Nailing your thesis to the wall

Here in Luleå, they take that to a whole new level..

November 24th, 2017

Today, Gulnara took me to see something quite unique that is a tradition at the university here. Martin Luther nailed his ninety-five theses to the door of the church in Wittenburg in 1517. Here in Luleå they take that to a whole new level.

When you are ready to submit your doctoral thesis, you and your supervisor take it to a large wooden post just outside the entrance to the library. There, in a wonderful ceremony often attended by your closest friends, you literally nail your thesis to the post. It marks the first step in the completion of your long journey which, for some students, can represent your life’s work so far. Your thesis will remain there while the examiners read and debate the merits of your work, a process that can take many months.

Sometimes, a candidate will have to defend their research in front of a board of examiners. I wonder how many have echoed Luther’s famous words when he had to defend his theses at the Diet of Worms: “Here I stand, I can do no other. God help me. Amen.” 

Finally, when you pass, a librarian takes your thesis down off the post. The empty holes that you can still see in the post remain there to mark the memory of all the students who have gone before you on this journey. Their theses have moved off the post and into the library for posterity.

I love that tradition…

Author: Rockweather

I am a writer, musician, teacher, and researcher at the Auckland University of Technology (AUT) in Auckland, New Zealand.

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