Doctoral Schools measures in response to COVID-19

The Doctoral Schools are taking a number of measures to ensure that doctoral training at Ghent University happens in compliance with University guidelines regarding educational activities and COVID-19.

Last updated: 15/04/2020,  10:00

PhD defences

PhD defences may go ahead, either entirely via teleconferencing (for both internal & public defences, see below) or via an in-person meeting of the candidate and the Examination board (for internal defences only, and then only on the strict condition that everyone maintains a distance of 1,5m from each other, and follows the general hygiene precautions listed here).

We recognize that difficulties may present themselves so Ghent University is relaxing a number of its guidelines relating to doctoral defences for the period between 16 March and 4 July 2020 (until further notice). 

  1. Doctoral defences (both internal & public) which are scheduled to take place any time during this period may be postponed to a later date, provided that the doctoral candidate consents to postponement. Flexibility will be shown when it comes to the timings stipulated in the Education and Examination Code (OER), e.g. regarding the interval between the internal and the public defence. In some cases, there may be an imperative to obtain your PhD before a certain date, e.g. as a condition for postdoctoral funding. In these cases, you should check with the institution behind this timing requirement, as some funding agencies such as for example FWO have announced that they will themselves show flexibility in this matter.
  2. Doctoral candidates may defend via videoconferencing (both internal & public defence). As such, a partial exemption from OER art. 95, §2 is made, and specifically from the cumulative conditions outlined as bullet points at the bottom of §2. This measure also implies that (with a few caveats, see n° 5 further down in this list) defences may take place entirely via videoconferencing, since members of the Examination Board may attend via teleconference as a matter of course.
  3. The requirement that at least three-fifths of all members with a vote need to be present in order for any meeting of the Examination Board to be valid is waived. Doctoral defences (both internal & public) may take place provided that the chairperson of the examination board, the doctoral candidate, and the faculty ombudsperson for doctoral candidates all consent to its taking place with less than three-fifths of all voting members of the examination board present. This may amount to a partial exemption from OER art. 95, §2.
  4. If one or more members of the examination board for the doctoral exam (i.e. a member of the jury) cannot be present at the doctoral defence (internal and/or public) neither in person (for internal defences), nor via videoconferencing (for both internal and public defences), they can still serve as voting members of the examination board, provided that they send two emails prior to each defence that they cannot be present at:
    • An email listing their questions addressed to the doctoral candidate and the entire examination board, so the candidate can address these questions during the defence.
    • An email containing their opinion on whether or not the candidate should be admitted to the public defence (in case of an internal defence), or whether the doctoral degree should be awarded (in case of a public defence), addressed to the entire examination board (but not to the doctoral candidate).
    • If a member of the examination board for the doctoral exam submits neither or just one of these emails, they will be considered absent, but as per the preceding guideline, the usual quorum requirements may be waived.
  5. For public defences only: Unlike internal defences, public defences are not one of the exemptions to the teleworking measures listed here. As such, up to and including 4 July 2020 (until further notice) public doctoral defences may only take place in an entirely digital format. The public character of the public defence is a legal requirement. The proceedings of any digital public defence must therefore be live-streamed to preserve its public character (see below). The live-stream must be clearly advertised (e.g. in the invitation to the doctoral defence, or by requesting that includes the URL to the live-stream feed in the appropriate UGent agenda item).
    Please note that doctorates where limitations and/or confidentiality has been imposed to protect research results that can create value cannot avail themselves of this option (cf. OER art. 97 §8).

Note that faculties may have additional measures in place - check your faculty's website, and contact your faculty's dean's office to inform yourself.

If you have any questions regarding the above, please contact us at .

Digital PhD defences: videoconferencing and live-streaming

Videoconferencing (internal defence)

An internal defence can take place in digital format as a regular video-conference. Ghent University provides support for videoconferencing through Microsoft Teams and Starleaf  (Dutch).

