Strange Circumstances

At the start of the year, having a viva conducted over video would have seemed strange. It certainly wasn’t typical. Now, it’s pretty much the only way they’re happening.

It’s normal to have just two examiners and you present – except when it’s not! Some universities have independent chairs in the room as part of their regulations, some departments regularly invite supervisors as observers as part of their practice. It’s normal to expect examiners to have PhDs as well, but sometimes they don’t.

Your viva, by itself, as an event, might seem strange to you. Unusual. Not the… normal way of doing things. It will certainly be different. Some of the strangeness may be coming from the formality, from the process, from the examiners, from the expectations. Some of it may be coming from you.

If the regulations say X, Y and Z but your situation doesn’t fit, you most likely will not be the first person to have encountered this difference. Vivas over video are normal now, but they were happening before the pandemic. They’re far more likely, at least for a time, but leaving aside the pressure of sudden changes, there were plenty of people around who could share experience of doing vivas over video.

Whatever your circumstances, strange or otherwise, if you need help to unpick what you could do or how you could act, there are people who can help. Check regulations, ask your graduate school, ask your supervisors, colleagues and friends. Ask me!

I think it’s normal for the viva to feel strange.