In most British universities, Ph.D. candidates enter their first year as a provisional Ph.D. candidate, and are only allowed to go through to their second year of Ph.D. upon passing their transfer review. This system is used to make sure that students have: (i) a clear research topic that can lead to a Ph.D. (ii) the ability to continue to a Ph.D. and (iii) a clear research plan. Once you have passed this major hurdle, you technically will not fail your Ph.D. until the final viva.
The transfer review involves students delivering a report and being
interrogated interviewed by a transfer panel, who will decide whether or not they should recommend you to proceed as a permanent Ph.D. candidate. At the start of the interview, the student will be kicked out of the room while the panel hold a top-secret conspiracy meeting to plot a grand evil scheme to torture the poor student. The student is then asked to return into the room to be tortured and interrogated. Assuming the student survives the interrogation, he or she will then be kicked out of the room again. The panel will then take their own sweet time to make their decision, while the poor student await his sentence outside. Finally, after hours of agony, the student will be allowed in again and his sentence be read out. Assuming that the student survives, he or she can finally exert revenge: supervisors are kicked out and the student can say anything he or she likes to the examiner about his or her supervisors in their absence. Then, it is all over.
By the way, I've survived my transfer review and am now officially a second year Ph.D. student. Hurrah! I'm so looking forward to my next 2+ years of
endless torture research. (>.<)
I'm still completely lousy at answering questions though, especially the general kind (>.<)