Laurie Taylor column

January 17, 2003

Some PhD vivas are "held behind closed doors and examiners can behave as they like" - Susan Bassnett, The THES, January 10.

Ah, Mr Maull, welcome to your PhD viva. I'm Professor Lapping, your internal examiner. And I'm joined today by your external, Dr Edgeworth, and your supervisor, Dr Quintock. I think the external would like to start.

Well, Mr Maull, I have one serious concern. You say in your introduction that you intend to contrast recent economic development in China and India, but in the thesis itself there is no other mention of India.

Well, I was going to do India, but my supervisor couldn't see me for a whole term and when we did meet he said that I'd probably taken on too much and that I should stick to China.

Is that accurate, Dr Quintock?

Well, it's true that other engagements made it difficult to provide Maull with constant intensive supervision, but in my view that allowed him an excellent opportunity for independent thought. One other point. When Maull arrived here with his own funding for a PhD, he had little knowledge of any sort of economic development, let alone that occurring in China. In the circumstances, I think he did well to finish roughly on time.

Indeed. Anything else, Dr Edgeworth?

One other major worry. Your analysis of the Chinese miracle cites market forces as the key driver, whereas other researchers you fail to mention insist on the vital role played by the state.

Might I jump in again, Dr Edgeworth? There are one or two marginal omissions such as India and the Chinese state, but overall I thought the thesis well worth a pass. After all, if we refer it, that would mean an awful lot of extra work for you in future without a single penny of extra remuneration. Now, any other points? Excellent. Well, congratulations, Dr Maull. Perhaps you'd like to join us in a glass of celebratory sherry. Bottoms up, eh, Dr Edgeworth?

That's one way of putting it.

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