Doctoral thesis defence

Doctoral studies end with and are completed by a public thesis defence by the doctoral student.

There are many elements involved in the planning of a doctoral thesis defence. The principal supervisor is responsible for making a plan for the doctoral thesis defence at an early stage.

Pre-defence thesis seminar

The purpose of the thesis seminar is to obtain a peer review of the scientific quality and scope of the thesis overview text (for compilation theses). The thesis seminar is an opportunity for the doctoral student to practice further discussion of synthesis, results and linguistic quality. The thesis seminar takes place when the doctoral student has a complete draft of the overview text, but before the thesis goes to press.

The faculty recommends that departments introduce thesis seminars as a compulsory element of doctoral education.

Preliminary thesis presentation

An informal preliminary thesis presentation and discussion can be carried out typically within the student or supervisor's own department, to offer the doctoral student an opportunity to practise his or her oral presentation and argumentation techniques.

Thesis and thesis defence

A doctoral degree at the Faculty of Medicine must be based on a scientific thesis grounded in research work that increases knowledge in the relevant field.

Compilation theses are the most common option at the faculty. The overview text in a compilation thesis must be an independent work that shows that the doctoral student has achieved a high level of scientific competence. The overview text to the compilation thesis should include a synthesis of the papers included in the thesis in the form of an integrated overview and discussion, a text in which the doctoral student ties the contributions together, discusses and draws conclusions about the whole. Results that have not been presented in any papers, but which are relevant to the thesis, can also be included in the overview text. New results should be presented in such a way that they can be reviewed in the same way as published results.

  1. A compilation thesis normally consists of 3-5 scientific papers, of which at least 2 must be accepted for publication in international peer-reviewed journals.
  2. At least one of the accepted studies (the study on which the doctoral student is first author) must be an original study.
  3. One in-depth paper may be another type of publication such as systematic reviews/meta-analysis, study protocols, etc.
  4. The doctoral student must be the first author of at least 1 accepted scientific work.

Normally, papers included in a thesis should not be used in other theses. In the case of co-publication with another doctoral student where both aim to include the work in their thesis, the doctoral student concerned must have contributed a substantial and clearly distinguishable part. If a paper is to be included in more than one thesis, the principal supervisor and the doctoral student must provide an account of the doctoral student's share in this paper.

The doctoral thesis must originate from the Faculty of Medicine at Umeå University, which means that all papers included in the compilation thesis must have an affiliation to Umeå University. The majority of the papers included must be produced after admission to doctoral studies.

For doctoral students who wish to defend their doctoral thesis after less than 36 months of doctoral studies, the main supervisor and examiner must justify the reasons in writing. They must specify how the national qualitative targets pursuant to the Higher Education Ordinance have been met and show that the objectives according to the individual study plan have been achieved.

Exemption from certain requirements for the defence of a doctoral thesis may, after individual assessment, be granted to a doctoral student who has begun his or her research studies at another university and who is admitted to the Faculty of Medicine in connection with the appointment of the main supervisor at Umeå University.


A doctoral thesis can also be presented in the form of a monograph. A monograph is a unified, coherent work of scholarship that does not contain previously published material. If the doctoral student intends to write a monograph thesis, this must be stated in the individual study plan upon admission to the programme.

The research plan for a monograph thesis should include research questions and project planning that will enable a later assessment of the quality of the thesis. The length of a monograph should be 200-250 pages.

The monograph must be available in final manuscript form before advance review pursuant to the application for public defence of a doctoral thesis can take place. An application for advance review of a monograph thesis must be submitted at least 20 weeks before the planned date of the doctoral thesis defence. The application must be accompanied by the manuscript of the monograph thesis together with a proposal for two expert reviewers, at least one of whom must be from another university. One of the reviewers may come from Umeå University, but not from the doctoral student's own department.

The Council for Doctoral Education (RUF) appoints experts who review the work and give an opinion on the quality and scope of the thesis. The doctoral student is given the opportunity to respond to the opinion. The RUF then decides whether the doctoral thesis is recommended for public defence.

