Yesterday, I attended a PhD defense for the very first time in Delft. One of my colleagues graduated, and so I was able to see how this goes and works in the Netherlands.
The defense started at 2:30pm with a presentation. That presentation was held for the audience, in a rather light style and directed to the friends and family of the PhD candidate. At that time, the committee was not in the room yet. The presentation itself lasted about 15 to 20 minutes, after which the PhD candidate took aside the laptop and presenting material.
At 3:00 pm sharp, the beadle walked in, followed by the committee. The beadle also asked everyone to stand up before the committee walked in. Professors of the committee were dressed with their cap and gown. After the committee was seated, the beadle tapped the floor with her ceremonial stick, and left the room.
The (replacer of the) rector magnificus then opened the defense by ticking with a hammer. She then asked the PhD candidate and her two paranymphs to come up to the front. After this, the first member of the committee is allowed to ask questions. Even though the defense is held in English, the official ways of addressing the PhD candidate (“waarde promovenda”) and the member of the committee are kept in Dutch. When questioning, the committee member wears his cap.
Depending on the distance the committee member has traveled, he gets a certain amount of time alloted for asking questions regarding the PhD thesis, the propositions and the background of all this. At yesterday’s defense, the first professor questioning was coming from Germany, and therefore he was allowed to question for 12 minutes. This time was strictly watched by the replacer of the rector magnificus.
The last two persons to question the PhD candidate were the copromotor and promotor.
After exactly one hour, at 4:00 pm sharp. The beadle walked in again, and marked the hour with the ceremonial stick and the words “hora est”. After this, the beadle led away the committee, while the audience was asked again to all stand up.
At 4:15pm, the committee members came back, holding a diploma. The replacer of the rector magnificus and the promotor then read out the ceremonial text in which the PhD candidate is given the title of Doctor, with all the rights associated to this title. Right after this, the promotor read out the Laudatio, a speech he prepared to give at the end of the ceremony.
After the official part, a reception at the university was given. During this reception, everyone had the chance to shake hands with the new Doctor (and her husband). The committee was the first to shake hands (and no one is allowed to go and shake hands before them). At 6:00 pm, the entire group of 60 people moved to a restaurant, where a dinner was arranged.