External cancelled my viva :(


Very bad news :(

Due to the length of my thesis, my external examiner has refused to examine my thesis and has therefore cancelled my viva. My viva was supposed to take part in less than 2 weeks.

This has to be a really bad sign and a high probability of a PhD fail!

I'm really disappointed and upset!


I feel for you, I really do. I'm not sure what I can say apart from could this give you some space to reduce the word count in your thesis? Apologies if that's a stupid question. Be sure to talk to your supervisors ASAP as they'll know what's best.

Do take care,


I'm really sorry to hear that as I know you have been preparing for it for the last while. Hopefully your department and supvs will be able to give you guidance as to what to do next. As Delta says, maybe it could be a chance for you to shorten it.

Really hope things get sorted out for you, Pineapple


Yes speak to your supervisors and see what happens next.

Is your thesis way too long? If so maybe this will give you a chance to shorten it. And that may not be a bad thing.

But contact your supervisors urgently to see what happens next.

Good luck!


======= Date Modified 19 Mar 2011 20:43:10 =======
Thanks guys. Well it states on the official uni letter that my supervisors need to find a completely new external examiner and one who is prepared to mark a very lengthy thesis. I was over the word limit by around 25,000-30,000 words so I understand the rejection, but I simply ran out of time to cut it all down. I was an ESRC student which perhaps explains the pressure to submit. I submitted shortly after September 2010.

Judging by this wait, it could take months to find someone new.

I feel embarrassed, humiliated and ashamed of myself. Reading between the lines- perhaps my examiner felt the corrections were too extensive, or it was simply cancelled to save the department from a failed PhD.

Why did they let it get this far or let me submit?? they knew it was a very long thesis :(
I've just completely lost the will to live and keep going! :$

I've delayed looking for jobs in order to prepare for this viva- a COMPLETE waste of my time.


======= Date Modified 19 Mar 2011 20:40:58 =======
A cancelled viva doesn't spare your department from ramifications. Funding councils go on completion rates. So if you don't complete (and that means successfully pass your viva and come out with a PhD) within a certain timescale ESRC will penalise your department. So they will want you to pass, and should endeavour to work towards that end.

If you feel really really low please contact the Samaritans. Phone them. But don't be so low you think about doing anything silly.

Meanwhile give yourself a chance to take the news in. And contact your supervisors on Monday.

Personally I would also be looking for a job. You could start doing that on Monday too.


======= Date Modified 19 Mar 2011 21:01:43 =======
Thanks Bilbo. I'm definitely not suicidal and I've got great friends around me. I'm just losing my patience and drive to continue on with this PhD. Wondering if i' m flogging a dead horse here! Maybe I should just cut my losses and just quit! :$ well maybe not that drastic (but that's how I feel at the mo!) :-(


Glad you've got good support around you.

I wouldn't quit though. At the very least see if your department can find a suitable replacement examiner. You have nothing to lose by doing that.

In the meantime look for work, even short-term work to bring in some money.

And look after yourself. In a way the pressure is off you a bit now, even if you'd rather have got it out of the way. So do take the chance to have a bit of a breather.


I wouldn't read too much into it - it could well be that he really hasn't got the time to read it with all the other work he has going on, rather than him having read it and decided that corrections would be too extensive. Mind you, I don't understand why it's taken him this long to decide that it's too long, very poor time management on his part.

I'm sure everything will work out - I know your supervisors have been less than supportive in the past, but I don't understand why they would let you submit if they genuinely thought that you wouldn't get your PhD. Don't let all the viva prep drive you mad. Before my viva, I spoke to several people in my department who had already done theirs on how they prepared. Responses ranged from "I read every paper I could find" to "I read half of my thesis and got pissed off and stopped". You know so much more than you think, and you are the expert on the work you have done. There will be many questions that you can't anticipate, because you would never think of asking them,as you have done the work.

Avatar for sneaks

hey Pineapple, as others have said, I'm sure its not the quality of your thesis that is the problem - its probably that your external just hasn't got time at the mo (or maybe they didn't feel expert enough to examine it!)

I've had several people in my department hand in long, long theses - the guideline in my area is about 3 studies, some people have handed in 6-7 studies. And because of the quantity of work those people have passed with no amendments - all of them! I think its not only the quality of the work, but because of the length it is clear to the examiners that 'this is a PhD' - the quantity of work makes it impossible for them to say anything less i.e. like its an MPhil or anything. Which is why I'm a bit scared because I feel like I've done 2.5 studies!


