Public Defence

Please note the latest instructions regarding the arrangements of a public defence at website due to COVID-19 situation.

The public display of the doctoral thesis needs to be arranged as online display until the campus is fully opened to public. If it is not possible to arrange the public display online, then the defense needs to be postponed.

List of public defences at Aalto University (

The doctoral candidate i.e. the respondent takes care of the entire arrangements concerning the public defense together with the Department.

  • The date and time of the defence is confirmed by the Doctoral Programme Committee. The doctoral candidate agrees the date with the opponent, custos and the planning officer for the doctoral programme. The date should not overlap with another defence of the Doctoral Programme in Arts, Design and Architecture. Planned defence dates available from the planning officer.
  • Customarily the defence begins at 12:00 noon sharp and takes approximately 2 hours.
  • Public defence takes place at the Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture. In case productions or other material essentially relevant to the dissertation that cannot be presented at the School or with the School’s own equipment are required for the public defence, the public defence may take place in other premises than those of the School, if permission is granted by the Doctoral Programme Committee.
  • Language of the public defence is Finnish, Swedish or English or, with the consent of the Doctoral Programme Committee, some other language.

The dress code for the respondent, opponent and the custos is:

Women: dark dress (black, dark blue or dark grey gown, jacket and skirt or trouser suit), long leaves, no headwear

Men: dark suit (black, dark blue or dark grey suit) or tail coat with black vest.

The respondent may use the identifying color of their department in e.g. scarf, tie or colar. An opponent who has defended their dissertation abroad may use the cape of their university. The opponent and custos wear the doctor's hat according to their background.

Dress code for the public is free, however they should respect the solemnity of the occasion.

  • The public should arrive early before the defense will start. Latecomers will not be allowed during the lectio (20 min) into the hall, neither can you leave the hall during this time.
  • The event begins when the candidate, the custos and the opponent (s) arrive (in this order) to the hall. The audience stands up.
  • The custos shall inform the public defense opened. All but the candidate sit down.
  • It is customary to leave only after the event (or during a break if there will be any), but at the earliest one can exit when the opponent ends his/her introduction, and she/he and the doctoral candidate sit down.
  • The public defense usually takes about 2 hours. The custos announces the break, if there is one.
  • At the end the candidate turns to the audience and asks if anyone present wants to make a comment concerning her/his dissertation. If you have comments, the custos gives the right to speak and the candidate answers.
  • The custos shall inform the public defense of dissertation closed. No applause.
  • The doctoral candidate, the custos and the opponent(s) exit first, and then the general public.
  • All congratulations should take place outside the hall.

  • The main participants enter the auditorium at 12:15 in the following order: the respondent, the Custos (presiding official) and the opponent(s). The audience has to be in the auditorium before 12:00. The audience rises, when the main participants enter.
  • The doctoral candidate, the Custos and the opponent(s) wear a dark suit, a tailcoat with a black waistcoat or a formal black dress or suit without hat. The respondent can also wear the distinctive colour of her/his department for example on a scarf or a tie. A foreign opponent may wear the gown of her/his own university. The Custos and the opponent(s) carry their doctor’s hat when entering and leaving the auditorium.
  • When everyone is seated, the Custos opens the examination by saying: "As the Custos appointed by the Doctoral Programme Committee of the Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture, I declare this public examination open."
  • The candidate stands up to deliver her/his introductory lecture (lectio praecursoria) which should not exceed 20 minutes. The lectio starts with the words: “Honoured Custos, honoured opponent(s), ladies and gentlemen”. During the lectio the audience may not leave or enter the auditorium.
  • No oral reference is made to the correction of misprints. But the respondent may give the opponent(s) a list of misprints which will then be attached to the written statement which the opponent submits to the Doctoral Programme Committee.
  • After the lectio praecursoria the candidate addresses the opponent(s) with the words: “I ask You, honoured opponent(s) appointed by the Doctoral Programme Committee of the School of Arts, Design and Architecture, to present the critical comments on the dissertation You find well-founded".
  • The opponent then stands up and presents a brief statement in which she/he discusses the status and importance of the topic and other similar issues of a general nature. After this talk, both the opponent and the candidate seat themselves.
  • Usually, the opponent first deals with methodological and general questions, and a more detailed examination follows. The opponent(s) may spend at most four hours on the examination, but two hours is customary. If the examination is likely to take a long time, the Custos may interrupt it by announcing a break.
  • When the examination of the dissertation is completed the candidate and the opponent(s) rise and the opponent makes her/his final appraisal. Finally he/she will (usually) announce that he/she will propose to the Doctoral Programme Committee that the dissertation be accepted or not accepted.
    The respondent remains standing to thank the opponent.
  • The respondent thanks the opponent and turns to the audience and says: "If anyone present wishes to make any comments concerning my dissertation, please ask the Custos for the floor."
  • The Custos sees to it that the candidate can respond immediately to each comment and that the speakers keep to the point.
  • The Custos rises and closes the proceedings by saying: “The dissertation proceedings are closed”. The proceedings may not exceed six hours, two hours is customary.

