Doctoral education

Public defence at Aalto University

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 public defence is also a ceremonial occasion that follows the academic traditions of each field.

On this page you can find Aalto University's instructions for arranging public defences.

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

Date and time of the defence

The doctoral student agrees the date of the defence with the opponent and the custos. The date and time of the defence are then confirmed by the Doctoral programme committee of the School. This can happen in the same meeting where the permission for defence is granted or later, depending on the School.

Customarily the defence begins at 12 noon sharp and takes approximately 2 hours. The audience must enter the hall by 12 noon, but the repondent, opponent and custos enter at 12:15 sharp.

Place of the defence

The public defence can take place

  1. at the premises of Aalto University
  2. remotely over an interactive online platform such as Zoom or Teams
  3. in hybrid form (both on campus & interactively online)

In case the defence is arranged remotely or in hybrid form, participation from all channels must be interactive (is must be possible for the participants to ask questions at the alloted time).

Language of the defence

Language of the public defence confirmed by the Doctoral Programme Committee and is customarily Finnish, Swedish or English, depending on the language of the thesis and the languages spoken by the respondent and the opponent.

Doctoral student generally gives the Lectio Praecursoria (max. 20 minutes) in the language of the public defence.

Defence arrangements and practicalities

The practical arrangements of the defence are the responsibility of the doctoral student. Some departments offer help with the arrangements.

Arrangements for public defence under COVID-19

The restrictions on the number of event participants are lifted as of 14 February 2022. However, when events are organised, taking account of health security still remains important.

Doctoral hats, 2016

Schools' protocols for the public defence and post-doctoral party

Each School has also their own specific instructions for the public defence and the post-doctoral party, which are academic events following the traditions of each field. These include e.g. protocol/proceedings of the defence, roles of the opponent and the custos, dress code and traditions related to the "karonkka", ie. post-doctoral party.

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Doctoral education services


Doctoral education services

Doctoral education services support doctoral students, supervising professors, thesis advisors and doctoral programme directors in matters related to doctoral studies. Doctoral education services belong to Learning Services.

Doctoral education
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