Why Might You Have An Independent Chair?

It could be that you have an independent chair at your viva; they would be a member of staff from your university. Their role in the viva would be, largely, to observe what happens.

There are lots of reasons you might have an independent chair:

  • Their presence could be part of the regulations for your university.
  • It may be part of the culture for your department to have one.
  • One of your examiners might be a fairly new academic and so it’s been thought to be good to have an experienced member of staff present.
  • It may even be that your viva has been randomly selected to be observed, so that your institution can be confident that vivas are being held in an appropriate way!

There are lots of reasons you might have one, but no bad ones: an independent chair is there to watch and to make sure that the viva is going well. They won’t have read your thesis. They won’t ask you any questions. They will make sure the process is fair.

An extra person in the room might add to nerves, but really the best thing you can do is check far in advance what the situation will be or might be for your viva. Then you can do anything you need to do in order to be comfortable on the day.

In The Chair

An independent chairperson for the viva can be really valuable. They act as an impartial observer, recording what happens. They can be a navigator carefully steering examiner or candidate away from fruitless discussions. They don’t decide the outcome but they can help set the tone for a good viva.

And not every viva has one. If you don’t, then your internal examiner takes on some of these responsibilities. They’ll make sure your viva is fair.

Is there a chair or not for your viva? Find out. One situation isn’t better than the other – they’re just different. Knowing as much as you can about what to expect can help settle your mind that your viva really is going to be fine.