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



Smith SJ & Urquhart V (2018) UK PhD assessment in accounting and finance: social capital in action. Accounting Education, 27 (2), pp. 160-182.

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.

UK; accounting and finance; PhD assessment; social capital

Accounting Education: Volume 27, Issue 2

Publication date31/12/2018
Publication date online30/01/2018
Date accepted by journal17/12/2017
PublisherTaylor and Francis