Guidelines for holding a virtual public PhD defence

Due to measures to limit the spread of the coronavirus, the conduct of public defense might not be possible. Several universities are now planning virtual defences instead. In most cases, such a solution would be preferable to postponement. Based on the input and models from our member institutions, Universities Norway has designed a guide for how this can be implemented in practice. 

Typically, it will be the faculty dean who decides whether the trial lecture and defense will be conducted virtually or postponed. The trial lecture does not have to be public, but the defense itself must be public in order to be valid.  The defence will still follow regular procedure as far as possible, hence it will still be open to the public and the audience can ask questions when invited to do so.

Participation and presentations:

  • As a minimum for the disputation to be accomplished, the PhD candidate, disputation leader and the three members of the evaluation committee must attend (the trial lecture and) the public defence.
  • Should the institution’s internal member of the committee not be able to attend, the faculty can appoint a new internal member for the evaluation committee. Should one of the external members of the committee not be able to attend, the internal committee member may step in to fill the role of this opponent.
  • Digital presentations must be shared with all participants of both physical or digital presence. This applies to making the final and approved pdf version of the PhD thesis available.

Requirement for public defence:

  • The requirement for a public defence may be met by giving access to join via the digital platform.  There should be a possibility for the public to ask questions.
  • Questions from the audience – ex auditorio questions – must be facilitated, including asking questions in the digital solution or by e-mail.
  • It is recommended to ask the IT unit, whether there is a need to restrict the number of participants in the digital room for the public defence. This to limit the risk for technical problems.

Digital platforms:

The announcement of the public defence should contain information about:

  • As a result of the Coronavirus outbreak and accompanying restrictions, there are limitations to physical participation during the public defence.
  • Information about digital access to the (trial lecture and) public defence, including information about the digital platform that will be in use.
  • How to have access to the approved thesis. This may be done eg. by sending the pdf version of the approved thesis by e-mail or share the document with registered participants through a cloud service.
  • How to oppose ex auditorio.
  • Who can answer questions prior to the (trial lecture and) public defence.

The public defence must be cancelled should one of the following occur:

  • The institution's internal member of the committee (or the internal substitute member) is not able to attend
  • One of the external committee members (or the internal committee member who acts as a substitute opponent) is not able to attend.

More guidelines:

Information in Norwegian


Ragnar Lie
Mobile 92 42 03 99