Viva! (from the other side)

Today was the third viva I’ve been in. The first was my own. The second was about a year ago when I was asked to be the independent chair, which most of the time is a very easy and straightforward job. This was my first time as an examiner. Ulp.

When I agreed to be the internal examiner I underestimated how much time it would take.

  • It took me about one and a half days to read the thesis in detail.
  • Probably another half day, spread over a time, to arrange the date and the venue, catering and parking, etc. (catering actually ended up as “I go to B&M and spend a fiver on water and biscuits”. Because although the university should cover it, I gave up on trying to actually get a cost code from anybody)
  • The exam itself took a few hours, but it’s intense and mentally draining so the amount of other stuff I was going to get done that day was limited.
  • And now I have a fair bit of paperwork to do to follow up.
  • Then in a few months time the student will send me his corrections and I’ll have to spend some hours checking that they are satisfactory.

It’s essential work, without which the system would collapse – but there isn’t actually time for it in the diary.

It’s also really enjoyable work, at least with a good candidate who clearly knows their stuff. It was a really rewarding few hours talking about interesting research, and I learned a lot from both the candidate and the more experienced external examiner. Then I spent the evening in the pub with the student, the external examiner, and the supervisor 🙂

I’m glad I did it, but I will be careful of agreeing again during the main teaching semesters.