The Viva Voce: All postgraduate research students are required to have an oral examination. This requirement may only be waived under extreme circumstances and with the express permission of the College Board. The examining committee comprises one external examiner (or two, where the candidate is a member of academic staff), and two internal examiners, one of whom shall be the convenor of the exam.
The Pre-Viva Seminar: All postgraduate students registered research degrees (i.e. PhD, MPhil, MSc or MD) are required to give a full seminar (lasting approx. 45 min) prior to the oral exam. The examining committee should normally be present, but the seminar does not constitute part of the exam. The examining committee should not ask questions, and the seminar should be chaired by the supervisor or convenor.
Place of the Viva in Assessment: The viva voce examination is part of the examination for a postgraduate research degree but not the whole of it. The remainder is the mature reflection upon the thesis itself by the examiners over the period of time from its submission.
Aims of Viva Voce Examinations: The principal aim of the viva is to determine that the student has performed the work described, has written the thesis him/herself and understands the philosophy behind it.
The aim of the viva voce examination is to provide an opportunity for the examiners to question the candidate on aspects of the thesis. It should be designed to elicit information on any or all of the following issues:
- explanation of the structure of the thesis
- justification for the inclusion or exclusion of material
- explanation for and justification of the use of particular research methods and techniques
- defence of the originality of the thesis
- clarification of any points of ambiguity within the thesis
- justification for the conceptual approach taken in the thesis
- the depth of knowledge of the contextual background to the subject of the thesis
Outcome of the Viva Voce Examination: Before the viva, both the internal and examiner examiners should produce independent reports which should be sent to the convenor. These reports will make preliminary recommendations, which may be different to the post-vivarecommendations. Immediately after the viva, a final report with the recommendations of the examining committee will be prepared, which should be sent to the Student Registry for subsequent consideration and approval by Senate. There are several different possible recommendations that the committee can make, which differ slightly for PhD, MSc and MD.
Further information of the roles and responsibilities of the examining committee can be found in the Code of Practice.