The number of PhD students who failed their viva voce in 2020, 2019, and 2018.

Morteza made this Official Information request to University of Otago

Response to this request is long overdue. By law University of Otago should have responded by now (details and exceptions). You can complain to the Ombudsman.

From: Morteza

Dear University of Otago,
Under the Official Information Act, I am making the following request as a person who is in Aotearoa New Zealand.
Please let me know how many PhD candidates at the University of Otago received an outright failure (no degree awarded) as the outcome of their oral examination in 2020, 2019, and 2018 respectively.
I trust my query is clear.
Please acknowledge receipt of this message.
Yours faithfully,
Morteza

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From: Manager Policy and Compliance
University of Otago

Dear Morteza

We acknowledge receipt of your Official Information Act request of 17 November 2020.

If we have any questions or need to seek clarification on any points we will be in touch soon. Otherwise, we will seek to respond to your request as soon as practicable and no later than 20 working days after the date your request was received (by 15 December 2020). If we are unable to respond to your requests by then, we will notify you of an extension of this timeframe.

Can you please confirm that you meet the criteria in section 12 of the Official Information Act - i.e. that you are a New Zealand citizen, a permanent resident of New Zealand or a person who is in New Zealand.

Kind regards
Mayhaka

Mayhaka Mendis • Manager, Policy and Compliance, Office of the Registrar • Deputy Privacy Officer • Te Whare Wânanga o Ôtâkou, University of Otago • P.O Box 56, Dunedin • Tel +64 3 479 8993

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From: Morteza

Dear Mayhaka,
As clearly stated in my request, I meet the criteria in section 12 of the Official Information Act as a person who is in Aotearoa New Zealand.
Thanks, and I await your response in due course.
Kind regards,
Morteza

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From: Manager Policy and Compliance
University of Otago

Dear Morteza

 

We refer to your request of 17 November 2020 under the Official
Information Act.

 

You have asked how many PhD students at the University of Otago received
an outright fail (no degree awarded) as the outcome of their oral
examination in the years 2018, 2019 and 2020.

 

Our response

The oral examination is only one component of the PhD examination. The
University does not separate out failing an oral as failing the entire PhD
examination. Performance on both the thesis and the oral are needed at the
doctoral level.

 

Whilst approximately 5-6% of candidates fail their first examination, most
who resubmit a revised thesis, go on to pass. 

 

The number of PhD candidates who failed their second examination in the
years 2018 to 2020 is less than 5, and therefore we cannot report the
actual numbers due to privacy reasons. This is consistent with Section
9(2)(a) of the Official Information Act.

 

 

 

Kind regards

Mayhaka

 

Mayhaka Mendis • Manager, Policy and Compliance, Office of the Registrar •
Deputy Privacy Officer • Te Whare Wānanga o Ōtākou, University of Otago •
P.O Box 56, Dunedin • Tel +64 3 479 8993

 

 

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From: Morteza

Dear Mayhaka,
I note that you have not responded to my query appropriately.
I reiterate that I need to know how many PhD candidates failed their examination, following their oral examination, at the University of Otago in the years 2020, 2019 and 2018, respectively. Your current response is vague, and it does not address my question in a clear manner. Please be advised that 5-6% is not the right indication of “the number” of failed PhDs.
I redirect you to the Sections 9(2) and 9(2)(a) of the Official Information Act 1982 that state: “Subject to sections 6, 7, 10, and 18, this section applies if, and only if, the withholding of the information is necessary to—(a) protect the privacy of natural persons, including that of deceased natural persons” I understand that Section 6, 7, 10 and 18 do not apply to my request under the Official Information Act. Further, I do not see any reason for my request to be in breach of the privacy of any natural person. You would probably agree that the legislation is crystal clear in this regard.
Please take the above points into account, and I still look forward to receiving the information I requested. I reserve the right to make a formal complaint to the Ombudsman Office should you continue to unjustifiably oppose to disclose the requested information.
Yours faithfully,
Morteza.

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From: Morteza

Dear Otago University,
To clarify my OIA request further, I need to know how many PhD candidates failed their examination, following their oral examination, without having been given any right to revise and resubmit their work and without any degree awarded (outright failure), at the University of Otago in the years 2020, 2019 and 2018, respectively.
Please confirm whether you are willing to release the requested information as soon as practicable.
Kind regards,
Morteza.

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From: Manager Policy and Compliance
University of Otago

Dear Morteza

I refer to your emails dated 11 December and 13 December 2020 in relation to our email of 11 December 2020 responding to your information request under the Official Information Act.

We note that in your email of 13 December 2020 you state that "To clarify my OIA request further, I need to know how many PhD candidates failed their examination, following their oral examination, without having been given any right to revise and resubmit their work and without any degree awarded (outright failure), at the University of Otago in the years 2020, 2019 and 2018, respectively."

To clarify our statements in our email response of 11 December 2020:

1. The number of PhD candidates that failed (i.e. outright failure):
2018 = 0
2019 = <5
2020 = 0

2. The University's standard practice is not to report on numbers where those numbers are below 5. This is for privacy reasons. Where the numbers of the candidates are very low, there is a risk that the identity of those candidates could be determined/inferred. Accordingly, we withhold this information pursuant to section 9(2)(a) of the Official Information Act.

3. The statement in our email of 11 December 2020 to "Whilst approximately 5-6% of candidates fail their first examination, most who resubmit a revised thesis, go on to pass" - was simply an attempt to be helpful and provide some context. The PhD examination process normally includes an oral examination - this requirement was instigated in 2014. The oral examination is not assessed as pass or fail, but rather the PhD examination (of which the oral is a component) is marked as pass (with minor corrections or amendments) or fail (revise and resubmit or award another degree or no degree awarded). For candidates revising and resubmitting their thesis, at the second examination the candidate can pass (again with minor corrections or amendments)) or fail (but this time only with the recommendation for the award of another degree or no degree awarded).

I trust this follow-up response is clearer.

I note your right to seek a review of these decisions via a complaint to an Ombudsman. However, we would welcome the opportunity to discuss any concerns with you first.

Kind regards
Mayhaka

Mayhaka Mendis • Manager, Policy and Compliance, Office of the Registrar • Deputy Privacy Officer • Te Whare Wānanga o Ōtākou, University of Otago • P.O Box 56, Dunedin • Tel +64 3 479 8993

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From: Morteza

Dear Mayhaka,
Thank you for your response. However, I remain dissatisfied with it as I do need the exact number of failed (i.e. outright failure) PhDs in 2019. I note your claims about the privacy of concerned natural person(s) in this regard; however, I believe such an argument is irrelevant to this case and as such your rationale appears to be unfounded.
Please note that I have made similar requests to the other seven universities in Aotearoa New Zealand and I have been receiving clear responses accordingly.
Please be advised that I have made a formal complaint to the Ombudsman Office as you have maintained your position to withhold the information. Nevertheless, I still welcome your reply should you be willing to provide the specified number of failed PhDs (i.e. outright failure) in 2019.
Kind regards,
Morteza.

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Things to do with this request

Anyone:
University of Otago only: