Doctoral education

Instructions for opponents (School of Arts, Design and Architecture)

An opponent is an expert, appointed by the School, who is suitably qualified in the topic of the doctoral thesis. The opponent must hold a doctor’s degree.


  • The opponent examines the final doctoral thesis, which has already been published and is displayed publicly. The doctoral student cannot make any revisions to the thesis in this final stage. Prior to appointing the opponent the thesis has been evaluated by two pre-examiners.
  • The custos is responsible for explaining the customs, practicalities and the grading system to the opponent. 
  • After the defence, the opponent will give a written statement concerning the doctoral thesis and how the doctoral student has defended it in the public defence. The statement must indicate whether the opponent recommend approving or rejecting the thesis, and in case of approval, propose a grade.
  • Based on the statement the Doctoral Programme Committee decides on the approval or rejection. The statement is attached to the Committee's meeting minutes, which are public documents.
  • After submitting the statement, the opponent receives a fee for the examination from the Department of the doctoral student.

Doctoral thesis

  • The respondent will send you the final PDF version of the doctoral thesis as soon as it is ready for print.
  • If you wish, the School will post you the printed copy, but due to printing schedules it is likely to arrive quite close to the defence date, so it is best use the PDF version for evaluation.
  • Please let us know to what address you wish us to post the printed copy. We will also need your phone number in case we need to use a delivery service.

Public Defence

  • The respondent will take care of all the practical arrangements of the defence together with the department.
  • The opponent may use 4 hours for the examination, but 2 hours is more customary
  • Aalto University will make the necessary travel and accommodation reservations and pay the costs. Custos will tell you with whom you can discuss the arrangements.

Opponent's statement

  • Please submit your statement by email as soon as possible after the defence to the Secretary of the Doctoral Programme Committee (or in printed form to the custos).
  • The statement addressed to the Doctoral Programme Committee must indicate whether the approval or rejection of the doctoral thesis is recommended, and in case of approval, propose a grade.
  • The Doctoral Programme Committee's decision is based on the statement of the Opponent.
  • The opponent’s fee is paid after the School has received the statement.


  • It is the role of the Custos to discuss the grading system with the Opponent.
  • The grades used are pass and pass with distinction.
  • If you propose failing the doctoral thesis or the grade pass with distinction, please give reasons in your statement.

Earning a pass with distinction requires that the doctoral thesis be among the top 20% of the doctoral theses published internationally in its field. The criteria include that:

  • The doctoral thesis be written in a clear and linguistically correct language, and the referencing be faultless;
  • The articles of an article-based doctoral thesis be published in international series of reputable standing in the field, or in similar peer-reviewed works;
  • The author have made a significant independent contribution to the findings of the doctoral thesis;
  • The findings be exceptionally significant for the research field;
  • The doctoral thesis have particular scientific merit, and any included artistic components or product development projects meet particularly high artistic demands;
  • The doctoral thesis be defended excellently at the public examination.
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