Doctoral thesis project in fine arts: Examination guidelines
These guidelines are followed by the Academy of Fine Arts in the examination of thesis projects of the Doctor of Fine Arts degree.
The student must be registered as attending at the university both during the academic term in which the thesis project is examined and the academic term in which the decision about the approval of the thesis project is given.
Structure of the thesis project
The doctoral thesis project in fine arts can include art exhibitions, exhibition curating, individual artworks approved for pre-examination, artistic processes or experimental arrangements and their articulation, conceptualisation and theorisation. Typically, a doctoral thesis project consists of one or several visual art components (a maximum total of 140 credits) as well as a written component (30–170 credits). In addition, the thesis project must be available as an electronically archivable documentation. The artistic components are public artistic research findings. The written component runs parallel to the visual art components and justifies the research approach and goals in relation to other research and practices within the field. On a discretionary basis, the doctoral thesis project can also consist exclusively of research in written form.
The doctoral thesis project must demonstrate that the student has a profound understanding of their field and the ability to analyse, articulate and contextualise research questions critically. When the thesis project consists of separately pre-examined visual art components and a written component, the recommended scope of the written component is 50–250 sheets (a sheet = 2000 characters with spaces). If the thesis project is entirely in written form, the recommended scope is 150–250 sheets. The written component can be implemented in many ways: as a monograph, online publication or in other multimodal form. It can also be in article format in which case it consists of at least three peer-reviewed research publications and a summary of them (15–30 sheets).
The thesis project may also include joint publications or projects if the doctoral student has made a clear individual contribution in them. The thesis project must indicate the goals, methods, structure and outcomes of the research. The thesis project may be published in Finnish, Swedish or English or in another language by the decision of the Academic Council. The language of the thesis project submitted for pre-examination must be the same as that of the final examined publication. As a rule, this language is also used at the public examination.
The credits for visual art and written components are determined on a case-by-case basis in relation to how the topic is covered and the number and scope of the components so that the proportion of the written component is 30–170 credits and the proportion of artistic components is no more than 140 credits.
Language of the thesis project
The thesis project may be published in Finnish, Swedish or English or in another language by the decision of the Academic Council.
Title page, abstract and media release of the thesis project
The thesis project’s written component’s identifier is a title page containing bibliographical information and a mention of the thesis project being part of a doctoral degree at the Academy of Fine Arts. At the public examination, a separate title page containing details of the party granting the examination permit, supervisors, examiner or examiners as well as the date and place of the public examination is also attached to the thesis project. The separate title page is prepared by the doctoral programme.
An abstract in Finnish, Swedish and English must be prepared for the thesis project. The abstract must include descriptions of the goals, methods and outcomes of the thesis project. It must be available both in physical and electronic form 30 days before the public examination. The length of the abstract is 1–2 sheets with a line spacing of 1.
The author of the thesis project also submits a non-technical media release concerning their thesis project at least 30 days before the public examination. The media release presents the outcomes and significance of the thesis project.
Approval of studies as completed courses
The head of the doctoral programme approves studies included in the doctoral degree. Approved studies are recorded in the record of credits. A pre-examined thesis may only be granted an examination permit after all studies included in the degree have been completed and recorded in the record of credits.
Examination process of the thesis project
The examination process of a doctoral thesis project in fine arts has two stages. It consists of a pre-examination conducted for one or more components and a public examination of the thesis project. The pre-examination process is described in detail in the pre-examination guidelines.
Appointment of examiners
Based on a proposal from the head of the doctoral programme, the Academic Council appoints one or two examiners for a thesis project that has been granted an examination permit. Before the appointment, the author of the thesis project has the opportunity to present their reasoned opinions on the appointment of examiners. The provisions laid down in sections 27 and 28 of the Administrative Procedure Act (434/2003) apply to the disqualification of thesis project examiners.
An examiner must be an expert with public recognition in the field, a person with a doctoral degree or a person with similar merits. The supervisor of the thesis project or a member of the pre-examination board cannot be appointed as an examiner. No more than one of the examiners may be employed by the Academy of Fine Arts.
The aim is to inform persons considered for the position of an examiner of the progress of the thesis project to be examined so that they can familiarise themselves with the artistic components of the thesis project when they are publicly displayed. If this is not possible, the examiners will use the documentation to familiarise themselves with them. The examiner or examiners must be appointed no later than two months before the public examination.
