Docotral thesis can be found on Helda, the Digital Repository of the University of Helsinki.
These rules and guidelines are based on HY/498/2017 and HY/134/2019 Rector’s Decisions entitled “Preliminary examination and approval of doctoral dissertations as well as general dissertation criteria at the University of Helsinki”, and further specifications laid down in the decisions of the Faculty Council of the Faculty of Educational Sciences.
The instructions on submitting the dissertation for preliminary examination can be found in Instructions for Students.
About the procedures and formalities related to the public defence, please see Welcome to the public examination pages.
Doctoral theses are consistent scholarly works based on independent research that make an original contribution to knowledge, on topics belonging to one of the disciplines represented at the Faculty of Educational Sciences.
Doctoral theses can be either monographs or article-based theses (i.e., compilations of several scholarly articles or manuscripts).
The maximum recommended length for a monograph is 250 pages. If, in addition to the monograph, the author has previously published reports on the same research topic (Ministry of Education and Culture publication types A–C), they must be referred to in the monograph in the same manner as other prior research.
The minimum requirement for an article-based doctoral thesis is three scholarly articles that have been published or approved for publication for which the author must be the first author or a co-first author, as well as a summary of these articles. Articles accepted for an article-based doctoral thesis must be peer-reviewed scholarly articles (type A1–A3) published or approved for publication in scholarly publication series complying with the principles of responsible conduct of research and refereeing policies. In the case of articles yet to be published, the doctoral candidate must submit a certificate of approval for publication by the publisher.
When submitting the thesis for preliminary examination, the doctoral candidate must provide a written report, approved by the supervisor, stating their scholarly and independent contribution to the co-authored publications. In addition, the doctoral candidate may include an account of their contribution to co-authored publications in the published doctoral thesis. The report on independent contribution is to be written in the primary language of the thesis. In the case of article-based doctoral theses, the report must describe the scope of independent contribution for each article. In the case of monographs, the proportional contribution of both the candidate and others (e.g., supervisors or outside experts) must be described separately regarding, among other things, the planning of research as well as the collection and analysis of material.
In addition to the minimum requirement, doctoral theses may include other articles that have been approved for publication or published. Doctoral theses may also include, in addition to the minimum requirements, articles submitted to the publisher which have not yet been approved for publication. In such cases, the doctoral candidate and the primary supervisor must write a statement describing the contribution to and necessity for the doctoral thesis of these articles when the thesis is submitted for preliminary examination. Article-based doctoral theses can also include articles used in the doctoral theses of two different doctoral candidates. In such cases, a well-grounded statement on the use of the same article in two different doctoral theses is required as part of the report on independent contribution drawn up by the doctoral candidate and approved by the primary supervisor.
If, in addition to the article-based doctoral thesis, the author has previously published reports on the same research topic (publication types A–C), they must be referred to in the monograph in the same manner as other prior research.
The examination and approval of doctoral theses are governed by the Regulations on Degrees and the Protection of Students’ Rights at the University of Helsinki (section 44, 15 April 2015) as well as by Rector's Decisions HY/498/2017, HY/134/2019 and HY/2379/2021.
The pre-examiner is initially contacted by the doctoral candidate’s supervisor, but it’s important to note that the examiners are experts appointed by the Faculty and examiners must submit their statements to the Faculty only. During the examination process, the examiners will not submit their statements to the doctoral candidate, nor will they discuss the contents of the statement or any other matters related to the dissertation.
The preliminary examiner must not supervise the doctoral student or accept revised versions of the manuscript or any other material related to the dissertation except through the Faculty's Education planner.
In the appointment of preliminary examiners, the University of Helsinki regulations on the disqualification of preliminary examiners must be taken into account. The preliminary examiner can have no relationship with the doctoral candidate, the doctoral dissertation or another party involved that may compromise his or her impartiality. Consequently, e.g. the following persons can never be named as preliminary examiners:
Moreover, a close relative of the dissertation supervisor cannot serve as the preliminary examiner, the opponent or the internal examiner of the grading committee.
The same provisions on disqualification also apply to opponents and the internal examiners of the grading committee.
