The formal requirement for being awarded a doctoral degree is called the public defence of the doctoral thesis. The doctoral student “defends” his or her thesis orally and in public.

The supervisor must ensure that the thesis is of a high enough standard to pass before recommending that the doctoral student undertakes a public defence; for compilation theses, the articles have often already been published in peer-review journals. It is therefore unusual for a doctoral student to fail the public defence of his or her doctoral thesis.


Notification of the date of the public defence

The date, time and place of the public defence of doctoral thesis must be decided well in advance. The person who makes these decisions varies between higher education institutions (HEIs). The thesis must be available at least three weeks in advance of the date, with enough copies available for the academic staff and general public to be able to review it before the public defence. One way this is done is through a ceremony that is the official notification of the date of the public defence. This is often called “spikning” in Swedish (spik = nail) as, historically, theses were literally nailed to the university’s official bulletin board. Nowadays, most people simply put up information about the time and place for the public defence.

Printing the thesis

Previously, printing issues were regulated in a specific ordinance. However, the university now assesses what is most suitable from case to case, and decisions therefore vary between HEIs and subjects. It is no longer compulsory to send a copy to the library, but many HEIs have local regulations that are often equivalent to those previously found in the ordinance.

Press release

One way of disseminating your research results is to issue a press release. The HEI’s communications department is often able to assist with this.

Most HEIs are members of Expertsvar, which is service for journalists who want to contact researchers quickly. Expertsvar allows the communications department to issue press releases to a large number of Swedish journalists and to get help with international publicity. Additionally, many of these press releases are displayed on the website.


Example of a public defence of thesis

According to the Higher Education Ordinance, there must be a reviewer present at the public defence who has examined the doctoral thesis in detail. If the reviewer comes from another country and is not familiar with the Swedish education system, it is the task of the chairperson to provide information about the demands and expectations that should be fulfilled.

The opening of the public defence

The public defence is opened by the chairperson, who describes the order in which it will take place. The chairperson then presents the doctoral student, the thesis title, the reviewer and the members of the examining committee. The floor is then handed over to the doctoral student, who accounts for any corrections of printing errors or other modifications to be made to the thesis. The chairperson of the public defence is often the doctoral student’s principal supervisor or supervisor.

General overview

The public defence usually opens with the reviewer providing a general overview of the subject by presenting the thesis and describing how it can contribute to knowledge in the field. In some cases, the reviewer’s initial presentation is followed by the doctoral student presenting his or her thesis and the research’s results and significance to the field.


Thereafter, a discussion begins in which the reviewer puts forward his or her questions and views on scientific relevance, methodology and results. The doctoral student orally defends his or her thesis against the questions of the reviewer. The discussion, or defence, is the main component of the public defence and may last for an hour or more, depending on the subject’s traditions.


When the reviewer has received answers to his or her questions, the members of the examining committee have the opportunity to ask the doctoral student some additional questions, so they have the information they need to decide a grade. Then the floor is then opened to the audience, who may address their questions to the doctoral student in the order decided by the chairperson.

Page last updated 2017-09-01