Information for Chairpersons

Information for the Chair of a Research Examination including what to expect and how to use PhD Manager.

The Panel

The panel for viva voce examinations consists of an External Examiner (two if the PhD Researcher is a member of staff), an Internal Examiner and a Chairperson.

The PhD Researcher will usually invite one of their supervisors to the examination also. The supervisor’s role is simply for support and should have little input into the viva.

The Viva

The supervisors will get in touch with you to arrange a time, schedule and format for the examination that suits the panel.

At present, a viva voce examination may take place remotely though this will change from September when face to face and hybrid options will also be available:

  • In-person vivas where all parties attend on campus
  • Hybrid vivas where one party may attend remotely (usually the External Examiner)
  • Remote vivas (usually fully remote due to the researcher being unable to travel)

Remote and Hybrid Options

A co-ordinator, normally the Chair or a supervisor, will communicate the date, time and online platform (plus backup platform) for the viva to the panel and the Researcher.

You will be asked for email confirmation of your agreement to the arrangements plus contact details (including a telephone number in case it is needed).

Prior to the viva, you, as Chair, will need to consider the procedures on the day and how these can best be managed to ensure adequate time for the pre-meeting of examiners and discussion of the decision in the absence of the candidate.

Vivas will generally follow our normal schedule.

We have put together some additional logistical guidance for chairs of remote and hybrid vivas which you should read.

Additionally, you will need to provide a short report on any issues associated with the remote nature of the examination and seek verbal agreement from the candidate, and confirmed by examiners, that the remote/hybrid nature did not impact on the researcher's performance at viva.

A statement to this effect should be included within the report as part of the ‘Comments of the Chair on the Conduct of the Viva’.

Any technical issues must also be reported as part of these comments.

In person

If prevailing public health guidance permits, and with agreement of all panel members, the viva may be held in person. In these cases we always try to arrange a viva around the External Examiner’s travel schedule to facilitate same-day travel.

The Administration System

The viva will be managed on PhD Manager.

You will receive emails as the thesis is submitted, the arrangements are made and the preliminary reports are collected.  All of these will be accessible by clicking the links in the emails, or navigating to the researchers records.

We have assembled a detailed guide on all these steps.

Should you have any difficulties or queries please don't hesitate to email us.

Regulations for research degrees

The Handbook for Examiners of Research Degrees contains guidance on the nomination criteria for the Board of Examiners, procedures surrounding the examination process, the roles of various individuals involved in the examination, assessment criteria and the recommendations available to the Board of Examiners following examination.

Please also refer to the relevant regulations for the research degree programme which you will be chairing.

Legacy System

PhD Manager is a new system for administering examinations at Ulster and some examination panels may still be using the old system of forms.

If this is the case the forms have been made available to the examiners and you will receive the appropriate final form  in your Chairs pack a few days before the viva.

Additional responsibilities for the Chair of Remote and Hybrid Vivas

As Chair of a remote orr hybrid viva panel, you should consider how remote links may impact the four phases of the oral examination (namely pre-meeting, oral examination, panel discussion and notification of outcome), ensuring that neither the PhD candidate nor supervisor is not involved in the pre-viva meeting and the examiner discussion phases.

You should also ensure they have been provided with alternative contact methods, preferably mobile phone numbers, for those attending remotely to be used in the event of technical difficulties during the exam.

You will be required to report specifically on any issues associated with the remote nature of an oral examination as part of the Recommendations Report and will need to seek verbal agreement from the PhD candidate with confirmation of the examiners that the remote nature did not impact on their performance at viva.  A statement to this effect should be included within the report as part of the ‘Comments of the Chair on the Conduct of the Viva’.  Any technical issues must also be reported.

The Doctoral College can provide you with further guidance for conducting remote vivas if you need it.