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PhD viva devastation: Revise and resubmit with another viva.

I had my viva yesterday and it was the worst afternoon of my life. After a gruelling 90 minutes, the examiners withdraw to discuss.

The lead up to the viva has been chaotic. My supervisors and I identified an external examiner based overseas in May, and an internal examiner from my institution. On the day of my submission in August I was told that the external examiner has never examined a PhD before and thus a further examiner be appointed in addition. I expressed my nervousness with three examiners. We managed to identify a third, that day, who is a very distinguished person in this field.

With one examiner based overseas, lining up a time and date took a while. One was eventually identified. However, I saw that they had switched out my internal examiner without telling me. I queried this, then 10 minutes later got an email informing me the internal was unwell and we would need to postpone. Urgh.

Eventually a new date was found and the viva held yesterday. I’d already had a mock, in October, which went well.

My supervisors seemed confident in me. My secondary supervisor said he’d be gobsmacked if I got anything beyond minors, and my primary said some level of corrections likely.

However, yesterday, the examiners really took issue with the structure of my work, including my methodology and the fact I included the theoretical framework in the methodology.

The internal examiner seemed very preoccupied by this. Then the external mentioned “when you are revising…” The other two examiners interrupted her and the chair stepped in to say this wasn’t the part of the exam where recommendations were given. I texted my supervisor who was listening in off camera to ask whether this was a resubmit and they said no, rather they were likely talking about when I revise the thesis and turn it into a manuscript for publication. I also asked the chair and they said no decisions had been made pre-viva.

When I was called into the room and given the news, I was horrified. As was my supervisor. The rest is a blur, though I did ask why revise rather than major. The internal examiner said it gives me the best chance of passing as with major, the corrections go to him only, and he can fail them. They’ve also asked me for another viva.

I feel devastated, humiliated, ashamed, sick. I didn’t sleep last night and the sense of loss is catastrophic. I’ve done this work part-time in addition to a demanding job - this has been my life for the past 6+ years.

I wrote to my secondary supervisor and course director, who are both surprised. My options seem to be revise and have another viva, look into withdrawing with MPhil, withdraw altogether, or approach a new institution.

I’m too raw and hurt to make a proper decision, but would appreciate any advice or shared experiences as I get through this devastating period.