Maybe this is something specific to the French doctorate, but a thesis committee is made of different types of members:

  • An advisor (directeur) is a person that supervised the doctoral work. They obviously attend the defence.
  • A reviewer (rapporteur) is a person that was selected by the advisor to receive the thesis manuscript two months before the defence, read it in details, write a critical review about it and advise whether the doctoral candidate should be allowed to defend. They also attend the defence and give their opinion after it.
  • An examiner (examinateur) is a person that was selected to be on the committee but only gives their opinion after the defence.

Do specific words exist in German that correspond with the roles of "reviewer" and "examiner"?

I thought "Reporter" would make sense for "reviewer", but have been advised that it only has sense for journalists. I was suggested "Gutachter", but I am unsure whether this makes a clear distinction between the roles of reviewer and examiner.

1 Answer 1


This is not a French specific committee for a PhD exam. The German structure is the same.

The advisor (directuer) is called “Promotions-Prüfungsvorsitzender”. This is your “doctor father”, or supervisor for the past years while your PhD work. This is also someone that reads and evaluate the dissertation. In the German language this evaluation is called “Gutachten” and that is the reason why the advisor is also called “Gutachter”. To be more precise “Erstgutachter”, I explain later why.

The reviewer (rapporteur) write, like you said, the critical review, or in German called “Gutachten” and is also a “Gutachter”. Because he (or she) is the second selected by the advisor he (or she) is also called a little more precised in the German language “Zweitgutachter” (or “Zweitgutachterin”).

Both words “Erstgutachter” and “Zweitgutachter” are used more in a formal way and mostly used on the paper. Normally they are both referred as “Gutachter” in a more direct way of speaking.

The last group, the examiner (examinateur) are called “Beisitzer” (or in general "Prüfer"). I don’t know how this is exactly in the French PhD exam, but in the German one this “Beisitzer” listen to the defense part and are also allowed to ask question that are not part of your dissertation but belong to the field where you studied. For example if you do a PhD in say physic and your topic was something with quantum mechanics they are also allowed to ask more basic questions about thermo dynamics etc. And like you said they give more an opinion about you.

  • Man könnte hier noch Rigorosum oder Disputation anführen.
    – Takkat
    Oct 17, 2014 at 12:42
  • 3
    Just to throw in some additional terms: At my university (Uni Stuttgart) the advisor is not the same person as the head of the defence (they call this person Vorsitzender des Prüfungsausschusses). The advisor is called Hauptberichter and an examiner is called Mitberichter. Here's the examination regulation for reference: www.uni-stuttgart.de/zv/bekanntmachungen/bekanntm_55_2011.pdf
    – Deve
    Oct 17, 2014 at 12:51
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    This shows once more how academia always varies more than you think it does: At my university, the advisor (Doktorvater) must not be the head of the commision (but still is the Erstgutachter). Also there are faculties where the candidate can chose not to have a Rigorosum (in which he is asked about the field in general) but is only asked about topics directly relating to the thesis.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Oct 17, 2014 at 21:29

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