Doctoral Schools measures in response to COVID-19

The Doctoral Schools are taking a number of measures to ensure that doctoral training at Ghent University happens in compliance with University guidelines regarding educational activities and COVID-19.

 

Last updated: 23/09/2020,  15:00

PhD defences

At a glance:

Digital PhD defences: videoconferencing and live-streaming

Videoconferencing (online internal defence)

An internal defence can take place in digital format as a regular video-conference. Ghent University provides support for videoconferencing through Microsoft Teams and Starleaf  (Dutch).

Other options such as Skype are available, but note that there is no UGent support for these options.

On the advice of Ghent University's IT department, its Data Protection Officer, and the chair of its Privacy and Data Protection Committee, the use of Zoom for internal doctoral defences is prohibited. This decision was made due to serious security and GDPR-related concerns.

Live-streaming (online public defence only)

Online public defences must be live-streamed in order to preserve the public defence's (legally required) public character. As such, online public defences cannot be held as a regular video-conference, since these are not publicly accessible. Below are a few ways in which you can live-stream your public defence in a way that complies with that legal requirement, using the infrastructure that is available at Ghent University. Alternatives are available but note that there is no UGent support for these options.

The live-stream for an online public defence must be clearly advertised (e.g. in the invitation to the doctoral defence, or by requesting that includes the URL to the live-stream feed in the appropriate UGent agenda item).

Please note that doctorates where limitations and/or confidentiality has been imposed to protect research results that can create value, cannot avail themselves of this option for their public defence (cf. OER art. 97 §8). If you are a PhD candidate working on a doctorate where limitations and/or confidentiality has been imposed, and wish to defend your work in the near future, please contact us at .

What Explanation Manual for organisers Manual for audience members
Bongo Virtual Classroom in Ufora 

Live-stream from home using Ufora's built-in webinar functionality (under “other tools” in every Ufora course)

NB: maximum time per session is 240 mins.

FAQ: Dutch  - English

More information and manual can be found here.

Make sure that you include instructions in the invitation you send out, and/or in the relevant item in the UGent agenda so people know how they can attend your digital defence (see next column).

Nb: make sure to test this out in advance!

The link to participate in the doctoral defence will be shared with you by e-mail.

After clicking on the link you will be able to enter the meeting room. You will then have the option to activate your microphone/camera. Please select "listen only"  and keep your camera turned off to avoid distractions.

Only the members of the Examination Committee are allowed to activate their microphone and camera. Other attendees will be on ‘mute’. Questions during the defence can be asked via chat.

Microsoft Teams

Ghent University's Microsoft Teams environment, accessible via browser or via the app.

FAQ: English

More information and manuals can be found here. A Dutch-language video-tutorial can be found here.

Make sure that you include instructions in the invitation you send out, and/or in the relevant item in the UGent agenda so people know how they can attend your defence digitally (see next column).

Nb: make sure to test this out in advance!

The link to participate in the doctoral defence will be shared with you by e-mail.

After clicking on the link you will be placed into a waiting room.

Only the members of the Examination Committee are allowed to activate their microphone and camera. Other attendees will be on ‘mute’. Questions during the defence can be asked via chat.

 

On-campus PhD defences

On-campus public defences

 

ON CAMPUS PUBLIC DEFENCES – applicable measures by colour code
Colour code Code green Code yellow AND Code orange Code Red
Location No measures

All suitable UGent rooms may be used, provided seat occupancy is kept to 1 in 5 or equivalent in rooms with loose furniture (as set out in this list (column J)).

Online defences only (see guidance)

Safety guidelines No measures

Safety guidelines must be observed. Specifically: 

  • Mandatory face coverings 

  • Social distancing (1,5m) at all timeexcept between individuals from the same household and/or people belonging to each other's so-called "close contacts"

  • Hand hygiene: people must be able to disinfect their hands on entering/leaving the space

Online defences only (see guidance)

On-campus reception No measures

If a reception is organized, the defence is classed as an ‘event.The following additional requirements will then apply throughout the public defence: 

  • Mandatory face coverings when not seated 

  • Maximum number of attendees determined by the size of the room (4m²/person) 

  • All attendees must be seated with a maximum of 10 per table 

  • social distancing is required at all times, except between individuals from the same household and/or people belonging to each other's so-called "close contacts"
  • Mandatory completion of a CERM form as well as a playbook for the event 

If no reception is organized, these additional requirements do not apply.

