Laurie Taylor Column

March 26, 2004

"The QAA intends to introduce a code of practice to ensure that PhD examining is standardised" - The Times Higher , March 19

Thank you, Gillian. That concludes your viva. If you wait in the Inquiries Office I'll send for you when we've concluded our deliberations. Well, how did we feel about little Gillian? Let's start with our external. Your thoughts on the thesis, Charles?

Well, Gordon, as I said last night in The George, I thought it was a bit of a dog's dinner. I prefer a doctoral thesis that moves from Introduction on to Previous Research and then on to Methodology, Results, Treatment of Results, Conclusion, and Future Research Proposals. But Gillian juxtaposed Research Proposals with Conclusion and put Results into her Treatment of Results.

And you didn't like the binding?

Very garish.

Good. Well, technically, Gillian's supervisor, Dr Quintock, is only here as an observer, but I think we'd be grateful for his opinion.

Thank you. It's only fair to point out that Gillian's mother died in her second year and that she had gastroenteritis in her final term. She was educated in Wales, which may explain the occasional infelicities in her English. But she's an amenable girl. Never pestered me for supervision. And a top long jumper.

Thank you, you've nudged me away from a Fail, even though I felt that the viva confirmed the mediocrity of the thesis. One then has to ask whether the overall performance was sufficiently poor to warrant a Referral, which would involve the external re-reading the thesis and braving the rail network yet again? So, the ball's in your court, Charles. Your final views?

I find it surprising that she's a long jumper. Frankly, she didn't seem to have the physique. Overall, I'm not inclined to go for a Fail because in these litigious times that can easily rebound on the supervisor. And Referrals can, as you point out, become time-consuming. So, on balance, I'd recommend a Conditional Pass.

Conditional on the thesis being rebound in black?

Of course.

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