Admissions to doctoral studies

Planning to apply for a doctoral study right at Doctoral Programme of School, Education, Society and Culture? Good choice! We admit new doctoral researchers twice a year, so pay attention to the application deadlines, start preparations in good time, and make sure you've acquainted yourself with the selection criteria before you apply.
Admissions periods

The programme admits new doctoral researchers twice a year: once in the spring and once in the autumn.

The spring 2024 application period is from April 3, 2024 09:00 AM EEST until April 16, 2024 03:00 PM EEST.

  • Admission results will be released by June 6, 2024.
  • Offered study places must be accepted by June 19, 2024.
  • Granted study rights will start on August 1, 2024.

The autumn 2024 application period is from September 4, 2024, 09:00 AM EEST until September 17, 2024, 03:00 PM EEST.

  • Admission results will be released by November 21, 2024.
  • Offered study places must be accepted by December 5, 2024.
  • Granted study rights will start on January 1, 2025.

The spring 2025 application period is from April 2, 2025, 09:00 AM EEST until April 15, 2025, 03:00 PM EEST.

  • Admission results will be released by June 19, 2025.
  • Offered study places must be accepted by July 3, 2025.
  • Granted study rights will start on August 1, 2025.

A doctoral study right can only be gained through the admissions process. Applying to the programme outside the set admission periods is not possible.

Who can apply?

In addition to the university's general requirements for doctoral applicants on eligibility and language proficiency, the doctoral programme requires the following conditions are met:

  • Applications must meet the minimum requirements set for supervisory arrangements (see selection criteria). Application must include a supervision agreement, signed by the applicant, coordinating academic and supervisors. If there's difficulties in obtaining the signatures, the supervisors can confirm their commitment to supervision to -address.
  • If you have not yet graduated, you need to have all the studies (incl. thesis) required for the degree you apply with completed, graded and registered by the end of the relevant application period. This must be confirmed in a free-of form certificate by an official representative (e.g., Student Services Office) of the university awarding the degree. No exceptions are made to this rule. Applicants who are granted a study right must be able to present a certified copy of their official degree diploma before accepting the offered study place.

Only applications meeting the formal criteria for eligibility continue to scientific evaluation in the doctoral programmes.

The target degrees available within the programme are:

  • Doctor of Philosophy (Education)
  • Doctor of Philosophy (Educational Sciences)
  • Doctor of Philosophy (Faculty of Science)

The Doctor of Philosophy (Education) degree is only available to students who have completed advanced studies in education.

Please note that your supervisory arrangements must match your chosen target degree and home faculty. At least one of your supervisors must be in a permanent or long-term employment to the faculty you're applying to.

Doctoral programme's selection criteria

A doctoral student must have at least two supervisors who have completed a doctoral degree. At least one of the supervisors must be in a permanent or long-term employment at the Faculty awarding the doctoral degree and at least one of the supervisors must hold the title of docent or similar scientific qualifications.

A supervision agreement is required when applying. Supervision agreements are not binding at the application stage; they only become binding if the right to complete a degree is granted.

Professors involved in doctoral programmes can simultaneously supervise up to twelve (12) full-time doctoral students. Lecturers, docents, assistant professors and holders of similar positions can simultaneously supervise up to six (6) full-time doctoral students. The quotas are not absolute. They depend on how many full-time and part-time students a supervisor is in charge of, the supervisor’s previous performance in that role, as well as his or her research duties and other responsibilities in the University community. 

In addition to supervisors, each doctoral researcher needs to have a coordinating academic, who may also serve as one of the dissertation supervisors. The coordinating academic is either a professor or a docent employed by the faculty and familiar with the rules and practices related to doctoral education at the University of Helsinki. A coordinating academic can also be an associate professor (tenure track, level 2).

