Doctoral degrees may be postponed, but until when?

The Graduate School announced that doctoral degrees can be postponed. This way, it is trying to find ways to ease the concerns of those affected.

The new advice: “If you do not really need to attend a doctoral defence, then don’t.” (Photo: Sija van den Beukel)

With 31 doctoral defences in the planning, TU Delft’s doctoral defence calendar is filled for the next three weeks. Many doctoral candidates, promotors and board members are in doubt about postponement, says the Graduate School. Closing a four-year period of hard work behind closed doors and via Skype, is not what they had visualised, some worried doctoral candidates told Delta.

In response to the concerns, the Graduate School will ‘cooperate as far as it can’ if doctoral defences need to be postponed, says Vice Rector Peter Wieringa. “This will help ease people’s concerns. We will approach the boards, promotors and doctoral candidates personally, and will work our way through the list to make sure that, as far as possible, the doctoral defences can go ahead as planned,” says Wieringa.

‘We will have to do everything on a case-by-case basis’

When any postponed doctoral defences can take place is unclear. “We assure you that we will do our utmost to arrange extra slots in the evening once this situation has passed. But I cannot promise that all the doctoral defences will be done by the summer.” Everything depends on the availability of space and people, explains Wieringa. “Up to summer, we will have to do everything on a case-by-case basis.”

The doctoral defences that will go ahead will have a minimal audience. “If you do not really need to attend a doctoral defence, then don’t,” says Wieringa. Ceremonies will be held behind closed doors and through Skype. “In keeping with tradition, we will try to have the beadle there as often as we can. But the essence is to retain academic defences that are valuable and of high standard.” Most of the defences will be filmed for friends and family.

On its site, the Graduate School has not yet given any updates on these developments. This is because the policy and guidelines can change by the hour.

For those wondering how a phone doctoral defence behind closed doors will work, on 5 March Klaas van Breugel was the first chair of the board that went through the process. In an email, he calls this ‘a workable emergency solution’. The Skype connection was good enough for the discussion between the candidate and the board. “It was a lot more informal, though. The people on Skype did not adhere to the dress code, which detracted from the ceremonial aspect.” But there will not be much ceremony anyway as this is mostly done for the audience.

Sija van den Beukel / Freelance journalist

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