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Doctoral defences and coronavirus situation

27.11.2020
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This bulletin is updated as the situation evolves. Last updated November 27, 2020: The university has decided that all doctoral defences will be organized as remote access events until January 10, 2021. The decision has been made due to the deteriorating covid situation in the Helsinki area, and the new restrictions that have been put in place by the capitol area coordination group for the covid pandemic. Only the following can be present at university premises: the doctoral candidate, opponent, custos, and the possible faculty representatives, the IT-support person for the defence and a few personal guests invited by the doctoral candidate (max. 10 people present at the room altogether). For wider audiences, defences will be open online only.

The coronavirus situation in Finland and around the world affects also the arrangements of public defences. From this site, you will always find up-to-date information on the effects the covid situation has on defence arrangements.

What types of defences can be held during the situation?

Fall semester 2020: New defences can, as a rule, no longer be set for the fall semester. Defences already agreed on will be held as remote access events. The faculty doctoral student services will be in contact with all doctoral candidates whose defence has been agreed to take place in the fall semester to give further instructions.

Spring semester 2021 (after January 10, 2021): three different types of defences can be held during spring semester 2021:

  • At a regular defence, the doctoral candidate, opponent, and the entire grading committee as well as the audience participate on location at the lecture hall. The defence is not available for anyone to follow online.
  • At a regular defence with an additional video stream, the doctoral candidate, opponent, and the entire grading committee as well as the audience participate on location at the lecture hall, but the event is also opened for audiences outside the university through a video stream. The stream is one-way and does not allow active participation in the event, but as an addition to a regular defence is a good way to open up the event for a wider audience.
  • At a remote access defence, a two-way remote connection is used to allow the doctoral candidate, opponent and/or the other members of the grading committee to participate the event remotely, if needed. At these types of defences, audience participation can also be arranged solely through remote access, if needed.

The doctoral candidate and custos decide the defence type after discussing the matter with the opponent and the faculty representatives appointed to the defence.

Independent of whether you’re planning on a regular defence or a remote access event, read the information available on this site carefully. Once you’ve chosen the defence type and a preliminary date for the event, always start by contacting the doctoral student services of your home faculty before making any other arrangements.

When is remote access needed?

All doctoral defences planned to take place until January 10, 2021 will be held using remote access. If you're planning to have your event in the spring of 2021, you should prepare for the need of remote connections for example in the following situations:

  • Your opponent resides abroad.
  • You / one of the members of the grading committee belong to a risk group of the pandemic.
  • You want to limit audience participation to online participation only.

The health and safety of all participants are a first priority when arranging the event. Participants displaying even slight symptoms of a respiratory illness should never participate the event on location. If your opponent does not want to travel to Finland, even should the restrictions allow it, their wishes must be respected.

During the pandemic, the university strongly recommends that opponents residing abroad participate defences through remote access. If, nevertheless, an opponent arrives to Finland from a country the current travel restrictions apply to (other than Sweden and Estonia, from where work-related travel is permitted without special arrangements) they must have taken a coronavirus test no longer than 72 hours before arrival in Finland.

Audience participation

November 30, 2020 – January 10, 2021: Doctoral defences will be available to wider audience online only.

  • Only the doctoral candidate, opponent, custos and possible other members of the grading committee, IT-support, and a few personal guests invited by the doctoral candidate can be present at the actual lecture hall. The total number of people present in the room must be 10 or less.
  • The invited guests must adhere to the protective mask recommendation and follow safety distances.
  • Hand sanitizer and a recommendation to use it both before and after the defence are always available outside the lecture halls used for doctoral defences.
  • Outside each lecture hall, there are also instructions for the audience to leave their contact information for the purpose of tracing possible covid exposures. The university takes care of the collection and proper storing of the contact details. If possible, the custos should remind the audience members about leaving their contact details. The contact details are stored for 2 weeks after the event.

Spring semester 2021 (after January 10, 2021): Audience can participate defences on location taking into account the current safety regulations and restrictions:

  • To allow for safe distances, each lecture hall has a maximum audience capacity which is approximately half of the normal capacity. For the exact allowed capacity of each lecture hall, please see the Teaching facilities of the University of Helsinki -website.
  • We try to book you venues big enough to accommodate at least 20 people. If a defence, for some reason, has to be booked into a room that does not allow for the minimum of 20 audience places, it must be made available to audience through a two-way remote connection to assure the requirement for the public nature of the event is met.
  • The safety distances and the allowed audience capacity are clearly and visibly marked in the lecture halls and must be followed. If you like, you can reserve 5 to 10 seats to the people of your choice (e.g. supervisors, family). If you wish to do this, mark these seats with a "reserved" notice before the start of the event. The remaining seats will be filled in order of arrival. If the safety distances are not followed, the portiers can intervene in the situation if needed.
  • Hand sanitizer and a recommendation to use it both before and after the defence are always available outside the lecture halls used for doctoral defences.
  • Outside each lecture hall, there are also instructions for the audience to leave their contact information for the purpose of tracing possible covid exposures. The university takes care of the collection and proper storing of the contact details. If possible, the custos should remind the audience members about leaving their contact details. The contact details are stored for 2 weeks after the event.

