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Degree Committee for the Faculty of Physics & Chemistry


How is it organised?

When the Degree Committee appoints your Examiners, we put your Internal Examiner (who is normally in Cambridge) in charge of arranging the viva. The Internal Examiner will be given your and the External Examiner's contact details and they should contact you within approximately 6 weeks of them receiving your thesis. It is the Internal Examiner who will be in charge of setting up a time and a place convenient to all three participants.


Where does the oral examination take place?

The oral examination is usually held in-person in Cambridge but, subject to the Degree Committee's approval, it may exceptionally be held elsewhere. If you are asked to travel to another location, you will be able to reclaim the fare (within reasonable limits).

You may also choose to be examined remotely by video conference. You will be invited to indicate your preference when you give notice of your intention to submit. Guidance for vivas by video conference is available on the Cambridge Students website.


What happens in the oral?

Your Examiners will question you on the thesis and the general field of your work. They may question you about any details they are uncertain about having read the work, including any sections in which there is any doubt about who actually did the work. They may ask you about possibilities of future work arising from your research. Some Examiners may ask you to give a structured presentation about your research at the start of the viva; if required your Examiners will notify you of the format of the presentation at least two weeks before the scheduled viva date.

You will defend your thesis (your idea) and clarify any uncertainties.

A PhD oral rarely lasts for less than 2hrs, but may be considerably longer.

In some cases, the Degree Committee may appoint an Independent Chair to oversee the oral. You will be notified if this is the case.


What can I take into my viva?

If you wish, you may take any of the following into your viva:
  • a copy of your thesis (the same as that you submitted)
  • plain paper and a pen/pencil for taking notes or sketching ideas
  • a presentation in the form specified by your Examiners if requested - your Examiners will advise you in advance if a presentation is required
  • any other provision agreed in advance with the Disability Resources Centre and Degree Committee

Will the examiners tell me the result?

Not exactly. The result is only confirmed after the Degree Committee has read the Examiners' reports and recommendation and made a decision on award of the degree. Occasionally the Committee may make a different decision to the examiners in borderline cases. But most candidates have a fairly clear idea of how things went by the time the oral has been completed.

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Office closures

There are no imminent closing dates.
Research degree theses should still be submitted by your submission deadline even if that falls over the holiday period.

Meetings schedule

Meetings of the Degree Committee and Degree Ceremonies:

2023-24 Degree Committee dates:

20 October, 17 November 2023.

9 January, 16 February, 15 March 2024.

26 April, 7 May, 14 June, 13 September 2024.

2023-24 Degree Ceremonies:

20,21 October, 25 November 2023

26 January, 24 February, 23 March, 6 April, 27 April, 17,18 May, 18,19,20 July 2024.