  • Make sure that a lecture hall and space for preparation is booked. Check that the techinical details of your presentation work in the hall - if you need help, contact the lobby services of the building.
  • Send a notice of the defence (Defence of XX XX, date, place) to the lobby services of the building, who will post it outside the hall where the defence will take place.
  • Respondent can invite personal guests to the public defence, such as persons related to the field, pre-examiners, advisors, family etc. The School takes care of informing of the defence on general level. (see below Informing of the defence)
  • Respondent agrees with the publication unit about selling of the dissertation at the defence.
  • Respondent arranges and pays for the possible refreshments offered after the defence.
  • Respondent takes care of the Post-doctoral Party ("Karonkka") arrangements
  • Repondent can give copies of the dissertation to the pre-examiners and advisor (planning officer will give copies to the opponent, DPC members and the Dean).
  • Etiquette (PDF - to be distributed to attendees at the door)
  • Dissertation Proceedings (what actually happens during the public defence)
  • Lectio Praecursoria (introductory lecture by the respondent)

The Doctoral Programme Committee appoints the supervising professor as the custos of the public defence. Some other professor of the School with a doctor's degree in the same research field may also serve as the custos.

  • The custos is responsible for guiding the opponent in matters concerning the procedures of the examination of the dissertation and the public defence (see Instructions for opponents).
  • It is the role of the custos to discuss the grade with the opponent(s) and familiarise them with the grading scale used at the school and the principles of grading to be observed (see Instructions for opponents).
  • Custos makes sure that the statement of the opponent is made according to the guidelines of the school and is submitted to the Secretary of the Doctoral Programme Committee within 2 weeks from the defense (or preferably at latest 3 days before the next meeting of the Committee).
  • Custos must also submit their own report to the Committee. The report must state how the defence proceeded (start and end times, number of persons in the audience).

Introductory lecture

In the introductory lecture the respondent should explain to the audience what new or interesting the dissertation has to offer and how it is connected to the field of study and to the society in general. The lectio might, for example, present the research area and the research work, explain the research questions and the method used and the results. You may also mention the most important theoretical sources of your work and how you position yourself in your research field. You may describe the background of the dissertation, but you are not expected to give a resumé of each chapter.

Remember that the audience usually has not been able to read the dissertation, and the lectio praecursoria may be the only part of the public examination that is understandable to all the participants of the occasion. You might bring up such general questions as: What conclusions or recommendations can be made on the basis of the research and its results? How does it contribute to our worldview?

You should not thank anyone in your lecture, please explain this to your family members and friends who may not know the academic tradition and might expect it.

The length of the lecture shall not extend 20 minutes. Please read aloud your speech a couple of times beforehand, and check the time.

See also Publication of dissertation and Disseration press release under Pre-examination and the Permission for Public Defence.

