Doctoral Programme in Social Sciences (4 years)

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Degree level
Doctoral degree
Start semester
2019 Autumn
Scope of studies and length
--- ECTS credits, 4 years
Language of instruction
English, Finnish, Swedish
Tuition fee per year (only non-EU/EEA citizens)
0 €
Application period
2.4.2019 - 15.4.2019

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Students who complete a doctoral degree have comprehensive competence and general skills for knowledge work in their discipline. During their doctoral studies, students enhance their identity as independent researchers and experts. The discipline-specific competence generated during the doctoral programme includes an in-depth understanding of the nature of the relevant disciplines, command of any key theories, concepts and research methods, knowledge of the relationship between theory and practice, the practical applicability of knowledge, as well as the ability to generate new scientific knowledge. All doctoral research should aim to push the boundaries of existing knowledge and, whenever possible, to provide the knowledge and concepts that shape the future of their disciplines, which can include the development of new disciplines and merger of existing ones. PhD research within the Doctoral Program in the Social Sciences can range from being entirely qualitative or conceptual to being fully quantitative or descriptive. Yet irrespective of approach or discipline, this programme has the following objectives:

  • To provide sufficient formal training, supervision and the appropriate research environment to support the doctoral candidate in successfully achieving the highest standards of originality, significance and rigour in their chosen research field within the social sciences.
  • To provide appropriate training in research ethics, as well as full understanding of the importance of such ethics in social research
  • To provide training in key transferable skills, and preparation for both academic and non-academic future employment and communication
  • To provide opportunities for international communication and/or collaboration

The language of instruction is usually English, but the dissertation can be written either in English, Finnish or Swedish.

This program covers the widest areas of social science research in Finland: media and communication studies, social and cultural anthropology, social psychology, social and public policy, social work, sociology, and social statistics.

Doctoral research in these fields can cover empirical, experimental, theoretical, textual, historical, comparative, conceptual, applied, strategic and practice-based approaches towards the study of all parts of social life. This can include research on any aspect of people and their relations, interactions, activities, structures, constructions and concepts, beliefs, communications, aesthetics, and material and environmental conditions.

Methodologies can range from the most empirical to the most conceptual or textual, whichever is most appropriate for the question or problem being addressed.

The Doctoral Program in Social Sciences takes seriously the University of Helsinki’s overall mission, which is to provide: “High-quality research and education as well as active social interaction for a better world.” (Mission statement). This mission fits with one of the core values of the university, which is to enhance “economic, intellectual and social wellbeing by offering research results and educating experts for the service of society.”

The Doctoral Program in Social Sciences has a strong commitment to providing the best conditions for doctoral students to carry out their research in the pursuit of this aim, whether their work is entirely conceptual, academic or scientific, or has more of an applied, professional or even commercial, purpose.

The doctoral degree consists of three modules.

Research-specific training (30 credits) + academic competence (10 credits) + doctoral thesis

Module 1: Research-specific training (30 credits)

  1. Regular constructive critique of doctoral candidates’ work: research-theme specific seminars and supervision (minimum of 10 credits and maximum of 20 credits).
  2. Training in research methodologies and theoretical approaches specific to the PhD candidate’s research field (minimum of 5 credits and maximum of 20).
  3. Training in research ethics so as to ensure the highest standards in protecting the privacy, dignity, interests and security of those we research (1-5 credits).
  4. International mobility and conference participation (2-10 credits) 
  5. Training in specialist themes or topics in the social sciences directly relevant to the doctoral research, which can include training from an external expert (no minimum; maximum of 10 credits).
  6. Personal study plan, 0 credits

Module 2: Academic Competence and Transferable Skills (10 credits)

  1. Academic and transferable skills and techniques (e.g. publishing articles, writing and communication skills, etc)
  2. Pedagogy in university education, teaching skills
  3. Research management skills and science in society
  4. Career planning and general working skills

Module 3: Doctoral Thesis

A doctoral dissertation is a consistent scholarly work based on independent research that makes an original contribution to scientific knowledge. Doctoral students present the progress of their dissertation in a research seminar in their field. Doctoral students plan the research for their dissertation and its schedule together with their supervisors.

 After completing a doctoral dissertation, doctoral candidates will:

  • have a profound understanding of their specialisation and extensive knowledge of their field 
  • be able to apply scientific research methods critically and independently, and contribute to scientific knowledge
  • be able to master wide-ranging subject areas, analyse them consistently and from various perspectives, as well as make conclusions that provide new scientific knowledge
  • be able to report on research results in a clear, consistent and interesting manner
  • have the ability to control projects with limited timeframes and topics as well as reach set goals

Graduates of the doctoral program in the social sciences gain employment in a wide range of sectors, and most particularly in jobs that require communication skills; analytical skills; understanding of social engagement and interaction; the handling of social problems; human resources; and understanding of people across differences. Graduates of the program are subsequently employed as researchers, teachers and higher level administrators within the university and higher education sector; as analysts, researchers, advisors, policy developers and managers within the public sector; in a range of posts within NGOs, including analysis, research, policy development, management and advice; and in the commercial sectors, graduates gain posts in media and communications, human resources, analysis and research, market and policy development, international relations.

International mobility is a key element in doctoral training, and can be incorporated into the research program of doctoral candidates at any stage in their research and training. The opportunities include:

  • Attending international conferences to present research work
  • Short scientific visits to universities abroad to gain specific skills
  • Opportunities to be advised by specialists in the specific field of research from other universities abroad
  • Regular visits from internationally recognized academic specialists to Helsinki, both to give seminars on their current research and to give feedback to PhD candidates on their current research
  • Training in submitting research results to internationally recognized publications.

This program covers the widest areas of social science research in Finland: media and communication studies, social and cultural anthropology, social psychology, social and public policy, social work, sociology, and social statistics.

How to apply
Below you’ll find a link to the entry requirements for this programme. The application period to our international programmes is in December every year.

Doctoral programmes

The doctoral candidates at the University of Helsinki are supervised by top-class researchers, and carry out their research as part of an international academic community. The University of Helsinki is the only Finnish university in the League of European Research Universities (LERU) and a member of the EUA Council for Doctoral Education.

Doctoral education is offered in research- and researcher-oriented doctoral programmes. Each of the 32 doctoral programmes belong to one of the University’s four doctoral schools. The doctoral schools are in charge of coordinating the totality of doctoral programmes in their field as well as developing the overall quality of doctoral education. In addition, they are responsible for the offerings in transferable skills courses.

Most of the doctoral programmes are joined programmes offered by different Faculties. In these programmes the doctoral candidates can pursue a doctoral degree offered by any of the participating Faculties.

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