The Faculty Council of the Faculty of Educational Sciences has specified the definition of close research cooperation for cases of disqualification. Consequently, when deciding on disqualification, it must also be ascertained that, in the past three years, the preliminary examiner, opponent or member of the grading committee has not:
In addition, the relevant parties must not have been in close contact or have influenced appointment decisions in the past three years (connection between an applicant and a member of an appointment committee).
Being on the editorial staff of the same publication, writing an article for the same collection of articles (special issue or compilation) or submitting an unsuccessful application for funding do not constitute grounds for disqualification. Supervisors themselves must decide on their disqualification and refrain from evaluation or decision-making if there is reason to suspect grounds for disqualification.
The Faculty strives to clear up any issues related to ineligibility before the examiners are officially appointed. However, should the examiner be unsure of his / her eligibility for the task after having been appointed, we ask the examiners to immediately contact the Faculty's Education coordinator (email@example.com).
The Faculty’s Education planner will deliver copies of the statement to the doctoral candidate, the supervisors and members of the Faculty Council as well as (once permission to defend the dissertation has been granted) to the opponent and other members of the dissertation grading committee.
The doctoral candidate can lodge his or her objection to the preliminary examiners’ statements with the Faculty Council before it decides on the permission to defend the dissertation in a public examination. The statement will be enclosed with the minutes of the Faculty Council meeting in which it decides on the permission to defend the dissertation, after which the statement will become a public document.
The Faculty Council of the Faculty of Educational Sciences appoints two preliminary examiners for a doctoral thesis based on the proposal of the relevant coordinating academic. The preliminary examiners must have the qualifications of at least a docent or equivalent academic qualifications. The preliminary examiners must be selected from outside the doctoral candidate’s faculty, and as a rule, they must be from outside the University of Helsinki. The doctoral thesis supervisor may not serve as a preliminary examiner.
The author of the doctoral thesis must have the opportunity to submit an objection to the Faculty Council on the appointment of the preliminary examiners (Regulations on Degrees and the Protection of Students’ Rights at the University of Helsinki, 15 April 2015, section 44).
The preliminary examiner will be compensated with 340€ for the statement.
The appointment of preliminary examiners must comply with the general principles of disqualification as well as the further elaboration of these principles by the University of Helsinki rector and the Faculty of Educational Sciences (Rector’s Decision HY/498/2017; Faculty Council of the Faculty of Educational Sciences, 27 February 2018, item 7). Preliminary examiners may not have any relationship with the doctoral student, the doctoral thesis or another relevant party that may compromise their impartiality. The aim is to settle any possible disqualification issues before the appointment of preliminary examiners. However, should a preliminary examiner be uncertain of their status with regard to disqualification in hindsight, they are requested to contact the Faculty’s education planning officer responsible for doctoral education as soon as possible (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The Faculty Council of the Faculty of Educational Sciences will appoint two preliminary examiners for a doctoral thesis based on the proposal of the coordinating academic. The preliminary examiners must be professors or docents, or doctoral degree holders with equivalent academic qualifications. Doctoral candidates must have the opportunity to inform the faculty council of their objections, if any, to the appointment of the pre-examiners (section 44, Regulations on Degrees and the Protection of Students’ Rights at the University of Helsinki and Rector's decision HY/498/2017).
Once the Faculty Council has made the appointment decision, the Faculty’s planning officer (doctoral studies) will send the thesis manuscript and the report on the doctoral candidate’s independent contribution to the thesis to the pre-examiners by email. Upon request, the manuscript can be delivered as hard copy by post.
The doctoral candidate’s supervisor initially contacts the preliminary examiner, but it’s important to note that the examiners are experts appointed by the Faculty and examiners must submit their statements to the Faculty only. During the examination process, the examiners will not submit their statements to the doctoral candidate, nor will they discuss the contents of the statement or any other matters related to the doctoral thesis. The preliminary examiner must not supervise the doctoral student or accept revised versions of the manuscript or any other material related to the dissertation except through the Faculty's planning officer.
As a rule, the preliminary examiners must come from outside the University of Helsinki. A person who has co-authored publications or worked together on a research project with the doctoral candidate may not be appointed as a pre-examiner. Please see Ethical instructions above. The Faculty strives to clear up any issues related to ineligibility before the examiners are officially appointed. However, should the examiner be unsure of his / her eligibility for the task after having been appointed, we ask the examiners to immediately contact the Faculty's planning officer (email@example.com).