Advance compilation thesis review

If a compilation thesis does not meet the requirements of the Faculty of Medicine, the doctoral student and the main supervisor may have the Council for Doctoral Education review the constituent papers in advance. An advance review is carried out if only one of the papers is accepted or if the doctoral student lacks a first authorship but has two accepted/published papers.

The doctoral student and the main supervisor apply to the Faculty Office, no later than 20 weeks before the planned thesis defence, for a preliminary review using the form "Application for public defence/advance review". Annexes must be attached.

If the principal supervisor does not wish to contact the opponent and the grading committee before the advance review is carried out, this information may be omitted from the application for advance review. In this case, a new application for public defence must be submitted after the advance review has been approved.

Provisional booking of date and time for the public thesis defence

When the thesis meets the formal requirements for a public defence, the doctoral student must, in consultation with the principal supervisor, provisionally book the date and time of the public defence. This is done at the Faculty Office ( Preliminary bookings should be made well in advance, especially if the defence is to take place at the beginning or end of the semester. Only one date may be pre-booked.

The University has the task of informing the public about current research and education. The number of doctoral thesis publicly defended per day is limited to allow the public, media, colleagues and staff to attend all of them if they so wish. As far as possible, only two theses will be defended per day and at different times. Simultaneous theses defences occur in exceptional cases and only if the subject areas of the theses differ. The public defence of a doctoral thesis should take place during the academic term.

Once the date and time have been provisionally booked, it is important to ensure that the day is suitable for the people who will be participating: the opponent, the members of the grading committee, the chair of the defence and the supervisor, and that a suitable room is available. Room reservations are made by the department.

Application for public defence/advance review

The application to defend a thesis is made by the doctoral student using the form you will find under Forms/Application for public defence, which is emailed to the Faculty Office, The application must be received at least 12 weeks before the date of the thesis defence. For doctoral theses to be defended in September and the first half of October, applications must be received by 1 June. The head of department and the principal supervisor are responsible for the accuracy of the submitted documentation.

The application is written in English, on the English form, if the opponent or any member of the grading committee is non-Swedish speaking.

Thesis defence can be conducted with digital digital conference connections. Guidelines for this can be found in the document "Decision on guidelines regarding time and place of public thesis defence at the Faculty of Medicine, Reg. no. FS 1.1-2659-21".

Conflicts of interest

Before submitting an application for public thesis defence, the principal supervisor and head of department must ensure that the opponent and members of the grading committee are willing to undertake the assignment, that the date and time booked are suitable and that there is no conflict of interest.

A conflict of interest may arise if a person is biased or if there is a particular circumstance that may undermine confidence in the person's impartiality. For example, bias can arise from co-publication or collaboration in the last five years, supervisor/doctoral student relationships in the last ten years, and other ties such as romantic relationships and close family ties. Professional conflicts of interest also include a person in a managerial position such as head of department/head of operations.

If you have any questions, please contact the faculty's director of studies.


The chairperson for the thesis defence shall hold a doctorate and be a teacher at Umeå University. The doctoral examiner may be appointed as chairperson, but not the doctoral supervisor.

Faculty opponent

A scientifically qualified person possessing at least docent qualifications or the equivalent is appointed as faculty opponent. The opponent must not be active at Umeå University.

Once the dean has appointed the opponent, the grading committee and the chairperson, the faculty office sends a dean's decision confirming this to the supervisor, doctoral student, department, opponent, grading committee and chairperson. The opponent, the grading committee and the chairperson also receive information about the doctoral thesis file and a copy of the doctoral candidate's application for public defence.

The principal supervisor must provide the opponent with adequate information about the requirements and expectations that the faculty places on an opponent. Particularly detailed information may be required for opponents from other countries. The principal supervisor also ensures that the opponent and the grading committee receive the work included in the thesis as soon as possible and the completed thesis no later than three weeks before the public defence.

