Next week, two colleagues of mine are going to have their big day: PhD defense. The formal awarding of a PhD in the Netherlands is an interesting procedure. The final defense takes place not only in front of an examining committee, but is also a public ceremony.
In TU Delft, You find yourself at the podium, in front of an audience full of friends and interested people. Your thesis has already been published, and your family has come a long way to witness your PhD defense.
The public defense is a formality which comes at the end of a long process of academic wrangling and after the publication of the research thesis. The ceremony can be used, however, to confer the status of Cum Laude (distinction), and the examiners’ detailed questioning also confirms that a thesis has in fact been written by the PhD candidate The public defense is an important ceremony in Holland, marked by formal words and dress, giving it the feel of a court of justice. PhD candidates must be careful to address their examining committee respectfully as most highly esteemed opponents or promoters, and to remember to thank them for their questions.
During the PhD defense, everything is strictly timed. You get exactly 15 minutes for oral presentation, within which to explain to the audience what your PhD is about. The subsequent grilling by the committee cannot last one minute longer than 60 minutes, at which time the the official time-keeper will close the defense, no matter you are still anwsering
In the Netherlands, PhD candidates defend their dissertations during a traditional public ceremony. Although the event’s festive character should be valued, PhD candidates need to be exposed to more public criticism, according to some foreign professors at TU Delft.