Doctoral education

Doctoral defence and post-doctoral party (School of Arts, Design and Architecture)

Both the public defence and the post-doctoral party are academic events which follow a predetermined protocol. During the public examination of the doctoral thesis, or the defence, the doctoral student defends the results of their doctoral thesis against public criticism and answers questions presented by the opponent, who has been appointed to evaluate the thesis. The course of the public defense is supervised by a custos, who usually is the supervising professor of the doctoral student. The post-doctoral party, or "karonkka" marks the end of the doctoral thesis process and is arranged by the doctoral student to thank the opponent, the custos and others who contributed to the work.

Practical instructions

For information on the practical arrangements and IT support, date, place and language of the defence, please see the common instructions for public defence at Aalto University.

Also check out:

Public defence announcement and public display of thesis ( of thesis ( (

Doctoral hat floating above a speaker's podium with a microphone

Public defence at Aalto University

Instructions for planning and arranging public defences (for doctoral student and custos)

Doctoral education

Arrangements related to opponent

When the opponent has been appointed and date of the defence confirmed, the Doctoral Programme will send an official invitation to the opponent. The Doctoral Programme also sends guidelines for the opponent regarding the examination of the thesis. The opponent is requested to submit their statement by email within two weeks from the public defence either to the custos or directly to the Doctoral Programme.

The custos is responsible for instructing the opponent on practicalities of the defence.

Check list:

  • Agree with custos how the travelling arrangements of the opponent are handled. Travel services handle all the bookings and offer their assistance.
  • Send the final PDF version of your doctoral thesis to the opponent as soons as it is ready. You should not be in conctact with the opponent regarding your thesis in any other way before the defence.

Defence proceedings

Defence proceedings explains what happens during the defence in practice and the formal lines for the respondent, opponent and custos. The proceedings are followed also during a remote/hybrid defence, but they can be modified (e.g. the parties can be seated during the whole remote defence).

Audience etiquette may be distributed to the audience of the defence. It explains to the audience e.g. when they should stand up, when it is time for questions and that they should not applaud during the defence.

Customarily the defence begins at 12 noon sharp and takes approximately 2 hours, but it can take up to 4 hours. The audience must enter the hall by 12 noon, but the respondent, opponent and custos enter at 12:15 sharp.

Instructions for Custos

The Doctoral Programme Committee appoints the supervising professor as the custos of the public defence. Some other professor of the School with a doctor's degree in the same research field may also serve as the custos.

  • The custos is responsible for guiding the opponent in matters concerning the procedures of the examination of the doctoral thesis and the public defence, see Instructions for opponents (ARTS).
  • It is the role of the custos to discuss the grade with the opponent(s) and familiarise them with the grading scale used at the school and the principles of grading to be observed, see Instructions for opponents (ARTS).
  • Custos makes sure that the statement of the opponent is made according to the guidelines of the school and is submitted to the Secretary of the Doctoral Programme Committee within 2 weeks from the defense (or preferably at latest 3 days before the next meeting of the Committee).
  • Custos must also submit their own report to the Committee. The report must state how the defence proceeded (start and end times, number of persons in the audience).

Dress code

The dress code for the respondent, opponent and the custos is:

Women: dark dress (black, dark blue or dark grey gown, jacket and skirt or trouser suit), long leaves, no headwear

Men: dark suit (black, dark blue or dark grey suit) or tail coat with black vest.

The respondent may use the identifying color of their department in e.g. scarf, tie or colar. An opponent who has defended their doctoral thesis abroad may use the cape of their university. The opponent and custos wear the doctor's hat according to their background.

Dress code for the public is free, however they should respect the solemnity of the occasion.

Post-doctoral party

While it is an academic tradition, the post-doctoral party (karonkka) is not an official university event but a private event organised by the graduating doctoral student.

The Finnish word for the celebration, karonkka, derives from the diminutive form (koronka) of the Russian word korona, which means ‘crown’. The Finnish term karonkka is thus related to the Russian word koronovanije, signifying ‘coronation’. The post-doctoral party marks the end of the doctoral thesis process and is arranged by the doctoral candidate to thank the Opponent, the Custos and others who contributed to the work. Nowadays, doctoral students may invite friends and family along with members of the academic community to this party.

In the following, some traditions related to the post-doctoral celebration are explained.

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