The preliminary examiners are requested to submit their statements to the Faculty within two months (taking holiday periods into account). The coordinating academic can agree on the detailed timetable for submitting the statements with the preliminary examiners, taking the schedule of upcoming Faculty Council meetings into account.
In their statements to the Faculty, each preliminary examiner must
A preliminary examiner may require that revisions be made to the manuscript which the preliminary examiner must approve before recommending that permission for the public defence be granted (see item b above). After having approved the revisions, the preliminary examiner must issue a final statement on the manuscript to the Faculty. A report on the revisions made by the doctoral student will also be submitted to the other preliminary examiner for their information and will be attached to the preliminary examiners’ statements when granting permission for the public defence. In this case, the preliminary examination in its entirety may not last longer than six months, and the preliminary examiner should contact the Faculty’s education planning officer directly (firstname.lastname@example.org).
If they so wish, preliminary examiners may draw up a joint statement.
The length of the statement is two to five pages. The statement must clearly indicate whether the preliminary examiner recommends granting permission for the public defence.
The preliminary examiners’ statements must be written in the language of the thesis manuscript.
Before the Faculty Council decides whether permission for the public defence can be granted, the doctoral student must be provided with the opportunity to object to the preliminary examiners’ statements (Regulations on Degrees and the Protection of Students’ Rights at the University of Helsinki, 15 April 2015, section 44).
When drafting their statements, preliminary examiners must take into consideration the assessment criteria for doctoral theses approved by the Faculty of Educational Sciences.
Their statements must explicitly recommend that the doctoral student be either granted or denied permission for a public defence of their thesis. If a preliminary examiner recommends that the permission be granted, the thesis must meet the minimum requirements for doctoral theses set by the Faculty. Preliminary examiners are also expected to assess the doctoral student’s independent contribution to the research for the thesis. The preliminary examiners will receive a report on this independent contribution by email.
Preliminary examiners must focus primarily on the quality and integrity of the thesis as a whole, including the summarising report and the articles. Revisions can only be suggested concerning the unpublished parts of the thesis.
In addition to submitting their statements to the Faculty, the preliminary examiners may make comments and detailed suggestions for revisions to the author. These suggestions are submitted together with the statement. The author of the doctoral thesis negotiates with the coordinating academic and the supervisor regarding the revisions to be made to the final version of the thesis.
Preliminary examiners must propose that permission for the public defence of the thesis be denied if the thesis does not meet the Faculty’s minimum requirements for doctoral theses. Preliminary examiners should also consider doing so if the thesis contains other serious deficiencies in the light of the thesis assessment criteria (e.g., an inadequate theoretical framework, research data that is clearly too limited for a doctoral thesis, research ethics issues, or an otherwise clearly incomplete or unfinished thesis).
If submitting such a statement, it is particularly important to clearly communicate the deficiencies on which the statement is based. The statement must also assess the work as a whole and give feedback on strengths and successes as well.
Shortcomings that can be addressed with simple editing or additional reading of the research literature that requires only moderate effort do not necessarily prevent giving a statement recommending that permission for the public defence be granted.
Preliminary examiners can also require that certain revisions be made to the thesis before they can issue a positive statement (see above).
A negative statement usually results in the cancellation of the preliminary examination process by a decision of the Faculty Council. The Faculty Council makes its decision on the basis of the preliminary examiners’ statements and its own deliberations. The members of the Faculty Council have access to the manuscript and the preliminary examiners’ statements before they make their decision.
If the preliminary examination is cancelled, the doctoral student may request a new examination once the changes recommended in the preliminary examiners’ statements, or other changes, have been made in the thesis manuscript and the doctoral student’s coordinating academic or thesis supervisors recommend that the preliminary examination procedure be restarted. In such cases, the Faculty can, depending on the case and the preliminary examiners’ schedules, appoint either new preliminary examiners or, upon their consent, the same preliminary examiners. It is recommended that at least one of the preliminary examiners be the same.
Doctoral thesis are graded on a scale of pass with distinction, pass or fail. As a rule, doctoral thesis receive the grade pass. The fail grade must be given only if the thesis includes serious ethical deficiencies. In exceptional cases, when a doctoral thesis as a whole is of exceptional merit and groundbreaking in the light of the assessment criteria, the grade pass with distinction will be given. In such cases, the grade must be separately justified.
