Protocol for Digital PhD defence

In light of the COVID-19 virus pandemic, a new protocol has been developed for scheduled PhD-defences. Many PhD candidates are wondering whether their PhD graduation can continue. The answer is yes. PhD candidates can choose between continuing with the PhD graduation ceremony in a fully digital way or postpone the ceremony and reschedule as a regular ceremony when the current measures are lifted but in any case, not before September 2020. 

What is a fully digital PhD graduation ceremony?

When the ceremony is fully digital, the PhD candidate, the chair, committee members and the doctoral supervisors, call each other via secure video conferencing software. Participants of the ceremony are not allowed to physically come to Erasmus University Rotterdam nor Erasmus MC. The paranymphs are allowed to join the defence but cannot be in the same room as the candidate. Also, no members of the public are allowed to join. 

The PhD candidate can still receive a diploma after his or her graduation. The Doctorate Board has decided to temporarily lift the requirement for signatures of committee members on the PhD diploma. This means that at the time of the ceremony, the diploma will only be signed by the Rector and the primary doctoral supervisor(s). The diploma will then be sent by mail or handed over in person after the current measures have been lifted. 

What is the protocol for online PhD defences? 

One week before the date of the defence, an invitation for a ZOOM-meeting is sent to all participants. Although an online ceremony is very different from a live ceremony, it is still advised to stick to the customary dress code. It could also be that the ceremony is combined with a live-stream, which means that there will be an audience watching. However, this may only occur with explicit permission of the candidate and the participants of the ceremony. 

30 minutes before the ceremony begins the online meeting will be opened for all participants, except for the candidate. 5 minutes before the ceremony, the candidate is invited to join the online meeting. The candidate must use his or her camera to show that there are no other people present in the room of the candidate. The candidate then gets the opportunity to present his or her work in 15 minutes, followed by a period of 45 minutes in which questions are asked to the candidate. After these 45 minutes, the candidate must log off so that the chair can open the discussion in which the result of the defence is decided. After the decision, the candidate is invited back into the meeting. 

These measures will be valid until they are recalled by the Rector. We wish all PhD candidates the best of luck with their (online) defences!

More information

Information about the current measures regarding examinations and PhD defences can change quickly. Therefore, keep an eye on the website or contact the Beadle's office for questions about the PhD defence ceremony procedure. 

For other PhD-related questions, send an email to our PhD & International Officer Lindsey Pijpers:

For more detailed information about the digital PhD defence, click here