PhD not awarded



First-time poster here and reaching out for advice.

A few weeks ago, I received the outcome of my PhD corrections. Despite awarding me my PhD with minor corrections at the viva, my external examiner has now refused to award me my PhD.

During the viva, the external had raised some questions about my findings and believed I had made a mistake somewhere. They suggested ways of double-checking my analysis to find the root of the problem. I was obviously quite concerned and my correction period was mostly spent trying to figure out where I had gone wrong. After many sleepless nights and going through the suggestions the external had proposed, I found out that I hadn’t made a mistake and that my findings were correct. I double-checked these with several people in case I had overlooked something, but they assured me that I hadn’t made a mistake.

In my response to the corrections, I provided further analysis (some of which had been requested by the external) and further evidence to support this. My internal examiner commended me for my thorough work. The external, however, wrote a very lengthy response dismissing every piece of evidence I had provided and stated that they still believe that my findings cannot be correct, despite not providing any concrete evidence for this. On this basis, they decided not to award me my PhD, and to make matters worse, I later heard that they were willing to award me my PhD as long as I don’t publish any work from it. This is obviously an option I have not chosen to take, but it has made me think that they are trying to censor me.

As you can probably imagine, I am furious. My supervisor has been incredibly supportive and we are now discussing further options. I know I’ll get there in the end. However, I was wondering if anyone has had a similar experience and if you can offer any advice. I’m thinking of taking the matter further, but I'm not sure what would be the best course of action to take. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Avatar for rewt

Hi Just_eve,

Woaw! I have never heard of anyone in your situation. It really does sound like your external orchestrated a hit job on your work. That attempt to block any publications is such an obvious attack. This is not normal circumstances as examiners are supposed to accept well founded corrections and not use corrections to re-review your work. I can completely understand you being furious.

I hate to say this but have you considered; withdrawing it, taking a revise and resubmit and starting over with a new external but same thesis? My understanding of PhDs in the UK is that your require an external examiner to approve it and your department can't approve it by themselves (unless it is honorary). It might just be easier to give up on this external if they won't approve and try again. I know it is even more frustrating but sometimes people cannot be swayed.


I agree with rewt, this is a highly unusual situation. Given that your external seems to have no intention of passing you, I agree with rewt's advice in order to get a new examiner. If you are a member of a union (UCU, NUS, your university's union), they might also be worth talking to.


Thank you for your reply and your advice, rewt - it's very much appreciated. Yes, I am thinking of withdrawing the thesis and re-starting the examination process. The thought of going through the viva again and having to choose a new external is filling me with dread though. I'm so worried this will happen again, but I also appreciate that this is a rare occurrence and that it's unlikely.


Thanks for your reply PheonixFortune :). I have thought about going to the union, but I'm honestly not sure what they'd be able to do or whether they've ever had any experience of this. I will get in touch with them though.