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university of tampere: faculty of communication sciences: doctoral studies: doctoral study guide: examination process:
Faculty of Communication SciencesUniversity of TampereFaculty of Communication Sciences

Public Defence

Custos, Opponents and the Evaluation Board

Once permission to publish the dissertation has been granted, the LTL Board will appoint a custos and at least one opponent for the public defence of the dissertation. The custos will represent the University at the public defence proceedings. As a rule, opponents should not be employees of the University of Tampere. Before the opponents are appointed, the author of the dissertation is given an opportunity to comment on the potential unacceptability of the prospective opponents. The student's supervisors may not act as opponents.

At this stage, the LTL Board also appoints an evaluation board which is made up of the opponent(s), the custos and an external docent. If the custos has acted as the dissertation supervisor, he/she will be replaced in the evaluation board by a professor or by some other person who is a docent or holds docent-level qualifications in the field. Before the evaluation board is appointed, the author of the dissertation is given an opportunity to comment on the potential unacceptability of any prospective members.

The LTL Board appoints the evaluation board on the recommendation of the relevant professor.

Date and Place of the Public Defence

To find a suitable time for the public defence, the custos contacts the opponents and the person responsible for doctoral affairs at LTL. That person will also book the lecture hall.

Public Defence

The public defence of a doctoral dissertation is an event at which the doctoral candidate defends his/her dissertation. A public defence is open to everyone. The chair of a public defence is the custos, whose duty is to ensure that the doctoral candidate and opponents have enough information about how the defence proceedings are to take place. The defence of a doctoral dissertation generally follows certain traditional customs and formal requirements. The main participants may negotiate the arrangements beforehand.

The public defence of a doctoral dissertation serves three distinct functions:

  • It offers an opportunity to publicly and reliably ensure that the doctoral student has written the dissertation himself/herself and that the dissertation meets the basic criteria for a dissertation.
  • 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, asking questions of and discussing with the author.
  • It offers an opportunity to make research public in a way that deviates from the norm and is more visible to the public.

The public defence of a doctoral dissertation generally follows certain traditional customs and formal requirements. These customs and formal requirements supplement the official regulations concerning the examination of a dissertation. In the course of time, formalities and traditional customs naturally change. For this reason, the main participants in the defence proceedings should always negotiate the arrangements beforehand.

Dress Code

For the proceedings, the doctoral candidate, the custos and the opponents must follow a dress code. Men wear a tailcoat and a black waistcoat or a dark suit, women a black dress or a jacket suit. Alternatively, participants may wear the gown of the University of Tampere. For more information on wearing the University gown, please contact the Secretary to the Rector.

The custos and the opponent must follow the doctoral candidate's suit. If the custos or the opponents have received their doctorate abroad, they may wear their academic dress, which may include a robe and a cap. The custos and the opponent(s) must hold their Doctor's caps in their hands when entering and leaving the lecture hall.

Entrance and Opening the Defence Proceedings

The participants enter the lecture hall in the following order: first the doctoral candidate, second the custos and, last, the opponent(s). In the lecture hall, the custos will sit in the middle, with the doctoral candidate on his/her left and opponent(s) on his/her right. When everyone is in place, the custos will open the public defence by saying, "As the custos appointed by the School of Language, Translation and Literary Studies, I declare these defence proceedings to be open." The doctoral candidate will remain standing and deliver his/her lectio praecursoria, which may last no longer than 20 minutes. This introductory lecture will be given on a topic related to the dissertation, but not on the actual research itself. Any non-Finnish opponents will be provided with a translation of the introductory lecture if it is given in a language other than the language of the proceedings. The doctoral candidate will begin by saying "Honorable Custos, Honorable Opponent(s), ladies and gentlemen."                       

The former custom of announcing typographical errors is no longer used. Instead, the doctoral candidate may give the opponent a list of typographical errors. The candidate may also provide copies of the typographical errors list, the introductory lecture or other relevant materials to be handed out to the audience.

After finishing his/her lectio praecursoria, the doctoral candidate will say: "I ask you, honoured professor(s) (doctor[s], etc.), as the opponent(s) appointed by the School of Language, Translation and Literary Studies, to present the observations you consider appropriate for this dissertation."

The opponent will stand up and give a short response in which he/she deals with the dissertation's position and significance in science and other questions of a general nature. Even if there are several opponents, only one will give a response. After this, the opponent and the candidate sit down.


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.

Opponents may take no more than four hours to examine a dissertation; the proceedings as a whole may not exceed six hours. The custos may suspend the defence proceedings for breaks. At the end of the examination, the opponent (or one of them, if there are several) presents a closing statement. The candidate and the opponent stand up for this statement. If there are several opponents, only one will make a closing statement. After that, the doctoral candidate will thank the opponent(s).

When the examination is over, topics not touched on previously may be discussed. To initiate the discussion, the doctoral candidate will address the audience and say: "Ladies and gentlemen, I ask those of you who have observations to make on the dissertation presented here to please request the floor from the custos." After this opening, the custos will lead the discussion for as long as necessary, but not in excess of the maximum total duration of six hours. The custos will preside over the discussion by giving the floor to speakers and ensuring that the candidate has the opportunity to answer each point and that the discussion remains relevant.

The custos closes the defence proceedings by standing up and saying, "I declare these defence proceedings to be closed." The participants leave the lecture hall in reverse order, i.e. the opponent(s) leave first, the custos second and the candidate last.

The coffee and post-doctoral party (karonkka) are unofficial private events. The doctoral candidate may invite people to the coffee before leaving the lecture hall.

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Last update: 8.4.2014 9.05 Muokkaa

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