The faculty council will appoint the opponent and the custos. Doctoral candidates may contest these appointments if they have reservations concerning the impartiality of the nominees.
The public examination is usually arranged no earlier than four weeks after permission to defend the dissertation has been granted. The faculty confirms the date of the public defence. There are separate guidelines for writing a press release.
Once the permission has been granted, the custos and the administrative secretary of the faculty agree on advising the doctoral candidate. The faculty covers the opponent’s travel and accommodation costs. The administrative secretary helps the custos with practical arrangements.
The date of the defence is primarily a weekday. If the public defence will be held at the university’s premises, please contact the faculty office early on to reserve the room. Please mention about any specific requirements that you may have for the room. The faculty office will also take care of distributing copies of the dissertation to the custos, opponent, and on public display.
Prior to the public defence
The doctoral candidate, custos and opponent meet on the day of the public defence before the defence to discuss how the event proceeds; there is some variation between faculties. The doctoral candidate, custos and opponent together agree on the meeting and the administrative secretary of the faculty helps with practical arrangements, such as reserving a room or ordering lunch and coffee.
In the public defence, the attire of the doctoral candidate, opponent and custos will be dignified and suited to the occasion – it must be discussed and agreed on earlier by these three. Men can wear a tailcoat or a dark suit and women usually wear a black (dark) dress or a two-piece suit (skirt or trousers). Insignia are not used. Jewellery should not be prominent. An international opponent can wear a doctoral gown.
There is no dress code for the audience at the public examination.
These guidelines describe academic traditions, but it is not required that you follow them to every detail.
Men: A black, navy or dark-grey suit, single- or double-breasted – the fabric can have discreet stripes. A potential waistcoat should be made of the same fabric as the suit or its colour should be in harmony with the suit. White shirt. A tactful tie or bow tie that works with the suit (not white). Dark socks and shoes with slim soles.
Women: An elegant black (dark) dress or a light two-piece (skirt or trousers). Light shoes. Socks should complement the dress, e.g. the colour can flatter that of the shoes.
Men: A black tailcoat with matching trousers that have satin on the side seams. The coat is not buttoned. A black waistcoat (also in the evening event, if only men are present). A white starched shirt with a stiff front and collar. A white bowtie. No handkerchief at daytime. Black socks and shoes with slim soles (not patent leather at daytime). No wristwatch. For outdoor clothing, a black coat or cape, a white scarf and white gloves.
Women: A black, high-necked, long-sleeved dress or two-piece (skirt or trousers). Black gloves. Graceful shoes.
Typically, public defences are announced to begin at 12:00. It is advisable for the audience to be present by this time. Audience members can take flowers or presents with them to the defence room, but they are handed over to the doctoral candidate after the defence when coffee is served and congratulations are given.
The public defence begins when the doctoral candidate, custos and opponent arrive – in that particular order – into the defence room fifteen (15) minutes past the announced time of the event. When the doors open to the candidate, the audience stands up.
The custos and the opponent, provided that they are doctoral degree holders, carry their doctor's hats in their hands when entering and leaving the defence room. For the duration of the public defence, they place their hats in front of them on the table with the lyre emblem facing the audience. If clip-on microphones are used, they are switched on only in front of the audience.
The custos will introduce the doctoral candidate and the opponent and will open the examination by saying: " As the custos appointed by the Faculty of [X], I declare this public defence open."
The audience will take their seats. The candidate will deliver his or her introductory lecture: lectio praecursoria. Please read our separate guidelines for the lectio praecursoria
At the public examination, the form of direct address is "Mr / Madam Opponent". It is advisable to practice these expressions beforehand to ensure that verbal communication in the public defence is fluent and correct.
After the lectio praecursoria, the doctoral candidate remains standing for the duration of the opponent’s opening speech. The opponent stands up to make a brief statement about the scientific status and significance of the dissertation and about other general issues. The candidate listens to the statement standing, looking at the opponent. At the end of this brief statement, the opponent announces that he or she will continue with more detailed observations. The opponent and the candidate will take their seats.
Examination of the dissertation
The actual examination of the dissertation is carried out as a dialogue between the opponent and the candidate. The opponent discusses the whole dissertation focusing on both general questions and details. The candidate responds to the comments and questions, defending the choices, conclusions and results of the dissertation. Responses are typically begun by saying, for example, “Mr / Madam opponent”.
The opponent is allowed to spend a maximum of four (4) hours on the examination. If the examination takes more than two (2) hours, including the lectio praecursoria, the custos may announce a break of 15–30 minutes.
At the conclusion of the examination, the opponent makes a final statement. The doctoral candidate stands up to listen to it. The candidate looks at the opponent. At the end of the final statement, the opponent announces whether he or she will propose to the Faculty that the dissertation be accepted.
The doctoral candidate will remain standing to thank the opponent. The doctoral candidate can freely formulate his or her thanks, but the nature of the event will naturally be taken into account.
After thanking the opponent, the doctoral candidate will ask the audience to make comments and pose questions: "If anyone present wishes to make any comments concerning my dissertation, please ask the custos for the floor."
Concluding the examination
While the candidate remains standing, the custos will give the floor to any extra opponents and see to that the candidate has the opportunity to reply to each comment and that the comments do not digress from the topic at hand. Typically, there are no extra opponents.
Finally, the custos will stand up to announce that the examination is completed. The candidate, custos and opponent – in this particular order – leave the defence room while the audience is standing. It is advisable to switch off your clip-on microphone before leaving the room. The audience does not applaud or cheer. The event can take a maximum of six (6) hours.
Coffee and congratulations
The opponent is given the opportunity to thank the opponent and custos. Only thereafter can others approach to congratulate the doctoral candidate. Public speeches are saved for the party – karonkka.
If the public defence is organised at the university’s premises, the university offers coffee and cake after the event.
The post-defence party karonkka is an academic tradition to honour the opponent. The party is hosted by the doctoral candidate. The doctoral candidate invites at least the opponent, custos and supervisors. It doubles as an opportunity to thank others who have supported the candidate along the doctoral path. Usually, the invitees also include the candidate’s spouse, parents and a few good friends. Please note that the event is not, however, a family celebration. It is also customary to invite potential extra opponents from the defence to the party, but according to the traditional unwritten rule they do not show up.
Nowadays, it is quite common that the candidate sends an invite to the party well in advance. The candidate politely enquires the opponent in advance, if he or she can start making preparations for the party. The invitation should specify the time, place and dress code.
According to the tradition, the candidate offers the dinner, including drinks. The guest of honour, i.e. the opponent, sits on the right-hand side of the candidate. Otherwise the seating arrangement is planned to suit the occasion and participants. After the main course, speeches are given. The candidate begins with thanking first the opponent, then the custos and others who have supported in the process. If you are interested in karonkka traditions, you will find descriptions from various sources and by asking senior members of the academic community.