The viva voce, (oral examination), thesis defence or oral defence, is common practice for doctoral candidates in many countries.

At UWA, all PhD students enrolling from 1 JAN 2018 will be required to take a viva voce as part of their thesis examination. This includes students who have withdrawn from their studies and are re-enrolling in 2018 to complete their studies. Current PhD students who enrolled before 1 JAN 2018 will not be required to undertake a viva voce but may volunteer for one.

The viva voce (oral examination) was added to the PhD examination process at UWA to enable students to talk to experts in their field about their thesis, and possibly ask for advice on publishing or potential career options. This examination marks the end point of the research training journey - a time for celebration with supervisors, family and friends. Introduction of the viva voce was recently approved by the UWA Academic Board with official approval of rule changes by the UWA Academic Council.

Proposed viva voce (oral examination) process for PhD students

UWA is still refining the details of the viva voce (oral examination) process. While many countries have a public viva voce, the UWA one will be a private conversation between candidate and examiners. A number of successful pilot viva voca examinations have been undertaken and it is likely they will be similar to the piloted model described below:

Two examiners are nominated to examine the written thesis

Nomination of these two examiners followed the usual rules with regard to expertise and conflict of interest. Supervisors checked the examiners were willing and able to examine the thesis and attend the viva voce, either in person or through videoconferencing.

Examiners mark the thesis and the examiner reports are sent to the Board of the Graduate Research School

After the two examiners provided their reports and classification recommendations,  the Board approved the examination to proceed to the viva voce stage of the process. If the examiner reports had been negative, the students would have been required to revise the thesis before proceeding to the viva.

Supervisors are provided with a copy of the examiner’s reports

Provision of the examiner reports to the supervisors and students enabled the students to develop, with their supervisors, their responses to any difficult questions in advance of the viva voce examination.

Viva voce (oral examination) takes place ~8-10 weeks after thesis submission

The viva voce have been conducted in a dedicated room in the Reid Library about 2-3 months after the student submitted the thesis for examination. The student met with their examiners for about two hours. Also present was an examination chair - a UWA staff member, appointed by the Dean of the GRS, to ensure the examination was conducted respectfully and fairly. Supervisors were not present at the viva voce.

Viva voce (oral examination) for PhD students enrolled before 2018

If you enrolled before 1 JAN 2018 and you would like to have a viva voce as part of your examination, you should first speak to your supervisors to make sure they are supportive. You can then make an appointment for you and your supervisors to speak to the Dean of the Graduate Research School or one of the Graduate Education Officers.

More information about thesis examination at UWA is available here.