At some higher education institutions, lawyers have claimed that it is impossible to hold doctoral thesis defences as video conferences because this means that they will not be public – a computer and internet connection would be required in order to be able to participate.
The Swedish Higher Education Authority, UKÄ, has now stated that the requirement in the Higher Education Ordinance that doctoral thesis defences are to be public can be met in the case of virtual thesis defences if the higher education institution in question provides rooms with internet access to those members of the public who are interested but do not have access to a computer and internet connection. In this way, the barriers to the holding of public doctoral thesis defences should be removed.
UKÄ has issued the following statement: UKÄ is of the opinion that there are no legal barriers to doctoral candidates, examining committees and other participants at a thesis defence attending remotely via link. According to the Higher Education Ordinance (Chapter 6, Section 33, second paragraph), a doctoral thesis must have been defended orally in a public defence. The fact that the public defence must be public means that it must be open to all. UKÄ believes that the requirement that the defence be held publicly can be met through the possibility for people to have access to the public defence by means of a computer. However, higher education institutions cannot assume that everyone who is interested has such technical capabilities or knowledge required to be able to access the thesis defence using their own computers. The institutions should therefore provide premises with the required equipment where the general public can access the thesis defence digitally.
For further information, please see the UKÄ website (in Swedish).