The doctoral thesis as a whole is outstanding and ambitious in the light of the assessment criteria. The dissertation meets the relevant ethical criteria.
The doctoral thesis fulfils the Faculty’s definition of a doctoral thesis and meets the relevant ethical criteria.
The doctoral thesis does not fulfil the Faculty’s criteria for a doctoral thesis and/or the relevant ethical standards.
While the doctoral thesis topic must be connected to previous research, the doctoral thesis should also generate genuinely new knowledge. It may also serve to open a new line of investigation. The study must be appropriately delineated. The research questions must be phrased in a way that allows them to be reasonably answered within the scope of the study.
The concepts must be clear, and the author must demonstrate that he or she is in command of the theories behind the research and able to conceptualise the research problem.
The methods must be well grounded and enable the author to address the research problem. Diverse use of research methods is commendable, as is in-depth mastery and insightful use of the research methods.
The material must be high quality and sufficient considering the choice of research problem and method.
The results must be presented clearly and logically. Analysis should be logical and well grounded.
The conclusions must be systematic and well grounded and pertain to the research problem, material and method. The author should avoid speculation.
The doctoral thesis must have a logical structure with clear language. The text should be coherent and logical and focus on the essential. Argumentation must advance logically. The researcher must demonstrate critical thinking, originality and independence.
Section 44 of the Regulations on Degrees and the Protection of Students’ Rights at the University of Helsinki and Rector's decision HY/498/2017 govern the doctoral thesis examination process. The Faculty Council will appoint a grading committee for the grading of a doctoral thesis. The committee will include an opponent (or in exceptional cases two), the custos and one or several faculty representatives.
The opponent or opponents are to be selected from outside the doctoral candidate’s home faculty and, as a rule, also from outside the University of Helsinki. The thesis supervisor may not act as the opponent. When appointing an opponent, the same disqualification principles are followed as when appointing preliminary examiners (see ethical guidelines).
A preliminary examiner can act as an opponent only for a justified reason. Such a reason may be based on the language of the thesis, methodological expertise, or it may be that due to disqualification principles, no new opponent candidates would be reasonably available. The justification can also include a list of the key experts that are disqualified to act as an Opponent.
The coordinating academic makes a proposal for the appointment of a grading committee using a form designated for this purpose:
Proposal for the appointment of grading committee (e-form)
The Faculty Council appoints one or two opponents for each public examination who are professor or have the title of a docent or equivalent academic qualification (Section 44 of the Regulations on Degrees and the Protection of Students’ Rights at the University of Helsinki and Rector's decision HY/498/2017).
After the doctoral candidate’s introductory lecture, the opponent makes a short statement examining the status and scientific significance of the thesis topic as well as similar general issues. In the actual examination, the opponent discusses the thesis. He or she may spend at most four hours on this examination. At the conclusion of the public examination, the opponent makes a final statement.
The opponent is expected to present in the public examination all the critical remarks into which he intends to refer in the final statement, i.e, the candidate must be given an opportunity to defend to all the remarks during the public examination.
The opponent is a member of the grading committee and attends the committee meeting following the public examination. Please see instructions below (Grading of doctoral thesis).
The opponent must submit to the Faculty Council a reasoned written statement on the thesis within two weeks of its public examination.
The grading of the thesis must take into account the doctoral candidate’s defence of the thesis at the public examination and preliminary examiners statements (Rector's decision HY/498/2017). The opponent must assess the thesis in his or her statement and must propose a grade for the thesis based on the assessment criteria and grading scale approved by the Faculty of Educational Sciences, after negotiating with the Faculty’s internal examiners. The grades are pass with distinction, pass and fail.
In case the opponent has questions concerning the practices of the public examination or thesis grading, he or she is encouraged to contact the Custos.
As a rule, the Faculty Council appoints the primary supervisor of the doctoral thesis to act as the Custos in the public examination (Rector's decision HY/2379//2021). The Custos must be a faculty professor or associate professor, or a docent employed by the faculty that awards the degree. The Custos serves as the supervisor of the public examination.
The Custos’ responsibility is to familiarize the Opponent with the Faculty’s policies concerning the thesis assessment and to inform the Opponent on the regulations concerning the public defense. The Custos is also responsible for the travel and accommodation arrangements of the Opponent, together with the general administration of the Faculty.
