacate it. Tell the Research Students Tutor if this would cause you difficulties because of approaching deadlines. You will still have hot-desk access to Chemistry West, for example for making corrections after your viva.

Who arranges my viva?

Vivas are arranged by the internal examiner. Please do not pester your internal examiner until both you and your supervisor agree that you have waited quite long enough. (Arranging vivas can be difficult if one or more of your examiners is an exceptionally busy person.) The normal expectation is for the viva to be held within 8 weeks of when the examiners receive the thesis.

Presenting modifications

Almost all research students have modifications to complete after their viva. You should make your modifications within the time allowed (see below), and submit them to Research Student Admin. for approval. You will need to apply for an extension if you go beyond the time allowed.

While you are making your modifications, keep in regular contact with your supervisor by sending a brief progress report each month. Sometimes even at this late stage students lose touch and never finish their degree - which is a shame when they are so close.

Generally, the modifications fall into two categories, depending on how much work is required.

Minor modifications are usually the correction of typographical errors and minor redrafting of obscure passages in your text. (These are given to candidates in a list soon after the viva.) You are allowed 4 weeks for making these modifications, and the internal examiner is responsible for approving them. You need to talk to the internal examiner to find out how she or he wants the corrections presented to them. One good method is to:

  • make a photocopy of the list of modifications;
  • number each of the modifications;
  • carry out the modifications;
  • print the final version of your thesis and put a Stick-It note on each page so an examiner can see each correction easily. (It is best to number each Stick-It note with the number you gave the modification in step 2, and give the examiner a copy of your numbered list of modifications from step 2.)

Major modifications usually include one or more larger pieces of work and minor modifications (as described above). You are allowed 6 months for making major modifications, and they have to be reviewed by both examiners.

When you submit your corrected thesis you must also submit a separate document giving a brief description of how you have completed each modification. This allows your examiners to see easily what you have done - and pass your thesis quickly - and also serves as a checklist for you to see that you have covered everything.

The corrections must be final. (The only exception to this is that after some major corrections, the examiners may ask for further minor corrections.) Hence it is important to make sure you have satisfactorily covered all the required corrections before you submit them. Especially for major corrections, you are strongly advised to consult your supervisor before submitting them. There is no second chance for further major corrections.

When can I graduate?

Graduation ceremonies ("Degree Congregations") are held every July and December. (Most people prefer to be there in person though you don't have to.) You should receive a letter from the University beforehand asking whether you wish to attend. You respond on-line.

Before you can graduate you must have everything finished:

  • examiners' reports received by the Research Student Administration Team in Academic & Student Administration;
  • corrections/revisions required to the thesis certified as satisfactory by the appropriate examiners;
  • an Author's Declaration Form bound into the University Library Deposit Copy of the thesis;
  • Abstract Form received by the Research Student Administration Team in Academic & Student Administration;
  • hardbound copy of the thesis, bound by the University's Bindery, received by the Research Student Administration Team in Academic & Student Administration;
  • e-thesis submitted to Library Services;
  • all debts to the University have been cleared.

You should receive an email from the University telling you the deadline for these; the deadline will be about a month before the graduation ceremony.

Prizes for PhD theses

  • The Distinguished Dissertation Prizes in computer science are awarded annually by the The Conference of Professors and Heads of Computing (CPHC) in conjunction with the British Computing Society (BCS) and the BCS Academy of Computing.

If your thesis is a contender, and has the support of the examiners, then it should be entered through the School - contact the Research Students Tutor.

For each year the prize is for theses completed (including corrections) between 1st January in that year and around 1st April the following year, which is the closing date for entries.

  • The Ackermann Award is for theses in logic in computer science. For theses leading to graduation in any given calendar year, the nomination deadline is around April the following year. Your supervisor and two others will need to write recommendation letters.