Not allowed on campus
Procedural guidelines No measures

See procedural guidelines for public defences.

Online defences only (see guidance)

 

1. Please refer to the matrix above to determine which restrictions are in place regarding venues for public defences and note that any rooms booked other than the three centrally managed locations may be repurposed at short notice to accommodate evolving teaching schedules.

2. The safety guidelines must be observed. Of particular importance:

  • Social distancing: make sure that people stay at least 1,5m apart from each other at all times during the defence.
  • Wearing a face mask is mandatory during public defenses. The candidate does not need to wear a mask during the presentation and the exam portion of the defense.
  • Hygiene: Hand hygiene: provide people with a way to wash/disinfect their hands when they enter or leave the room.

The maximum room capacity under the corona measures must be respected.

We ask that the chair of the Examination Committee ensures that the guidelines are followed by everyone present. If necessary, they can order the necessary protective equipment through SAP (instructions to do so may be found in the "Safely back to work" guidelines).

 3. Both the PhD candidate and the chairperson of the Examination Board must agree to an on-campus public doctoral defence, and must be present at the on-campus defence. The promotor(s) and the members of the Examination Board who can't or who don't wish to be present, may participate via videoconferencing. If a video conference is necessary, make sure that the candidate and the chair of the Examination Committee arrive well in time, so that any hardware difficulties may be resolved before the defence is due to start.

4. If a suitable separate deliberation room (conforming to the safety guidelines for meeting rooms as outlined in Ghent University's "Return to work safely" document) was booked through Centauro, the Examination Committee will withdraw to it for deliberation. If, however, no suitable deliberation room was booked/available, the deliberation may take place in the examination room. Before the deliberation starts, the candidate and the audience will leave the room while maintaining social distancing. The Examination Committee will then deliberate behind closed doors. When a decision has been reached, the chair of the Examination Committee will readmit the candidate and the audience. Each member of the audience will return to their original place, all the while maintaining social distancing.

5. Receptions may take place on campus. However, this will cause the PhD defence to be classed as an ‘event’ and will mean the following additional rules apply: 

  • Mandatory face coverings for attendees when they are not seated
  • Maximum number of attendees determined by the size of the room where the reception is held (a minimum 4m²/person should be used to calculate capacity) 
  • All attendees must be seated, with a maximum of 10 per table
  • social distancing is required at all times, except between individuals from the same household and/or people belonging to each other's so-called "close contacts"
  • Mandatory completion of a CERM form as well as a playbook for the event. The playbook should set out how proceedings will be run so as to make sure there is strict adherence to the COVID guidelines that are in force, detailing how key moments (e.g. transition from defence to reception) will be handled and who will be responsible for enforcing COVID guidelines.  

If you have any questions regarding the above, please contact us at .

On-campus internal defences

Internal PhD defences continue to be permitted in UGent buildings provided that both the PhD candidate and the chairperson of the Examination Board agree to an on-campus internal defence, and on the strict condition that the safety guidelines are observed. Of particular importance:

  • Social distancing: make sure that people stay at least 1,5m apart from each other at all times during the defence. Wearing a face mask is mandatory in situations where or at times when social distancing cannot be observed (e.g. in corridors and entrance halls, on stairs). This implies that everyone must always carry a mouth mask, so that they may put it on when the need arises.
  • Hygiene: Hand hygiene: provide people with a way to wash/disinfect their hands when they enter or leave the room.

If necessary, the chair of the Examination Committee should order protective equipment through SAP (instructions to do so may be found in the "Safely back to work" guidelines).

