Expectations & Exceptions

Viva experiences and stories give rise to consistent patterns of expectation. There are always exceptions though. Regulations can be slightly different, the culture of a department could ask for a different format or a candidate’s research itself could be outside of what’s typical.

  • Vivas in the UK have two examiners, apart from the ones that, for very specific reasons, have three or more.
  • Viva examiners are academics – unless your external is an experienced but non-academic expert.
  • Vivas always take place in seminar rooms – well until relatively recently and now video vivas are an established option!

Vivas are often in the two to three hour range, but they can be shorter or longer. Most people get minor corrections but some don’t. It’s always a good idea to take your own refreshments but there are universities which make sure their vivas are catered.

Viva expectations are helpful, but always look for whether or not any exceptions might apply to your situation. Talk with friends, colleagues and your supervisor in the first instance so that you can build certainty. Whatever the possible exception, remember that the purpose of the viva is always the same. Remember what you and your examiners are there to do.