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Guidelines for Assessing the Degree of Philosophiae Doctor (PhD) at OsloMet – Oslo Metropolitan University

Approved by the Academic Affairs Committee at OsloMet (former Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences) on 16 October 2012.

These guidelines are based on the Regulations relating to the Degree of Philosophiae Doctor (PhD) at OsloMet – Oslo Metropolitan University that were approved by the Board on 28 August 2012 (hereinafter referred to as «the Regulations»), other guidelines in accordance with the Regulations, and Guidelines for the Evaluation of Candidates for Norwegian Doctoral Degrees recommended by the Norwegian Association of Higher Education Institutions on 22 March 2007.

The Regulations and rules for the respective degrees at OsloMet are made known to everyone who participates in the assessment of PhD theses.

  1. Assessment Committee: Appointments, and the basis for the Committee´s work
  2. Committee chair´s responsibilities: Schedule
  3. Correction of formal errors
  4. Contract for the assessment assignment
  5. The assessment
  6. The recommendation
  7. Assessment criteria and academic standard 
  8. Trial lecture and public defence

1. Assessment Committee: Appointments, and the basis for the Committee's work

The appointment procedures and the requirements governing the participation  and composition of the Assessment Committee are described in section 6-3 of the Regulations.

The committee members should receive the PhD thesis with a summary of where the work has been undertaken and the names of the supervisors. In addition, article-based theses should contain the following enclosures:

  • the status of the articles, whether or not they have been submitted, accepted or published, and if so, where.
  • the principles on which the order of any co-authors is based.
  • confirmation from any co-author(s) (separate form for co-authorship) of the candidate's contribution to a specific article/publication and their consent to the work being used as part of the PhD thesis.

 2. Committee chair's responsibilities: Schedule

To ensure a speedy process, one of the members will be appointed to chair the Assessment Committee. The chair is normally a representative of the institution.

The committee chair is responsible for organising the work of the Committee, including making sure that the work is commenced as soon as possible and that the allotted schedule for the work is adhered to.

The chair ensures that a date for the potential public defence is set quickly. It is recommended that the public defence is held on a working day, for instance a Friday.

The schedule should be based on the assumption that the recommendation will be ready within three months.

The schedule must take into account that the recommendation should be delivered between five and six weeks prior to the public defence. If the recommendation has not been submitted to the faculty/centre at OsloMet responsible for the PhD programme at least one month prior to the planned public defence, the defence must be postponed.

Should the Committee become pressed for time with respect to these deadlines, a final copy of the recommendation may be signed by the committee chair and forwarded to the faculty/centre at the same time as the original version is circulated for signature by the other members.

The chair should contribute towards coordinating the Committee's recommendation and clarify the delegation of tasks between the committee members during the public defence.

3. Correction of formal errors

The PhD candidate may apply to correct formal errors in the thesis. The application must be submitted no later than four weeks before the Committee's deadline for delivering its recommendation. Correction of formal errors is permitted once only.

 4. Contract for the assessment assignment

The Contract concerning Assessment Assignment: PhD Thesis and Public Defenceis sent to the committee members as soon as the delegation of tasks has been decided. The work involved in assessing the thesis is remunerated on the basis of fixed rates and in the following manner:

  • Assessment of the thesis is remunerated for up to 30 hours of work.
  • First opponents receive an additional remuneration of up to 20 hours for their opposition.
  • Second opponents receive an additional remuneration of up to 15 hours for their opposition.
  • When a thesis is returned with a request to revise it within three months, the committee members are remunerated for 20 hours of re-reading.

The Committee will normally communicate with each other via e-mail or telephone. Should the Committee wish to hold a meeting, this has to be arranged with the faculty/centre. The recommendation, signed by all the committee members, should be sent to the faculty/centre at OsloMet responsible for the PhD programme. The faculty/centre will forward copies of the recommendation to the PhD candidate and the PhD Committee. It is not the duty of the Committee to inform the candidate (or supervisor(s)) of the outcome of the assessment.

