All of us have faced unexpected challenges in this period.  This particularly includes doctoral students close to their viva examination.  In these trying times it has been more important than ever to listen to the student experience and for others, ourselves included, to act on and take notice of what they have to say.

Meet Linda, Daniel and Abdussalam, three of our PhD students who have researched in very different disciplines at SHU.  They were all preparing for doctoral vivas in March this year when their plans were changed at the very last-minute – they suddenly had to go into lockdown and reconcile themselves to the prospect of a now ‘remote viva’.  From having to create a suitable office space in their home to the added worries of technical setup and connection issues, these students had to address a whole new set of challenges associated with adjusting to this new style of examination.

In interviews with the PhD Perspective Team, undertaken after each had successfully “passed” their vivas, they kindly shared their stories, and reflected on how they felt about this important milestone event.  From these interviews, we discovered that all three went through very similar experiences, including overall enjoyment, despite the usual pre-viva nerves, technical rehearsals, and planning the set-up of their makeshift offices.

We share these here, so as to provide a supportive reference point for all those currently preparing for their own remote viva.

To hear more about the new emergency measures that SHU has implemented to ease the transition from face-to-face to remote doctoral vivas check out the interview recently conducted with Professor Doug Cleaver, the director of the University’s Doctoral School.  Additionally, we recommend guidance documents on remote vivas (for institutions and for students) which have been produced by the UK Council for Graduate Education (UKCGE) to view these, click here.

Do you want to hear more about the viva experience?  Checkout the Our Viva Experience video by the PhD Perspective team.

PhD Perspective, created by Ronak Janani and Alex Scrimshire and directed by senior administrator, Esther Lau, is a project designed to provide guidance and support to current and future PhD students, from the perspective of those who have gone through the experience once before.