Other options such as Skype are available, but note that there is no UGent support for these options.

On the advice of Ghent University's IT department, its Data Protection Officer, and the chair of its Privacy and Data Protection Committee, the use of Zoom for doctoral defences is prohibited. This decision was made due to serious security and GDPR-related concerns.

Live-streaming (public defence)

Public defenses must be live-streamed in order to preserve their (legally required) public character. As such, they cannot be held as a regular video-conference, since these are not publicly accessible. Below is one way in which you can live-stream your public defense in a way that complies with that legal requirement, using the infrastructure that is available at Ghent University. Alternatives are available but be aware that here, too, the use of Zoom for doctoral defences is prohibited. This decision was made due to serious security and GDPR-related concerns (see above).

For resources on how to present effectively in an online environment, see this website by The Floor is Yours.

Please note that doctorates where limitations and/or confidentiality has been imposed to protect research results that can create value cannot avail themselves of the option to live-stream their public defence (cf. OER art. 97 §8).

What Explanation Manual for organisers Manual for audience members
Bongo Virtual Classroom in Ufora 

Live-stream from home using Ufora's built-in webinar functionality (under “other tools” in every Ufora course)

NB: maximum time per session is 240 mins.

FAQ: Dutch  - English

More information and manual can be found here.

Make sure that you include instructions in the invitation you send out, and/or in the relevant item in the UGent agenda so people know how they can attend your digital defence (see next column).

Nb: make sure to test this out in advance!

The link to participate in the doctoral defence will be shared with you by e-mail.

After clicking on the link you will be able to enter the meeting room. You will then have the option to activate your microphone/camera. Please select "listen only"  and keep your camera turned off to avoid distractions.

Only the members of the Examination Committee are allowed to activate their microphone and camera. Other attendees will be on ‘mute’. Questions during the defence can be asked via chat.


PhD defences: Receptions

All receptions that were scheduled to take place in the context of doctoral defences between 16/03/2020 and 04/07/2020 must be postponed or cancelled.

PhD defences: Het Pand

Please note that for the time being, Het Pand Congress Center has closed.

Submitting your dissertation

Check with your faculty's dean's office to see if/how you can submit your dissertation under the faculty's measures to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

Doctoral Schools courses & activities

  1. Ghent University policy is to allow education activities to go ahead, provided that an alternative digital learning method can be found. If digital formats are not an option given the contents of the course, courses will be rescheduled to a later date. The Doctoral Schools are adopting these measures for its courses and activities effective from 16 March 2020 until the end of the spring semester of 2020.
  2. The Doctoral Schools is reaching out to doctoral candidates who registered for courses that have been affected by these measures. We have already reached out to everyone who was enrolled in courses that were scheduled between 16/03 and 19/04. If you believe that you should have been contacted as part of that group, but no message has reached you, please contact us at . We will start reaching out soon to students enrolled in courses scheduled between 20/04 and 04/07. In the meantime, the Doctoral Schools are suspending the no show policy between 12/03 and 19/04. This means that you will not be penalized if you do not attend a course that you are enrolled for; but if you do not attend you will not be able to include it in your curriculum. Provisions will be made, however, for affected students to register on waiting lists so they may take courses at a later date.

COVID-related exemptions for (compulsory) doctoral training programmes

If you are scheduled to defend soon, and you are unable to complete the curriculum for your doctoral training programme because of the measures taken to help slow the spread of corona virus, you may be eligible for a (partial) exemption, provided that you can show that due to the corona virus measures,

  1. a course for which you had registered has been cancelled or rescheduled to a date which is later than the date scheduled for the submission of your dissertation; and
  2. there are no (digital) alternatives available to you.

If you meet those two conditions, you may submit your motivated request for a (partial) exemption using this form. Send the completed form to


 If you have any questions regarding the above, please contact us at .

We hope that we can count on your patience and understanding as we tackle these challenges.