As the chair of the public examination, the Custos opens the examination, presents the doctoral candidate and the Opponent as well as ensures that the doctoral candidate can respond to each comment and that the speakers do not digress from the topic. When the doctoral candidate asks the audience for comments and questions, the Custos gives the floor and writes down the audience’s questions and comments as well as the doctoral candidate’s responses. The Custos also ensures that the public examination proceeds appropriately and in a dignified manner. If the examination takes a long time, the Custos may interrupt it by announcing a break. The examination cannot last more than six hours. The Custos closes the public examination.
The Custos must write a short (about one page) statement on the public examination and submit it to the Faculty Council. This statement must mention the time, place, language, and duration of the public examination as well as the number of participants and provide a description of it. The Custos must also record the comments and questions from the audience in his or her statement.
It is standard practice in the Faculty of Educational Sciences that, unless the Custos has supervised the thesis, he or she participates in its grading, serves on the grading committee appointed by the Faculty Council and is entitled to vote as a committee member. If the Custos has supervised the thesis, he or she will have the right to speak but not to vote at the committee meeting.
Members of the grading committee include the Custos, the Opponent(s) and one or two faculty representatives. The faculty representative must be a professor or a member of the research and teaching staff who has the qualifications of a docent. If the Custos has supervised the thesis, he or she will have the right to speak but not to vote at the committee meeting. The Faculty Council decides on the committee’s composition.
The members of the grading committee must attend the public examination of the thesis and the committee meeting following the public examination. The internal examiner’s duty is to familiarise the Opponent with the Faculty’s grading scale and other relevant regulations, act as the grading committee’s secretary and ensure that the Faculty’s regulations are followed throughout the examination process. At their meeting, the Opponent and the internal examiners must together complete the thesis assessment form. If the Opponent and the internal examiners decide to propose different grades, they must complete separate forms, and the Faculty Council will decide on the grade.
The grading of the thesis must consider the doctoral candidate’s defence of the thesis at the public examination and preliminary examiners statements (Rector's decision HY/498/2017).
The internal examiners must prepare his or her own statement on the thesis and submit it to the Faculty Council together with the thesis assessment form. In the statement, the internal examiner must assess the thesis based on the faculty’s thesis evaluation criteria and the public examination as well as propose a grade for the thesis. The recommended length of the statement is 1-2 pages.
Doctoral theses are graded on a scale of pass with distinction, pass or fail. As a rule, doctoral theses are approved with the grade pass. In exceptional cases, when a doctoral thesis as a whole is of exceptional merit and groundbreaking in the light of the assessment criteria, the grade pass with distinction will be given. In such cases, the grade must be separately justified.
Before the grading of the thesis in the Faculty Council, the doctoral candidate shall have the opportunity to object to the Opponent’s statement and any other documents related to the grading process (section 44 of the Regulations on Degrees and the Protection of Students’ Rights at the University of Helsinki).
Doctoral thesis are examined at a public examination which must be held within 12 months of the granting of permission for the public defense.
Doctoral thesis writers must be allowed to submit to the Faculty Council their objection to the selection of the opponent and dissertation grading committee members (Section 44 of the Regulations on Degrees and the Protection of Students’ Rights at the University of Helsinki and Rector's decision HY/498/2017).
During the public examination, the doctoral candidate delivers his or her introductory lecture and then asks the opponent for his or her comments on the dissertation. The doctoral candidate responds to the opponent’s comments and to any questions and comments from the audience, defending his or her choices, results and conclusions. At the end of the public examination, the doctoral candidate stands up to thank the opponent. The doctoral candidate should provide those friends and relatives who will attend the public examination with information about relevant practices and procedures. The formalities of the public examination can be discussed in advance with the custos.
The audience must arrive in good time before the public examination is due to begin. The audience rises when the doctoral candidate, custos and opponent arrive, and sits down when the custos takes his or her seat. Members of the audience can pose questions and make comments at the end of the public examination when the doctoral candidate encourages them to ask the custos for the floor. The audience leaves the public examination after the doctoral candidate, custos and opponent, and must not congratulate the doctoral candidate until he or she has left the auditorium and has had the opportunity to thank the opponent and the custos.
