Not To Plan

Vivas have institutional regulations, general expectations and local norms from recurring practice within departments all over the UK. Together these describe a picture of what any candidate can reasonably expect. The picture is a bit blurry in places but there’s a reasonable sense of what a viva is supposed to be like.

Individual candidates can have logistical expectations too. Examiner A and Examiner B are nominated and approved. Date and location are set. Preparations are completed, confidence builds and all is right with the world.


Then something happens.

In spring 2020 that something might have been a sudden shift to a video viva.

Or an examiner having to postpone or cancel the week before viva day.

Or through miscommunication it could be that the start time is not what was expected.

When things don’t go to plan, as viva expectations of all kinds collide with viva reality, what do you do? What can you do?


You ask for help. Whatever is driving the change of plans you ask for help, because it won’t solely be your problem to resolve. Talk to your supervisor, your director of postgraduate studies or someone in your graduate school. There will be a friendly face. They will listen. They will help.

The change will then become part of your expectations. A new examiner. A new date. A short delay or a moment or two while you adjust to a different video software.

Remember: things don’t have to go completely according to plan for you to succeed at your viva.