In assessing the quality of applicants’ research plan, the programme considers

  • feasibility
  • scientific significance
  • suitability to the profile of the doctoral programme

Please see here more detailed instructions how to write a research plan:

  • General guidelines:
    • Note that the doctoral school focuses on the keywords of education, society and culture. This focus must be evident in your plan.
    • The plan is meant to tell a community of multidisciplinary experts within the broad field of educational sciences what and how you want to do in your research and why it matters. The plan should thus be easy to understand and clearly state and justify objectives, methods, and overall coherence. All in all, the plan should convince the experts that your work is well thought of, feasible (your research will be carried out successfully), forward-looking, leading to the production of new knowledge.  
    • The research plan presents an opportunity for you to show how well you know the literature and previous research connected to your study. For example, it is important for you to identify a few basic gaps in the literature to produce new knowledge and to justify the decisions you have made concerning e.g., the use of specific concepts, theories, methods.
    • When writing remember to define key terms and to position yourself clearly, showing that the research plan is your own personal product. Avoid jargon and repeating the same pieces of information in the different sections (for instance: the definition of a key concept does not need to be repeated when you present both in the rationale and in the objectives section). Do check the application linguistically and/or have it proofread by someone else.
    • Finally, although the research plan is personal, it should be thought of and put together in cooperation with the supervisors who have agreed to support your work at Helsinki University. Ask them to read it several times and to guide you in bettering the plan before submitting. Do not submit a plan that has not been approved by your supervisors.

You must answer the following questions on the application form:

  • Preliminary title of the doctoral thesis
    • (Field of research (Please use Research Council of Finland's Research field classification; check with your supervisors the suitable field for your own research, bearing in mind that field classification can differ in different countries)
    • As a first entry into your research plan, the title should give a brief and clear idea of the scientific and societal originality as well as the context of your study.
  • Brief summary of the research plan (2000 characters) The summary should introduce the most important and relevant aspects of your plan in a logical order. These should include (amongst others): phenomenon to be studied, theoretical background and framework, methodological aspects including nature of data and data analysis, as well as expected novelty and relevance of the research. Anyone reading the summary should have a clear and basic idea of what you are planning to do. The summary should be built in a coherent way and emphasize the specificities, originality, and feasibility of the plan (i.e., why is the study needed?).
  • (Research plan contains mathematical special characters or chemical formulas. If your research plan contains mathematical special characters or chemical formulas, you can attach it here in PDF-format. The research plan must contain the same items as the electronic form, not exceeding the maximum number of characters per item. Please see the doctoral programme website for possible additional instructions.)
  • (What is the clinical relevance of your research? (2000 characters) Question only for applicants to Doctoral programme in Clinical Research)
  • Motivation for conducting doctoral research (2000 characters) Embarking on a PhD research is an important decision and career move. Explain why you have made this decision, discussing e.g., your short- and long-term scientific and professional goals and why you have chosen this topic in particular. Also address why you have chosen the doctoral programme you are applying to, i.e. what you aim to bring to the SEDUCE community and how you expect your time at SEDUCE to prepare you for engaging with the global academia. Merely stating the attractiveness of Finnish education or the profile of a potential supervisor is not enough. In this section as a whole, you should convince your reader that you will be able to complete the proposed research.
  • Rationale for the research project (2000 characters) In this section, discuss the direct links between your proposed study and current global research. Tell the experts for instance about any research gaps that you may have identified. At the same time, describe the most significant theoretical and methodological premises of your project and how you position the project in relation to them. This section should convince the experts of your awareness of research (being) done in the field, of the need for your project and of your future contributions to the field of research in question.
  • Objectives of the research and scientific impact of research results (2000 characters) In this section, we would like you to tell the experts more about the specificities and originality of your study. Shortly present the research objectives as well as your research questions, which should be theoretically framed and related to your rationale (hypotheses may also be presented, should you have any). Describe the expected research results too, showing your commitment to the chosen methods. If your plan has to do with teaching, explain how the proposed research could improve particular educational practices. Should you compare different international educational contexts in your research, we suggest that you use e.g. theoretical reasons for justifying the proposed comparison. Finally, you may also shortly outline the reach, potential applications and utilization value of the research beyond the scientific community.
  • Preliminary plan on the collection, usage and storage of the research material; research methods (4000 characters) Briefly describe how you plan to collect the research material, use and store it. Outline the suitability of the research methods and analytical framework, described so as to explain how they will contribute to answering the research questions/confirming the hypotheses, or how they will support the chosen approach.
  • Ethical issues (1000 characters) Ethics is central to all research and must be problematized connected to the specificities of a proposed project. Tell the experts what main ethical issues you need to address for this research and how you plan to deal with them in your work. You may refer to specific guidelines but remember to ‘personalize’ your active engagement with ethical issues. Note that ethics does not just relate to data management but also to researchers’ responsibility during their field interventions (data collection, teaching experiments, social and communicative relations with participants…). 

