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Assessment and Defence of the PhD Thesis

Guidelines in connection with the Evaluation and Defense of PhD Theses at the Faculty of Engineering at University of Southern Denmark - Completion of the PhD Programme

Step 1: Nomination of Evaluation Committee

Step 2: Preliminary Evaluation      

Step 3: Conduct of the Public Defense

Step 4: The Defense

Step 5: The written evaluation of the PhD programme at the PhD school and the final assessment of the thesis and the defense       

Special exceptions

Step 1: Nomination of Evaluation Committee

The head of section and the principal supervisor have to submit the proposal for nomination of the Evaluation Committee, propose a chairman for the committee and ensure that the proposed members are willing to serve on the committee. The proposal must be sent via the department PhD secretary to the PhD administration 1 month before the student hands in the PhD thesis. The Evaluation Committee must be officially approved by the faculty before the PhD thesis is submitted. 

The Evaluation Committee consists of at least three members who must be of professorial or full-time associate professorial status or have equivalent qualifications. Two of the members must be external and one must be a member of the staff of the University of Southern Denmark. One of the members must come from a foreign university. The student’s supervisors may not be members of the Committee, but the principal supervisor takes part in the committee’s deliberations without voting rights.

The evaluation committee must be approved by the PhD committee, the dean and thereafter the PhD student. The student is given one week to accept the composition of the committee. The written response must be submitted to the PhD school. When the student has approved the committee the PhD school sends out printed copies of the thesis to the members of the committee, the principal supervisor and the department.

Under no circumstances must there be any communication directly between the evaluation committee and the author in the period of time between the submission of the thesis and the defense. Any clarifying questions regarding the thesis and its subject must be directed to the principal supervisor.

Step 2: Preliminary Evaluation

No later than two months after the thesis was submitted to the faculty, the Evaluation Committee delivers a preliminary evaluation of the thesis. The Section and the chair of the evaluation committee are responsible for holding the deadline. The evaluation is submitted to the faculty PhD school.

This evaluation has to be signed by the chairman and must state, with reasons, whether the thesis in its current form is a suitable basis for the award of the PhD degree and whether this opinion is unanimous or a majority decision.

The preliminary evaluation should be approx. 2 A4 pages, made in the faculty evaluation form, and must as a minimum include:

  1. Name of PhD student and title of the thesis, date of the defense

  2. Name, title and affiliation of the committee members

  3. Comments on within which academic field the PhD thesis has its primary contribution and, if relevant, within which it has its secondary contribution.

  4. A short summary of the thesis form and content

  5. Comments on the structure of the thesis, is it coherent and well written?

  6. If the thesis is article based, information on where the papers are published and whether the papers are peer-reviewed.

  7. Elaboration on:

    1. How the author masters the scientific theories, methods and tools as well as other skills connected with research and development within the area.

    2. How the author in the thesis shows the ability to analyze, evaluate and develop new ideas, including designing and developing new techniques and skills in the field of study.

    3. How the author in the thesis demonstrate the ability to participate in international discussions in the field of study and to disseminate research results and progress.

    4. How  the thesis makes a significant contribution to the development of new knowledge and understanding in the field of research

    5. Strengths and weaknesses of the thesis.

  8. Conclusion on whether or not the thesis is suitable for the defense and as basis for the award of the PhD degree. The evaluation must state if the decision is unanimous or a majority decision. 

  9. Date and signature of the chair of the committee on behalf of the committee

A PhD thesis cannot be conditionally approved for the defense.

If the preliminary evaluation is positive, the Faculty will inform the student and send him/her a copy of the evaluation without further comments. 

If the evaluation is negative the evaluation committee must in the preliminary evaluation state what changes must be made to the thesis in order for it to be accepted for a defense. The committee must also suggest how many months the author would need to make the changes and if the committee would be willing to evaluate the revised thesis. The deadline must be no less than 3 months. The committee must return their copies of the thesis to the PhD school.

In its estimation of the time needed for revision, the committee must take into consideration the fact that upon submitting a PhD thesis for the defense, the enrolment of a PhD student stops. The author obtains employment subsequent to the submission of the thesis or is registered as unemployed. Therefore the recommended time for a revision must take into consideration that the author is no longer a full-time student and that revision takes place outside of work hours.

The student and the principal supervisor are given a deadline of two weeks to comment on the evaluation and its recommendations. The written response to the PhD school must clearly state if the terms for resubmission is accepted.

In accordance with the PhD Order, the PhD school will make one of the following decisions based on the evaluation committee's recommendation and the author's and the principal supervisor's comments:

1) That the defense of the thesis may not take place.
2) That the PhD thesis may be resubmitted in a revised version within a deadline of at least three months. If a revised PhD thesis is resubmitted, it shall be assessed by the same evaluation committee, unless special circumstances apply.
3) That the PhD thesis shall be submitted for assessment by a new evaluation committee.

