Viva Examination Outcomes and What They Mean

The University's Regulations Governing Research Degree Programmes set out what decisions your examiners may make following your viva examination.

At the end of your viva exam, your examiners will ask you to leave the room so that they can discuss what recommendation to make. Do not worry if it is some time before you are asked to come back in - your examiners will have a lot to discuss, so it is not a sign that you have done badly if this does take some time.

Most research students who get to this stage are successful and are awarded their degree - try to relax and to stay positive while you wait.

Examiner Decisions

Depending on what type of degree you are registered for, your examiners will make one of the following decisions following your viva examination:

  • to award the degree for which you were examined with distinction (research students examined for the degree of MD)
  • to award the degree for which you were examined
  • to award the degree for which you were examined subject to the satisfactory completion of minor amendments to the thesis
  • to award the degree for which you were examined subject to the satisfactory completion of major amendments to the thesis
  • to refer you for resubmission of the thesis for the same degree as which you were examined
  • to award a degree lower than that for which you were examined (research students examined for the degree of PhD, DSocSci, or EdD)
  • to award a degree lower than that for which you were examined subject to the satisfactory completion of minor amendments to the thesis (research students examined for the degree of PhD or EdD)
  • to refer you for resubmission of the thesis for a degree lower than that for which you were examined (research students examined for the degree of PhD or EdD)
  • to fail the thesis with no right of resubmission

It is only very rarely that examiners decide to award a degree without requiring some amendments to the thesis – in the majority of cases, examiners will decide to award the degree subject to amendments or, in a smaller number of cases, will decide that the research student should be referred for resubmission of the thesis.

Minor Amendments

Being asked to complete minor amendments is the most common outcome of a viva examination. The amendments that you will need to complete will be largely typographical or grammatical and may include corrections to references and/or diagrams and the re-writing of small sections of text.

If your examiners decide that minor amendments are needed, they will explain what these are at the end of the examination. Your examiners will then give you a period of between one to three months to complete the required amendments and submit these to your internal examiner.

Major Amendments

If you are asked to complete major amendments these will be more substantial - they will involve more than typographical and other minor corrections and may include substantial re-writing of parts of the thesis.

If you examiners decide that major amendments are needed, they will following the examination provide you with a written report which indicates what these are. Your examiners will then give you a period of between three to six months to complete the required amendments and submit these to your internal examiner.

Referral for Resubmission

Referral for resubmission means that the examiners are agreed that you need to undertake further research or repeat completed research and/or re-write or restructure large parts of your thesis. While this outcome can be disappointing, it is important to remember that most referred research students do go on to successfully complete their thesis.

Your examiners will give you a referral period of between six and twelve months from the date at which you are provided with the examining team’s post-viva exam report including details as to the changes and corrections required. You must then submit two soft bound copies of your revised thesis to the Graduate School Office.

If you are referred for resubmission of the thesis, a resubmission fee is payable.

If you are referred for resubmission of the thesis, the examining team will decide whether a further viva examination is needed. The decision whether to hold a further viva examination will be taken once the examiners have assessed your resubmitted thesis. On completion of the assessment of the resubmitted thesis, and a further viva examination if one is held, the examiners will jointly make one of the following decisions:

  • to award the degree for which you were examined with distinction (research students examined for the degree of MD)
  • to award the degree for which you were examined
  • to award the degree for which you were examined subject to the satisfactory completion of minor amendments to the thesis
  • to award a degree lower than that for which you were examined (research students examined for the degree of PhD, DSocSci, or EdD)
  • to award a degree lower than that for which you were examined subject to the satisfactory completion of minor amendments to the thesis (research students examined for the degree of PhD or EdD)
  • to fail the thesis with no right of resubmission

Award of a Lower Degree

A lower degree can be awarded if you have not met the requirements for the degree for which you have examined but have met the requirements for a lower degree.

Lower degrees can be awarded only in the case of research students examined for the degree of PhD, DSocSci, or EdD. On these programmes the award of a lower degree is conditional on:

  • the thesis meeting the requirements for the degree of MPhil (research students examined for the degree of PhD or EdD)

or

  • the student having successfully completed the taught components and other programme requirements (research students examined for the degree of DSocSci or EdD)

Research students examined for the degree of DSocSci or EdD and who are awarded a lower degree on the basis of the successful completion of the taught components and other programme requirements, will receive the degree of Master of Social Science or Master of Educational Research.

Clarification of Examiner Comments

If you are required to make minor or major amendments to the thesis or are referred for resubmission of the thesis, you must not contact members of the examining team regarding the changes or corrections required.

Research students who need clarification on any points relating to the changes or corrections required must seek advice from their supervisory team.

Support for Research Students Awarded a Lower Degree or who Fail

These outcomes are uncommon and it is very rare for a thesis to fail at this stage with no possibility of re-submission.

If you are awarded a lower degree or fail, it is important that you seek advice on the options that are available to you. Make time to speak with:

  • your supervisors
  • the Postgraduate Tutor in your School/Department
  • the University's Student Support Service
  • the Students' Union Education Unit

If you are unhappy about the way your viva examination was conducted or the recommendation made by your examiners, please contact the Graduate School Office.

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