The viva

The viva (oral examination) is a vital part of the assessment process. Find out how it is arranged and what to expect during your viva. 


Please see the Guide to the thesis submission process on the Policies and Procedures page of the SES website for more information on the processes explained on this webpage.    

The purpose of a viva 

All postgraduate researchers (PGRs) must attend an oral examination (viva) to ensure that the thesis meets the University standards for the degree and that they have written and understood the work submitted.   

Arrangements for your viva 

Your internal examiner will let you know the date and time of your viva, which should normally be within three months after your thesis has been sent to your examiners. If you have a tight schedule (for example a job offer subject to award of the degree or your visa is due to expire) please tell your supervisor and Graduate School as soon as possible. The viva may be in person, online (video streaming) or a hybrid.  

If you are planning to hold your viva online (video streaming) you should refer to the Policy for the use of video streaming for the viva examination on the Policies and Procedures page of the SES website

Preparing for your viva 

The following may be helpful but please consult your supervisory team for appropriate guidance in preparation for your oral examination. 

  • You can attend the Your Viva workshop run throughout the year by OD&PL. You can find more information about this workshop and other resources and support available on the Training and research skills page of the For Students Website 

  • You should, at an early stage in your candidature, make yourself aware of the criteria for award of the research degree programme for which you are registered. This is the criteria that will be used by the examiners at the final examination stage. The requirements and learning outcomes for research degrees are provided on the Ordinance and Regulations and Programmes of Study page of the SES website

  • After the oral examination, the examiners must produce a joint report which outlines their recommendation. You might find it helpful to look at the examiners’ report form which describes the criteria against which your examiners will be assessing your work. The form can be found on the Examiners’ joint report after the viva page of the SES website

Use of University facilities while awaiting your viva 

Your access to library and IT facilities is automatically extended without charge for a period of up to six months from the date of submission of your thesis. This is known as “registration whilst under examination”. It enables you to make use of university facilities whilst preparing for the viva examination and also for a short period after examination when some candidates are required to make minor corrections to their thesis. The Between submission and the viva page of the For Students website has more information about the ‘under examination’ period. 

What you can expect on the day 

The University does not have specific regulations regarding the length of the oral examination or what should be discussed except that the thesis should be discussed with you. The viva gives you the opportunity to demonstrate your understanding of the subject and answer questions to support aspects of your thesis that the examiners may not be satisfied with. You can expect to see the internal examiner, the external examiner, the independent chair (if appointed) and your supervisor (as an observer only, and only if you wish them to be there). 

Your viva must be conducted in English. (With the exception of research degrees in the modern languages, where, in certain circumstances approved by the Graduate Board, the viva might, with the agreement of the examiners, be conducted in a language other than English). 

You should take a copy of your thesis to your examination. Your copy of the thesis may be annotated or referenced with notes, for example to mark editorial errors you have spotted when re-reading the thesis or help you find sections quickly. Recording of the viva by any party is not permitted. 

Result of the viva 

The result of the examination should be given informally to you, normally immediately after the oral examination, or within 24 hours of completing the viva. Further advice is available about possible outcomes and what happens after your viva on the Outcome of the viva page of the For Students website