The PhD school will, in writing, notify both the evaluation committee and the author of its decision within 2 weeks after having received the comments from the author and the principal supervisor.

Step 3: Conduct of the Public Defense

If the evaluation committee´s preliminary evaluation is positive the thesis is defended at a public defense. The defense is held no sooner than two weeks after the valuation committee has given their preliminary recommendation and at most three months after the submission of the thesis. It is the responsibility of the department PhD secretary to ensure that the room reserved is of sufficient capacity, to advertise the time and place for the defense and to appoint a chairman for the defense. The date and time for the defense must be fixed after discussion between the committee members and the principal supervisor and the student.

At least three weeks before the public defense takes place, the chairman of the committee must inform the PhD school of the date for the defense. The title of the defense is equivalent to the title of the thesis. The subject of the lecture must take the dissertation as its starting point but need not be an exposition of the thesis.

Step 4: The Defense

The defense follows the structure below:

  1. Introduction by the chairman of the defense.
  2. The student gives a 30-45 minute presentation (see Step 4).
  3. The chairman of the defense may allow questions from the audience specifically related to the presentation.
  4. The two external members of the Evaluation Committee comment on the report and/or examine the student. The chairman of the defense limits this discussion to one hour.
  5. The SDU member of the evaluation committee has 30 minutes at most for opposing the dissertation.
  6. The chairman of the defense closes the defense. Before doing so, he may invite the student to make a short comment.

A contribution from the principal supervisor is not expected. The chairman of the defense may waive this rule if so requested by the assessment committee. The principal supervisor’s contribution in that case will be limited to 30 minutes.

Step 5: The written evaluation of the PhD programme at the PhD school and the final assessment of the thesis and the defense

The assessment committee's final tasks includes both the provision of

  1. a written evaluation of the PhD programme at the PhD school 
  2. a final evaluation of the individual thesis and defense.

The two evaluations must be made separately

Evaluation of the PhD programme

The written evaluation of the PhD programme at the PhD school will take place in connection with the defense. By answering an online questionnaire the external members are asked to comment on the contents of the PhD programme within the time limits set by the PhD order and the internal faculty rules as described in the cover letter received along with the thesis.

Final evaluation

The assessment committee gives its final evaluation of the thesis and the oral defense. The evaluation must be approx. 2 – 3 A4 pages

The evaluation must be made in the faculty evaluation form, take the preliminary evaluation as its starting point and must as a minimum include:

  1. Name of PhD student and title of the thesis, date of the defense

  2. Name, title and affiliation of the committee members

  3. Comments on within which academic field the PhD thesis has its primary contribution and, if relevant, within which it has its secondary contribution.

  4. A short summary of the thesis form and content

  5. Comments on the structure of the thesis, is it coherent and well written?

  6. If the thesis is article based, information on where the papers are published and whether the papers are peer-reviewed.

  7. Elaboration on:

    1. How the author masters the scientific theories, methods and tools as well as other skills connected with research and development within the area.

    2. How the author in the thesis shows the ability to analyze, evaluate and develop new ideas, including designing and developing new techniques and skills in the field of study.

    3. How the author in the thesis and at the oral defense demonstrate the ability to participate in international discussions in the field of study and to disseminate research results and progress.

    4. How  the thesis makes a significant contribution to the development of new knowledge and understanding in the field of research

    5. Strengths and weaknesses of the thesis.

  8. Overall comments on the oral defense, was it coherent and well structures? Did the author address the questions adequately?

  9. Conclusion and recommendation on the award of the degree. The evaluation must state if the decision is unanimous or a majority decision 

  10. Signatures of all members, date of the signatures

 

It is set in the University Act that it is the Academic Council at a faculty that confers the PhD degree on the author, if so recommended by the evaluation committee. In order for the council to confer the degree, they must receive a reasoned final evaluation with the content described above.

The final assessment must be submitted to the faculty PhD school no later than two weeks after the public defense and within 3 months from the date the thesis was submitted to the faculty.

The PhD degree is awarded if there is a positive assessment from a unanimous evaluation committee or from the majority of the committee's members. The positive final assessment must clearly state that the committee unconditionally recommends that the degree be conferred.

If the assessment committee final assessment is negative, the Faculty will send the final evaluation to the author, who has up to two weeks to comment on the final evaluation. After the author’s comments have been received, the faculty may decide to let the thesis be evaluated by a new assessment committee if the author has requested this.

Special exceptions: Any confidential information may, by agreement with the PhD school, be made available to the assessment committee in a separate confidential paper and presented at a closed meeting with the evaluation committee before the defense. In such cases the confidential information is only made available to the official opponents against the signing of the confidentiality agreement. The thesis and defense must be sufficient for the award of the PhD degree without taking into consideration the confidential material. For information regarding confidentiality agreements, please contact  the PhD school. 

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