Evaluation of Dissertations

Candidates who want to pursue a doctoral degree will need to seek approval to complete a dissertation in order to graduate. This means submitting a dissertation application, which is done electronically.

The following are the statements that a dissertation committee will need to approve before the candidate can proceed:

  • Statements from the relevant preliminary examinations board or examiners;
  • Statements from any opponents of the dissertation and the defense of the same. This includes grade proposal (opponents may obtain the grading criteria for a particular school from the general information published for public examinations);
  • Any comments (in writing) indicated to be forthcoming regarding the public exam;
  • Any comments or statements on behalf of the doctoral candidate in response to opponents’ statements.  

Dissertation Grading

Once completed, the usual grades awarded for a dissertation are pass, pass with distinction, and fail.

The regulations in most schools and colleges stipulate that successful dissertations are given the following grades: pass and pass with distinction. However, only those dissertations that are exceptional should be awarded the pass with distinction grade.    

When a dissertation is graded with a pass with distinction, it is required that the paper is of notable scientific merit, the results or findings are of exceptional significance in the field the research relates to, that the articles of a dissertation that is article-based are published in a highly respected international journal series in their field or in some similar publication that publishes peer-reviewed articles and works. Additionally, the student should have made an important contribution through the results they obtained and in the manner these were obtained, and that the manner the results are represented is entirely clear, that the language used and the manner of the referencing is outstanding. The preliminary statements concerning the examination should not suggest the student’s dissertation work requires extensive or moderate correction and that the same should not apply to any previous dissertation paper that is even partly related to the same subject or based on similar material. Furthermore, the manner in which the dissertation is defended should be excellent. 

  • Specific justification for being awarded a pass with distinction must also be presented in the statement provided by any opponent or opponents. 

Practices Pertaining to Grading

When grading a dissertation, the work should be evaluated in its entirety. It is also possible the work will be evaluated against or compared to the dissertations of candidates of the same level and field. When a dissertation is being examined, it is permissible for the opponent to compare the work against the quality and standards that are acceptable in the examiner’s own college or university. It is worth nothing, however, that dissertation projects pertaining to the School of Electrical Engineering are wider-ranging in nature than many of those in similar schools across Europe so comparing dissertations can be difficult in this respect. With article-based dissertations, the summary section is at the beginning and is an independent entity, which draws together all thesis-related articles.

A dissertation project is a four-year course of doctoral-level studies, taken full-time. In other countries, however, dissertations can be completed over a three-year course of study. Additionally, the amount of publications needed can differ from the regulations in a lot of other colleges and universities. It is the task of the professor supervising each dissertation to highlight these points to the examiner or opponent.

Dissertation Evaluation and Degree Rules/Regulations

In, for example, the case of the School of Electrical Engineering, the dissertation evaluation rules are defined in the general regulations pertaining to degrees (Section 27, 2013).

Two weeks after a public exam, any opponent(s) approved by the participating school should, either jointly or individually, submit a statement (in writing) to the school regarding the dissertation and how it has been defended. Additionally, any comments (again in writing), which have been announced at the dissertation public exam as forthcoming, should be submitted within a two-week period of the public exam to the school in question.

Requests for failing a dissertation should be submitted in writing with reasons provided. An opponent or someone from the doctoral evaluation committee who is eligible to make decisions about the merit of a work may make such requests.

Any statements or comments that have been put in writing by opponents should be submitted to the relevant school to use in the dissertation approval and dissertation grading processes. The writer of the dissertation will be given the chance to respond in writing to any comments or statements within a timeframe decided by the appropriate school.