5.  The assessment

Initially, the assessment of the thesis can result in one of three different conclusions:
  • Approved:the thesis is found to be worthy of public defence
  • Revision of the thesis: the PhD candidate is asked to revise the thesis within three months.
  • Rejected: the thesis is found not to be worthy of public defence.
The outcome of the Assessment Committee's decision may be:
  • Unanimous

  • Divided

5.1.1 Procedures for when a thesis is found worthy of public defence

In accordance with section 6-7 of the Regulations, the Assessment Committee's recommendation is presented to the PhD candidate, who is given a deadline of ten working days to submit written comments to the recommendation. If the PhD candidate does not wish to submit any comments, the faculty/centre must be notified in writing as soon as possible. The faculty/centre will notify the Committee accordingly.

The PhD Committee at the faculty/centre makes the decision as to whether the thesis is worthy of public defence on the basis of the Committee's recommendation. If the thesis is approved, the Assessment Committee will be authorised in a letter from the faculty/centre to conduct the trial lecture and public defence. The public defence will be held at OsloMet and will be chaired by the Rector or someone appointed by the Rector.

5.1.2  Procedures for when the candidate is requested to revise the thesis

The Committee will only return the thesis in cases where revision will normally give satisfactory results within a three-month time frame. When returning the thesis, the Committee must give an account of its preliminary assessment and specify what ought to be revised in order for the thesis to be approved.

The decision to return the thesis for revision goes via the faculty/centre at OsloMet  responsible for the PhD programme to which the PhD candidate is admitted.

It is normal practice that the same committee is asked to deliver a final recommendation. The Committee will carry out a new and overall assessment of the thesis. The new deadline for the Committee's recommendation will run from the date on which the thesis is re-submitted.

5.1.3 Procedures for when a thesis is found not worthy of public defence

Should the Committee find that fundamental changes to theory, hypotheses, material and/or methodology are necessary before a thesis can be recommended for public defence, the thesis must be rejected in accordance with section 6-7 of the Regulations.

Rejection of a thesis, trial lecture or public defence may be appealed against under the provisions in the Public Administration Act, section 28 et seq. The appeal, including the reasons for the appeal, should be submitted to the faculty/centre at OsloMet responsible for the PhD programme. OsloMet may review all aspects of the decision being appealed.

If the thesis is rejected, a new thesis may be submitted after six months; see section 6-9 (1) of the Regulations.

5.2 Procedures for when the Assessment Committee's decision is unanimous or divided

Unanimous recommendation:

A unanimous recommendation should be followed provided the majority of the PhD Committee at the faculty/centre vote in favour of it. Should a majority find that, despite a unanimous recommendation by the Assessment Committee, there are reasons to doubt whether the thesis ought to be approved, the PhD Committee at the faculty/centre should seek further clarification from the Assessment Committee; see section 6-8 (2) of the Regulations. The PhD Committee may also appoint two new experts to give independent reports on the thesis. The PhD candidate must be given the opportunity to submit comments. The PhD Committee will then decide the matter on the basis of the recommendation and the reports it has obtained.

Divided recommendation:

The faculty/centre may either base its decision on the recommendation of the majority or on the recommendation of the minority, in accordance with section 6-8 (3) of the Regulations. In following the recommendation of the minority, the faculty/centre must, in accordance with  section 6-8 (4) of the Regulations: "request clarification from the Assessment Committee and/or appoint two new experts. The experts shall give individual reports on the thesis". If the two new experts follow the recommendation of the majority, this must serve as the basis for the faculty/centre's decision.

The PhD candidate must be given the opportunity to submit comments. The comments will be forwarded to the Committee. OsloMet encourages the Committee to respond to the comments to ensure the best possible decision-making basis. The committee should issue its response as soon as possible. The comments from the PhD candidate are not a formal appeal; such appeals can only be lodged after a decision has been made.

6. The recommendation

Finally, the Committee will deliver its recommendation as to whether or not the thesis is worthy of public defence.

6.1 Target group for the recommendation

OsloMet is the primary target group for the recommendation. The recommendation must therefore constitute a sound decision-making basis for the decision as to whether or not the thesis is worthy of public defence.