======= Date Modified 20 Mar 2011 08:27:35 =======
Hi Pineapple29, the guidelines in my Uni says 100,000 words max., but if you are overworded you can apply to Registry and explain why you cannot cut any text. As far as I know they never refused a thesis on the basis that it was too long, and if your Uni accepted it I cannot see why it should be a problem for your external. So do not be too upset about this. A different external may be a good thing, although it may take more time to achieve your goal.
It is also in the interest of your department that things go well, so do get in touch with your supervisors and talk with them about possible options. And I agree with BB, start to look for a job and try to divert your attention to something else, although I know that it's easier said than done.


Oh Pineapple, I'm so so sorry to hear this, you must be totally gutted. I don't really have any advice, other than to say I'm totally gutted for you, I've been following your progress and was really hoping it would all come out ok for you soon! I would say though not to read too much into it, it would be that your examiner is really just too busy to read it all or spend the appropriate amount of time on it, which could be a good thing, if it's that extensive it should be unlikely to fail. I know it's getting tired to hear, but do just keep your head up, keep thinking positive and you will get there. Maybe take this as an opportunity to take a decent break from it all for a while until they find a new examiner, maybe leaving the work and viva prep for a while will help keep some perspective on it all, and you'll come back to it with fresh eyes which is always good for viva prep.

Good luck.


Thanks for the replies everyone.

Thank you for pointing out that this cancellation may be due to my external examiners workload- I did not factor that as a possibility. I know the admin lady said on numerous occasions that both my examiners are extremely busy academics and I know from conversations with my supervisor, that my external examiner takes some time to respond to emails which also suggests a very busy academic.

Given the amount of errors throughout- even though I've spent some time working on my acknowledged omissions/limitation sections and ways to improve my thesis, I still can't help but that think this cancellation was due to the quality of my thesis :( I still feel totally deflated and demoralised and I feel like I've failed.

I've had so many PhD related hiccups along the way, I was sort of expecting some sort of problem before the viva. I've had in the back of my mind that due to my long and overly rushed thesis, perhaps this viva would not take place anyway, so I was sort of expecting this. My reputation at my uni is probably destroyed beyond belief.

Also another thing, my supervisor said in an email not to worry about the word limit and just concentrate on submitting asap with a view to reduce everything down after the viva, which is what I followed! Also, the university accepted my PhD and started the viva proceedings, knowing full well that this thesis was over the word limit.

I really can't find the strength to contact my supervisors. The letter arrived either Friday or Saturday morning (I was in Birmingham from Thursday and returned on Saturday evening) and was also sent to my supervisors and the PhD director. I think their probably fearing that another external examiner would reject the PhD due to its size. I'm also expecting them to ask me to consider submitting for an MPhil so I can move on. I've always wanted to obtain this PhD eventually, but I feel like I'm losing my internal drive to continue, especially as I've faced numerous setbacks along the way.

Anyway, I'm going to concentrate on finding jobs and I'm also thinking about my career aspirations beyond this PhD.

Thanks for the support everyone. I just want this PhD nightmare to finish sooner rather than later.


Hey Pineapple, I'm so sorry to hear about this, you must be so gutted having built yourself up to thinking that you viva is imminent just to have it cancelled. I don't really know what to say except that you should try not to assume the worst. It's easily done and I would be thinking of all the possible negative reasons it has been cancelled too, but it really might just be something as simple as your external realising that they were not going to have read and thought about your thesis on time for the viva. I really hope you get an alternative examiner sorted out soon and you are not feeling too awful about it all. Best wishes and a big hug, KB


Hi Pineapple, sorry I would have replied sooner but I have not been able to access this thread. I totally feel for you as this must have been an awful thing to read in a letter of all things. I imagine that you do feel deflated and have obviously had a rollercoaster PhD journey. But, please don't give up. There have been some very useful suggestions of why this examiner has decided not to review your thesis, and as previously mentioned, the timing is just diabolical. I am sure that whatever suggestions are made, none of these will make you feel better until you have some direction of this situation. I think that you need to speak with your supervisors about the next step when you are ready.

If you do need to edit the word count, it can be done. I have had to edit 8,000 from my thesis to get just under the 40,000 limit, so a reduction of 20%. It is not easy and was necessary for me as a recent candidate at my uni was rejected by the examiner purely on the word count. I cannot say what happened to that candidate, but I would have thought that an option to edit would have been allowed.

I would try to find out your options and then take a break to reflect on what you want to do.