Women today are making clear inroads into the academy and, at undergraduate level at least, are engaging in greater numbers than men. However, at postgraduate level the picture changes, especially at doctoral level, and fewer women than men undertake research degrees. However, little is known about women’s experiences of doctoral research, including the viva. The authors seek to address the lack of research about women’s experience of the PhD viva. The research carried out by the authors emphasises both the lack of power felt by women in the current examination process and the lack of consistency in practice across universities. The authors argue that if the viva is to be more than just a process which reinforces existing patterns of power, it cannot continue to be a ritual where only certain voices are allowed to be heard. They conclude by suggesting reforms that they believe would make the system fairer to all.

Author Biography

Amanda Loumansky is a research fellow in the School of Health and Social Science, Middlesex University.

Sue Jackson is a lecturer in lifelong learning and citizenship in the Faculty of Continuing Education at Birkbeck, University of London.