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Tampere University Student's Handbook

Formalities concerning the public examination of the doctoral dissertation 

Public examination during the doctoral defence

The public examination of a doctoral dissertation serves at least three purposes: 

  1. It offers an opportunity to publicly and reliably ensure that you have written the dissertation yourself and that the work meets the basic scientific criteria for a dissertation.
  2. It offers the opponent(s), people evaluating the dissertation and other people interested in the subject an opportunity to familiarise themselves with the dissertation by listening to, presenting observations on, asking questions of and discussing matters with the author.
  3. It offers an opportunity to make research public in a way that is different from the everyday life at the University and is more transparent to the public.

In order to serve these purposes, certain customs and forms are observed in the public defence. Thus, these customs and forms supplement the official regulations on the examination of dissertations. The main protagonists of the public defence should negotiate and agree on how they will be applied at the event.

Practical arrangements of the public defence

There are three options for organising a public defence of a doctoral dissertation at Tampere University. The doctoral candidate, Custos and the Opponent should choose one of the options well in advance.

1. Traditional public defence (live stream with Panopto)
2. Partly remote defence (e.g., some participants in the lecture hall, some on Zoom)
3. Completely remote defence (all participants on Zoom)

The primary reason for streaming the public defences online is to honour the valuable research done by the doctoral candidate, and to promote their expertise and open science.

The live streaming during the pandemic showed us that there is positive interest towards the latest research, which the streaming serves well. The Coordination group for doctoral education recommends that all public defences wold be streamed online. By doing so, your friends, family, and colleagues can participate in your special day even from afar.

When the defence is streamed live it produces a video recording, which you can have as a memory of the event. Tampere University does not store or use the recording. You can always say no to the streaming, and consequently, there will be no recording.

Check detailed instructions for each of the options from the attachment:

It is possible for the doctoral candidate to use the template of the university as the opening slide of the public defence, which shows the name of the doctoral candidate and the name of the dissertation as well as the key persons (Custos and Opponent/Opponents). The opening slide is useful for the audience waiting for the beginning of the public defence in the auditorium and online. Download the pptx-file and fill it with your details. You can also use it for your lectio praecursoria if you use slides. Remember accessibility and creative commons licenses if you use e.g., pictures in your slides.

The doctoral candidate writes his/her own press release with the communications team: Publishing a doctoral dissertation (printing and the press release)

The public defence as an event

If they hold doctoral degrees, the custos and the opponent must hold their doctor’s hats in their left hand when they enter and leave the lecture hall. The hats should be placed on the table with the insignia towards the audience.  

According to academic traditions, the Opponent, Custos and doctoral candidate wear dark, festive outfits. For example, they may wear a tailcoat with a black vest, a dark suit or a uniform without decorations, a black skirt suit or pantsuit, or a long black long-sleeved dress without a hat, or the outfit of a doctoral candidate in cases where the degree was earned abroad. There's no dress code for the audience.

The typical conventions of Finnish public defence and for insights into public defence as an interaction situation, see Laajalahti and Virtanen (2024, Insights for Opponents on fostering interaction in the public defence of a doctoral dissertation. Prologi).

Entering and opening the public defence

Traditionally, the audience enters the hall by 12:00 and the event begins at 12:15 p.m. When agreed separately, the public defence may also begin at other times of day. The participants enter the lecture hall in the following order:

  • First, the doctoral candidate
  • Second, the Custos; and,
  • Last, the Opponent(s).

The doctoral candidate sits to the left of the Custos and the Opponent to the right if there are no practical reasons to change the seating. Such reasons could be, for example, the computer from which the doctoral candidate wants to show their slides.

When the audience has sat down, the Custos starts the public defence by saying: 

“The Faculty of XX at Tampere University has granted XX permission to defend their dissertation in public and appointed Professor X from X university to act as the Opponent, and me, Professor X, as the Custos. In this event, we will publicly examine XX’s doctoral dissertation for the X degree they are presenting for public examination. I declare the public defence open.” After this, the Custos and Opponent(s) sit down.

The doctoral candidate will remain standing and deliver their lectio praecursoria, which may last no longer than 20 minutes. It begins with the words: “Honoured Custos, Honoured Opponent, audience members.”

The purpose of the lectio praecursoria is to introduce the audience to the topic of the dissertation, but not to give a detailed account of the results or the course of the research. (At this point, the doctoral candidate may distribute with the assistance of a person sitting in the audience, for example, the text of their lectio praecursoria, a list of typographical errors, or other material related to the dissertation. Many fields, however, have ceased to do so).

