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This Category: > PhD Advice / Support


Confusion after UK Humanities Viva - RnR given but sounds like a pass?

User: Starsister87 - 28 April 2022 10:04

I had my viva two days ago. My supervisors assured me that my thesis was in a good place, after taking in all their advice and suggestions, that there were some structural issues but would pass with borderline major corrections. It was a long road through COVID, took an 18 extra month and its been very difficult to hold to the consistent level of work after returning to full time work but I was assured the pass by my supervisors.

I nailed the Viva, my external loved what I had to say, it was all very conversational and collegiate, very positive. So imagine my confusion when following a good defense and building me up, they knock me down with an RnR and 12 months. They said they felt my case studies needed further and updated analysis, that it was 90% there just to plow that passion I showed at Viva to wrap the 10% up. That when is all said and done, this is a book proposal. They said I did not have to resit the viva oral exam and my internal could sign off the revisions.

I was very hurt and confused, like all the sacrifices I had made particularly the time commitment to seeing this through the pandemic and balancing with full time work, felt worthless. Like I failed by not hearing the word pass. Now I am confused, my supervisor whilst disappointed that it was't in so many words a pass and major corrections(6 months) but not far off, felt overall it was good experience and loved my performance. He feels this is a strong position to be in because as long as I follow the revisions its all good. Whereas I feel completely demoralised and humiliated. He says its effectively a pass with major due to no second viva and internal sign off, that the revisions could be done in 6-8 months. Still not seen the report yet! Is it? Can I tell people I passed or is that technically a lie? After so many years, I feel cheated, beaten down and demoralised. He openly admitted he pushed for submission and viva because felt the thesis had been taken it as far as it could and it was best to try and put it through. I am angry at that, I would have wanted to hold off to ensure it officially passed. Such an emotional rollercoaster and I don't know how to feel - did I effectively pass or is it a provisional pass?! Help!

User: abababa - 28 April 2022 23:52

I've chaired and examined quite a bit over the years, and I've seen many ways RnR in this form gets decided and interpreted.

I've had students walk out of a majors or RnR and hug me, overwhelmed with their success. I've had others walk out of majors or RnR completely dejected. Appreciate it the way the first group do, because it's a major life achievement.

Behind the scenes, examiners sometimes kill with kindness. It's a commonly held perspective that a PhD is a PhD - it doesn't matter how long it took to correct it. Sometimes examiners think, because of that, it's better to give someone *up to* 12 months rather than 3-6 to get it perfect, to reduce the stress on them and to fulfill the potential they see. They then ask the chair if they can give 12 months for minors, and are told, no, the only way we can give 12 months is an RnR or majors, without external re-examination. Often the candidate interprets this as though they just got a 'D' when they wanted at least a 'B'.

You can legitimately say you were successful at viva and have corrections, which is the outcome for the vast majority of candidates that make it that far. There will be nothing stopping you submitting your corrections faster, if you want to put the work in, but you also have breathing room if you're busy and it takes longer. It will not hold you back in your academic career. I've never seen someone with a PhD asked at job interview 'what type of corrections did you get', but I have seen them asked with virtual inevitability 'what did you publish from it', and if this gives you space to get that book chapter out, that will also be a good thing.