Yeah they would my supervisor was telling me the other day, that because universities are marked down if someone does not submit within 4 years. He has put people into a viva knowing that it needed major corrections or may even fail. Which was not the best thing to hear from my supervisor who I have just started working with!!
I was talking to a PhD examiner the other day and he was in one viva were they all agreed that it was a fail, but the university did not want them around anymore as they were so bad. They knew the person would not have an academics career, and so they just passed them without corrections to get rid of them. This was in one of the top universities in the country aswell!! I was quite surprised but apparently that is more common than people think.
Guess there is laods that goes in in Viva's that no-one really knows about. I have just started so just two things that I heard which surprised me.
That is absolutely awful and should not be happening anywhere! I had a bit more faith in the system than that.
If anyone knows of anywhere that does this then you should make a complaint or raise a concern. This should not be happening. We aren't #2 in the world for nothing!
Speaking personally, when I was writing my thesis, I sent my supervisors chapters as I went along, then the whole product. Therefore I had a pretty good idea well in advance of my viva that I had a product that should pass. In fact, they wouldn't let anyone submit a thesis in our school, unless it was up to spec.
I must admit, I thought such checks and balances were pretty universal nowadays (at least in the UK, though not sure where you are). What has your supervisor said about your work? They should really be on the ball and be giving you proper and timely feedback. If you've had no feedback, you need to get it. Despite the elitist and nonchalant act a lot of academics put on, supervisors do have a very real interest in their PhD students passing. It is nonetheless natural to feel nervous about the viva. After all, the result of three or four years of demanding work is decided in just a few hours. But you probably have a gut feeling (?). And if the thesis is good enough and YOU did the work, you'll pass.
Montanita: That's extremely disturbing. I'm tempted to hypothesise that your supervisor was blowing smoke to spur you into action from the outset. It's not something I've ever heard of, though I wouldn't be entirely surprised to learn it does happen in some quarters. But I guess that's why a number of countries have "open vivas", i.e. the public can come and watch!
Some of those open vivas are just for show though - they have that concept in Italy for example, and I've been told it's unheard of to fail when you get to the viva stage... in fact, the graduation ceremony is directly after the viva, so that kind of says it all really!
Different countries have different ways of conducting a viva. I have a friend whose Portuguese procedure - lecture, intense questioning, all in front of an audience and all in his second language (English) at the request of his Portuguese 'superiors;' - was insane, and caused my supervisor, who was his advisor in the UK, to baulk at the system. In the UK, it's much gentler, and if you have a good supervisor, he/she will not encourage submission unless it's in a position to be defended with minimal cause for concern. I worked myself up into a frenzy of worry about my viva, but it really was not bad at all. Not enjoyable in the relaxed sense - who could relax 100%? - but with calm and non-aggressive, but still openly, and - crucially - honestly, critical, examiners, they help you to recognise your own inconsistencies or (minor) errors, in exactly the way that a collegiate endeavour that is science (or other academic study) should be. Relax, it'll be fine. Probably.
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