Granting of an examination permit
Before the final stage of the pre-examination, the supervising professor verifies the written component of the thesis project with a plagiarism detection program. After completing the pre-examination, the student must prepare a document reporting the final corrections made on the basis of the pre-examination reports for the supervising professor. The Academic Council then grants the thesis project an examination permit at the request of the supervising professor. The secretary of the Academic Council will inform the student, the head of the doctoral programme and the Academic Council of the examination permit in writing. After receiving the examination permit, the student must ensure that the examiner or examiners have an opportunity to familiarise themselves with the thesis project to be examined in its entirety sufficiently early, but no later than 30 days before the public examination unless otherwise agreed between the supervising professor and the examiner. In addition to the thesis project and the related documentation, the doctoral programme will provide the examiner or examiners with the examination guidelines and the pre-examination reports written on the thesis project to be examined. The language used at the public examination is also decided in connection with the granting of the examination permit.
The Academy of Fine Arts organises a public examination that will be chaired by an invigilator appointed by the Academic Council. The invigilator may be a professor in the relevant teaching field or the head of the doctoral programme. The invigilator is responsible for guiding the examiner or examiners. The doctoral programme agrees on the date of the examination with the examiner or examiners, invigilator and the author of the thesis project. The author of the thesis project takes care of all arrangements related to the public examination together with the doctoral programme. The public examination must be announced on the official notice board of the Academy of Fine Arts for ten days before the public examination, and it must be indicated where the thesis project is available for viewing.
The thesis project submitted for examination or its documentation must be publicly available for ten days before the public examination. The student submits an abstract of the thesis project and a printed publication in at least twenty copies to the Academy of Fine Arts well before the examination. The head of the doctoral programme decides on a case-by-case basis on the distribution of a thesis project published in other ways. The doctoral programme together with the author of the thesis project ensures that invitations are sent to the examiner or examiners, the pre-examination board and the Academic Council.
Informing about the public examination
The Academy of Fine Arts’ communications services prepare an informing plan with the author of the thesis project and the doctoral programme as soon as the public examination date has been determined. No later than 30 days before the examination, the student submits to the doctoral programme their personal details, the documents mentioned in section 4, four photos of themselves and photos of the artistic components included in the thesis project for the preparation of press materials. The doctoral programme compiles a distribution list of the parties to whom it is appropriate to send an invitation to the examination and an abstract of the thesis project. The invitations must be sent no later than 20 days before the public examination.
Course of the public examination
The author of the thesis project, examiner or examiners, invigilator, supervisors and representatives of the Academic Council are present at the public examination. At the beginning of the examination, the candidate presents the thesis project to be examined (the so-called lectio praecursoria). The examiner or examiners make their own statements to which the author replies. The discussion is led by the invigilator. At the end of the examination, the examiners will present their summaries and, based on the conducted examination and discussion, state whether they intend to recommend the approval or rejection of the thesis project to the Academic Council. At the end, the participants can present the author with questions or notes to which they are entitled to respond. The invigilator will provide a brief summary of the examination to the Academic Council within 30 days of the examination. The course of the public examination and its etiquette are described in detail in a separate document.
Language of the public examination
The language of the public examination is decided in connection with the granting of the examination permit. The language of the public examination is the language of the pre-examined thesis project or Finnish if both the examiners and the student so request.
Grading and approval of the thesis project
The assessment is primarily based on how the thesis project demonstrates command of demanding artistic research and on the ability to solve research problems in an individual and creative manner. In addition, the extent to which the candidate has familiarised themselves with the subject matter of their research and what kind of capabilities they have to perceive and process questions that are contemporary and important in the field of artistic research is also assessed.
The examiner or examiners must jointly or separately issue a written statement within 30 days of the examination. In addition to what is mentioned above, the statement considers the argumentation of the author of the thesis project at the examination. In their statement, the examiner must propose the approval or rejection of the thesis project. In other words, the decision must not be conditional. The instructed length of the statement is 5–10 sheets. The statement is sent to the members of the Academic Council and the author of the thesis project at least five days before the matter is processed by the Academic Council. Before the grading of the thesis project, the author must be given an opportunity to submit a written response to the examination statement (Universities Act 558/2009, section 44). The Academic Council decides on the approval or rejection of the thesis project on the basis of examination statements and possible responses. Only those members of the Academic Council who have completed a degree of the same level or who have been appointed as a professor can take part in decision-making (University Regulations of the University of the Arts Helsinki, section 22). If there are not enough members in the Academic Council who are allowed to participate in the decision-making process, the dean appoints the necessary number of additional members to the body (University Regulations of the University of the Arts Helsinki, section 22). In the case of a rejection, the Academic Council must record the grounds for rejection in its decision.
Request for rectification concerning the thesis project
A student that is dissatisfied with the grading of their thesis project may request a written rectification from Uniarts Helsinki within 14 days from the date they have been notified of the decision (Education Regulations of the University of the Arts Helsinki, sections 48 and 49).