Conference and oral examination (thesis defence)

Regarding the conference and oral examination, French-speaking Swiss universities usually hold a conference and oral examination at the same time, but each faculty and institute has its own tradition. There is still a certain amount of vagueness concerning criteria and methods of evaluation.

The conference is a discussion conducted behind closed doors, lasting several hours, between the doctoral candidate, members of the jury and thesis supervisors. It allows in-depth discussion of all aspects relating to the thesis. Generally, at the end of the conference the candidate is asked to make certain changes.
The oral examination is organised some time after the conference, when the candidate has made the corrections requested at the conference. Thus, the oral examination should not give rise to any serious fundamental differences of opinion between the candidate and the thesis jury. The oral examination is a public event, intended to allow the candidate to expound their work.
The best way to prepare for it is to :

  • ask lecturers and senior lecturers about their experience concerning the conference ;
  • attend the oral examinations of your peers ;
  • discuss it with your thesis supervisor.

Doctoral schools, mentoring programmes and the Réseau romand de conseil, formation et évaluation pour l'enseignement universitaire (RCFE) offer workshops to prepare for the conference and oral examination. You will find a summary of the different resources here.