The doctoral candidate ends the lectio praecursoria with the following words: “I ask you, honoured Professor NN (Doctor NN, or the title that has been agreed), as the Opponent appointed by the Faculty of XX, to present the observations you consider appropriate for this dissertation.”

The Opponent will stand up and give a short response about the dissertation’s scientific position and significance and other topics of a more general nature. After this, the Opponent and the doctoral candidate sit down. Even if there are several Opponents, only one will give a response.

Examination of the doctoral dissertation

At the beginning of the examination proper, the Opponent generally focuses on the methodology and general questions, followed by a detailed examination. If there are several Opponents, they may agree to take turns and decide on a division of labour beforehand. They may also discuss a topic one of them brings up during the proceedings.

The language of the public examination and lectio praecursoria should be Finnish, Swedish, the language of the dissertation or another language approved by the Faculty. One Opponent may use up to four hours for the examination. The examination may be suspended for a break; the Custos announces the break.

At the end of the examination, the Opponent stands up to present their closing statement, which the doctoral candidate listens standing up. After the closing statement, the doctoral candidate immediately expresses their thanks to the Opponent(s). The doctoral candidate can use their own words to express their gratitude. For example: "I want to thank my Honoured Opponent for the insightful comments on my dissertation and the fruitful conversation we were able to have today."

After the Opponent(s) have concluded the examination, the discussion may still continue on topics that have not already be broached. The doctoral candidate turns to the audience and says: “If any honourable members of the audience wish to make comments or questions concerning my dissertation, please ask the Custos for the floor." The audience may present spoken or written comments. The audience’s comments may be taken into account in the grading of the dissertation.

The discussion continues and is chaired by the Custos. However, the total length of the public defence should not exceed six hours. The Custos concludes the event by saying: “I declare this public examination to be closed.

If there is coffee served right after the public defence for the audience, the doctoral candidate announces their invitation in their own words before leaving the lecture hall. For example, "Now I have the pleasure to invite you all to the hall outside to enjoy coffee and cake. Welcome!"

Leaving the public defence

The participants leave the lecture hall in reverse order, i.e., the Opponent(s) leave first, the Custos second, and the doctoral candidate last.

Celebrating the Doctorate

The Doctoral Banquet

After the public defence, coffee may be served and a doctoral banquet, a karonkka, which is a formal celebration for the academic community may be arranged.

The doctoral banquet is an old academic tradition. The doctoral banquet marks the end of the dissertation process and is arranged by the doctoral candidate to thank the Opponent, the Custos and others who contributed to the work. Nowadays, the doctoral banquet is not celebrated with all the academic formalities as previously. Doctoral candidates decide what type of a party they want to organise and how many guests they invite. Friends and family, along with members of the academic community, may be invited to this party. At its smallest, the doctoral banquet is a joint dinner for the doctoral candidate, the Opponent(s) and the Custos. The dress code of the doctoral banquet is a tailcoat or a dark suit.

At the party, the Opponent is seated to the right of the doctoral candidate and the Custos to the left. If there have been two Opponents, they sit on both sides of the doctoral candidate. The Custos is seated next, either to the left of the doctoral candidate or opposite them. The other guests are seated according to their academic seniority.

The doctoral candidate offers food, drinks and possibly other forms of entertainment to the guests. The candidate starts by welcoming all those present before the dinner is served. Speeches are made after the meal when coffee has been served. The doctoral candidate thanks the Opponent and others who have aided in the work. Then it is time for the guests to speak. The Opponent’s response speech is usually light-heartedly dignified rather than too solemn or formal. Next, the Custos may address those present. After this, other guests may speak in the order in which they were mentioned in the doctoral candidate’s speech. If the doctoral candidate wishes to thank their family members, this should be done at the conclusion of the candidate’s address.

The Ceremonial Conferment of Doctoral Degrees

The ceremonial conferment of doctoral degrees is the highest and most prestigious academic celebration and a tradition that spans several centuries. “Promootio”, the Finnish word for the conferment, comes from the Latin verb “promovere”, which means promotion, advancement, and elevation. The purpose of the conferment ceremony is to highlight the value of and respect for research and education.

Tampere University’s conferment ceremony took place on 12–14 August 2022. Tampere University's next conferment of doctoral degrees will take place on 6-8 June 2025. Please join our alumni network to keep posted!

