what is practice where you are re . who attends the viva?


Hi all, after some ideas. I'm a student rep on the uni committee that looks at PG policy, and one of the things we have on the agenda is 'personnel in the viva'. Basically looking at whether to have someone in addition to student plus two examiners. Would welcome any info on what happens at other places (don’t need to know which place, obviously) and pros/cons of various scenarios - I realise most people here won't have had the viva yet, but any general impressions, anecdotal evidence or opinions welcome.

In particular:

Anyone have an 'independent chair' or similar? if so what is their remit - do they facilitate, can they only intervene in event of procedural irregularity, or do they just act as observer to be called on later in event of dispute. Are they an academic or someone else eg admin staff.

What is policy re supervisor(s) attending? are they allowed to, excluded, or required to. If allowed, is it encouraged/discouraged/expected/uncommon.

Anyone have any experience of different ways of trying to ensure 'fairness' eg making a tape recording to be called on in event of an appeal.




Well I have not had mine but have been looking at our policy as I am hoping to submit very soon. Our dept has recently introduced the internal chair person also but I am not sure what the remit is to be honest.

With regards to supervisors, they can be present (at my Uni) if you ask but they are obviously not allowed to say anything. It is certainly not practice that they are there though and I don't know of anyone who did have their supervisor present. I would not want it, it would make me even more nervous!

I am not sure that is much help but obviously my Uni is thinking along the same line as yours with the internal chair. I think it sounds a good idea to be honest. I have heard some horror stories and I suppose an additional person would be beneficial if a dispute occurred. The viva itself is not recorded at my Uni.


Sorry, I meant to add that the internal chair is a fellow academic if that is helpful.


Our institution is the same - you can decide whether your supervisor attends

I think promoting the involvement of the student in choosing examiners (particularly internal) would be important - I can think of a few lecturers in my department that I don't want to have anything to do with my PhD and I feel their personal opinion of me would affect their treatment/assessment of me

I like the idea of tape-recording the viva BUT you have the issue of whether this would put off students i.e. would they be more nervous being recorded and so perform worse than if they had not been recorded IYSWIM


My main supervisor attended my viva. I would recommend that students do have a supervisor present, although I understand people feeling nervous at the prospect. However, the supervisor can;
1) Make notes for you, very helpful if there are corrections to be done.
2) Provide emotional support, it's good to know that at least one person in the room is rooting for you!
3) Act as a witness in case of any 'problems'. A friend of mine had a terrible viva in which the examiners acted in a less than professional manner. However, she had no supervisor present to back up her report. Probably if a supervisor had been there, the situation might never have arisen. I am very much in favour of some kind of independent chairperson for this reason.


Thanks Ann, that is really helpful actually as I had not really any thought of any positive aspects of having my supervisor present. I will have a rethink, thank you.


If you do decide to have a supervisor present, you will probably find that you completely forget that they are there as you'll be focussed on the examiners. Good luck for the viva!


I am glad my friends and family can't come to my viva - they'd all pile in!
Hey if we were in canada we could all go with DJW today.


At my university, the supervisor may attend if the student wants him to do it, but he can only take part in the discussion if invited by the examiners.


Thanks for replies everyone, that's really useful. I've been pushing for an independent chair, but the academics are refusing point blank to consider it if they have to do it. We aren't allowed supervisors in the viva, and guess what the academics dont want to change that either. There's a suggestion of having an admin person as 'silent witness' and the more I think about it the more this seems like the worst option. Think we will be in for some more interesting discussions!


aliby, what's their arguement for not allowing supervisors or an independent chair in? I can see that people might not want to give up their time to chair a viva that's unrelated to them, but even that is quite a poor excuse. I can't see why you shouldn't be allowed to have your supervisor present as long as they keep quiet


Laney, it is just a question of time. They get almost hysterical at the thought of another committment.