6.2 Formalities

The recommendation must be addressed to the faculty/centre at OsloMet responsible for the PhD programme. It must contain a heading/introduction showing the relevant degree, the title of the thesis and, if appropriate, the papers that make up the thesis.

The recommendation must state the grounds for the decision, and it must be dated and signed by the members of the Assessment Committee.

If the thesis was submitted after the Committee's recommendation that it should be revised, this must be mentioned in the introduction.

6.3 Description of the thesis

The recommendation should begin with a brief summary of factual details about the thesis, in particular:

  • format and size, and which articles it comprises (if appropriate)
  • the type of thesis (for example: theoretical/empirical work)
  • what the thesis deals with and aims to do: the scientific significance of the thesis
  • the key elements in terms of theory, hypotheses, materials and methodology
  • the findings and main conclusions of the thesis

 This descriptive section should not be more than one page in length, should not account for a large portion of the recommendation, and should basically reflect the Assessment Committee's summary of the thesis (and not that of the candidate).

In the assessment section of the recommendation the strong and weak points of the thesis are assessed and discussed. This will lead to a conclusion as to whether the Committee finds the thesis to be worthy of public defence or whether the Committee recommends that the thesis should not be approved for public defence. Although the Committee should give constructive criticism, it should ensure that there is a connection between premise and conclusion so that the recommendation provides OsloMet a satisfactory basis for its treatment. A recommendation approving a thesis should not contain too many critical comments.

6.4 Differences between positive, divided, and negative recommendations

In cases where the Committee concludes that the thesis should be approved for public defence, the recommendation should be worded briefly. If the Committee finds details in the thesis that ought to be corrected prior to publication, a short list of misprints and recommendations for minor corrections (errata list) should be enclosed with the recommendation.

If the Committee is divided, it is preferred that the Committee issue a joint statement and enclose individual reports if appropriate. Grounds for dissent among the members of the Committee must always be stated. Even in cases where the Committee agrees on the conclusion but disagrees on the premises, it could be useful to enclose individual reports.

If the Committee concludes that the thesis is not found worthy of public defence, it must state the grounds for its conclusion in more detail. The emphasis should be on any serious weaknesses in the thesis rather than on details that will not have any effect on the Committee's conclusion.

7.  Assessment criteria and academic standard

If the candidate's documentation is insufficient, the Committee may take steps to obtain further information. In special cases, the Committee may request source material and supplementary or clarifying information.

7.1 Academic standard and what the Assessment Committee should place emphasis on

A Norwegian PhD degree is certification of research expertise of a certain standard. The thesis should be of a standard that would justify publication as part of the scientific literature in the given field of research.

The thesis must satisfy the minimum requirements of research expertise, expressed through requirements pertaining to formulation of research questions, precision and logical stringency, a good command of relevant methods of analysis and an ability to reflect on their possibilities and limitations, as well as an overview and understanding of, and a reflective attitude to, other research in the field.

When evaluating the thesis, emphasis should be placed on determining whether or not the thesis represents an independent and comprehensive piece of scientific work of high academic standard. It is particularly important to consider whether the material and methods applied are relevant to the questions raised in the thesis, and whether the arguments and conclusions posited are valid.

7.2 Assessment of theses consisting of multiple papers or joint papers

If a thesis consists of multiple papers, the PhD candidate must summarise and document the connection between them in a separate section of the thesis. If the papers do not contain a discussion of key concepts, data, methods, etc., the summary must also elaborate on these points.

In the case of a joint paper, a declaration from the co-author(s) must be submitted to the Committee. On this basis the Committee will consider whether the PhD candidate's contribution to the thesis can be identified and whether the candidate is solely responsible for a sufficiently large portion of the thesis. The thesis abstract must be written by the candidate alone.

8.  Trial lecture and public defence

The trial lecture and public defence should normally be held on the same day. If the trial lecture and public defence are not held on the same day and members of the Assessment Committee are unable to attend, the faculty/centre may appoint another committee to discuss and prescribe the topic for the trial lecture

8.1 Trial lecture

The Assessment Committee prescribes the topic for the trial lecture. The PhD candidate must be notified of the title for the trial lecture ten working days prior to the trial lecture. The Committee must forward the prescribed topic for the trial lecture to the faculty/centre at OsloMet responsible for the PhD programme 14 days prior to the trial lecture. The faculty/centre should ensure that the topic prescribed for the trial lecture is conveyed to the PhD candidate.