Post-doctoral Party

The Post-doctoral Party, or Karonkka

The Karonkka marks the end of the dissertation process and is arranged by the doctoral candidate to thank the Opponent(s). It is not obligatory but the candidate is expected at least to invite the Opponent and Custos to a late lunch or dinner after the public examination. The doctoral candidate may also offer coffee and refreshments after the public examination.

Different ways of arranging the Karonkka

a. After the public examination of the doctoral dissertation, the doctoral candidate invites the Opponent and the Custos to lunch or dinner. Some other people may also be invited - for example the supervisor - but the minimum is the Opponent(s) and the Custos.


b. The candidate arranges a post-doctoral party to thank the Opponent(s), the Custos and others who contributed to the work. Nowadays, doctoral candidate may invite friends and family along with members of the academic community to this party. The doctoral candidate offers food, drinks and possibly other forms of entertainment to the guests. The candidate starts by welcoming all those present before dinner is served.


c. A mixture of both a and b. The candidate offers lunch to the Opponent(s) and Custos and arranges an evening party also to friends and other people. In this case the candidate is not expected to offer food in the evening party, but may of course do so.

Invitations to the Karonkka

The doctoral candidates themselves formulate the wording of their invitations, but it is recommended that the invitations contain information on the dress code. Invitations may be sent by e-mail or regular mail.

Dress code

Men wear dark suits, and women wear a short formal dress or suit. Should the doctoral candidate wish the guests to wear some other style of dress, this should be stated in the invitation. The old tradition is that men wear a tailcoat and a white waistcoat (a black waistcoat at the public examination), while women wear an evening dress. The traditional colour used in academic celebrations is black, and the doctoral candidate always wears black, but other colours among the quests have also become common. Dress code in the invitation can also state "informal".

Seating arrangements

The doctoral candidate is the host or hostess of the Karonkka, and the Opponent is the guest of honour, seated immediately to the right of the doctoral candidate. If there are two Opponents at the public examination, they will be seated on both sides of the doctoral candidate, the elder one in academic years to the right of the candidate. The next guest in the seating order is the Custos, seated to the left or opposite the doctoral candidate. Next are the pre-examiners (if they are present), the supervisors and other guests, usually in the order of their academic achievements. If there is enough room, honoured members of the family may sit on the opposite side of the table or they may be all seated in a separate table.


Speeches are made after the dinner and before coffee. The candidate begins by thanking the Opponent(s) first and then the Custos and after that the Pre-examiners (even if they are not present), the Supervisor(s) and all those who the candidate considers to have directly helped in the making of the doctoral dissertation. The more personal relationship the candidate has with the person she/he thanks, the later the person is thanked. Therefore, spouse is addressed last.

The candidate’s speeches should be short and preferably made without reading from a paper.

Those who have been addressed in the speeches will give their speeches – if they so wish - in the same order as they have been addressed, meaning that the Opponent begins and the spouse is the last.


The Karonkka may be arranged at home, in a restaurant or in the facilities of a student association (osakunta) or one's own department or any other suitable place.

For a lunch a restaurant is best but for the evening party home or some other venue where you may serve drinks yourself and make the food yourself or ask people to bring food and wine with them is cheaper.


As formal decisions on the doctoral dissertation are not made until the conclusion of the public examination, invitations to the post-doctoral party were traditionally not sent in advance. In the past, the doctoral candidate contacted the Opponent before the public examination to enquire whether the doctoral candidate could make dinner arrangements, and after obtaining a positive response, the candidate "hinted" at the successful outcome to the guests to be invited. Nowadays, however, doctoral candidates send invitations in advance. Permission to defend the dissertation in a public examination, given by the Doctoral Programme Committee, is sufficient indication of the quality of the dissertation.

The additional opponents, that is, persons who ask questions or make comments at the public examination, were previously invited to the celebration, but, according to an unwritten rule, they were not to accept the invitation.