The most important literature used in the research plan (2500 characters). List here only references that you have used concretely in the sections above. We suggest including recent literature. You may also add references in languages other than English if relevant for your project.

  • Form of the dissertation - article based dissertation or monograph: An article-based dissertation consists of peer-reviewed scholarly publications or manuscripts intended for publication, discussing a single group of issues, as well as a summarizing report describing the background and objectives of the research, the methods and materials used, as well as the results, discussion and conclusion of the research. At the Faculty of Educational Sciences, a minimum of three (accepted) articles is required to graduate. The articles should demonstrate the author’s independent contribution. A monograph dissertation is a consistent scholarly work in the name of the doctoral candidate alone and based on independent research and previously unpublished research results. The maximum scope of a monograph is, as a rule, 250 pages.
  • Publication plan and timetable for the articles or preliminary outline of the monograph (1500 characters). If you choose the article-based format provide details of the articles you plan to publish (e.g., preliminary titles, expected publication outlets, submission times) and how they fit together to form a coherent whole. For the monograph dissertation, provide a draft of the table of contents.
  • Preliminary timetable for your research (2000 characters). You may adopt a yearly or monthly timetable to provide details about how you plan to proceed during your PhD studies. Plan your timetable so that it would be possible to complete your PhD at SEDUCE in about four years if you plan to work full-time on your PhD.
  • Planned funding for the research project including received and applied notable funding thus far (1000 characters). Explain how you are planning to fund your PhD studies as an extra indicator of feasibility.

The admission criteria include previous academic performance, the applicable content of previous studies to the prospective doctoral programme, the study plan and the research proposal (General guidelines for the student admissions of doctoral programmes, RD No HY/588/2020).

In assessing the quality of applicants’ research and study plans, the programme considers feasibility, scientific significance, and suitability to the profile of the doctoral programme. Study plans are specifically assessed for their feasibility and appropriateness.

Before drawing up your own preliminary study plan, please acquaint yourself with the doctoral programme's degree requirements. The study plan presented in the application is preliminary, and need not list specific courses. The important thing is that you have given thought on what kind of studies would best support your thesis work and drawn up a preliminary timetable for completing these studies.

It’s good to note that admissions to the programme are quite competitive and it’s important to prepare the application carefully. The number of applications received varies from one round to another, but in a typical round of applications approximately half of the applicants can be accepted.

The yearly admission quota for the year 2024 is 28 new students.

How to apply?

Acquainted with the selection criteria and all set to apply? Great! Now go back to the university's general instructions for doctoral applicants, where you will find all the information you need to prepare and submit your application and the needed enclosures. Good luck!


Decisions on admissions for doctoral studies in the programme are made based on the university’s general criteria for doctoral admissions as well as the programme-specific complementary selection criteria, presented on this page.

The final decision on admission is made by the faculty awarding the applicant’s target degree, based on a proposal from the steering group of the doctoral programme.

A timetable for decisions is available in the university's general instructions for doctoral applicants.