One of the tasks of an academic is examining research students. This involves reading a thesis, then discussing it with the student in a viva. In the UK the viva is held behind closed doors, and usually involves only two examiners, one internal (same university as the student) and one external. The scheme is different on the continent: the defence is public, following a lecture, and there may be multiple “opponents”, or even an entire panel, of examiners.
If every research student needs (a minimum of) two examiners, that implies for every student I supervise, I should examine at least two others (one as internal, one as external, to keep the numbers balanced). In fact, since many universities like to have “senior” external examiners, I should probably do a few more than that.
Each year, I usually take on one or two new students. So, each year, I should probably examine about three to five students. So far this year I have examined only two: both external continental defences, one in Trondheim in April, one in Lyon in July.
That implies I should have two or three more to do this year (if it is an average year). And sure enough, in November a pile of theses started raining down in a seemingly never-ending stream on my desk.
So the total number is about right, but all at once is a bit of a nightmare. Two internal students, two external students, all to be examined before the end of January. I know what I’m going to be reading over Christmas.