Protective mask recommendation

The use of protective face masks is strongly recommended for members of the University community and visitors at public University premises. The mask recommendation includes public defences. Everyone participating the events should take the recommendation seriously and comply with it, unless there are special health-related reasons for not wearing a mask.

The university provides masks for the doctoral candidate, opponent, custos, and the audience members, should they not have a mask with them. Masks are available outside the lecture halls before the start of each event.

Audience members should wear a mask at all times. The doctoral candidate, opponent and custos should wear a mask at least when entering and exiting the event. When speaking, use a mask at your own discretion, taking into account that the mask can lessen the audibility of your voice and thus cause difficulty especially in cases where the opponent or someone else participates the event through remote access.

In addition to safe distances in the audience, it’s important to maintain adequate safe distances between the doctoral candidate, the opponent and the custos.

How should I proceed?

  • Once you have been granted permission to defend and the date of your defence has been decided, always start by contacting your home faculty’s doctoral student services. The doctoral student services confirm the date of the defence and guide you forward in the process
  • Never book a venue or make other arrangements for the event before you have been in touch with the doctoral student services and received the instructions for the next steps. Defence arrangements take an unusual amount of coordination during the exceptional situation (audience restrictions, safety distances, cleaning, IT-support) and making independent arrangements without permission complicates matters for everyone involved.
  • At the moment, the university’s booking services only accept defence booking requests that have been agreed on with the faculty’s doctoral students services. Defence bookings are not made for doctoral candidates who have not yet been granted permission to proceed to public defence.
  • Technical arrangements required for remote access events: the university takes care of technical arrangements and the needed IT-support. You will receive the needed links and technical instructions together with the booking confirmation of the lecture hall. IT-support staff is always present at the defence.
  • Only a limited number of remote access defences can be held on any given date. If the planned date has already been fully booked, it’s possible that your event will have to be moved to a later date. Fridays and Saturdays are especially popular, so when deciding on the date, please consider all weekdays flexibly. At the moment, Fridays are almost fully booked approx. 2 months onwards.
  • If you’re planning to have a regular defence, the date can be set more freely. The recommended starting time for new defences agreed to be held on weekdays is 1 PM instead of the traditional noon. On Saturdays, Porthania is the only building open. Once you’ve decided on the date, start by contacting your home faculty’s doctoral student services for further instructions.
  • When publicizing the event, the starting time is traditionally given on the hour but the actual event is started a quarter past (the so-called "academic quarter"). This tradition should also be adhered to in remote access defences to make sure that the audience, accustomed to the fact that defences start quarter past, does not disrupt the start of the event. So, for example, if your defence is set to take place at 1PM, do start the actual proceedings only at 1.15 PM.
  • If you’re planning to have a regular defence with an additional video sream, proceed as when planning a regular defence. However, please note that we have a limited number of lecture halls suitable for streaming, so we cannot always guarantee that a stream can be arranged on the planned date. The doctoral candidate and the custos launch the stream at the start of the event. You will receive instructions on how to do this together with the booking confirmation of the lecture hall. Launching the stream requires a university printing card.

What if the plans change?

During the pandemic, sudden changes to already made plans are not uncommon. If you have planned for a regular defence, but one of the participants suddenly finds themselves unable to participate on location (e.g. exposure, quarantine, illness, changes in the travel restrictions), be in touch with your home faculty’s doctoral student services as soon as possible

In cases such as these, it’s possible that your defence must be postponed to a later date, as changing a regular defence to a remote access event at a short notice is often not possible. The earlier you contact us, the better.

Distribution, public display and publicizing during the exceptional situation

During the exceptional situation, printed copies of upcoming theses will not be publicly displayed at the University Main Building. Please note that the required printed copies, public display copy included, must nevertheless be distributed as usual. While the restrictions continue, the printed copies can be distributed by post.

During the disruption to the public display of theses, it's especially important to remember to fill the dissertation form available on the E-thesis website no less than three weeks before the public examination. Through the form, information on the event will be picked up to the University's event calendar.

If your event can be followed online, please wait until you receive the audience links before filling in the form – you will need to include the links to the form.

Water, coffee services & post-doctoral parties

During the exceptional situation, the portiers deliver water bottles to the lecture halls for the use of the doctoral candidate, opponent and custos. These need not be separately ordered for now.

Defence coffee services at university premises are not allowed due to the exceptional situation.

The post-doctoral party (karonkka) is not an official event of the university and each doctoral candidate is responsible for decisions concerning their own event. However, the university strongly recommends that if you arrange a post-doctoral party, you keep in mind the restrictions in place on large gatherings and attend to safe distances and hygiene recommendations.

How long are the exceptional instructions in force?

The exceptional instructions presented on this site are in force at least until the end of the academic year 2020–2021. However, we’re continuously monitoring the situation and the possible changes made by the Finnish government to the regulations and restrictions related to the pandemic. If these regulations / restrictions change and the university, based on these changes, makes changes to its roadmap for returning to regular functions, the instructions on this site, agreed on together with the different parties participating in defence arrangements, will also be updated to match the current situation.

Contact information to the faculty doctoral student services:

More information