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Logistical ‘top tips’ to consider as Chair of a remote or hybrid viva

This information is supplemental to the guidance for Chairs.

Chairing a remote or a hybrid viva is not very different from how you would chair a face-to-face viva. However, there are a few things which you may find helpful to pay particular attention to ensure that the candidate has been given every possible opportunity to perform at their best.

If you do not already have contact details for all parties involved in the viva please request them from nominated co-ordinator. If you are the nominated co-ordinator please liaise with the candidate’s supervisors for this information.

Before the viva

Before the viva, the examiners and supervisors will have submitted their reports on PhD Manager. Once all reports were submitted the system will have distributed these to the panel before the viva. The Turnitin report will have been made available to all parties on PhD Manager.

The Doctoral College will also send you a brief form to complete to confirm the identity of the External, to enable payment of their fee. The External will need to show their passport on-screen and it should match that in the Approval of Examiners section on PhD Manager.

Test run in advance of the viva

Ensuring that everyone can access the proposed platform can be established during the test run. Although this could be undertaken in advance of the pre-viva meeting, it might be helpful to test access ahead of the viva date itself. This will ensure that you, as Chair, are familiar with the platform and that the other parties are also comfortable with its use. The co-ordinator will be responsible for setting up and communicating the test details.

They may also wish to arrange for an area for the candidate to wait before and after the viva, ensuring that it is not within earshot of discussions that will be taking place between the panel.

Considerations for the viva itself

At the outset consider that you may want to allow more time to explain/discuss with all participants how the viva will proceed. It may also be helpful to discuss with the panel how participants might signal if they cannot hear properly at any stage and/or need someone to repeat a question/response.

Explain that you will, as Chair, take time to check in with everyone during the viva and how, at the end of the viva, you will ask each participant whether they were satisfied with how the viva had been conducted (i.e. that the format (remote or hybrid) had not impacted on overall performance and how the viva was conducted).

There should be no recording of vivas and any recording facility should be disabled.

As Chair you should pay particular attention during the viva to any difficulties encountered with the platform and make a note of these as part of your report on the conduct of the viva. If at any point you feel that a participant has not been heard or cannot hear please intervene and check in with everyone to ensure everyone has heard/can hear properly, perhaps repeating questions as needed.

Once the viva is underway, if a connection with a remote attendee is lost and cannot be re-established, but most of the viva is complete, the panel may agree to make a recommendation based on the submitted thesis and the candidate’s performance up to that point OR they may decide to re-convene with the candidate at a later date. If a connection is lost before the majority of the viva is complete, the viva should be re-arranged for another date. Any “additional” remote viva for a candidate must be proposed again to the Doctoral College for approval; this will enable the Doctoral College to keep track of the candidate's progress.