Appointment of Independent Chairs for Research Degree Vivas

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Appointment of Independent Chairs for Research Degree Vivas
The University of Essex does not routinely appoint an Independent Chair for vivas. However, the Faculty Deputy Dean (Education) will appoint an Independent Chair in the cases where there is no internal examiner (such vivas for staff candidates which are exclusively conducted by external examiners). An Independent Chair may also be appointed in cases of a re-examination following an appeal/identified procedural irregularity
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.
When confirming the appointment of an Independent Chair, the Registry provides the names of the External Examiners, guidance on the examination procedures and facilitates contact with the relevant Graduate Administrator.
Role of the Independent Chair
The Independent Chair is not an examiner. His/ her role is to facilitate the examination process and procedures, as follows:

  • 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 he or she has concerns about its conduct.

  • When the candidate has left the room for the outcome to be determined by the examiners, the Independent Chair shall advise the examiners on any procedural matters (eg recommendations 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 the joint report form (and any accompanying paperwork) is completed, including whether any required revisions are attached or to follow and whether the thesis copies have been returned to the candidate or not. The joint report will include a place to record that the viva was conducted with an Independent Chair present and that s/he was 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 Registry.

Criteria for the appointment of an Independent Chair

  • Must be a member of University Staff;

  • Must be an experienced research examiner;

  • Must be from outside of the candidate’s department (in a in a cognate discipline where possible);

  • Must have no conflict of interest with the candidate, the supervisor or the External Examiners.

Updated November 2010

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