A Story For Anyone Who Has Had The External From Hell


Hello all.

I thought I would share this joyous story with my dear old friends and supporters on the Postgraduate Forum.

Feel free to have a read through my old posts which I will term 'the long road to insanity'. Long story short, I had the external examiner from hell who did everything she could to stop me from being awarded my doctorate. We had a different ideological stance on my research topic which ended up being a nightmare and saw me go through 3 rounds of revisions post-viva even though this went against university policy. Anyway, in the end I won and she lost but that joyous ending sounds far too simplistic for the hell I (and my family) endured.

But onto my happy story...

I've had my PhD for almost 2 years now and still smile every day because the battle is over. So when I saw that my external was presenting at a conference as the keynote speaker, I decided to go along and take a front row seat. I'm pretty sure she recognised me as she did a double take but - having only met her in person once back in 2014 - there's no telling if she would have remembered what I looked like. But I stared her out throughout her whole keynote speech. All I wanted was to be there as 'Dr faded07' and celebrate (in the confines of my mind) that I was in a room with her and I had my PhD!!

But the best part was that the many people I spoke to at this conference were highly disappointed with her speech. Although, to be fair, she delivered it well, she refused to acknowledge the counter-argument to her topic (which was basically my argument) and the general consensus was that her research was too simplistic and ignored important issues of human rights and exploitation...[read on below]



The fact that all these delegates who brought their own valuable academic and real-world insights to the table verified to me (without realising it) that I had every right to fight for an opposing ideological stance buried a lot of PhDemons for me!!

Even though I have my PhD now, the torment of what my external put me through has left a lasting impact on my own self-worth in terms of whether I'm good enough to be an academic. As I am older, wiser and tougher now, I genuinely have few f***s left to give. I am a good lecturer because I take the time to listen, understand, support and encourage people. And if they get it wrong, I will spend more time with them - so long as they are willing to put the work in. I will not denigrate, belittle and demotivate people. That's not what being in academia/teaching should ever be about.

So to all you PhD'ers out there - congratulations to those who pass their viva's with no corrections or with minors. You obviously worked incredibly hard, probably had great supervisors and had the highly undermined gift of luck on your side.

To the rare PhD'ers like me - if the Gods of the academe are against you - even though you're giving everything you can give - DON'T GIVE UP.

One day, years from now, you'll be in a room and realise that the big scary academic beasts are worth very little outside of their ivory towers. And it feels great...:)


Do we have any kind of upvote system in here? Kudos to the poster for this positive and encouraging post. :)

Avatar for rewt

Yeah that must feel nice to get back. And massive kudos for posting of your success despite it all because I usually hear awful stories on this forum.

Though why do some universities choose such flawed external advisors? Your external was obviously invested in an idea/approach that ran in competition with your work. They were clearly not assessing your thesis as a work towards a PhD but the assessing idea itself. This does prove that you are able to defend your work even against your critics but your idea should not be attcaked in such a manner during a viva. A less invested and more impartial external would be far more critical examiner.

I know a viva should be hard but sometimes I think it is made far more difficult than is appropriate. A well written and meticulous thesis is worth a PhD even if the wider community disagrees with the content.


Wow, this is a great post Faded! So inspirational! Glad you had the courage to sit in the front row and it must be so satisfying knowing others agree with your opinions. We definitely need an upvote system :)


Cheers Faded! Great account!