'Signature of Mediocrity'? Variability and Uncertainty Associated with PhD Assessment Processes in the UK

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This chapter is focused on the assessment processes surrounding PhD degrees in the United Kingdom (UK). Its main aim is to explore how variations in these assessment processes create different types of uncertainties and concerns for all those involved. In this chapter, we review literature to identify key practices and concerns which, from various theoretical perspectives, have become associated with PhD assessments. As a central feature of the chapter, we also report a review of institutional assessment practices. The review highlights topical issues relating to, for example, the appointment of examiners, the role of PhD supervisors, and the conduct of oral examinations. We contend that the lack of standardisation surrounding PhD assessment processes creates inevitable uncertainties for academics and candidates. We conclude the chapter with a discussion about whether it is desirable to move towards more standardised inter-institutional PhD assessment processes particularly in an era of commodification of the Higher Education sector within the UK.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationModern Day Challenges in Academia
Subtitle of host publicationTime for a Change
EditorsMarilena Antoniadou, Mark Crowder
Place of PublicationCheltenham
PublisherEdward Elgar
Number of pages17
ISBN (Print)9781788119184
Publication statusPublished - 17 Mar 2020


  • Assessment; variation; uncertainty; oral examination; external examiners; standardisation

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Global Development Institute


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