Purpose: Little is known about the impact external Viva examiners coming from the international community of scholars have on the quality of PhD research. This study aims to argue that the encounter between local and international examiners (IEs) is subject to various complexities, raising doubts about whether IEs’ participation and approval of the Viva may indicate for the quality of PhD research, and, therefore, serve to promote a university’s prestige. Design/methodology/approach: A qualitative analysis of interviews conducted with IEs who served as examiners in six European countries, two African countries, two South American countries and one in the Commonwealth of Australia. Findings: Findings show that structural features, cultural qualities and personal contacts restrict IEs’ ability to introduce significant changes in students’ research, turning the Viva into a ritual with confined academic significance. Originality/value: The findings reveal that the Viva is mostly a ritual confined by structural and cultural barriers. While rituals are considered significant due to their consolidating and socializing functions, it appears that a Viva is mostly a ceremonial event that has little impact on the quality of PhD research or on shaping the research culture of the hosting universities according to international standards. Implications are further discussed.
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