Doctoral education

Instructions for pre-examiners (School of Arts, Design and Architecture)

Guidelines for pre-examiners of doctoral theses in the School of Arts, Design and Architecture


  • Two external pre-examiners are appointed by the Doctoral Programme Committee of the Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture for each doctoral thesis (proposal by the supervising professor).
  • Pre-examiners will receive the manuscript in PDF form with instructions after they have been officially appointed.
  • Their task is to determine whether the doctoral thesis is ready for public defence.
  • They have 6 weeks to give their statements.
  • The statement examines the manuscript against the requirements for a doctoral thesis. It can contain suggestions for corrections and improvements.
  • Usually the manuscript will only be proofread after the changes possibly required by the pre-examiners have been done.
  • Based on the statements the Doctoral Programme Committee decides on granting the permission for public defence. The statements are attached to the Committee's meeting minutes, which are public documents.
  • After submitting the statement, the pre-examiner receives a fee for the pre-examination from the Department of the doctoral student.

Who qualifies as pre-examiner?

The pre-examiners must hold a doctor’s degree and possess sufficient scientific (and artistic, if necessary) competence and authority in the research field of the thesis and have a sufficient number of scientific publications. The pre-examiners are independent experts in the field, external to the school, and preferably also have gained expertise in the field of the thesis at the international level. It is possible to appoint a third pre-examiner on the basis of artistic merit only (without a doctor’s degree).

Requirement of impartiality: A pre-examiner cannot have had significant collaboration, such as co-authored publications with the student. Neither can a pre-examiner have had significant collaboration, such as co-authored publications with the advisor of the student, especially for previous five years.

A person who has pre-examined earlier one or several artistic parts of the doctoral thesis may also pre-examine the completed doctoral thesis.

Statement of the pre-examiner

  • In your statement, you should summarize the most important results and merits of the doctoral thesis along with discovered shortcomings. The statement examines the manuscript against the requirements for a doctoral thesis (see below).
  • A sufficient length for the statement is 2-3 pages, if revisions required are moderate.
  • We ask you to submit a separate Pre-examiner's proposal form (see below) with your statement.
  • The statements may contain suggestions for corrections and improvements, but should also explicitly indicate whether the pre-examiner recommends that the doctoral student be granted permission to defend the doctoral thesis in a public examination, or whether the student should be denied this permission.
  • Pre-examiners may enclose a separate list of corrections with the statement, or return the manuscript with their written comments to the secretary of the Committee, who will forward it to the student. The supervising professor is responsible for ensuring that the corrections and changes required by the pre-examiners are addressed.

General quality requirements for doctoral theses at Aalto University

  • A doctoral thesis shall contain new scientific knowledge in the field it represents.
  • The doctoral thesis must present the new results clearly and in a manner meeting the criteria set for scientific texts.
  • The independent contribution of the doctoral student shall be sufficient and clearly demonstrable.
  • The research methods used shall fulfil the criteria set for scientific research.
  • A doctoral thesis shall conform to the principles of responsible conduct of research and adhere to ethically sustainable principles.

Forms of doctoral doctoral theses at the School of Arts, Design and Architecture

Doctoral thesis at the School of Arts, Design and Architecture are monographs or article-based thesis.

Evaluation and grading of doctoral theses

After the manuscript has passed pre-examination, an opponent is appointed. A pre-examiner may be appointed as the opponent. The opponent will propose a grade for the doctoral thesis after the public defence. The following scale is used in the School of Arts, Design and Architecture: failed, pass, and pass with distinction. The Doctoral Progamme Committee decides on the approval or rejection of the doctoral thesis and its grade based on the proposal of the opponent.

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