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I have a PhD viva next week and have (very) recently that my examiner has no knowledge of the UK viva system

My first question is what is the PhD defense failure rate in Canada? (I'm not sure if I really want to know this).

How much weight is put on the defence in Canada?

Is there anything that examiners usually look for in PhD defence in Canada?

I have four Journal Publications from my PhD work. I know my work very well.

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    Note that you don't need to understand the Canadian system. Your viva is in the UK. The onus is on your examiner to understand the British system and on your internal examiner to help them do that. – David Richerby May 16 '16 at 19:43
  • How did it go? Hope everything was OK – Yemon Choi May 19 '16 at 15:04
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Many academics and other subjects experts from all corners of the globe are invited to be external examiners for PhD degrees. It is not uncommon, and the process is designed for this situation. In the UK it is also common that a viva panel is governed by a neutral chair who ensure that all the examiners are familiar with the procedures and regulation for conducting the examination and that the questions and conduct are fair for all parties concerned.

Those panels that do not use a separate chair, then it is often the internal examiner that ensures the external understands the scope and process of the examination.

It is important for the (world-wide) standard of PhD's that the foremost experts at any particular field can be called on to participate in the PhD examination process. You should feel it a compliment to your work that the university reached out to find a suitable specialist to read and comment on your work. The fact that they are willing to cover the not inconsiderable expenses to bring this examiner to your viva demonstrates the regard they have for your work. It is a positive thing for you.

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My background: Doing a PhD in Canada, Biology. Also I've visited Australia and learned a bit about difference with UK, Australia and generally speaking european PhD.

My first question is what is the PhD defense failure rate in Canada? (I'm not sure if I really want to know this).

In my field, I've never seen or heard about anyone failing. I've heard about such things in other fields, but as a surprising evil.

How much weight is put on the defence in Canada?

Well, it's the pinnacle of the PhD, but I think it's mostly seen as a ritual. No advisor is supposed to let his/her student defend if he/she is not ready.

Is there anything that examiners usually look for in PhD defence in Canada?

As I've never examined a thesis, this is only guess from the multiple defences (>10) in biology I've seen. They generally try to push the student further into the interpretation, they ask questions about why the student chose this method and not this other. They will also look at how the different chapter fit together and are linked by the general introduction and discussion.

I would tell you "no worries". Canadians are almost as laid back as Australians. Every researcher I know who is going to a defence in another country expect difference and will make enquiries before the defence.

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This may be different in different disciplines, and can vary between different universities in Canada. I think that the conventions in your own discipline are a much bigger factor than the overall "PhD defense failure rate in Canada".

Based on my experience (PhD obtained in UK; supervised a PhD successfully in Canada) I would say that the viva voce itself carries slightly less weight in Canada, in the sense that the examiner makes more decisions based on reading the thesis rather than on what is said on the day. Indeed, I have heard of some cases of PhD theses being examined purely by an external written report, together with comments from the candidate's own graduate committee, although I don't know how common this is.

I cannot think of any reasons why examiners in Canada would look for anything different from examiners in the UK. Overall, I would not expect an examiner from Canada who is examining a UK thesis to be more adversarial than a UK examiner. From what you say about your own PhD it does not sound like their should be a problem -- but I must add the caveat that I work in a different area from you, so I might not know what is "usually expected" from a PhD in that area.

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