A question for the academics

On Friday, I have my first PhD external examining gig. To date, I have examined around a dozen PhDs as internal examiner, and have supervised half a dozen students who have successfully completed their PhDs.

I am having difficulty working out how to pitch this viva. The student’s work is interesting, but the area where it crosses over with my research is poorly explained in the thesis (much muddled writing), and it isn’t clear whether the student properly understands the things that he’s talking about). In addition, the writing in the thesis is generally uneven, with frequent typos and grammatical errors (and don’t get me started on the references section).

In the acknowledgements, the student has thanked their proofreaders, and has mentioned that they are dyslexic (the student, not the proofreaders).

This is my quandary.

If I were examining this student and I didn’t know that they were dyslexic, I would not hesitate to require major corrections before award (although not resubmission or re-examination) due to the extent of the problems. If they were my student, I would not have allowed them to submit a thesis in this state (I have had native English speaking students who took to academic writing like a fish to cycling). If I received for review a conference or journal paper with this many problems, I would recommend rejection or resubmission.

So why am I getting antsy about applying the same standards as usual now that I know that the student is dyslexic?

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