Shortly before I viva'd I was informed about my universities wordcount policy 70,000 words (this is nowhere on their website). At my viva, I was advised to resubmit and hundreds of pages of additional write up were requested (my thesis is very interdisciplinary so there is a huge amount of background in maths, medicine, bio chemistry and engineering that needs to be covered), I told my examiners that this would put me over the word count, they told me it doesn't matter.

8 months into my year of rewrites, and after 8 months of ignoring emails my supervisor has started rereading my corrected chapters. Of course its easier to find a reason not to read a thesis than it is to read it, so he has been complaining that its over the word count- and more particularly he has told me that my internal examiner is also concerned about wordcounts. I am not sure if this is true, but I am worried that my examiners might have changed their mind on this issue.

This would be especially frustrating as the graduate school does not check the wordcount, leaving it to the examiners.

Also my supervisor doesn't want me speaking to my internal examiner. What on earth do I do?

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    I've never heard of a word (or page) restriction for a graduate thesis (Masters or Ph.D. or Habilitation), so you might want to specify your country, unless this might compromise your anonymity. However, I suspect this is an issue best dealt with by talking to someone local than here (e.g. other students in your program, a sympathetic faculty member, etc.). Feb 6, 2018 at 11:17
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    You were informed about the 70,000 word count policy and it is nowhere on the university website. Please explain how was you informed of this policy? Your supervisor? Your examiner? A student? Why are you convinced this 70,000 word policy is official? How do you know it's not a rumor? How do you know it's not a joke?
    – Nobody
    Feb 6, 2018 at 11:58
  • I was informed by my supervisor, briefly before I submitted. I have subsequently emailed the graduate school. Confusingly although they say there is a word count, they also told me they don't have software that checks your word count - so presumably they take the examiners word for it.
    – Abijah
    Feb 6, 2018 at 12:02
  • If its "nowhere in the website", why are you that worried? Feb 6, 2018 at 13:56
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    @DaveLRenfro, word limits are pretty standard in UK universities: 80,000 words seems typical, or sometimes 200 double-spaced pages. Feb 6, 2018 at 14:06

1 Answer 1


I suggest that you need as a matter of urgency to extract from the administration of your university a copy of the regulations for your PhD programme. (I am surprised that you were not given these at the outset of your course; most universities claim to provide that information to their students. It's probably part of "good practice" that universities have to sign up to.)

I suggest that you also need to write down exactly who said exactly what to you about the word limit not mattering.

I suggest that you need to address the issue of the supervisor not responding to emails: have you a record of 8 months' non-response? Have you had regular meetings? How frequently?

Does your university have a system of "graduate advisers", or is there someone who is "in charge of" the programme -- I don't mean your academic supervisor? Is so, I suggest that you take this whole sorry tale to them (in confidence) and get help in dealing with what seems to an outsider to be a very unsatisfactory state of affairs.


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