Most viva’s will not require the appointment of an Independent Chair, however the Dean may appoint an Independent Chair to oversee the conduct of the viva as determined by the University Policy on the Appointment of an Independent Chair (.pdf).
The Independent Chair is not an examiner. Their role is to facilitate the examination process
and procedures, as follows.
The Independent Chair is not expected to make the arrangements for the viva, but should
liaise with the Graduate Administrator from the candidate’s department who is responsible
for such arrangements.
- To inform the examiners as necessary of the University’s procedures.
- To ensure that the examination is conducted in accordance with the University’s procedures.
- Where necessary, to help mediate between the examiners to identify possible recommendations and facilitate an agreed outcome.
- To ensure that the conduct of the viva provides the candidate with an opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge and to explain/defend their work.
Responsibilities of the Independent Chair
- To attend the pre-viva meeting to advise the examiners on any procedural matters and to help agree the approach to the viva.
- The Independent Chair does not read the thesis in advance of the viva (but has access to a copy for the viva).
- At the beginning of the viva, to introduce the examiners and to explain the format of the viva to the candidate.
- The Independent Chair does not participate in the questioning of the candidate on the content of the thesis.
- During the viva, to recommend an adjournment for a break if the examination exceeds two hours, or earlier if necessary.
- Exceptionally, the Independent Chair may adjourn/suspend the viva where they have concerns about its conduct.
- When the candidate has left the room/call for the outcome to be determined by the examiners, the Independent Chair shall advise the examiners on any procedural matters (e.g. outcomes available to them) as necessary.
- The Independent Chair shall play no role in the academic assessment.
- Where the examiners are unable to agree on the outcome, the Independent Chair shall advise the candidate.
- At the end of the viva, the Independent Chair shall ensure that arrangements are in place for completion of the Joint Report Form (and any accompanying paperwork).
- The Joint Report will include a place to record that the viva was conducted with an Independent Chair present and that they are satisfied with the conduct of the viva. The Independent Chair should then sign the Joint Report form themselves and return all examination paperwork to the Postgraduate Research Education Team.