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Thesis Preparation and Ph.D. Defence



General workflow of the organization of PhD defences

The doctoral dissertation should be a work of independent research. It should reveal the ability to formulate a problem or research question, gather, analyse and interpret source material, demonstrate knowledge of the literature relating to the subject, describe the methods and procedures used, report the results, and display the researcher’s ability to discuss fully and coherently the meaning of the outcome of his/her research. A doctoral dissertation which has been written in the EUI’s PhD programme must be defended at the EUI.

Setting up the examining board

When the supervisor concludes that the doctoral work progress justifies the establishment of an Examining Board, he/she shall propose the composition to the Department. The composition of an Examining Board for a PhD defence is the responsibility of the Department and then of the Executive Committee. The supervisor proposes the composition of the jury after having consulted with the candidate and the co-supervisor (if any). Researchers shall not contact potential jury members directly.

The Board is normally made up of two internal and two external members. The four members should not all be nationals of the same state or be currently employed in the same state. The thesis cannot be sent to the Examining Board members before the final confirmation by the Executive Committee.

Thesis submission

At the end of the 4th year (or at the latest by the end of the 60th month of registration) the researcher hands in the thesis together with the anti-plagiarism receipt and a 300-word abstract to the Departmental Coordinator. The submission date is the date when the supervisor confirms that the thesis is ready to be sent to the Examining Board. The thesis needs to be defended within 11 month from the date of submission. Normally the defence date is scheduled for 4 months after the submission date. For an overview of the whole procedure see the outline of the PhD defence workflow.

Student status and access to EUI resources until defence

A student status can last up to 60 months. Researchers should submit their final thesis before the end of the 60th month of registration, and no submission will be allowed after the expiry of the said student status.  The thesis counts as submitted only if the supervisor accepts that it is ready to be sent to the Examining Board for defence.  Se article 11.3 of the Academic Rules and Regulations for possible extensions of student status due to extenuating circumstances.  

  • If researchers submit before the end of their fourth year, they maintain their student status (and fourth year grant payments if applicable) until the 48th month of registration
  • If they submit within their fifth year of registration (between month 49 and 60) the student status ends on the date of the submission.  

Researchers are expected to defend their thesis within a maximum period of 11 months after the date of submission. Between the submission and defence dates, researchers are provided with a temporary access to EUI academic facilities and all library resources to facilitate the preparation for their defence. 

Examining Board reports

Each examining board member sends in a report on the thesis within two months after receiving it. The reports are circulated among the examining board members and the PhD candidate only after all four have arrived. If the reports ask for revisions, such revisions have to be carried out within no more than six months. All changes to the thesis have to be recorded in a letter which will be sent to the Examining Board members. No later than one month before the date of the defence the final thesis has to be printed by the print-shop and sent to the Library for public consultation. 

Formatting and language revision of theses

The thesis needs to be sent in as one pdf file.

Language correction subsidy

The thesis candidate may be eligible for a subsidy to help with the language correction costs of the thesis. The granting of the subsidy will depend on whether or not the candidate was asked to follow language classes when he/she arrived at the EUI and whether in fact the classes were followed. The candidate needs to be within the 5-year limit to qualify for the subsidy. For details see the Language Centre webpage.

What the department offers is a contribution, not the full reimbursement of the cost of language revision. The allocation of the language correction subsidy will depend on the level of correction needed (as proposed by the supervisor and approved by the Head of Department). This sum will be transferred to the PhD candidate (who pays the language corrector him/herself) when s/he confirms satisfaction with the final corrections and gives evidence of payment.

The day of the defence

Before the defence, the Examining Board shall choose its own chair by consensus. The thesis supervisor and co-supervisor (if any) are precluded from presiding and have no vote. If needed, the Examining Board shall take its decisions by the majority of voting members participating. The chair has a casting vote.

The defence generally lasts a couple of hours, and includes:

  • a presentation of the thesis by the candidate lasting approximately 20 minutes
  • comments and questions by members of the Examining Board, which must be confined to the candidate’s research topic
  • a general discussion

At the end of the discussion the candidate and guests will be asked to leave the room for a few minutes while the examining board deliberates in camera. The jury shall decide on the basis of the thesis submitted and the way the candidate has defended it. A reasoned report on the thesis and its defence shall then be adopted within no more than three months after the defence.

The new doctor should indicate to the administrative assistant in which language(s) s/he defended and in which language(s) the diploma and the certificates should be issued. The Academic Service will prepare the documents after having received this information. The Doctorate of the European University Institute is ungraded, and this fact shall be clearly stated on the diploma issued to the doctor concerned.

  • See the Alumni website for information on EUI access rights after the defence


Page last updated on 27 January 2020

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