I am wondering, because she is the only one in the department who is specialised in the area I worked in. But then also she worked with me, so she will recognise the things I've written - apart from that there is probably noone else who tackled exactly my topic.

How is fairness ensured here? It does not seem possible to mark this anonymously really?

  • 7
    Your question makes me wonder: In which grading processes is there a guarantee of anonymity? From exams in elementary and secondary school, over exams at the university, all the way to undergraduate and graduate thesis defenses, I cannot think of any - although things might be different in the UK compared to my place. Sep 6, 2016 at 11:15
  • 2
    @O.R.Mapper at least in some UK universities, exams are graded anonymously, and even by three independent graders.
    – Davidmh
    Sep 6, 2016 at 14:16
  • Why wouldn't it be fair? What specifically are you concerned about? If you can edit your question to explain what specifically your concern is, that would make this a better question -- one that would admit more focused, useful answers. For instance, some might consider familiarity with your work to enable more accurate marking, not worse. Is that what you're worried about, or something else?
    – D.W.
    Sep 6, 2016 at 20:37

3 Answers 3


On the topic of anonymous marking. Dissertations/theses are rarely, if ever anonymised, because students and their topics are easily visible.

What you are asking is really a matter of Quality Assurance, which will depend on the assessment policy relating to Master's theses at your department/institution.

It is worth saying that the bias you mention (of a supervisor's familiarity with your work and writing influencing their assessment of it) is recognized.

In my experience, to mitigate bias one of two actions are taken:

  1. The assessment is double-marked, once by the supervisor and once by a second marker. Any difference in marks are then discussed and agreed.
  2. The assessment would be marked by someone not related to your project at all, and it may also be double-marked by someone else.

For Master's theses, at least from what I have seen, the subject specialism and expertise of the assessor is less essential than it would be in doctoral study, so I would expect an assessor with good familiarity with the subject to be able to satisfactorily mark it.

Also, in the UK, all assessments are ratified by a Board of Examiners who have the power to alter marks at their judgement. The External Examiner in this Board would also have the power to read your dissertation and agree/disagree with the mark awarded - they, and the rest of the Board, won't necessarily be experts in the subject to the degree that your supervisor is.


It's worth pointing out that the evaluation of MS/MA theses in the US is typically up to a committee of faculty headed by the advisor. If the committee approves the thesis (typically by signing a form), then you get to graduate. They don't typically assign a grade to the thesis.


Bachelor and master theses are never graded anonymously, at least not to my knowledge. Usually your grade is not only determined by the thesis you submit, but to some extent also by your engagement, initiative and the general quality of work you delivered.

Here at my university in Germany it is common practice that the supervisor (usually a PhD student) proposes a grade to the supervising professor who in turn has the final word.

To the last part of your questions: In a perfect world there is no need to ensure fairness, because you will get a grade according to your performance. In reality, there can be differences with your supervisor of professor. If you think your supervisor treats you unfairly, you should carefully approach your supervising professor. You should have evidence, because such accusations are kind of serious and can get people in trouble.

If you think your professor graded you unfairly.. well, this is difficult. To my knowledge, there is not much you can do about that. But I can only think of your professor letting you fail the thesis as the only situation where you want to complain. If your grade is just bad, maybe your professor has a different reasoning or opinion on what makes a good thesis, which is his/her right as supervisor. This can be avoided by clearing general issues beforehand.

Edit: Just as a remark: Everything I said applies to what I know from engineering and similar sciences. It can be totally different in e.g. social sciences, about which I don't know much.

  • 1
    "To my knowledge, there is not much you can do about that." - well, there usually needs to be an internal report ("Gutachten") about the student's thesis work, which is the foundation for the grade. For a start, the student can request to read/hear about that report and discuss it with the professor who was the official examiner. That way, concrete pros and cons written down by those involved in the grading process can be addressed, rather than a vague feeling of being graded unfairly. Sep 6, 2016 at 11:12
  • @O.R.Mapper This is a good point. I didn't know about this, since I never heard of anyone who had to do this.
    – Ian
    Sep 6, 2016 at 11:15
  • In my experience, it's usually the supervising PhD candidate who writes that report after the thesis has been submitted. The student who wrote the thesis usually doesn't learn about that unless they are interested enough to ask what is happening next. I am not sure whether the examiner professor will write a report of their own, or whether they just confirm what is stated in the supervisor's report. Sep 6, 2016 at 11:18

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