Monday, January 15, 2018

Announcing you passed your viva

Anyone who has completed a PhD knows the excitement and relief when you get to announce that you have passed your viva. It is the culmination of many years work and is absolutely something to be celebrated and shouted from the rooftop.

However, there is a trend now to qualify that announcement. No longer is it sufficient to pass your viva, some people now feel the need to add "passed with minor corrections", or "passed with no corrections". One tweet I saw, boasted of only having spelling corrections. Another boasted that they had 11 corrections which only took 1 hour to complete.

This post follows a recent Twitter conversation on this subject:
I have noticed this trend more and more, and the worrying thing that it conveys is that a pass is no longer good enough. No, we all must pass first go with no corrections. There is a real one-upmanship going on here, when in actual fact the degree is the same at the end of the day regardless of the route there. The achievement and effort is the same. The intellectual content is the same standard.

It was put to me that this phenomenon was maybe not that prevalent so I did a mini-experiment. I searched "passed" and "viva" on Twitter and did a very rudimentary analysis of posts relating to people passing their vivas. I only went back to December 22, 2017 because I underestimated the number of people passing vivas (plus, I have a day job!)! These were the results:
  • 52 posts had no qualifiers, only "I passed my viva!".
  • 22 posts did have qualifies, including "no corrections"(7), "minor corrections"(13), and "typographical corrections"(1).

Now, that is 30% who qualify their announcements. And that is data that only goes back 25 days. I would also argue that the percentage is actually higher because in reality I should filter out US PhD vivas which are more confirmations that the UK-type of viva where the outcome really is unknown until the very end.

Nevertheless - 30% may not seem like much, but to those who experienced more substantial revisions to theses, it can be a real kick in the teeth. And while I fully acknowledge no intended superiority from people who qualify their announcements, it comes across as putting down those who had more difficult viva experiences for myriad reasons (which may not always be about the academic quality - that's for another post).

Please do not think that I am not advocating for people to stop announcing their viva success. Please, make a song and dance of your achievement - it is massive! But don't feel the need to qualify it publicly. Sure - be proud of your minor corrections. But spare a thought for your colleague who maybe needs to do another 3-6 months work on it (or even more).

Think of it the same as any other announcement. We wouldn't say "I got the job (after only 1 interview!), or "I landed a postdoc (on my first attempt)". Sensitivity and kindness is needed in academia and how we celebrate our successes dictates how others feel about their own successes and challenges. And we all know how tough the current landscape is for ECRs so solidarity and support is key.

And if you did pass your viva recently - CONGRATULATIONS!!!!


  1. In your last blog post you literally wrote: "I am so grateful that I quickly found a well-paid permanent position in professional services at a great university"

  2. While I appreciate the point you are trying to make, I fear you stretching the point to call me out. People should be allowed to celebrate their achievements but I don't advocate for creating a false hierarchy in viva results (a very specific point).

    But on your point, I think it is fine to celebrate landing a good job you are proud of. I didn't announce it widely on Twitter, rather on a personal blog. Furthermore, I don't mention how many applications and interviews it took to land a job. I don't specify salary so "well-paid" is a subjective term, as is "great university". And again, "quickly" is subject to interpretation as some people may think that is 3,6, or 9 months!

    I just don't think you can equate the point about viva results to this. But it is nice to know that people read the blog.

    1. (To add) While I moderate comments, I do publish all but any that are offensive or unintelligible. However, where someone wants to call me out I would appreciate not hiding under anonymity but putting your name to it and owning your comments.


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