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Viva by video conference - guidance for staff

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Vivas may be held fully online, in person or with one or more parties joining remotely. It is not necessary to receive approval from the Doctoral College prior to making arrangements for the video conference.

Guidance on conducting vivas by video conference is provided below. University expectations in relation to the conduct of oral examinations is available in the Part III.6 of the Guide to Examinations for Higher Degrees by Research.

Guidance for students is also available.

Agreement to hold viva by video conference

All parties to the examination: the student, examiners and examination advisor (if appointed) need to confirm that they are happy for the viva to go ahead by video conference – confirmation emails from all parties should be sent to for record keeping purposes.

Prior to agreeing to participate by video conference, all parties should consider whether they have suitable equipment allowing audio and video communication, a reliable internet connection and access to an appropriate private location, free from any distractions or interruptions for the duration of the viva. The student should also be aware that, should they agree to participate by video conference, the decision to use a video conferenced format for the viva cannot be used as grounds for an appeal.

Departments are strongly advised to consider appointing an examination advisor, if one has not already been appointed, particularly if the internal examiner does not have experience of conducting meetings by video conference. In addition to the usual duties of the examination advisor, the advisor should be responsible for ensuring that the student is not disadvantaged due to the format of the viva, attempting to resolve any technical issues and stopping the viva at any point they deem necessary due to technical issues.

Practical considerations

The viva should be scheduled at a time that is reasonable in relation to the time zone in which the student is located, if not currently in the UK.

Any presentation that the student is expected to make as part of the viva should be provided in advance to the examination advisor (if appointed) or internal examiner to ensure that all parties have access.

The examination advisor (if appointed) or internal examiner should verify the student’s identity. Candidates are advised to have their student ID card to hand

Technological considerations

Any video conference should be held on a secure platform supported by AV Services. AV Services can provide assistance in this respect. However, consideration can also be given to other platforms which support video and audio communication if participants are more experienced in using these. If participants are unable to agree on the application that should be used, the viva should be postponed.

It is recommended that all participants test the proposed platform in advance of the scheduled time of the viva.

The examination advisor/internal examiner should ensure that they have alternative contact details for all parties e.g. email address/telephone number to use in the event of technical issues.

If there is a connectivity failure during the viva, attempts should be made to reconnect immediately. In the event of prolonged loss or poor quality of connection, the viva should be stopped with all parties notified by alternative means of communication e.g. telephone, email.

The decision as to whether a viva should be stopped due to technical issues should be made by the examination advisor, where appointed. If an examination advisor has not been appointed, this is the responsibility of the internal examiner.

In the event that a viva has to be stopped due to technical issues, the examiners and examination advisor (if appointed) should convene by alternative means (telephone/email) to discuss whether a decision can be reached based on the student’s performance up to that point, or if it is necessary to reconvene. If it is agreed that the viva should be reconvened this should be at a mutually agreeable time for all parties. The decision should be communicated to the student as soon as possible.

Examiners’ recommendation

It will be necessary for the student to leave the video conference to allow the examiners to discuss their performance and agree on a recommendation. The examination advisor/internal examiner should explain the process to the student and give an indication of the time and means by which they will be contacted to re-join the discussion.

The examination advisor (if appointed) must be present while the examiners discuss the student’s performance and reach their recommendation to advise on University regulations.

Examiners should ensure that their recommendation is based solely on the quality of the thesis and the student’s performance and not any issues relating to the format of the viva.

The examiner’s recommendation should be communicated to the student as soon as is practically possible. Should there be a delay in communicating the decision, the student should be advised of the reason and expected timescale as soon as possible.

The examination advisor (if appointed) should be present when the examiners communicate their recommendation to the student.