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: 06/07/2020,  13:00

PhD defences

At a glance:

Digital PhD defences: videoconferencing and live-streaming

Videoconferencing (online 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 (online public defence only)

Online public defences must be live-streamed in order to preserve the public defence's (legally required) public character. As such, online public defences cannot be held as a regular video-conference, since these are not publicly accessible. Below are a few ways in which you can live-stream your public defence 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.

The live-stream for an online public defence 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 for their public defence (cf. OER art. 97 §8). If you are a PhD candidate working on a doctorate where limitations and/or confidentiality has been imposed, and wish to defend your work in the near future, please contact us at .

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

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.

Microsoft Teams

Ghent University's Microsoft Teams environment, accessible via browser or via the app.

FAQ: English

More information and manuals can be found here. A Dutch-language video-tutorial 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 defence digitally (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 placed into a waiting room.

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.

 

On-campus PhD defences

On-campus public defences

From 10 June 2020 onward it will be possible to have on-campus public PhD defences, provided that the following guidelines are observed:

1. Until 7 September 2020, on-campus public PhD defences will only be allowed in the following locations:

  • Ceremoniezaal Aula, Campus Aula (max. capacity under corona measures: 36 people)
  • Zaal Vermeylen, Het Pand (max. capacity under corona measures: 27 people)
  • Refter, Het Pand (max. capacity under corona measures: 49 people)

The maximum room capacity under the corona measures must be respected.

Note: for a PhD defence the use of the rooms listed above is free of charge, provided that your defence finishes before 10:30 pm.

New room bookings for public defences in any other location will not be approved. If you had already booked a room other than the three listed above for an on-campus public defence scheduled to take place between 10 June and 7 September, the location of your booking will be changed to one of these three rooms.

After 7 September 2020 on-campus public PhD defenses will be possible in other rooms as well. Note, however, that until the teaching schedules for the 2020-2021 academic year have been finalized, rooms which are also used for teaching will only be made available for on-campus public defenses on Saturdays. Once teaching schedules have been confirmed (projected for 15 September 2020), it will become possible to book these rooms for public doctoral defenses whenever they are available.

2.The safety guidelines must be observed. Of particular importance:

  • Social distancing: make sure that people stay at least 1,5m apart from each other at all times during the defence.
  • Wearing a face mask is mandatory during public defenses. The candidate does not need to wear a mask during the presentation and the exam portion of the defense.
  • Hygiene: Hand hygiene: provide people with a way to wash/disinfect their hands when they enter or leave the room.

We ask that the chair of the Examination Committee ensures that the guidelines are followed by everyone present. Stores of protective equipment will be supplied in Refter, Vermeylen, and the Ceremoniezaal. If these supplies are running low, the chair should contact schoonmaak@UGent.be. If the defence is scheduled to take place in a location other than the three aforementioned rooms (after 7 September 2020), the chair of the Examination Committee should order the necessary protective equipment through SAP (instructions to do so may be found in the "Safely back to work" guidelines).

3. Both the PhD candidate and the chairperson of the Examination Board must agree to an on-campus public doctoral defence, and must be present at the on-campus defence. The promotor(s) and the members of the Examination Board who can't or who don't wish to be present, may participate via videoconferencing (videoconferencing walkthrough). If a video conference is necessary, we ask that the candidate and the chair of the Examination Committee arrive well in time, so that any technical difficulties may be resolved before the defence is due to start.

4. No separate deliberation room will be provided. Instead, prior to the deliberation, the candidate and the audience will leave the room while maintaining social distancing. The Examination Committee will then deliberate behind closed doors. When a decision has been reached, the chair of the Examination Committee will readmit the candidate and the audience. Each member of the audience will return to their original place, all the while maintaining social distancing.

5. Receptions are not permitted in UGent buildings until at least 7 September 2020.

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

On-campus internal defences

Internal PhD defences continue to be permitted in UGent buildings provided that both the PhD candidate and the chairperson of the Examination Board agree to an on-campus internal defence, and on the strict condition that the safety guidelines are observed. Of particular importance:

  • Social distancing: make sure that people stay at least 1,5m apart from each other at all times during the defence. Wearing a face mask is mandatory in situations where or at times when social distancing cannot be observed (e.g. in corridors and entrance halls, on stairs). This implies that everyone must always carry a mouth mask, so that they may put it on when the need arises.
  • Hygiene: Hand hygiene: provide people with a way to wash/disinfect their hands when they enter or leave the room.

Note that while internal defences may take place in locations other than the rooms reserved for public doctoral defences (Ceremoniezaal (Aula), Zaal Vermeylen (Pand), and the Refter (Pand)), stores of protective equipment will only be supplied by default in these three rooms. If an internal defence is scheduled to take place in a different room where social distancing cannot be guaranteed, the chair of the Examination Committee should order the necessary protective equipment through SAP (instructions to do so may be found in the "Safely back to work" guidelines).

PhD defences: Exceptions to regulations due to corona virus

Ghent University is relaxing a number of its guidelines relating to doctoral defences. Unless indicated otherwise below, these exceptions are valid for the period between 16 March and 7 September 2020.

  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.
  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 defences may take place entirely via videoconferencing, since members of the Examination Board may attend via teleconference as a matter of course. The Rector has decided that PhD candidates will have this option to defend digitally until at least the end of the 2020-2021 academic year.
    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 for their public defence (cf. OER art. 97 §8). If you are a PhD candidate working on a doctorate where limitations and/or confidentiality has been imposed, and wish to defend your work in the near future, please contact us at .
  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.

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 .

Submitting your dissertation

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

Doctoral Schools courses & activities

Doctoral candidates

Most Doctoral Schools courses and activities will go ahead, in most cases in a digital format. See our course catalogue for up-to-date information.

Course organizers

For the academic year 2020-2021, course organizers should opt for blended/online alternatives whenever possible. On-campus formats require explicit approval from the relevant Doctoral Schools Councils (for specialist courses) or from the Doctoral Schools Board of Directors (for other types of activities). On-campus formats are reserved for courses which cannot reasonably take place in an online format (e.g. courses with specific infrastructure requirements such as a laboratory setting). The application forms for specialist courses, seasonal schools and hot topic lectures have been edited to include this consideration. These forms can be found on our website for supervisors.

Please note that this change implies that the Doctoral Schools will show flexibility in certain funding criteria, and particularly in the contact hour requirements. The prescribed minimum contact hours (15 hrs for specialist courses, 6 hrs for transferable skills courses) do not need to be turned into a corresponding amount of synchronous digital instruction: flipped classroom concepts with a few hours of synchronous digital instruction supplemented by e.g. assigned reading, online asynchronous discussion etc. are acceptable and in most cases likely preferable. In general, we ask that course organizers attempt to put together a workload that, taken together, at least approximates the regular minimum contact hours.

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. an activity 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.