In cases where supplements to any of the thesis papers have only been published electronically, these must be printed out and attached to the thesis when sent to the opponent and the grading committee.

The fee and costs for the faculty opponent are paid by the department.

Grading committee

The requirements and guidelines that apply to the composition and responsibilities of the grading committee are set out in the Higher Education Ordinance. Proposals for a grading committee are made by the head of department after consultation with the principal supervisor and examiner.

Members from Swedish universities must be a docent or professor. For members from a foreign university, the corresponding competence is assessed by the director of studies in connection with the application for public defence.

Composition of grading committee

  • The committee shall consist of three or five members.
  • There must be no conflict of interest between the respondent/supervisors and a member of the grading committee. If the head of department is the principal supervisor, none of the members may come from his/her department.
  • If there are special reasons, a person with a doctoral degree but who lacks docent qualifications may be appointed to a grading committee consisting of five members. This must be justified in writing at the time of the application.
  • At least one of the three or five members of the grading committee must come from a higher education institution other than Umeå University.
  • No more than one member (or two, in the case of a five-member board) may come from the doctoral student's department. At least one member must come from the Faculty of Medicine at Umeå University.
  • The principal supervisor, assistant supervisor or examiner cannot be part of the grading committee
  • Normally, both men and women must be represented in the grading committee. Deviations from this must be justified in the application for public defence.
  • According to the University's regulations, an alternate should normally be appointed.
  • The recommendation is that a three-member grading committee has two external members, an internal member (from the Faculty of Medicine) and an internal alternate of the gender who is underrepresented on the ordinary board.

Dean's decision on time and place

The doctoral student applies in writing to the dean for the time and place of the dissertation. The application must be received by the Faculty Office at least eight weeks before the date of the thesis defence.

The form (Request for time and place of public defence) is available on Aurora and it can be emailed to

Once the application has been approved, the decision is sent to the doctoral student, the University library and the faculty's communications officers. If the title of the thesis is changed, a new request for time and place must be emailed to the Registrar.

Public thesis defence

The public thesis defence can be in Swedish or English. The thesis defence usually begins with the chair introducing the respondent, the title of the thesis, the faculty member, the members of the grading committee and a brief description of the public defence. The chair first gives the floor to the respondent, who is then given the opportunity to inform about any corrections to the thesis.

The chair then gives the floor to the opponent, who describes the research area in general and places the results of the thesis in a broader context. In the next step, the respondent presents their thesis work.

The review of the thesis may vary in form and scope but should mainly be a dialogue between opponent and respondent. After the opponent's review, the grading committee and the audience must be given the opportunity to ask questions and make comments. Critical comments from the grading committee must be made during the examination.

There are no time constraints for a thesis defence. The chairperson may decide to interrupt the defence if it takes too long. When there are no further questions from the opponent, the grading committee or the auditorium, the chairman closes the thesis defence.

Grading committee assignment

The Grading Committee's assignment is to review and assess the thesis and its defence. The national qualitative targets for doctoral studies, as described in the Higher Education Ordinance, should form the basis for this assessment and therefore part of the questions asked by the grading committee should be aimed at obtaining answers to how the national qualitative targets have been achieved, if this has not been made clear during the opponent's part of the thesis defence.

The following points should be assessed:

  • clarity of the purpose and questions described
  • whether adequate methods have been used
  • relevance, originality and novelty
  • whether adequate interpretation and discussion of the scientific results have been carried out
  • whether the national qualitative targets are met

If a member has questions about the thesis, the respondent must be given the opportunity to answer them at the public defence. The active participation of the members of the grading committee in the subsequent discussion is assumed.

The grading of doctoral theses and public defence involves the exercise of official authority, and therefore external members of the grading committee should not receive a fee.

