Step #7: Defense

Defense Committee

The Defense Committee is composed by a total of 4 members including 2x Examiners, 1x PhD supervisor, 1x chair - usually the (v)DSPL-. Any of the two examiners – or both – can be external to the Faculty/University. These examiners can also be the same as the reviewers (see above). Note that only limited funds are available for inviting examiners, which may restrict the number of external members of this committee (700 euros; check with SSC for an updated information). In case of conflict of interest (e.g., the vDSPL is also the PhD supervisor), another chair of the session must be proposed.

The supervisory team (and not the PhD candidate) is responsible of proposing 2 (+1 backup) members for the Thesis Committee and collect information that certifies their qualification (full CVs; see Step #5). This information will be submitted to the SSC and later evaluated and validated by the (v)DSPL. Nonetheless, the Defense Committee is formally confirmed and appointed by the Studienpräses. According to the regulations of the Studienpräses, eligible candidates are those holding a Univ. Professorship (Ass., Assoc., Full Prof.) or equivalent, habilitated professors, active ERC grant holders, and group leaders at high-quality research institutions.


Registration of the Defense (at least 2 weeks before)

After the positive evaluation from the external reviewers (see Step #5), the SSC will contact the PhD student and the supervisory team (with the (v)DSPL in cc) with the information for the registration of the Defense. This registration must be done at least 2 weeks in advance of the actual date for the Defense. The SSC email should include the following documents:

  • Defense registration form (Anmeldung zur mündlichen Abschlussprüfung (Defensio)) (SL/P4)
  • Reports from the reviewers

In coordination with the supervisory team, the PhD student will fill this form including the proposed date for the PhD Defense. Note that this date must also consider the availability of rooms at the corresponding unit.



PhD Defense

Date: The PhD and supervisor(s) are responsible to coordinate the date of the Defense and notify it to the SSC and (v)DSPL.

Online Defense: remote participation on the PhD Defense is allowed. The PhD candidates are however suggested to notify this possibility to the Studienpräse and inform the (v)DSPL in advance.

Prüfungsprotokoll: Official document for the Defense. Sent by SSC to the vDSPL who is responsible of filling it and collect the signatures from the committee members.

Standard Defense structure (recommended total duration ~1-1.5 hours):

  1. Introduction:
    a. vDSPL introduces the program of the day
    b. vDSPL introduces PhD student + Committee members
  2. Defense:
    a. PhD candidate carries out presentation (30-45min) (confirm exact duration with vDSPL)
    b. Q&A by Committee members (usually first 2 external reviewers, then PhD supervisor, then chair/vDSPL) (max 45mins). vDSPL must take basic notes of the Q&As.
    c. (optional and under discretion of the chair) Q&A from audience
  3. Deliberations:
    a. Committee members detach from candidate/room to deliberate on their grades (the grade must be an integer value: 1, 2, 3...). They fill “Prüfungsprotokoll” and sign it.
    b. Committee comes back
  4. Result & remarks:
    a. vDSPL announces results to the PhD candidate (passed/no passed)
    b. (optional) Final remarks/comments/congratulations from committee members and supervisor
    c. End of the event
  5. Report:
    a. vDSPL sends Prüfungsprotokoll (incl. grades + signed) to SSC
  6. Final documents
    a. SSC will contact vDSPL with the last certificates: (1) Bescheid über die Verleihung eines akademischen Grades (2) Abschlusszeugnis Doktoratsstudium / Certification of Doctoral Programme
    b. vDSPL signs them and sends them back to SSC

Tasks & Duties

PhD Student

  • Coordinate defense date together with supervisory team
  • Carry out a presentation of their work (45min)
  • Answer questions from Thesis Committee (max 45min)

Thesis Committee members (incl. main supervisor)

  1. Participate in the Defense
  2. Grade thesis work & presentation
  3. Sign Prüfungsprotokoll
  4. (optional) Final remarks after PhD Defense


  • Coordinate Defense date


  • Receive Prüfungsprotokoll from SSC
  • Chair Defense, introduce candidate & committee members
  • Take notes of the Q&A in the Prüfungsprotokoll
  • Fill up Prüfungsprotokoll and collect signatures
  • Send Prüfungsprotokoll back to SSC