A former University of Sussex student’s failed doctoral dissertation has recently been published. Deepak Tripathi’s book is based on research for his DPhil which he never received.
Tripathi, an ex-BBC producer, has said that he is proud of his latest work although the book is associated with a negative experience at the University of Sussex. The dissertation failed because it did not meet with the examiners’ approval. Tripathi submitted his thesis in early December 2006.
His research for the text, begun in 2002, was part of his work for his DPhil from the university’s American Studies Program. Tripathi’s supervisor, the Dean of the former School of Humanities, Dr. Stephen Burman, had initially told him to prepare for his graduation.
Tripathi’s previous texts include ‘Overcoming the Bush Legacy in Iraq and Afghanistan’. Tripathi believes that bias political agendas were involved in the refusal of his doctoral thesis. The oral examination or ‘viva’ which is usually taken for a doctoral thesis takes an hour. For Tripathi, it was nearly two hours of “sheer hostility.
“[The] viva was not an oral examination but an hour and fifty minutes of sustained interrogation during which the external examiner shouted throughout, not allowing me to answer, while objecting to matters of trivial importance.” Dr. Burman was not present at the viva.
Tripathi further suggests that the examiners never actually finished reading his work as he found “angry notes on about a third of the pages, then nothing.” According to Tripathi, part of his research, which relied on the Cold War International History
Archive material of the Smithsonian Institute, was described as “unacceptable”.
The former student explains that he was told by the external examiner that he “would have to rewrite the thesis in a year, without the Cold War History Archive that gave (him)access to the Russian and East German archives, and resubmit only for (a master’s degree).”
This would also involve another viva. The internal examiner left her post at the university and the external examiner no longer has affiliations with the university. The University of Sussex explained that no comment could be given “publicly on specific matters in relation to any individual candidate.
“In relation to the examination of DPhil theses, detailed reports are provided by internal and external examiners on both the written work and following oral examination of the candidates. Those reports and a recommendation are presented to a Research Degree Examination Board and final decisions made on the award of such degrees.
“Following the decision, any dissatisfied student has a period of time to appeal to a Research Degrees Appeals Board on the basis that the degree has not been properly examined. If they then remain dissatisfied, they can appeal to the national Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education.”