Applicants for doctoral education

Please note that the information below is for the 2013-2014 application period and will be updated in the autumn of 2014 at the latest.

Doctoral schools and programmes

The University of Helsinki will introduce a new doctoral education system consisting of four doctoral schools at the beginning of 2014. The objective of the doctoral education reform is to improve doctoral education and enhance its international visibility.

A total of 32 doctoral programmes under four doctoral schools encompass all of the University┬┤s research fields. The research fields of the four schools will not follow faculty or campus structures but will, instead, be based on cooperation in research and doctoral education.


Science and Research at the University of Helsinki

The University of Helsinki carries out research of an internationally high standard. Research funding, honours and prizes awarded to our researchers are an indication of the wide-spread esteem among the global scientific community.

The University of Helsinki has regularly been ranked among Europe’s 10 to 15 best universities on worldwide ranking lists of research universities. Some 470 doctorates are completed annually and nearly 10 000 scientific articles or monographs are published yearly by the university’s researchers.

Science and Research website

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Who is an applicant for doctoral education

An applicant for doctoral education is a student who has a higher academic degree from a higher education institution: i.e. the student is a second cycle degree holder.

In a two-cycle system of studies, the student first completes a Bachelor's degree: this takes about three years. After the Bachelor's degree, it usually takes two years for the student to be awarded with the Master's degree. The Master’s degree must include a Master’s thesis.

At the University of Helsinki, the term 'doctorate' refers to a PhD, and 'doctoral education' to postgraduate studies towards a PhD.

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Faculties at the University of Helsinki

More information and application forms for each Faculty can be found on the websites of the individual Faculties, see the links below.

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Applying and being accepted

The University of Helsinki application procedures for doctoral education at the respective Faculties are explained on the websites of the individual Faculties, see the links above. Please note that the procedures and admissions requirements may vary from one Faculty to another. 

Some Faculties require that you have found a research group or at least a supervisor for your thesis before sending the application to the Faculty. However, you always need to apply to the Faculty even if you would have an acceptance letter from the research group: it is the Faculty that gives the right to pursue the doctoral degree.

Please contact the administrative person in charge of doctoral students’ admissions before leaving your application. The administration has the most recent information/regulations for the application process as well as of the timetable of the admitting governing body. You will find the necessary contact information on the Faculty website.

If you are accepted as a doctoral student you will find information about the practicalities in the checklist for doctoral students on the New students website.

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Your status as a doctoral student

Doctoral studies at the University of Helsinki are conducted by people who may be either University employees or have external funding. The funding source does not necessarily influence the content of the research, but it does affect the doctoral student´s status at the University and also other practical matters such as immigration, health care, housing options etc.

Doctoral student employed under a contract

Employment entails a commitment to complete the duties agreed upon in the work plan, but it also secures the employee all the rights arising from an employment relationship. Besides a salary and related social security, such rights include access to occupational health care, working facilities and necessary equipment and services.

University personnel enter into an employment relationship when an employment contract is signed by the University and the employee. The contract must always be in writing. The employment contract will be signed by the employee, the person entitled to recruit staff on behalf of the University and the person in charge of personnel matters in the unit.

Grant-funded doctoral student

The status of grant-funded doctoral students at the University varies by their field of study. Grant-funded research is less common in the natural sciences than in the arts or social sciences. In the natural sciences, work is more frequently conducted in research groups where facilities, equipment and other resources are readily available for all group members.

Grants as such do not constitute any particular relationship with the University, even if the grant recipient has previously worked or studied there. All commitments and possible rights of grant-funded researchers at the University must be agreed upon separately. An agreement between a University unit and  an individual grant-funded doctoral student outlines the rights and responsibilities concerning working space, laboratory facilities, keys to premises etc.  

Grants never constitute an employment relationship, and a grant cannot be considered a salary substitute or even a salary constituent.

Self-funded doctoral student

Self funding a doctoral degree is expensive and you must consider very carefully the time commitment involved and the impact on your work/life balance. For some who have already embarked on a career, a self-funded doctoral degree may be part of their professional development and supported by their employer, others may take this option as part of a career change. Self-funding   as such does not constitute any particular relationship with the University.

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Doctoral studies in general

Finnish university students tend to be very independent. Many international students complain of the seemingly unfriendly class atmosphere, but you will find most Finns eager to discuss and help you, if you make the initial attempt at communication. You may also find instructors, particularly professors, hard to track down. They normally hold consultation hours only one or two hours per week. However, the assistants and department office staff can often answer any questions you may have.

Composition of doctoral studies

Ideally, a doctoral degree can be completed in four years. The main focus in doctoral studies is doing your own research, which you will start already during the first year. Simultaneously you take part in courses, seminars, conferences etc. which will give you credits and skills to become a researcher and an expert in your own field. Courses for doctoral students are organized by doctoral programmes, doctoral schools, the Faculties or by independent research institutes.

Language Studies

In addition to your research-specific studies you may want to learn the basics of Finnish or Swedish.  

Finnish courses are arranged by the Department of Finnish, Finno-Ugrian and Scandinavian Studies. The courses in Swedish are arranged by the Language Centre of the University of Helsinki. All courses offered by the Language Centre are also open for doctoral students studying at the University of Helsinki.

Staff members may take part in free-of-charge in language courses tailored specifically for University personnel, or, with certain restrictions, in courses designed for University students. Staff members and doctoral students may free-of-charge take part in open enrolment Finnish for Foreigners courses arranged by the Language Services.

Career Services

The Career Services offers career courses and workshops, advice and guidance. For more information please see the Career Services website.

UH route to the Doctorate

The procedures and formalities related to the public defense of doctoral dissertations have evolved in the course of several centuries. Today, faculties have different views as to the degree of formality of the public examination of dissertations. For more information please see the Doctorate in the University of Helsinki website.

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China Scholarship Council Funding for doctoral students

The University of Helsinki and the China Scholarship Council (CSC) have concluded an agreement, which enables Chinese doctoral candidated to receive funding from CSC.

This funding will be available to candidates in the following areas: Energy, Resources, Environment, Agriculture, Manufacture, Information Technology, Life Science, Food and Health, Space Study, Maritime Study, Nanotechnology, New Materials, Humanities and Applied Social Sciences, and Law.

In order to be eligible for this funding candidates are asked to contact their Faculty of choice and to apply for admission through them.

Further information and application forms for the funding are available at the CSC website.

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Updated February 13, 2014

Contact information
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