Chris Hackley is wrong when he suggests that we need a more humane and compassionate style of doctoral examination ("The kindness of strangers", 24 May). In fact, what we need is more respect for elementary principles of fairness.
Consider my case. I submitted a revised dissertation to the University of Cambridge with my supervisor's unequivocal support ("It will pass with flying colours," I was told). However, the newly appointed external examiner dismissed it as "complete nonsense" and prevailed upon the internal examiner to fail it. Since Cambridge allows only one revision, the failure was final. I had no access to examiners' reports, no access to the deliberations of the degree committee and no right of appeal.
Peter Butler, Basel, Switzerland