Wednesday, November 10, 2004

PhD, pie and chips

Yesterday was spent at a well-known British university doing my duty as an external examiner for a PhD. It illustrated perfectly the rather uneasy relationship that can exist between PhD students and supervisors. After my communication with the internal examiner, who clearly knew nothing about the field, I realised that it was my responsibility to really scrutinise the science. So I had a tough weekend of reading. The project had clearly not gone well and positive results were thin on the ground. The internal examiner suggested to me that some of the problems were down to inadequate supervision. Despite my fears the viva went well. The student gave an excellent performance, defending his work well and convincing us that he tried his best despite a lot of technical difficulties. We had no hesitation in passing him, but he had a long list of corrections for this thesis. Afterwards the supervisor took us all out for a substantial lunch, where I had a posh pie and chips. I had a private chat with the supervisor. I told her the student did very well in the viva. She told me that the student was lazy and was probably not cut out for research! The question m'lud is who is the more credible witness?


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