Tuesday, April 12, 2016

PhD Defenses around the world: a defense in Sweden

Today, in the series of "Defenses around the world", I am hosting the story of a scientist who prefers to remain anonymous. Veronika Cheplygina, whom you might remember from the "How I Work" interview, interviewed her friend for this occasion. He/She received his/her PhD at a science faculty at Lund University in Sweden.

What needs to happen prior to the defense?
Before you submit your thesis to the university, you need to have a committee for your defense. The committee consists of an opponent and other members. The supervisor invites these, but the committee has to be approved by a university board.
The official regulations can be found here.

What is the defense day like?
The defense takes place in a regular lecture room at the university. There are no formal requirements for what the defendant and committee need to wear, although most opt for a suit.

The traditional way is that the opponent presents your thesis and asks critical questions about it, although some universities are now moving to the more common setup of the defendant presenting the thesis.

There are also questions from the committee members and from the public – it is a law that anybody should be able to ask questions. The questions are not only limited to the thesis, general questions about the field you are defending in are also allowed.

Perhaps the most striking feature is that there is no time limit for the defense, and the time varies a lot. My defense lasted about 4 hours, a friend’s about 2.5 hours.

What happens next?

The committee deliberates after the defense. The time is also not fixed, but is usually around half an hour. Afterwards, you hear a decision: pass or fail, there are no grades involved. It is rare to fail at a defense – if this happens, it is before the defense, because the thesis is not approved.
After the decision, the dissertation is considered final as it is. This is different from Denmark or Norway, where you get notes which you still need to revise.
In the evening, you might go to dinner with your committee, but there are no set rules for this.

When do you get your diploma?

You get an official diploma after three months or so. The ceremonial promotion happens on a different day, which is held once a year at the end of May. This day is not only for those getting their PhD, but also when professors are inaugurated. For the big universities, this ceremony is held in a cathedral and lasts roughly 4 hours.

At the ceremony, graduates wear evening wear (tailcoat or black dress with sleeves). Here they get their official diploma in Latin, accompanied by a golden ring inscribed with the date of the defense and the faculty you belong to, and either a tall hat with the emblem of the faculty (in science) or sometimes a laurel wreath (in humanities). The ring indicates that you are married to science. Then you are declared doctor, also in Latin.
Outside the cathedral, there are cannons which fire after the graduates of each faculty have been promoted, as well as for special cases such as jubilee doctors (those who have been a doctor for 50 years).

Some impressions of the ceremony:

And some photographs can be found here.

There is also an official dinner afterwards.

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