Good viva, bad result


I was just wondering if anyone on here had had a similar experience to mine. I have just completed (what I thought was) a 7-year PT PhD whilst working as a laboratory technician at a UK uni. I had a terribly stressful time getting my thesis submitted as after all that time, I obviously wanted to make sure I passed and wanted to ensure it was as good as possible.
So I submitted eventually on the understanding from my supervisor that the project, the chapters I had put together and the thesis were of the standard to warrant a PhD. Supervisor was concerned about me passing the viva as I am not the most vocal of people so in the run-up we had hours of viva question practice to prepare and by the day itself, I was feeling confident.

So I went through the viva (2 3/4 hours), answered almost all of the questions they asked me about my thesis, wasn't grilled about any particular aspect and by the time we had worked through all the things they wanted to ask about the thesis I was feeling relieved and confident that I had done enough to pass, with major corrections at the very least, particularly when the external said 'Thank you, you've taken us through your thesis very well'.

Imagine my shock and devastation when I was called back in to be told that I hadn't reached the required standard for a PhD according to the university guidelines and that I was being recommended for an MPhil as there was not enough evidence of originality or that I had driven the project forward (was asked one question on each which I assumed i had answered adequately) and that I was not sure where the work would go in the future. I was asked nothing about this during the exam, and was only asked about this after the event, when I was in a state of shock and probably couldn't have answered my own name.

Has this happened to anyone else?


I have known sb that after several years in the phd program, finally got Mphil, even after big correction. I already decided to quit the phd since I am a mother, no time and have no desire to be an academia.
Did your supervisors said anything?


I think if they decided to give you that degree you can move on your desire degreeby approaching another uni. if you have MPhil you will need only 2 years for full-time or some more for part-time ( check with university guidelines). It is very important who is your examiners are. Dont get upset. I am working on my correction and have got a feelings that my corrected version will throw by the examiner- then what happen? Life is ups and downs. if you really want that degree just need 2 more stairs.
Take a breadth - and think wisely and stragically. you will get it.
Stay positive!



Hi plantclean, thanks for your reply. My supervisor has said very little except that he is sorry and we will have to wait for the report before the next step. He did seem surprised though so I don't think he had any idea it would go that way. I'll just have to wait and see what happens.

Thanks Uttara, I am trying to stay positive and sort of believe that all things happen for a reason. It's just so difficult when you put all that work in and you think everything's going to be fine and it isn't. I'm sure something will work out in the end.


I think you can appeal if you want to. Maybe discuss this with your supervisor if you both feel you the work you have done warrants a PhD not an mPhil



I would in the first instance speak to someone from your SU / Admin / Graduate School about your possible options, such as the appeals procedure.


What a rotten thing to happen. Do you consider you did one (or more) of the following;

1. State explicitly on your abstract that the "novelty of the research is..."
2. State in your introduction or conclusion chapter a specific section titled "originality"
3. Give a presentation in your viva with the originality clearly declared.
4. Be asked for that elevator pitch 2 sentences as to what your research is all about.
5. Failing all of these, did you feel that you declared and defended the originality of your work.

Without at least one of these, the work is on the examiner to tease out the originality, rather than be presented with it explicitly and therefore ticking one of the boxes required of the exam.

If you consider you presented originality, and can show/explain why, it sounds like ground for appeal.

Did your supervisor not sit in the viva?

HTH, best of luck.


Hi mocktortoise,

I'm so sorry to hear of the verdict. In my case I was grilled for 2.5 hours (the internal didn't like my argument and neither did the external) but to my shock they passed me with minor corrections. In your case, I think you should appeal: if they did not ask you about where you see the project in the future, how can they possibly use that to determine the outcome (whether pass or fail)?? It defies logic.

I'm just curious in the viva (which is long as I can tell) did you discuss what makes your work unique?? That was the first question they asked me. What did you discuss if you don't mind me asking? Also I'm assuming if you had a theoretical framework on which to base your research then surely you can identify the original contribution?

DrStrangelove is right: if you consider you presented originality then appeal. In fact, I'd say appeal on the basis of my 1st paragraph- it may take a while but it's surely better than just leaving it at that and getting the MPhil. I have a colleague who failed his viva but apparently it only lasted 30 minutes and they made it clear that they did not like it (he was told that this is 'unworthy material', which is harsh). Your situation is uncommon and calls for action in my view.