Doctoral Programme in Theology and Religious Studies (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. Over the course of the doctoral programme, students improve their critical thinking, argumentation and problem-solving skills. They also polish their communication, leadership and negotiation skills, self-direction, creativity and understanding of scientific ethics. Graduates from the Doctoral Programme in Theology and Religious Studies have extensive skills in scientific communication. The programme improves doctoral students’ communication skills to help them perform demanding, multidisciplinary research and serve as experts in Finland and internationally. During their doctoral studies, students build the competence required of responsible, independent researchers and experts. The programme graduates have excellent competence for independent work and multidisciplinary cooperation.

Finnish and English are the primary languages of instruction. Students may also complete studies in Swedish. The philologies also offer courses and seminars in the relevant language.

The Doctoral Programme in Theology and Religious Studies covers all the research areas in Theology: 

  • Biblical Studies,
  • Church History,
  • Systematic Theology,
  • Comparative Religion and
  • Practical Theology

Students can complete a doctoral degree in four years of full-time study. Students can choose to complete their doctoral degree through full-time or part-time study. The degree includes

  • A personal study plan
  • Field-specific studies (30 cr)
  • General transferable skills (10 cr)
  • A doctoral dissertation

A doctoral dissertation consists of peer-reviewed scholarly publications or manuscripts accepted for publication, as well as a summarising report (an article-based dissertation); or, a doctoral dissertation is a scholarly work in the name of the doctoral candidate alone and based on previously unpublished research results (a monograph). A dissertation may also be another body of work that fulfils the relevant scientific criteria, if the author’s independent contribution can be demonstrated.


A doctoral dissertation

  • Includes new scientific knowledge
  • Demonstrates the doctoral candidate’s skills for critical thinking
  • Demonstrates profound knowledge of the field of research
  • Demonstrates a good command of and the ability to apply research methods
  • Is scientifically convincing
  • Includes justified results
  • Demonstrates scientific integrity and adheres to the norms of ethical research

Graduates from the doctoral programme typically find employment as researchers and experts in universities and research institutes. They can also serve in demanding expert positions in the fields of public administration, churches and religious communities, organisations, shcools and in different international work fields, too.

A doctoral degree from the Doctoral Programme in Theology and Religious Studies offers a course in internationalisation (1–5 cr). Students may complete the course  by, for example, delivering a presentation at an international conference, completing a researcher exchange at a foreign university or teaching internationally. The doctoral programme offers a travel grant to doctoral students for conference trips and other foreign travel that supports internationalisation and the writing of a dissertation. Students also learn about international trends and practices by attending the lectures and courses of the doctoral programme’s international visiting researchers. All the described activities are intended to help doctoral students establish networks in the international scientific community.

The doctoral programme and doctoral  school also includes courses intended to support internationalisation, for example, on international publishing, scientific writing and public speaking in a language other than Finnish.

The doctoral programme participates in two joint European doctoral education programmes: the European PhD-Net in Literary and Cultural Studies, and the European PhD-Net in Philosophy. The European PhD-Net in Literary and Cultural Studies network is a collaboration between six universities. The students admitted to the programme complete a cotutelle degree. The partner universities are the University of Helsinki, the University of Bergamo, the University of Graz, Justus Liebig University Giessen, the Catholic University of Portugal and Stockholm University. The programme admits two students every three years. The European PhD-Net in Philosophy network partners are the University of Helsinki, the University of Bergen, Bielefeld University, the University of Bologna, the University of Bucharest and Uppsala University. The programme admits two to three students every three years. Graduates from the programme are awarded a diploma in accordance with the partner universities' joint Educational Agreement.

The programme’s research encompasses such topics as the nature of reality as a whole and how, through individual observation and inquiry in the scientific disciplines, the world can be known. Questions dealing with scientific explanation and scientific reasoning are among its staples. Further, the topics include the examination of values and virtues, the generation of knowledge concerning the human being and societies as well as the ethical and political questions embedded in such knowledge. The research topics also address the nature and functions of fictional worlds and the relation of these worlds to conceptions of reality. The specific characteristics of textuality, figurality, musicality, and representation in general are among its key research areas.

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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