Changes in the composition of the grading committee

  • Anyone tasked with serving on a grading committee must have ensured that there are no obstacles to their serving.
  • If obstacles arise, the member should contact the principal supervisor who will send a new proposal for a member of the grading committee to the faculty office. The dean then appoints a new member.
  • If a member of the grading committee resigns shortly before the public defence, the principal supervisor must immediately contact the dean to appoint a new grading committee member, preferably the appointed alternate.
  • If a member of the grading committee does not appear at the beginning of the public defence, the chairperson of the defence committee is authorised to appoint a suitable replacement from among the academic representatives of the audience.

According to the Higher Education Ordinance, a public defence cannot be carried out if there is not at least one external member present.

Meeting of the grading committee

  • The grading committee meets immediately after the public thesis defence.
  • The chair of the grading committee, the opponent and the supervisor have the right to attend and participate in the deliberations of the grading committee, but not to take part in its decisions. The faculty recommends that supervisors are not present when decisions are made.
  • The grading committee appoints the chair of the decision-making meeting of the group.
  • The thesis and its defence receive a joint grade, pass or fail. The grading must take into account both the content and the public defence of the doctoral thesis. The opinion of the majority shall be the decision of the grading committee on the grade. If the grading committee disagrees regarding the decision on the grade, this must always be justified and a possible reservation can be made. If the thesis is awarded a failing grade, this must always be justified.
  • The chair of the grading committee is responsible for communicating the decision as soon as possible and for submitting the grading report to the department's administrator for doctoral education. The department is responsible for sending the minutes of the grading committee to the Registrar.

The thesis

Copyright To avoid legal problems with copyright, printing permission should be obtained from the publisher of each paper. This permission is usually indicated where the papers are listed. Previously published figures and tables should not be used in the introductory chapter of a compilation thesis. Read more about copyright on the University Library's website and Umeå University's intranet.

ISSN and ISBN Each thesis must be assigned an ISSN number, a serial number and an ISBN number.

Theses from the former Faculty of Medicine in Umeå are included in the series UMEÅ UNIVERSITY MEDICAL DISSERTATION New Series, ISSN 0346-6612 and those from the former Faculty of Odontology in Umeå are included in the series UMEÅ UNIVERSITY ODONTOLOGICAL DISSERTATIONS, ISSN 0345-7532. Each thesis has an individual number in the respective series, which is issued by the faculty office, ISBN are ordered from the University Library (UB)

Layout and printing You can find a guide for thesis layout, including templates for a posting leaflet, at the University's intranet. There you will also find other information regarding the preparation of your thesis. Contact the press in good time.

Number of printed thesis editions The thesis edition is planned so that it covers:

  • three copies of the thesis must be submitted to the University Library by the deadline
  • one copy for any posting ceremony (spikningsceremoni)
  • copies for the opponent, the grading committee and the chairman of the public defence (five to seven copies)
  • departmental copies for dissemination to other departments/researchers (number to be decided in consultation with the head of department)
  • the doctoral student's own needs (number to be determined in consultation with the head of department)

Information from the University Library for doctoral students

Theses published by Umeå University must be registered in DiVA and published electronically (in addition to print) unless there are copyright obstacles. The application for embargo is made to the Faculty Office.

Prior to your defence, you must publish your thesis through a process called 'posting' (spikning). The formal 'posting' of your doctoral thesis takes place with the electronic publication in DiVA. Doctoral theses must be posted at least three weeks before the public defence. Abbreviated 'posting' periods can only be granted if there are special reasons. The application for an abbreviated period is made on the form Request for time and place for a public defence. On your 'posting' date, you must submit three printed thesis editions to the library, each with a loose 'posting' leaflet (thesis titles and abstract).

When the Library receives a decision about your public defence from the faculty office, it will book your 'posting' date and send you more information about the 'posting'. If you want a 'posting' ceremony, you are to book it at least one week in advance via a form on the University Library website.

Information from the faculty communications officer for doctoral students

One of the University's tasks is to communicate its research in a popular science manner and through various channels. New theses can have news value within the University and outside in the community.

