Information for examiners

First of all, we would like to thank you for considering to be an examiner for one of our students! Please find information about the procedure below.


Reviewing a thesis


You will be asked to provide a written review of the candidate's thesis. The written review is typically between 1 and 2 pages long. It summarizes the main findings of the studies/chapters in the thesis and assesses their scientific quality and impact. A concluding paragraph then mentions the grade and provides a brief rationale for it.

At the University of Vienna, there is a rather generous grading culture, i.e. the best grade is not unusual and not reserved for the top 1% of PhD theses per year.

The maximum time for reviewing a thesis is 4 months, but shorter timeframes may be mutually agreed upon by the student and reviewers.




The defense is essentially an intense scientific discussion between the candidate and three committee members about the research presented in the thesis. The candidate first summarizes the studies included in the thesis in a 30-40 min talk, and then the committee members challenge the candidate with questions, ideally resulting in a scientific discussion in which the candidate's critical thinking and understanding of the field and the methods in the field are probed. There is no time limit, and a regular defense takes about 2-2.5 hours. 

The study dean decides on the composition of the committee after the reviews were handed in. So, while it is likely that external reviewers will be invited to also serve on the committee, this is not always the case.

In the Life Sciences, the committee consists usually of 1-2 external members who have also reviewed the thesis, and 1-2 members from the University of Vienna. The supervisor of the candidate is present but does not serve as an examiner.

In the Natural Sciences, the supervisor is part of the committee.

At the end of the discussion each member of the committee awards a grade for the whole examination (1-5). If a majority decision can be achieved, meaning that the majority of the members of the committee award the same grade, then this decision states the grade (e.g. 1,1,2 -> majority decision is 1 = “very good”). If all members award a different grade, then the mean average is awarded (e.g. 1,3,5 -> mean average 1+3+5=9 divided by 3= 3). The grade of the defense is a numeric grade and is separate from the grades in the reviews of the thesis.

In the current pandemic situation, defenses can take place online, in person or in a hybrid format.