Joining the alumni network: enter your secondary email address in your graduation application in Sisu (tuni email will stop working approx. 7 days after graduation) and put a check mark in the question regarding alumni mail in the graduation application.

The costs of the public defence

Faculties have made decisions on the reimbursement of costs related to the public examination, please see further information on these on the intranet page Costs related to the public examination (login required). The doctoral candidate pays for the costs of the doctoral banquet (the post-examination party).

Travel and accommodation arrangements of the Opponent

The Campus Assistants no longer reserve visitors’ trips or hotels or act as hosts of the visitors.

The travel reservation practices of visitors have been streamlined together with Certia, the producer of travel services. A form for visitors’ travel reservations is introduced, which Certia will use to make the visitors’ travel reservations in the future. The recommended practice is that the visitor’s employer organisation is responsible for the travel reservations and sends an invoice for the reimbursement of the travel costs to the University.

In the future, opponents: 

  • Make their travel reservations mainly at their own organisation, which will invoice Tampere University for the realised travel expenses. (Invoicing addresses
  • If the above-mentioned procedure is not possible, the opponents buy their tickets themselves and apply for a reimbursement of the travel costs with a travel expense claim.  
  • If neither of the above-mentioned options are possible, the Faculty’s contact person reserves trips and / or hotels via Certia’s travel services using the Visitor’s travel reservation form.  

The Faculty will reimburse the travel and accommodation expenses (travels according to the most economical option available, NB: according to the University travel policy no daily allowance is paid to a person who receives a fee, also no meals during travel are compensated), please see faculty-specific instructions for the reimbursement of costs related to the defence. If the travel tickets or some of the travel tickets are purchased by the opponent, the travel expenses to be reimbursed should be listed on the travel claim form with the original receipts attached and delivered scanned by email to campusassistants [at] (campusassistants[at]tuni[dot]fi).

For more information on the Assistant Services on the intranet: Assistant Services (login required).

Tips for communication in your public defence

The public examination of your doctoral dissertation is an exciting task, which naturally raises at least some performance anxiety. Dr. Ira Virtanen, Senior Specialist at the Doctoral School at Tampere University, has produced supportive materials to provide you with practical tools and tips for the special period in your life.

Make use of the open guided material on Moodle. The Doctoral School has put together a resource in which you find questions to spark your preparation for the different communication tasks and the interaction during the public defence. The material is called Self-Study and Support for Public Defence (in Moodle), and it can be used independently or with supervisors as well as by opponents and custos.

The self-study platform is not a credit-based Moodle area. If you would like to practice hands-on, enrol in the course Communication Skills for Your Up-coming Public Defence (TAU.TRI.409), which is offered each semester. The participants are chosen based on their state of completion i.e., nearness of one’s defence date. Look to enrol when you have only 6 months or less to your defence date to maximise the benefits of the training.

Please, see videos on communication in public defence (link opens in Youtube). The videos give you guidance for example, on how to present your lectio praecursoria, respond to the opponent’s questions, and write a press release. Nevertheless, always check your own faculty’s up-to-date instructions.

See intrapage for guidance how to write your opening speech, lectio praecursoria.

Guided Relaxation for the Doctoral Researchers

NB! Guided relaxations are available again in December 2024. Relaxations can be organised before that only privately

Let's do a guided relaxation to enforce positive sensations and feelings about The Day. You have a special day ahead of you and it is possible to enjoy that.

Deep relaxation nourishes your body and mind. It strengthens your connection with your inner world and the posibilities and strengths there are. We often direct our selves subconsciously.  When we relax and we let our controlling mind move  aside, we get into a better connection with our subconscious minds.   

You do not need to do, try or know anything. In the guided relaxation we strengthen our inner “powers”, such as self confidence and belief in our own capabilities and use visualization and enforce positive images. The guided relaxation takes about 30 minutes, but it’s good to reserve an hour so there is some time for peaceful discussion and possible questions.

The guided relaxations can be done example about 1 week before the public defence. It is done via Teams and  you need to have a peaceful environment where you are not distracted and can lie down comfortably. 

Contact Anna Nykänen, anna.nykanen [at] (anna[dot]nykanen[at]tuni[dot]fi) and make an appointment for the guided relaxation. (Training: Finnish Association of Hypnosis - SHL ry)


Published: 15.4.2019
Updated: 17.6.2024