A communications officer at the faculty will contact the PhD student in connection with the decision for public defence, with a request that a popular science summary of the thesis be submitted. This is to be able to assess the news value and generate a news item about the thesis. A news item will then be published on the University's website and, in some cases, depending on the news-worthiness of the content, as a press release.

The PhD student should submit any documentation as soon as possible after the communications officer has made contact, and at least three weeks before the public defence. There is no need to wait until the posting of the thesis, but more detail can be added later, including the link to the thesis in DiVA.

A high-resolution portrait of the PhD student, with a neutral background, is required. If this is not available, it is possible to order a photograph from the Communications Office.

News about your thesis

Rules concerning contacts before and at the PhD defence session

In order for the Faculty Opponent and Assessment committee to be free to review and critically evaluate the PhD thesis as well as the PhD student verbal defence of the thesis, it is mandatory that the rules for contact are well understood by all parties.

  • All contacts with the Opponent and the Assessment committee are managed by the primary supervisor and not the PhD student.
  • The Opponent and the external (from a different University) Assessment committee member(s) can be invited by the Faculty to a dinner the evening before a PhD defence. The Medical Faculty views it as important that external faculty guests in this role who have travelled to Umeå should be welcomed comfortably. In these cases, the appropriate Departmental head, the PhD student's Examiner, or another colleague from the department will be the hosts of this dinner, along with the PhD student's supervisor. The PhD student will not participate in this dinner.
  • If there is a need for a brief preparatory meeting before the PhD defence, just to meet to calm a nervous situation for the PhD student who has not met the Opponent before, they can be allowed to meet briefly before the PhD defence, over coffee or lunch, accompanied by a representative from the PhD student's department.
  • The Opponent can be invited to a social gathering after the PhD defence. The invitation for this needs to be managed by the PhD student's supervisor. After the completed PhD defence act, members of the Assessment committee can also be invited to a social gathering connected with the PhD student.

This policy guiding contacts related to PhD defence has been written by the Medical Faculty's Council for Doctoral Education, and has been approved by the Dean of the Medical Faculty.


In order to be awarded a doctorate from the Faculty of Medicine, the doctoral student must have been admitted to doctoral level education at Umeå University, have fulfilled the established course requirements, that the thesis originates from the Faculty of Medicine at Umeå University and has been defended orally at a public defence. The degree unit issues the degree certificate after the doctoral student has applied for it.

Pursuant to the decision of the vice-chancellor 28 August 2007:

  • a doctoral candidate at the Faculty of Medicine will normally be awarded the title of Doctor of Medicine
  • those earning a doctorate from the Faculty of Medicine and who hold a professional qualification in odontology or a degree at bachelor's or master's level in the main field of odontology or an equivalent foreign degree may choose the degree title of Doctor of Medicine or Doctor of Odontology
  • those earning a doctorate from the Faculty of Medicine and who hold a master or bachelor's degree in engineering, a master's degree in technology, a bachelor's degree in technology or an equivalent foreign degree may choose the degree title of Doctor of Medicine or Doctor of Technology
  • those earning a doctorate from the Faculty of Medicine and who hold a professional qualification in the natural sciences, social sciences or humanities, or a degree at bachelor's or master's level in a main field of natural sciences, social sciences or humanities, or an equivalent foreign degree, may choose the degree title of Doctor of Medicine or Doctor of Philosophy

The doctorate is counted from the date on the degree certificate, not from the date of the defense of the doctoral thesis.

The doctoral student must apply for their doctoral degree through this link. He or she will sign in using their Umu-id and then click the "Degrees and certificates" tab.

Graduation ceremony

Anyone completing a doctoral degree at Umeå University may participate in a graduation ceremony. Umeå University currently organises graduation ceremonies annually.

Please note that the public defence of doctoral thesis must be completed by the beginning of May to guarantee participation in the same year's graduation ceremony. Those unable to participate in the graduation ceremony the year of their thesis defence may participate the following year.

Further information is available at the Umeå University website

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