The trial lecture is an independent component of the doctoral examination and should deal with a prescribed topic that is not directly connected to the topic of the thesis.

The defence chair also leads the trial lecture and determines the structure of the proceedings. The defence chair opens the proceedings by welcoming everyone, introducing the PhD candidate, and leading any subsequent questions or discussions that may arise. All the members of the Assessment Committee are expected to attend the trial lecture.

The trial lecture should take 45 minutes, including a few minutes for questions and/or discussion. The purpose of the trial lecture is to allow the doctoral candidate to document his/her ability to impart research-based knowledge. The trial lecture should be structured in such a way that it can be followed by an audience with prior knowledge equivalent to what could be expected of advanced students of the subject area. When assessing the trial lecture, emphasis should be placed on both academic content and the candidate's ability to impart knowledge. The trial lecture should demonstrate originality.

The Committee's assessment of the trial lecture is announced prior to the public defence.

A trial lecture must contain serious weaknesses in order to be rejected. If the trial lecture is not approved, the public defence may be conducted and a new trial lecture delivered on a new topic within six months of the first attempt. The candidate will not be conferred with the degree or presented with a diploma before the trial lecture is also approved.

8.2 Public defence

Since the public defence counts as an oral component of the assessment, all the members of the Assessment Committee are expected to attend the public defence.

The candidate must, at least three weeks prior to the public defence, provide the faculty/centre at OsloMet responsible for the PhD programme with the prescribed number of copies of the final version of the thesis along with an errata list, where applicable, showing all the corrections that have been made in the final version compared with the version that was originally submitted for assessment.

Copies of the errata list and the corrected version of the thesis must be forwarded immediately to the Assessment Committee.

8.3 The defence chair is responsible for the structure of the public defence

The public defence is normally led by the Rector of OsloMet. The defence chair will be responsible for ensuring that the allotted time is used effectively in terms of conducting the different parts of the proceedings and for doing so within the given time frame.

8.4 Conducting the public defence

Once the defence chair has opened the proceedings, the first opponent is called upon to explain the aim and results of the scientific study and to place the thesis in a broader academic context. The first opponent then raises specific points of discussion or objection in the thesis to which the candidate is expected to respond. The opponents decide how their tasks should be delegated. The maximum time allotted for the public defence, including a fifteen-minute interval between the two opponents, should be three hours. The second opponent should use less time than the first opponent.

The defence chair may invite other people present at the defence to take part in the discussion ex auditorio once the ordinary opponents have concluded their opposition. The defence chair concludes the public defence.

If the thesis was submitted as a work of joint authorship, the Committee will decide, in consultation with the defence chair, how the public defence should be conducted.

8.5 Academic aspects of and assessment of the public defence

The public defence should be an academic discussion between the opponents and the candidate on the formulation of research questions, methodology, empirical and theoretical bases, documentation, and form of presentation. Particular emphasis should be placed on testing the validity of the main conclusions reached by the candidate in his/her thesis. The questions which the opponents choose to pursue need not be limited to those mentioned in the Committee’s recommendation.

The opponents should - as far as possible - seek to give the discussion a form which allows those unfamiliar with the content of the thesis or the subject area to follow the discussion.

8.6  Conclusion of the public defence, the Committee's report, and concluding procedures

The defence chair declares the public defence closed. In doing so, the defence chair does not give an assessment of the public defence, but merely points out that the Committee's assessment will be given in the Committee’s report.

Should the thesis be found worthy of public defence, this will normally result in the thesis and its defence being approved for a PhD degree. However, should the main conclusions of the thesis be shown beyond doubt to be invalid due to factors which come to light during the course of the public defence, the Assessment Committee must reject the thesis. This also applies if reprehensible factors come to light during the public defence which may have vital significance for the assessment of the thesis, such as a clear breach of research ethical standards or sound academic practice. 

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