The public PhD viva

In his article in the Times Higher on 22nd October, UCL’s Professor of Chemical Engineering and Head of the Doctoral School, David Bogle, examines the concept of the public PhD viva.  While common practice across the Continent, opening up a PhD viva to the public is not something we tend to do in the UK.  Initially sceptical, he says it’s time to discuss seriously the idea of “throwing open the doors of the UK viva”, owing to the international nature of doctoral standards and increasing PhD student mobility.  “The great advantage of having an audience,” says David,  “is that it allows the public to see that scientific debate is thorough, and that standards are high”. He does, however acknowledge the additional effort and cost involved, together with a need for training for examiners. What do you think?

Read the article


  1. Peter Ross says

    I have been an examiner in public vivas abroad, sometimes time-limited, and it tends to be a family-and-friends affair. Although I support the general concept of openness, it is important to remember that such vivas are not the main event: typically, where a public viva is a feature, there may well have been months of back-and-forth discussion between examiners and candidate about changes, sometimes substantial, that then get made before the public viva. It seems likely to me that public vivas would come to be seen as ‘show trials’. In terms of public engagement, an alternative might be an obligatory public lecture or web posting by the candidate (and supporter, for the nervous/shy/tongue-tied) plus publication of the names of the examiners.

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