My Rigorosum


There are two basic requirements for successfully qualifying the doctoral programme in public administra-tion at the German University of Administrative Sciences in Speyer. First, the student must submit three typed and bound copies of his/her doctoral thesis or "Dissertation". This thesis is the final output of a gruelling research endeavour usually lasting three years on a theme agreed on between the student and his or her doctoral supervisor. Subsequently, the supervisor and co-supervisor read and evaluate the thesis and if they are satisfied with its content, standard, methodology and format, they will not demand any amendments to it. Foreign students, handicapped often by German language problems and methodo-logical shortcomings in their work, are sometimes required to resubmit it after undertaking appropriate amendments. Both supervisor and co-supervisor then write their evaluation reports (usually 5-10 pages long) which is then included in the students' personal file. This can take time if the persons concerned are quite preoccupied with their work. In my case, the evaluation phase took about ten long months! Second, after the thesis hurdle has been cleared, a date for the mandatory oral examination (Rigorosum) is agreed on between the student and his/her supervisor, co-supervisor and a third Professor. The third Professor is proposed by the student and endorsed by the two supervisors. Getting three busy Professors together at the same time can be difficult, particularly outside the semester time.

The Rigorosum is basically intended to be an informed scientific discussion between academics and is not supposed to degenerate into a question and answer session. Often, it does drift in that direction though. Usually, it lasts about an hour, sometimes extended by half an hour. Each Professor deals with the student in turn. They represent different fields of specialization, of which there are four in Speyer. The fields covered in my rigorosum were public administration (this is mandatory in every oral examination), law and economics.  

My rigorosum was held on the late afternoon of 28th May 2004. It was the climax of months of intensive preparation, practice and reading after submission of my thesis. The stress I endured and my hard work paid off on that day when I walked to my downtown appartment as a doctor of public administration from an elite German post-graduate institution.  


  The Rigorosum is firmly underway! I'm sitting on the left and the three distinguished Professors are facing me on the right. On the far side is Professor Waldemar Schreckenberger, Professor Diethelm Duwendaag sits in the middle and Professor Rainer Pitschas sits on the near side.
I'm trying to keep a confident posture but under the surface I'm as nervous as hell! Oh, by the way, do you see those thick red-covered books on the table? They contain all major German laws, including the German Basic Law, and are meant for quick reference of the Professors and examinees.  
  Professor Duwendaag discussing issues of economic globalization with me. With Professor Pitschas, I talked about constitutional issues and reform in public administration while with Professor Schreckenberger, I had a brief philosophical talk.
My concentration level at its peak and a million thoughts are racing through my mind at the same time! Must say the right thing at the right time or my grade or reputation - or both - may suffer!  
  After the Rigorosum was over, I had to wait outside the examination room while the three Professors deliberated over what grade I should be awarded for the rigorosum. The whole doctoral programme depends on this! My Mongolian colleague, Burma, a doctoral student herself, stopped by to enquire how I had fared!
After the ordeal, and after being informed that I had passed the three-year doctoral programme with the grade "cum laude", I pose in great relief, and somewhat boxed in, for a photo with my three Professors (Rainer Pitschas on the left, Waldemar Schreckenberger and Dieter Duwendaag on the right).  
  Ahhh, celebrating with a glass of sparkling champagne (thanks for arranging it Patrick!) and a brief, informal conversation with the three Professors wraps up the Rigorosum. I went home a very happy man on that afternoon after making a round of the campus and passing on the great news. A major milestone is my life was reached that day. The culmination of three years of back-breaking work and a 422-page thesis on a topic of considerable relevance in the post-911 era.


Less than two hours after my Rigorosum ...

  About two hours after the Rigorosum, I'm standing again next to Professor Pitschas (photo on the left). The occasion is the annual summer fete for foreign students in Speyer.  In his official capacity, Professor Pitschas looks after the interests of foreign students in Speyer, oversees their progress and helps them overcome problems.

The photo on the right is a close-up of Professor Pitschas and myself. Addressing the gathering of foreign students and German host families, the Professor cited my case as a sucessful example and as a motivation for all other foreign students in Speyer :=)

  Professor Pitschas pointing at a map of the world, on which the names of the countries where the university's foreign students come from are written individually on tags. 
  Students and German guest family members attentively watching Professor Pitschas address the gathering (photo on the left).

The photos on the right show the gathering from different angles. I recognize several colleagues (including Burma and her son), some of whose names I can recall and some whom I can't.  

  Informal conversation between my colleagues is taking place here. Four of seven persons in this photo are presently writing their doctoral thesis' in Speyer under the supervision of Professor Pitschas: Qian Liu (China), Valentina Burachevskaya (Russia), Hwan-Hak Kim (South Korea), and Nooruddin Ben-Khadar (Morroco).   
  Guests seated around a table (photo on the left). I know none of them, except my Mongolian colleague Burma and her teenaged son. In the background you can see me standing and exchanging words with an elderly lady who used to work at the university many years ago as a secretary to one of the Professors.

The young woman in the purple sweater in the photo on the right is from West Sahara. She's sharing a joke with my colleague from Chile.

  The bald man in the photo on the left next to the infant is (or maybe was since this photo was taken 2 years ago) a student from an Arab country. I don't know him but I have seen him hanging around campus.

This is the table at which I was seated (photo on the right). You can see me in my blue blazer sitting on the left with my back turned to the camera. I did not know the others seated on the table to my left and right. The woman opposite me was in-charge of the university administration at the time.

  The lady wearing the red-black sweater in the photo on the left is Mrs. Illone Werner, one of the nicest and most helpful secretaries in the whole university. I often had the pleasure of interacting with her.

My colleagues pose with me for a photograph (right). From left to right: My Chinese colleague Lin Li, who is now Assistant Professor at a Chinese University, me, Hwan-Hak Kim from South Korea, who is presently writing his doctoral thesis under the supervision of Professor Pitschas, and Patrick Laurency, who took the photos during the Rigorosum and is presently responsible for tutoring foreign students in public administration.




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