Appointment and duties of the preliminary examiners

The instruction belongs to the following themes

By selecting a degree programme you are able to see the general content as well as the possible degree programme-specific content. You do not have to select a degree programme to see the Open University's instructions.

This section provides you with information on the preliminary examiners’ duties, what criteria is used when appointing preliminary examiners and how the preliminary examiners submit their statements.

Duties of preliminary examiners

Preliminary examiners must identify the merits of the dissertation manuscript, propose revisions and improvements to the author, and submit a reasoned written statement to the faculty, either proposing that the doctoral candidate be granted permission to defend the dissertation in a public examination or that the permission should be denied. In most cases, each preliminary examiner will submit their own statement, but if they so wish, they may also submit a single joint statement.

The faculty council consults the preliminary examiners’ statements to decide whether the doctoral candidate can be granted permission to defend their dissertation in a public examination. If an article included in a dissertation has not yet been accepted for publication, the preliminary examiners should pay particular attention to the quality of this article in their statement. In their statements, preliminary examiners may outline or summarise the revisions and additions that they require. The preliminary examiner is not, however, in the position of a dissertation supervisor.

Once the preliminary examiners have been appointed, the presenting official of the faculty informs the preliminary examiners and the doctoral candidate of the decision and sends the dissertation manuscript with examination instructions to the preliminary examiners. The preliminary examiners must, within two months of accepting the assignment, submit a written statement, either jointly or separately, explicitly recommending that the doctoral candidate be granted or denied permission to defend the dissertation in a public examination. In some faculties, preliminary examiners may require that some parts of the manuscript be revised even before they give their statement. In this case, your faculty’s postgraduate services will provide you with more detailed instructions on how to proceed.

If, due to differences of opinion between the preliminary examiners or serious deficiencies or mistakes discovered in the dissertation, the preliminary examination does not lead to a statement recommending that the doctoral candidate be granted permission for the public defence of the dissertation, the preliminary examination process will be discontinued. The faculty council will be notified of the discontinuation of the preliminary examination.

Appointment of preliminary examiners

When appointing preliminary examiners, special attention will be paid not only to the expertise of the examiners but also to their impartiality. Preliminary examiners are always selected from outside the doctoral candidate’s home faculty and, as a rule, from outside the University of Helsinki. It is possible to appoint a docent of the home faculty as a preliminary examiner, if they work outside the faculty.

The preliminary examiner, opponent or a member of the grading committee cannot have a relationship with the doctoral candidate, the doctoral dissertation or another relevant party that may challenge their impartiality.

Consequently, for example, the following individuals are disqualified from serving as a preliminary examiner, an opponent or a member of the grading committee:

  • Individuals who have co-authored one of the articles included in the dissertation
  • Individuals who are or have been during the dissertation project in research collaboration with the doctoral candidate
  • Individuals who have conducted close research collaboration with the dissertation supervisor within three years of the examination of the dissertation
  • Close relatives of the doctoral candidate
  • Immediate supervisors and subordinates of the doctoral candidate or the supervisor
  • Members of the thesis committee

The doctoral candidate may object to the selection of preliminary examiners. If you think that one or more of the proposed preliminary examiners should be disqualified, it is important that you notify the doctoral student services of your home faculty, your supervisor as well as the responsible teacher of this as soon as possible, so that your supervisor or responsible teacher can find someone else. If you are unsure about whether a proposed preliminary examiner should be disqualified, ask for advice from the doctoral student services of your home faculty.

Update on 22 March 2022 The University of Helsinki does not recommend using employees of Russian or Belorussian universities as pre-examiners or opponents, or use them as scientific experts. For more information, please see University of Helsinki's updates on War in Ukraine.

Preliminary examination statement

Preliminary examiners, either separately or together, submit a statement where they either

  • Recommend granting permission to proceed to public defence of the manuscript in its current form or with minor revisions approvable by the supervisor, or
  • Assess the deficiencies as so serious that it is not possible for them to submit a favourable statement recommending that permission be granted to defend the dissertation publicly.

You will be notified of the statements before the meeting of the faculty council and, if you so wish, you may submit a written objection to them, if you feel that the criticism presented in them is unfounded and you want to express your objections publicly.

The statements will be enclosed with the minutes of the faculty council meeting in which the decision regarding granting permission to defend the dissertation is made, after which they will become public documents.

Further information

The guidelines and policies related to preliminary examination are based on Rector’s decision 498/2017 (preliminary examination and approval of doctoral dissertations and general criteria for doctoral dissertations).