PhD defences: Exceptions to regulations due to corona virus

Doctoral candidates may defend via videoconferencing (both internal & public defence). As such, a partial exemption from OER art. 95, §2 is made, and specifically from the cumulative conditions outlined as bullet points at the bottom of §2. This measure also implies that defences may take place entirely via videoconferencing, since members of the Examination Board may attend via teleconference as a matter of course. The Rector has decided that PhD candidates will have this option to defend digitally until at least the end of the 2020-2021 academic year.
Please note that doctorates where limitations and/or confidentiality has been imposed to protect research results that can create value, cannot avail themselves of this option for their public defence (cf. OER art. 97 §8). If you are a PhD candidate working on a doctorate where limitations and/or confidentiality has been imposed, and wish to defend your work in the near future, please contact us at .

Note that faculties may have additional measures in place - check your faculty's website, and contact your faculty's dean's office to inform yourself.

Submitting your dissertation

Check with your faculty's dean's office to see how you can submit your dissertation under the faculty's measures to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

Doctoral Schools courses & activities

Doctoral candidates

Most Doctoral Schools courses and activities will go ahead, in most cases in a digital format. See our course catalogue for up-to-date information.

Course organizers

For the academic year 2020-2021, course organizers should opt for blended/online alternatives whenever possible. On-campus formats require explicit approval from the relevant Doctoral Schools Councils (for specialist courses) or from the Doctoral Schools Board of Directors (for other types of activities). On-campus formats are reserved for courses which cannot reasonably take place in an online format (e.g. courses with specific infrastructure requirements such as a laboratory setting). The application forms for specialist courses, seasonal schools and hot topic lectures have been edited to include this consideration. These forms can be found on our website for supervisors.

Please note that this change implies that the Doctoral Schools will show flexibility in certain funding criteria, and particularly in the contact hour requirements. The prescribed minimum contact hours (15 hrs for specialist courses, 6 hrs for transferable skills courses) do not need to be turned into a corresponding amount of synchronous digital instruction: flipped classroom concepts with a few hours of synchronous digital instruction supplemented by e.g. assigned reading, online asynchronous discussion etc. are acceptable and in most cases likely preferable. In general, we ask that course organizers attempt to put together a workload that, taken together, at least approximates the regular minimum contact hours.

COVID-related exemptions for (compulsory) doctoral training programmes

If you are scheduled to defend soon, and you are unable to complete the curriculum for your doctoral training programme because of the measures taken to help slow the spread of corona virus, you may be eligible for a (partial) exemption, provided that you can show that due to the corona virus measures,

  1. an activity for which you had registered has been cancelled or rescheduled to a date which is later than the date scheduled for the submission of your dissertation; and
  2. there are no (digital) alternatives available to you.

If you meet those two conditions, you may submit your motivated request for a (partial) exemption using this form. Send the completed form to

 

Frequently asked questions 

  1. Do I need to comply with the latest COVID-19 colour code change or change in government guidelines if my public defence was planned before the change was announced? 

Yes, irrespective of when the event was planned, the measures in force at that time must be respected. In order to plan for any potential changes at short notice, you can take the following steps: 

  • Draw up a guest list and determine who will still be allowed to attend if the capacity of the room is reduced at short notice. Similarly, create a waiting list for people who could attend should the room capacity be increased. 

  • Consider booking one of the three centrally managed rooms to avoid last minute venue changes when measures are tightened or plan for how you would manage such a short notice change of venue. 

 

  1. Public defences must be open to the public. Will this requirement still be met if the number of people attending is restricted? 

Yes, public defences taking place under COVID measures continue to meet the requirements regarding the open and public nature of such defences. 

 

  1. The reception for my PhD defence is taking place off campus, will the additional requirements triggered by  the inclusion of a reception still apply to my defence? 

No, these requirements only apply if the reception is organized on campus. For the purposes of your PhD defence, you should follow the guidelines for on campus receptions without a reception as far as your activities on campus are concerned. Please make sure though that your reception off campus complies with any measures that may be in force at the external venue.

Questions?

 If you have any questions regarding the above, please contact us at .