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PhD assessment committee

In the bullets below, you will find information concerning PhD assessment committees at the Faculty of Natural Sciences and at the Faculty of Technical Sciences, Aarhus University.

Appointing the Committee

In connection with submission of a PhD thesis to GSST, an expert assessment committee consisting of three experts is appointed, based on a recommendation from the relevant PhD programme. According to the Ministerial Order on the PhD programme, all members must be recognised experts within the relevant scientific area – i.e. Professors, Associate Professors, Senior Researchers or equivalent. Two of the members must be external, and at least one member must be from outside Denmark. The third member must in general be a member of the respective GSST programme committee, and he/she acts as chairman of the assessment committee. The PhD student's supervisors cannot be members of the committee - the main supervisor, however, assists the committee (without the right to vote).  

The Role of the Committee

As specified in the Danish Ministerial Order on the PhD Programme at the Universities, the role of an assessment committee is

  1. to make a recommendation to the university as to whether the PhD dissertation fulfils the requirements for the award of the PhD degree, and
  2. to take part in a public defence and subsequently to make a Final Recommendation as to whether the PhD degree should be awarded.

The PhD thesis must document the research conducted by the PhD student alone or in collaboration with co-workers. The PhD thesis may include a number of manuscripts in different stages of completion that are related to the topic of the PhD project. For all such manuscripts, statements will be provided by co-workers indicating the proportional contributions by the PhD student (co-author statements). If the thesis is composed mainly of manuscripts, it must include a summary chapter at the beginning summarising the overall contributions.

In case of disagreement amongst the committee members, simple majority prevails.

The Recommendation

The Recommendation (see point 1 in the section 'The Role of the Committee') must be sent to GSST no later than two weeks before the defence and at the latest two months after submission of the dissertation.

The Recommendation has three possible outcomes:

  1. Favourable, in which case the defence of the thesis will commence
  2. Not favourable, but recommending that the thesis be resubmitted with specific recommendations on required improvements, and with a specific time-frame for resubmission (at least three months). A resubmitted thesis will be assessed by the same committee
  3. Not favourable and not recommending resubmission

The Recommendation must be reasoned, and in its final conclusion clearly state one of the above three outcomes, that is "whether the PhD thesis fulfils the requirements for the award of the PhD degree", and in case of (2) give detailed specifications with respect to the resubmission.

Furthermore, the Recommendation should contain all relevant formalities on the thesis (author, title, supervisors, language, number of pages, number of publications, etc. as well as the names and affiliations of assessment committee members). The Recommendation should normally not exceed five pages.

Currently the Recommendation is submitted on paper and approved by the committee members. Approval can take place as stated below:

  • A) all three members of the assessment committee sign the Recommendation (original signatures), or
  • B) the chairman of the assessment committee attaches e-mail correspondence with the other members of the assessment committee clearly stating what they agree to along with his/her own opinion stated in the e-mail, or
  • C) the chairman of the assessment committee provides scanned signatures of all three members of the assessment committee.

If option B or C is chosen, please note that all three members of the assessment committee must sign the Recommendation (original signatures) on the day of the defence.

In the event of a favourable outcome, the chairman of the assessment committee suggests to GSST a time and place for the defence. The chairman of the assessment committee will chair the actual defence, which consists of a presentation by the PhD student followed by questions from the assessment committee.

The Final Recommendation

The Final Recommendation (see point 2 in the section 'The Role of the Committee') takes the form of a signed standard one-page document. On the day of the defence, this document must be signed by all three members of the assessment and afterwards returned to GSST. Please note that if the assessment committee wishes to add any comments on the PhD defence, these must be written in the Final Recommendation.

Under normal circumstances, the PhD defence is concluded by a Final Recommendation that the PhD be awarded.

In the case of a negative outcome, the assessment committee will submit a detailed assessment in writing to GSST within two weeks following the PhD defence.

Rules of impartiality

1. Members of assessment committees must comply with general administrative practice concerning impartiality, for instance they may not have a personal or financial interest in the outcome of the PhD defence. Furthermore, the specific rules below concerning publication must also be observed (these correspond to the rules of the Danish Research Councils).

2. Members of assessment committees may not have prepared, submitted or published any publications with the PhD student. Neither may they have any publications currently under preparation.   

3. External members of assessment committees may not have prepared, submitted or published any  publications with main supervisor or co‐supervisor(s) within the past five years. Neither may they have any publications under preparation.   

4. The head of PhD school can grant exemption from the above rules under very specific circumstances. 

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