- Postgraduate researchers
- Premia- resources for disabled researchers
- Practicalities of completing a doctorate
- Towards completion
- Preparing for the viva
Preparing for the viva
Identifying disability-related issues and adjustments
It's a good idea to talk with your lead supervisor about your viva and any potential issues which might arise for you. About a year before your viva is planned, ask for a discussion to raise any concerns you have.
There are no absolutes when it comes to making reasonable adjustments. The scenarios below may be useful in considering your own requirements and initiating discussion with your supervisor and/or disability adviser. The Equality Act 2010, which replaced former disability legislation, provides protection against disability discrimination and a duty to provide reasonable adjustments to enable equity in education for disabled people. That entitlement covers all aspects of your education - access to the curriculum, the facilities, the admissions process, supervision, teaching and learning and assessment. The viva is part of the assessment process.
The following scenarios are based on the experiences of disabled postgraduate researchers undertaking their viva and highlights potential adjustments you may wish to consider. It is advisable to discuss your requirements with your supervisor and/or disability adviser who will then be able to draw up guidelines for the panel conducting the viva.
A deaf PGR who lip reads requested that the room is arranged in a particular way to encourage ease of communication. Additionally, the external examiners were briefed about how to communicate effectively with someone who lip reads and the need for a break during the viva.
A Blind PGR had particular accessibility requirements. These were facilitated by giving the panel conducting the viva advance notice of their requirements and guidelines on how to make adjustments. Some PGRs also needed to have their CCTV/laptop with assistive software in the room so that they could locate and read relevant passages of their thesis.
Many dyslexic PGRs use assistive technology for reading and writing during their doctorate. One requested to have access to this technology during the viva to support their presentation. Examiners will need to know in advance so that they are aware of the implications - the viva may take longer; you may take time to locate your answers. Breaks may need to be scheduled due to the viva taking additional time.
Another dyslexic PGR had short term memory difficulties and was concerned that they would have difficulties pinpointing where the information relevant to examiners' questions was in their thesis and answering complex multi part questions. To overcome this, the PGR asked to have the questions in written form before the viva so that they could annotate their thesis. In the viva the PGR wrote down the questions as they were asked.
A PGR with Asperger's syndrome wanted the viva panel to understand the issues that may arise during their viva. The PGR asked for the questions to be asked in clear and plain English without use of imagery. The PGR also spent time practising the viva and tried to collect examples of questions phrased in different ways so that they could practise answering varied questions.
A Deaf PGR who uses BSL liaised with the viva organiser to ensure that all examiners knew how to work with an interpreter and would understand how to communicate effectively with them. The PGR also requested that the seating be arranged in a particular way to accommodate the interpreter. Due to the long length of the viva, the PGR required two interpreters.
A PGR with a speech impairment was concerned that the examiners would not understand their answers. To overcome this they requested an interpreter who knew their speech patterns well to be present at the viva so they could speak the PGR answers where necessary.
Some PGR's with mobility impairment and/or long term health condition experience high levels of pain when sitting stationary for long periods.To ensure that this did not impact on their viva, PGRs spoke with the panel in advance about the need to change position and/or the need to stand for parts of the viva. Some also agreed in advance to have a comfort break in the viva.