Entire Assessment Committee is allowed to wear gowns from now on

Choice to emphasise equality

Een rek vol toga's.

From now on, everyone who asks question to a PhD candidate during a PhD Ceremony of Utrecht University is allowed to wear gowns. All members of an Assessment Committee are in an equal position during the ceremony. With this decision, we emphasise this equality, Rector Magnificus Henk Kummeling says.

After doing research for a number of years, a PhD candidate concludes the PhD track during the PhD Ceremony. This is the examination in which the decision is made whether or not the PhD candidate will obtain the Doctoral title. During the ceremony, the PhD candidate defends the thesis – a book which reports on the research results – in front of an Assessment Committee. This committee consists of researchers from relevant fields of expertise. They can be professors, but positions such as assistant professor are possible too. They ask critical questions to the PhD candidate and ultimately decide whether or not the candidate obtains the Doctoral title.

So from now on, everyone in the Assessment Committee is allowed to wear gowns. Before, this was reserved for professors only.

Rewarding based on substance

The decision was made following a call to do so by Athena’s Angels: four female professors who stand for equal opportunities in academia. This call fully lines up with ongoing initiatives of the cultural change Recognition and Rewards.

The PhD Ceremony provides an opportunity to emphasise that we recognise and reward staff members based on their substantial contributions, and not on their formal positions.

Personal choice

The possibility to wear a gown during a PhD Ceremony is not mandatory but a personal choice. Utrecht University will make loan gowns available to members of Assessment Committees. For all other academic ceremonies, the wearing of gowns remains reserved for professors only.