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Thesis Defense: Frequently Asked Questions

Defensa de tesis doctoral

Thesis defense

Biblioteca Carmen Martin Gaite

What is a Ph.D. thesis?

The Ph.D. thesis is the intended outcome of the doctoral training period. The thesis must give account of the student’s scientific work and meet the quality standards established by the Academic Committee of the program. Theses are defended in a public dissertation event, where they are subjected to assessment by an expert committee.

As a general rule, Ph.D. candidates must have been enrolled on their program for a minimum period of 24 months before initiating thesis defense proceedings.

I have approval to proceed to the thesis defense. What are the stages of this process?

Once you get approval for your thesis defense by your tutor, advisor and Academic Committee, a minimum span of 8 weeks (excluding holiday periods) is usually required to go through these stages:

  1. Plagiarism management procedure
  2. Thesis deposit. Three weeks.
  3. Approval of thesis defense and appointment of Thesis Committee by the Dean of Doctoral School. One week.
  4. Defense session logistics. Three weeks.
  5. Thesis defense

What is the plagiarism management procedure?

To ensure compliance with the principles established in the Code of Good Practice for Managing Plagiarism of Ph.D. Theses of the Doctoral School, all theses must be subjected to a plagiarism management procedure prior to the authorization of the defense.

Once the Academic Committee of your Ph.D. program determines that your research period is done and your thesis is ready for deposit, a pdf file of the thesis will be submitted to the Doctoral School to proceed to the plagiarism management.

The results of this study will be at the disposal of the members of the thesis committee, should they be requested.

Further information:  Plagiarism management

What is the thesis deposit?

The deposit of your thesis enables UC3M professors and scholars of your field to review your work before the defense. The deposit period is 15 days (excluding August), after which all comments and observations by the experts will be reported to the Academic Committee and yourself. 

Further information:  Thesis deposit

Who approves the defense?

Once your thesis has successfully passed both stages, the Academic Committee of the program will elaborate their proposal for thesis defense, providing details of the proposed members of the Thesis Committee on the Authorization of thesis defense and appointment of Thesis Committee. Eligibility for “Doctorado Internacional”, “Doctorado Industrial” or International Cotutelle must be indicated, where applicable.

This proposal will be submitted for the Dean of the Doctoral School's approval of the thesis defense and the appointment of Thesis Committee members.

Who can be a member of the Thesis Committee?

The Thesis Committee consists of three members (President, Secretary, and a spokesperson) and a substitute. All of them must hold a Ph.D. degree and a proven track record in research. In all cases, the Committee will be formed by a majority of members external to the University and to the institutions collaborating with the School or the Ph.D. Program.

Further information:  Defense session. Appointment of Committee members

How is the thesis defense organized?

Once all authorizations are signed, the Thesis Committee’s Secretary will appoint a date for the defense. The Doctoral School Office on campus will be in charge of the logistics of the event (room reservations, technical equipment, etc.) and the travel procedures of the committee members, when applicable.

Additionally, the Postgraduate Office will submit a digital copy of the thesis to each member of the Thesis Committee at least 15 days prior to the defense session. This file will contain any allegation or comment submitted by the experts during the deposit period.

Further information:  Defense session. Appointment of Committee members

Do I have to pay any fees before the defense?

Yes. The payment of thesis defense fees must be fulfilled before proceeding to defense. Additionally, payment of enrollment fees for the academic year in which the defense takes place must be up to date.

How is my thesis assessed?

All Committee members must receive a copy of the thesis 15 days prior to the defense event.

Once the Ph.D. candidate completes his/her dissertation, the Committee can provide feedback or pose questions. Their global assessment will be given in terms of Fail (No Apto), Pass (Aprobado), Good (Notable) or Excellent (Sobresaliente).

Theses with an Excellent (Sobresaliente) grade are eligible for the cum laude distinction. The committee members will subsequently cast their votes via separate secret ballot in closed session. Only if all votes are favorable will the committee submit their proposal for the thesis to be awarded the cum laude distinction to the university Chancellor. In this case, each member of the committee will finally cast their vote, anonymously and in a sealed envelope, for the thesis to be considered for the Outstanding Thesis Award by Universidad Carlos III de Madrid.

How can I apply for my Ph.D. certificate?

Your application for the official Ph.D. degree certificate and the payment of the corresponding fees is done online.

Issuance of your certificate may take a few months. Until then, you may apply for a temporary certificate as proof of completion of your Ph.D. studies as of the date of your thesis defense.

Where is my Ph.D. thesis published?

Your thesis will be published in e-archivo, the open online repository of Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, and Teseo the Ph.D. database managed by the Ministry of Universities. In the event of partial or temporary restrictions pertaining to the publication of your thesis, you must report them to the university.


Can a thesis defense be carried out by videoconference under exceptional circumstances?

A special Instruction was approved to that effect by the Dean of the Doctoral School. Based on said instruction, the Director of each PhD Program will assess the timeliness and convenience of a videoconference, taking into consideration the position and availability of all parties involved.


What are the requirements for a videodefense?

1. That the members of the Committee have declared their availability to carry out the defense by this means of communication.
2. That the members of the Committee and the doctoral student have stated that they have sufficient technical equipment to participate in the evaluation process.
3. That the members of the Committee have stated that they understand the functioning of the computer application for the secret vote of the possible Cum Laude distinction.
4. That some member of the Committee [or, failing that, a thesis advisor, a tutor, a member of the ACPP or any other member of the program's faculty] has verified the identity of the doctoral student prior to the start of the defense. If this verification of the doctoral student’s identity is not carried out by any member of the Committee, whoever performs it must previously declare that they have sufficient means to participate in the videoconference.
5. That the technical person responsible for conducting the videoconference has declared that the secret deliberations of the members of the Committee are guaranteed.


How to request a videodefense?

The Academic Committee of the PhD Program will submit their application, which must be authorized by the Dean of the Doctoral School.


What is the procedure to follow during the organization of the videodefense?

The administrative manager of the PhD Program will contact all parties involved in the defense to ensure that they have sufficient technical means and will set an appointment in advance to do some tests. 

Then the manager will set a day and time that is convenient for all parties.

The act will be recorded for quality assurance purposes, except for the deliberation, which will take place in a private virtual session. All participants will be informed of this. 

Once the act has been finished, the Secretary of the Committee will issue and submit electronically the grade report (acta), the cum laude distinction report, if applicable, and the vote pertaining to the thesis eligibility for the Outstanding Thesis Award. The members of the Committee will be provided with anonymous survey tools for this purpose.

The President of the Committee will announce in open session the result of their evaluation.