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PhD ceremony

Your PhD studies culminate in a ceremony. The thesis defence is the most important part of the ceremony, and your supervisor or co-supervisor also delivers a eulogy about your work. Find out about the PhD ceremony and what is expected of you as a PhD candidate.

Lay presentation

You may choose to give a lay presentation before your PhD ceremony.

  • At least one month before your PhD ceremony, email the Beadle to reserve a room for the lay presentation in the Academy Building.
  • The lay presentation starts 60 minutes before the PhD defence ceremony and must take no more than 30 minutes.

You do not have to give a lay presentation. If you want to explain the most important findings from your thesis to your family and friends, you could enclose a lay summary with the invitation instead. Although the lay summary must have a scientific basis, it does not comprise part of your thesis.

The defence: an academic debate

Pivotal to the PhD ceremony is an academic debate on the content of your thesis, between you and as many as possible of the members of the opposition committee. To ensure there is the opportunity for debate, the following rules apply:

  • The members of the opposition committee should not express at length their appreciation of the work that led to the thesis.
  • The members of the opposition committee should not summarise the thesis (or parts of it).
  • The members of the opposition committee should be succinct and pose clear questions. Any introduction to questions should be as brief as possible and should not be read aloud.
  • The members of the opposition must restrict themselves to one question, unless the Rector or acting Rector allows them to pose a second one.

Language of the debate

The opposition and defence at Leiden University are conducted in Dutch, unless the PhD candidate does not speak this language. If a member of the opposition committee does not speak Dutch, he or she can present his or her opposition in another language. The formula spoken to award the doctorate is always in Dutch.

Opposition committee 

Those members of the opposition committee who do not come from Leiden may present their opposition first. They are also given somewhat more time to conduct their opposition than the committee members from the candidate’s own faculty or the University. Via the beadle, you as candidate are required to provide the Rector and acting Rector and secretary of the committee with a list of all members of the opposition committee. Indicate on the list the place of work of members of the opposition committee who do not come from Leiden, as well as who will give the eulogy.

Forms of address during the ceremony

The following forms of address are used during the PhD ceremony:


mijnheer/mevrouw de kandidaat

Rector / Acting Rector

mijnheer/mevrouw de Rector Magnificus


hooggeschatte promotor


zeergeleerde opponens

Member of the committee who is a professor

hooggeleerde opponens

Member of the committee who is not a professor:


but does have a PhD

zeergeleerde opponens

and does not have a PhD

weledelgeleerde opponens


Eulogy (maximum of three minutes)

The eulogy is given by the supervisor or co-supervisor. If your supervisor is a professor who is not from Leiden University, he or she is the obvious choice to give the eulogy, but the formula spoken to award the PhD must be delivered by a supervisor from Leiden University.

The eulogy provides an evaluation of the thesis and if desired of your academic skills as well. It may also include a brief personal note. Further personal aspects should be expressed on another occasion.

The eulogy may not take more than three minutes. If the Rector or acting Rector believes that it is going to exceed the allotted time, he or she can indicate – if necessary by expressing the University’s formal congratulations – that the allocated time has elapsed.


It is customary to hold a reception after the PhD ceremony. You can contact the party catering service at the General Services Department for information.

PhD protocol

The PhD ceremony follows a fixed protocol: the thesis is defended, the beadle announces ‘hora est!’, the committee deliberates and the eulogy is given. There are set formulae for some of these elements, which you can find in the PhD protocol (Dutch only). 

See also: Protocol online PhD defences.

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