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Trial lecture and public defence

The trial lecture normally takes place the day before or the same day as the public defence (disputation). You give a lecture on an assigned topic.

During the disputation, defence of your thesis is public. Feel free to invite friends and family to both the trial lecture and the public defence.

Young woman having a lecture. Photo.
Photo: Annica Thomsson

Before the PhD examination

What you need to do before the PhD examination

The PhD examination consists of the trial lecture and the public defence. You must do the following before you can take the PhD examination:

You will be informed about the deadlines for the points above in the faculty's notification letter. The notification letter stipulates the date and time of the public defence and trial lecture, as well as the date and time at which you will be informed of the topic of the trial lecture. You will also be given information about the date of the conferral ceremony to which you will be invited.

Trial lecture


You will give a trial lecture on an assigned topic. You will be notified of the topic 10 working days before the lecture.

The trial lecture must be given in English or Norwegian, and usually in the language in which the thesis was written. The trial lecture normally takes place the day before or the same day as the public defence.

Procedure for trial lecture

The person who chairs the trial lecture (normally the Head of Department, committee administrator or chair of the defence) will extend a welcome to the trial lecture and introduce the candidate (you). The adjudication committee will be present in order to determine whether you have passed the trial lecture.

You may invite friends, colleagues from your institution, and family to the trial lecture. You can ask the department who/which institutions it has notified about the trial lecture and public defence.

Duration of the trial lecture

The trial lecture will take 45 minutes – no more, and not much less. You should endeavour to write a text that sticks to the allotted time – and practice giving the lecture.

The purpose of the trial lecture

The purpose of the trial lecture is for you to document your ability to convey research-based knowledge to a target group of advanced students of the subject (who have completed at least one year of studies). The assessment of the trial lecture will focus on both the academic content and on your ability to convey knowledge.

Approval of the trial lecture

You must pass both the trial lecture and the public defence before the degree and diploma can be conferred. 

If you deliver a very poor trial lecture you risk being assessed as a fail. This is very unusual, but if the trial lecture is not approved, a new trial lecture may be held within six months. You need to pass the trial lecture before the public defence of the thesis can be held.

Public defence

What is a public defence?

A public defence is an open event where you, the (PhD) candidate, present and defend your doctoral thesis in public to two critical opponents from the expert adjudication committee. The public defence is normally headed by a person from the department's management or a representative. You cannot be awarded the PhD degree until you pass the trial lecture and public defence.

Procedure for the public defence

The order upon entry to the public defence is: the chair of the defence (master of ceremonies), the candidate (you), and the first to third opponents. The audience will rise and remain standing during the entry, following a signal from the official or some other person instructed in advance to perform this task.

The candidate and the committee will sit in designated seats at the front of the venue, while the chair of the defence goes to the rostrum/lectern.

The order of the further procedure varies, depending on whether you are a PhD or Dr. Philos. candidate:

Procedure for trial lectures and public defences for PhD candidates

Your role during the public defence

You should make an active defence during the disputation, but without acting 'insulted' or 'stubborn'. You should help retain a positive atmosphere during the public defence.

The public defence must contain a brief concluding speech, expressing your thanks for the opportunity to take the PhD examination, and thanking the committee for its work.

Who can attend?

You can invite friends and family to the public defence, but you should warn them about the critical role of the opponents.

Dress code

Informal attire/suit

Duration of the public defence

The public defence normally takes no more than three hours, including breaks.

Public defence lunch

If the trial lecture is held the day before the public defence, the department will normally host a public defence lunch for the candidate, the adjudication committee, the chair of the defence and any supervisors immediately following the public defence.

If the trial lecture and the public defence are held on the same day, the department will normally host a lunch between the trial lecture and the public defence, or a lunch/light meal after the public defence has concluded.

If the public defence takes place during the afternoon, the lunch will be held beforehand. The department will cover the costs of the lunch. The department will notify you when and where the lunch will be held. If you do not want to attend the lunch, you must provide notification of this at least two weeks prior to the public defence.



Published Dec. 21, 2020 10:23 AM - Last modified Oct. 13, 2021 3:00 PM