The Faculty Council will decide on the passing or failing of the doctoral thesis and on its grade once the opponent’s statement and the grade proposal have been submitted to the Faculty of Educational Sciences.
The doctoral candidate is entitled to respond to all of the above-mentioned documents. Any responses by the doctoral candidate are distributed to the Faculty Council together with the documents submitted by the dissertation grading committee. The documents will be appended to the minutes of Faculty Council meeting, after which they are made public. A doctoral candidate dissatisfied with the Faculty Council decision can appeal for its amendment to the Academic Appeals Board.
The Faculty of Educational Sciences takes care of the travel and accommodation costs for opponents. Accommodation is covered for up to two nights (opponents coming from inside Europe) or three nights (opponents coming from outside Europe) at most. Separate daily allowances are not paid.
The opponent is paid a fee of 475 euros for examining the doctoral thesis in public and writing a statement on it. Fees are collected using a fee form, which will be send to the opponent by email.
The travel contact person for the Faculty of Educational Sciences, Mrs. Tiina Reilly takes care of the necessary reservations (email@example.com). Opponent or custos are asked to be in touch with the travel contact person well in advance to settle the travel dates and other details needed for the purposes of the reservations. It is recommended to indicate in the title of the message: ktdk / opponent's travel arrangements. If the opponent is from outside Finland, he/she can fill in the form with the information related to the travel arrangements. If preferable, opponents are welcome to make their own travel arrangements. The Faculty of Educational Sciences will cover reasonable travel costs in exchange for the receipts.
After the trip, the opponent is asked to fill in the enclosed specification of travel expenses and the payments abroad form. The forms, together with the receipts, should be scanned into a single pdf-file and sent to Mrs. Tiina Reilly (see contact details above). If the reservations for travel and accommodation have been made by the Faculty and there are no other expenses to be reimbursed, there is no need to send the expense forms.
If needed, the Faculty can also reimburse lunch costs for the grading committee (custos, opponent and faculty representative, up to 20€ per person) and dinner costs for the custos and opponent (up to 80€ per person).
A licentiate thesis must show that the student is able to apply scientific research methods critically and independently. The thesis must be either a monograph or an article-based thesis. A master’s thesis or another thesis included in a second-cycle degree cannot as such be accepted as a licentiate thesis or a part thereof.
An article-based licentiate thesis must contain a minimum of two articles published or accepted for publication in peer-reviewed scholarly journals in which the author of the thesis is the first author of the articles and the thesis contains a summary of the articles presenting the aims, methods and results of the research.
The number of articles and workload required for them may be lower than for a doctoral thesis, but the scientific quality of the articles must comply with the quality of articles to be included in a doctoral thesis.
The licentiate thesis examination and grading follow the same examiner disqualification provisions applied in the preliminary examination of doctoral theses. The licentiate degree coordinator will propose examiners for the licentiate thesis.
In accordance with the Regulations on Degrees and the Protection of Students’ Rights, and the Rector’s decision (1370/2018), the Faculty Council shall appoint a minimum of two examiners for licentiate theses. These examiners must have completed a doctoral degree. The examiners of a licentiate thesis must submit, either jointly or separately, a written reasoned statement within two months of the date of being given the task.
Examiners must submit their statements directly to the faculty that has appointed them. During the examination process, the examiners must not submit their statements to the student, the student’s coordinating academic or the supervisor, or discuss with them the contents of the statement or other issues related to the licentiate thesis under examination. The examiner must not supervise the student, or accept revised versions of the thesis or other material related to the study from a party other than the faculty.
Licentiate theses are graded on a scale of pass with distinction – pass – fail.
Postgraduate student services of the faculty delivers copies of the statements to the student, the student’s coordinating academic and supervisors. Before the grading of the thesis, the author must be provided with the opportunity to respond to the examiners’ statements.
Before the grading of the thesis, the author may request in writing that the grading of the thesis be discontinued, in which case the grading procedure will be cancelled. This enables the author to revise the thesis and resubmit it for examination. The Faculty Council will then appoint new examiners (the same or different examiners as they see fit).
Licentiate theses are graded by the Faculty Council. The statements are appended to the Faculty Council’s agenda and minutes and are subsequently public documents.
Based on the University’s principles of open publishing, the licentiate thesis will be published in the University’s open digital archive (Rector’s decision 1370/2018).