Chapter 5 - Viva Policy and Process for Taught Programmes


  1. Viva Policy and Process for Taught Programmes
    1. Introduction
      1. Due to the move to remote assessments in summer 2020 in response to the global pandemic, an additional process is needed to protect the academic integrity of these assessments.
      2. A viva process has been created in order to provide:

        a) Assurance to students that we had the means to investigate suspected misconduct to ensure the integrity of assessments.
        b) A deterrent to students who may consider engaging in misconduct.
        c) An additional tool academic staff to investigate suspicions of misconduct.
      3. This document provides the detail of this policy and process to be followed.
    2. Principles
      1. The format of open book remote examinations and assessments for the May examination period and August referred/deferred examination period, presents the potential for an increase in academic misconduct particularly around authorship issues.
      2. The usual process will apply for suspected cases of academic misconduct such as plagiarism, collusion etc. However, in order to address potential concerns of academic staff and students, and ensure the integrity of the remote assessments, a viva process will apply to support academic staff in marking these assignments where they have concerns over the authorship of the work.
      3. The implementation of a viva process will allow concerns to be appropriately measured and evidenced before a decision is made as to whether or not these concerns should be pursued through the University’s academic conduct procedures.
      4. This process will allow a member of the marking team together with a senior academic (eg. Head of Department, Chair of APAC or Director of Education) to interview a student via video link to discuss the submitted work to establish the authenticity of the material.
      5. Marking and moderation are conducted anonymously in line with the University’s guidelines and therefore a student would only be identified once it had been determined that a viva is required.
      6. The primary purpose of the viva voce is to provide the marking team with a means of determining whether work submitted by a candidate is their work. This is achieved by assessing the thoroughness of the candidate’s understanding of the submission, and the candidate’s ability to explain and justify its contents.
    3. Criteria
      1. The viva process should only occur if two or more members of the marking team share two or more of the following concerns:

        a) The content of the work falls consistently outside of the topics taught on the module and there is no reasonable explanation for the student to have responded to the question in that way
        b) The anticipated mark for the assignment falls outside that predicted for anyone within the cohort and is excessively high for a student working at that stage of study
        c) The sources used are not on the reading list for the module and are a significantly unusual resource for the student to have obtained
        d) The language and syntax used in the assessment response are sophisticated beyond that of a student working at this stage of study
        e) The language and syntax used in certain sections of the assessment response are demonstrably different from that in other sections of their assignments.
        f) There is hard evidence in the submission of third party involvement (such as track change comments in the submission)
        g) The student has responded to an entirely different title without explanation.
        h) The student has failed to complete the honour pledge for the assignment in question.
        i) The submission timeframe is too short in which to have written the submission.
    4. Viva
      1. Through the course of the viva conversation a student will be asked to demonstrate their knowledge of the work and topic in question. If they demonstrate sufficient understanding of the information to assure the marking team of the legitimacy of their work, then the piece of work will be returned to the standard making process with no further action taken.
      2. If through the viva a student fails to reassure the marking team of the veracity/authenticity of their work then the team may decide to refer the case to the departmental academic misconduct officer for investigation.
      3. A student cannot prevent this from happening by failing to appear at their viva.
      4. The marking team/viva committee will produce a summary report of the viva to act as evidence for the AMO investigation. This report will also accompany the moderation material for consideration by External Examiners at the APAC.
      5. The viva forms part of the marking process and as such it is possible for a student to submit a formal appeal in relation to any viva held with them following the relevant APAC if they felt they had grounds to do so. If however a viva is held and a case is subsequently referred to the academic conduct process the student must await the outcome of said investigation and follow the appeals process within Chapter 12 Academic Conduct and Practice of the Assessment, Progression and Awarding: Taught Programmes Handbook if they felt they had grounds to do so.
    5. Operational Standards
      1. The following procedures are suggested as minimum operational standards for the holding of viva voce examinations:
        a) A viva should be held if requested by two or more members of the marking team.
        b) The criteria for the selection of students for vivas, as outlined above, must be consistently applied.
        c) Students must be given five working days’ notice of a viva so as to enable them to attend.
        d) The focus of attention in the viva discussion will be the areas of study covered within the relevant examination or assessment.
        e) The student must be notified of the following at the time of being invited to the viva: who will be attending the viva and the rational for this selection.
        f) The viva should not extend beyond 30 minutes in duration.
        g) Vivas should normally follow a question and answer format. The questions can address any aspect of the submission, and there is no minimum or maximum number of questions that might be asked. The nature and quantity of questions should be sufficient to enable those undertaking the assessment to determine whether the submission is the work of the candidate.
        h) If there are concerns as to whether or not the submission is the work of the candidate, the assessors should refer the case to academic conduct process as outlined within the Chapter 12 Academic Conduct and Practice of the Assessment, Progression and Awarding: Taught Programmes Handbook.
        i) A summary of the discussion should be kept and the recommendation from the viva must be submitted to the APAC along with any other moderation material.
    6. Process
      1. Identification
        1. Any member of the marking or moderation team can raise concerns, and should discuss this with the other markers.
        2. Where two or more markers are in agreement that they have concerns (applying the above criteria) then a viva should be arranged.
        3. This should be reported to the Hub, so that they are able to identify the student and make a note that a viva will be taking place. A provisional mark should be returned at this stage on the basis of the quality of the work submitted.
      2. Notification
        1. Student should be notified that the marking team would like to hold a viva. Template text for this notification is provided in Appendix A - Template Invitation to Viva. This email should go out from the relevant Professional Services Staff designated within the College Operations/Education Support team.
        2. Viva should take place as soon as possible but the student must have at least five working days’ notice.
      3. Meeting
        1. Meeting should be attended by two academic staff – a member of the marking team and a senior academic (Head of Department, Chair of APAC or Director of Education.
        2. The meeting should be conducted over Teams.
        3. The meeting should not exceed 30 minutes.
        4. Questions should test students’ knowledge and understanding of the topic and the work produced.
        5. No recording will be made of the meeting, so both academics should provide a summary of the meeting.
      4. Outcome
        1. Where academics have no further concerns, this should be reported to the Hub so mark can be included in APAC. Mark should not be amended, as this would no longer be anonymous. Student should be contacted to thank them for their time, and to let them know that no further action will be taken.
        2. Where academics still have concerns, this should be referred to the discipline’s Academic Misconduct Officer who will then follow the academic misconduct procedures as outlined in the Chapter 12 Academic Conduct and Practice. The student should be notified that they are being investigated at this point.

Appendix A - Template Invitation to Viva


Last reviewed July 2021

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