Mandatory PhD seminar

Monthly morning seminar

Typically, the department holds a morning meeting once a month during the semester, at which PhD students and the Head of the PhD programme meet to eat breakfast and discuss the content and rules of the PhD programme. A researcher may be invited to these meetings to provide academic input, which often leads to lively and fruitful discussion. However, mostly the morning meeting is used for evaluation seminars (see below) and to give new PhD students an opportunity to present their projects. The seminars are mandatory. If you will be absent from a seminar you need to notify the Head of PhD well in advance. The seminars are usually on the last Tuesday of each month from 9 to11am.

A yearly summer seminar

Every year a two-day seminar outside the university campus takes place. This seminar is organised by PhD students (with support from the PhD secretary and the Head of the PhD  programme) and focuses on different aspects of the PhD  program. Guests may be invited in order to highlight these aspects (e.g. assessment of the PhD thesis, study abroad, postdoc options). The summer meeting can also include evaluations of and presentations by PhD students. The seminars are mandatory. They are usually held on the first Tuesday and Wednesday in June every year. Please plan accordingly.

Evaluation seminar

Each PhD student is to be evaluated twice during their course of study. The first evaluation should take place approximately one year into the programme, the second after approximately two years. The PhD student mails the PhD secretary and applies for an evaluation.

At the seminars, the PhD student will give a 2–3-page written presentation of his/her project and work to date, as well as a 20–30-page draft of a section of his/her thesis. The student will receive feedback from both a fellow PhD student and a senior reseracher (usually a member of the academic staff at the department). Both are selected well in advance by the PhD student, in consultation with his/her supervisor. Opportunities will also be provided for feedback, as well as a more general academic discussion, with all the staff and students present. The principal and secondary supervisors are expected to contribute during the feedback part of the process, but it is appropriate for them to keep a low profile during the discussions. Unless there are compelling reasons for absence, participation in the evaluation seminars is compulsory for all of the department's PhD students, whether or not they are presenting their own project.

All PhD students, as well as the Head of the PhD programme, are expected to have read the papers of those who are scheduled to receive feedback. To facilitate this, the paper authors must mail all the participants at least two weeks before the seminar so that they receive the papers in good time. Students scheduled to receive feedback are personally responsible for ensuring that his/her two opponents receive copies of the papers in time.

Each PhD student due to receive feedback is allocated 1½ hours of seminar time. The timetable for the seminar is as follows: the student spends the first five minutes accounting in brief for his or her paper. For the next 30 minutes, the peer opponent discusses the paper sympathetically but also raises critical questions – albeit in a constructive manner. The next 30 minutes are allocated to the senior opponent, who is also expected to be friendly and exhibit solidarity, albeit in a critical yet constructive manner. The timetable includes time for contributions from others, including other PhD students.

It is stressed that the opponents should express themselves in a constructive manner, since they have a responsibility to reflect upon how their criticism can be used by the student to improve his/her PhD project. Purely negative criticism is inappropriate, and the chair has the right to intervene and ask how the opponent thinks the criticism might be used constructively by the student.

Every time that an opponent provides input, s/he must take into account that the student must be afforded 10–15 minutes in which to respond. However, the seminar does not constitute a full-scale thesis defence, so the student has no need to feel nervous or embarrassed, either in advance of or during the seminar. In many cases, it will probably be most appropriate for the student simply to take note of the comments, or to respond to the critical remarks in a way that outlines how they may be used to improve his/her thesis work.

After the evaluation, it is recommended that the student meets with his/her supervisor in order to discuss the critique and suggestions put forward at the seminar.