Public defence

Following the positive assessment of your doctoral thesis and provided that you have completed all achievements required by the curriculum, you can register for the public defence at the StudiesServiceCenter for the doctoral programme in Social Sciences.

The public defence of your doctoral thesis is the final step in your doctorate. The purpose of the public defence is the oral defence of your written thesis, i.e. your hypothesis, findings and research design, in front of reviewers and the examination committee. Public defences are public events, i.e. an audience may be present. The public defence will be announced in the form of a notice (stating the doctoral candidate, topic of the doctoral thesis, date, venue) at the office of the StudiesServiceCenter for the doctoral programme in Social Sciences and on the website.


The Directorate of Doctoral Studies is responsible for nominating the members of the examination committee. However, you have the right to suggest members for this committee. You have to submit your suggestion for the thesis committee by e-mail to the representative of the respective discipline within the Directorate of Doctoral Studies (DSPL) before scheduling a date for the public defence. The examination committee of a public defence has to comprise at least three persons. Usually, the committee consists of the two reviewers as well as the chair of the examination committee. Your thesis supervisor may act as a member of the examination committee, but does not have to.

Generally, the Director of Studies serves as chairperson, but this role can be delegated if required. All members of the examination committee contribute to the grading of the candidate. If a reviewer cannot attend in person, s/he may select another person holding a habilitation qualification to represent him/her or attend the public defence by video conference. The University of Vienna supports the participation of external reviewers in a public defence and allocates a maximum of € 500 per public defence for this purpose to cover travel expenses incurred.

It is your responsibility to contribute to finding a suitable date for the public defence. Please first schedule two to three possible dates in consultation with the reviewers (or their representatives) as well as the representative of the respective discipline within the Directorate of Doctoral Studies (DSPL). Inform Birgit Muskovich (, Tel.: +43-1-4277-491 21) about the dates you scheduled with the reviewers and the DSPL by submitting the form “Registration for doctoral thesis defence (SL/P4)”.


A public defence lasts about one and a half hours. It starts with your 20-minute presentation. Your presentation must clearly define the thesis project and justify your findings and research design. It is important that you specifically tackle the comments in the reviews and defend your doctoral thesis in the solid academic sense. The colloquium then commences and is usually opened by the person chairing the examination committee. Then the reviewers or their representatives put more in-depth and advanced questions to you.


Following the public defence, each member of the examination committee gives a numerical grade (1–5) on the entire examination. If the members of the committee come to a majority decision, i.e. the majority of them award the same grade, this grade will be the final grade (e.g. 1, 1, 2 –> majority decision for “excellent”). If each member of the committee gives a different grade, the arithmetic mean will be used to determine the final grade (e.g. 1, 3, 5 –> arithmetic mean 1+3+5=9 divided by 3 = 3). The result of the assessment is a numerical grade.

Following the successful public defence, doctoral candidates are awarded the academic title “Doktor/Doktorin der Philosophie” (doctor of philosophy) by official notice as specified in the curriculum. The doctoral candidate has the opportunity to celebrate the completion of his/her doctoral studies with a graduation ceremony. For further information, please follow the link to the website of the Conference and Event Management service unit.

ViDSS activities: Career Development

The ViDSS offers a range of workshops for early postdoctoral researchers, for example on grant proposal writing or strategic career development.