UK PhD assessment in accounting and finance: social capital in action

Sarah Jane Smith*, Vivien Urquhart

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Assessment lies at the centre of PhD degree quality standards, with quality assurance relying on independent external examiners. This study investigates the role of the viva and the selection of external examiners from within the accounting and finance discipline across UK institutions. A questionnaire survey and follow-up interviews with academics (299 respondents; 49 interviews) and recent PhD graduates (73 respondents; 18 interviews) were undertaken. Findings identify multiple viva roles including verification; academic career development; and assessment. External examiner selection is outcome-driven, and the independence of examiners is questionable when secured using the social capital existing between an examiner and supervisor. Supervisors and examiners jointly gate-keep the academic community within cliques, although at the viva stage new entrants are rarely excluded. The PhD assessment process offers the opportunity for rogue cliques to develop, driven by favourable outcomes in terms of personal benefits and costs, allowing new entrants of insufficient quality.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)160-182
Number of pages23
JournalAccounting Education
Issue number2
Early online date30 Jan 2018
Publication statusPublished - 4 Mar 2018


  • accounting and finance
  • PhD assessment
  • social capital
  • UK


Dive into the research topics of 'UK PhD assessment in accounting and finance: social capital in action'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this