Digital PhD defence goes global

The first in a series of digital PhD thesis defences took place at Jönköping International Business School (JIBS)  and became quite an international event. Participants and spectators tuned in to the doctoral defence from Sweden, Rwanda, the UK and Spain.

Top row from left: Chairperson of the defence, Professor Stephan Andreas and main supervisor Professor Scott Hacker, both in Sweden. Middle row from left: Associate Professor Pia Nilsson in Sweden, Professor Luis Alberiko Gil Alaña, at the University of Navarra, Spain and PhD defendant Yvonne Umulisa in Rwanda. Bottom row from left: Opponent Professor Guglielmo Maria Caporale, at Brunel University in London and Associate Professor Gazi Uddin at Linköping University, Sweden.

Speaking from a lecture room in the University of Rwanda, Yvonne Umulisa spent two hours defending her thesis The Prospects for the East African Monetary Union: An Empirical Analysis in front of an examining committee that joined her from other cities in Sweden as well as remote international locations such as, London, and Navarra in Spain.

Yvonne Umulisa was pleased with how her defence too place.

“I was sitting in a smart classroom at the University of Rwanda, which has been put in place for the university’s overseas research and education collaborations. I think the webinar was a success. We were worried about unstable internet connection or power cuts, but none of this happened. I was able to invite around 20 colleagues and friends from Rwanda who followed the defence online with no problems. All the panellists said it was their first time to participate in a remote public defence, so it was an historic event for all of us.”

PhD thesis defences are public events and are usually held on campus in one of the lecture theatres at the school. JIBS is the first of JU’s schools to give PhD students the opportunity to deliver their defence online.

For Daniel Pittino, Associate Dean of Research at JIBS, the most important consequence of these digital defences is that PhD students get to complete their doctoral studies and minimize the impact of the pandemic on their future plans and prospective careers. But extending the audience to overseas participants is also a clear advantage:

“It is important that JIBS does the maximum effort to help PhD students to finish their programmes. In these difficult times, we are determined not to give up on our mission or our duties towards these students. But we also see that this digital solution has allowed us to involve reputable committee members from other countries who for a variety of reasons would have had difficulties arranging travel to our campus here in Jönköping,” says Daniel Pittino.

Read more about Yvonne Umulisa’s doctoral thesis here.