Doctoral programme in Law

The Doctoral Programme in Law belongs to the Doctoral School in Humanities and Social Sciences.

The responsible faculty of the Doctoral Programme in Law is the Faculty of Law, which is also its home unit. In this context, the programme offers a high-quality training programme and an outstanding environment for research in legal science and studies of law and justice.

All those who aim at the Doctor in Laws degree in the Faculty of Law belong, in principle, to the Doctoral Programme in Law. The programme is also open for doctoral students who have Master’s degree in another field than law.

The Doctoral programme in Law has over 200 members. 

The aims of the Doctoral Programme in Law are in accordance with the strategy and research interests of the University of Helsinki. The research done in the programme is connected especially to following focus areas of research at the University of Helsinki: The Changing environment – clean water, Language and culture, Social justice, and Globalisation and social change.

The Doctoral Programme in Law covers all disciplines of the Faculty of Law:

  • Administrative law
  • Commercial law
  • Communication and information law
  • Constitutional law, Criminal law
  • Environmental law
  • European law
  • Family and inheritance law
  • Financial law
  • Gender and law
  • Labour law
  • Law and economics
  • Law of obligations
  • Legal history
  • Legal theory
  • Medical and bio law
  • Private international law and comparative law
  • Procedural and insolvency law
  • Property law
  • Public International law
  • Sociology of law
  • Sports law

The wide ranging approach of the Doctoral Programme in Law encourages in multidisciplinary research and interdisciplinary studies. The programme is in active co-operation with the other doctoral programmes of the Doctoral School in Humanities and Social Sciences.

The home unit of the Doctoral Programme in Law, the Faculty of Law, is a research-intensive faculty. The programme takes in consideration the focus areas of research at the Faculty:

1) Theoretical, social and cultural foundations of law
2) Law in a European and global environment
3) Welfare and rule of law
4) Economy, property rights and justice
5) Law, technology, human being and the environment

The programme also follows the strategic plan for the Faculty of Law according to which the primary aim of research and doctoral teaching is the quest for truth and knowledge about law and justice. Moreover, the critical and independent evaluation of law, legal practices and legal science itself is highlighted and a wide-ranging, versatile and interdisciplinary research is emphasized.

Studying in the programme

The Doctoral Programme in Law offers to all doctoral students a well-planned and systematical four years training programme. It is also possible to become a part-time doctoral student.

The training programme is divided in general theoretical and methodological part, field-specific part and general competence skills courses (organized by the Doctoral School in Humanities and Social Sciences).

For a more detailed information, see the teaching curriculum of the programme.

During the first two years the main focus is in theoretical and methodological studies, field-specific courses, practical skills and research ethics. During this period, the doctoral students are encouraged to network. During the third and fourth years the main focus is in independent research work even though there are also courses during this time that the doctoral students should attend.

According to the University of Helsinki’s degree provisions the estimated time to pursue the Doctor of Laws degree when studying full-time is four years. According to the Faculty’s standing orders all studies included in the postgraduate degree must be completed and entered into the Student Register before preliminary examiners for doctoral dissertations can be proposed.

See the Faculty of Law’s assessment criteria for the quality of doctoral dissertations.

Monitoring of the postgraduate study process

During the year 2018 the doctoral programmes in the University of Helsinki will start using Thessa ( ), an online tool for planning and following up of PhD studies. Thessa will replace the former annual reports. The system is easy to use and doesn’t require much time to get started with. Log in to the system and first check the Help-page for instructions.

More information about Thessa will appear on this site.

Monitoring the postgraduate doctoral process: The University of Helsinki monitors the progress of postgraduate students. In the monitoring procedure, enrolled postgraduate students who have not yet completed their degree after six years of having been granted the right to study will be screened from the Student Register. The screened students cannot register as attending for the following academic year before they present a study and research plan approved by the Faculty. For more specific instructions, see the Faculty website.

The supervisor will monitor the supervisee's progress regularly throughout the research project, providing support and guidance. In addition to monitoring by the supervisor, the steering committee of the doctoral programme will function as a general monitoring group for doctoral students. In cases of supervision-related problems, the supervisor and supervisee should strive to reach a solution together. The planner and the Director of the Doctoral programme may be consulted when necessary.



Student admission to the Doctoral Programme in Law is based on the University’s general admission guidelines for doctoral education as well as the programme-specific specifications.


Students admitted to the Doctoral Programme in Law can complete the degrees of Doctor of Laws and Licentiate of Laws. All successful applicants are admitted to complete a doctoral degree, but they can choose to first complete a Licentiate degree.

The right to complete a degree may only be obtained through an admission procedure. The Doctoral Programme has two application periods for doctoral study rights each year – one in the spring and one in the fall.

The right to complete a Doctor of Laws degree can be granted to applicants who have completed a Master’s or Licentiate degree in law in Finland or abroad, and who are deemed to have sufficient knowledge and skills to complete the doctoral degree and submit a high-quality research plan for a dissertation and an eligible personal study plan (PSP). For good reason, the right to study can also be granted based on a Master’s degree in another discipline, provided that the applicant is deemed sufficiently competent to pursue postgraduate studies in law.

Applicants cannot be granted the right to study unless the Faculty can assign them a supervisor who supports the applicant’s application and agrees to serve as his or her supervisor.

All studies required for a second-cycle degree or equivalent education must be completed before the deadline for applications, and the applicant must be able to present a degree diploma before accepting a place in the programme. Applicants who are pursuing postgraduate studies elsewhere are recommended to outline in their application the scholarly grounds for transferring to the University of Helsinki. Applicants who have previously completed a doctoral degree in another field are also recommended to outline the scholarly grounds for reapplying for doctoral studies. Provisions on the other application enclosures required to demonstrate eligibility are included in the University’s general admission guidelines. Applicants must, for example, demonstrate their proficiency in Finnish, Swedish or English in accordance with the regulations issued.

When considering the capability of applicants to complete a doctoral degree, various factors will be considered, including the following: his or her research plan, study performance in connection with prior degrees (specifically the quality and grade of their thesis), any publications, any experience supporting their intended research, and acquired funding. In assessing the quality of applicants’ research and study plans, the programme considers feasibility, links with other research at the Faculty, scientific significance, and suitability to the profile of the doctoral programme.

If an applicant has completed a degree in a field other than law, the assessment of his or her ability to complete a doctorate considers the above-mentioned factors as well as any studies the applicant has completed in law (including difficulty and study performance), practical experience of professional duties requiring knowledge of law, and the relationship of the applicant’s previous studies, research or other activities with the research conducted at the Faculty.

Applicants must, in good time before submitting the application, contact the discipline relevant to their research interests and discuss the preliminary study plan and research plan as well as arrangements for dissertation supervision.  Each applicant is responsible for finding a supervisor. The teacher who agrees to serve as supervisor submits a separate written statement to the Faculty concerning the applicant, including an assessment of the applicant’s ability to complete the degree and the feasibility and expediency of his or her study and research plans. Applicants must present their supervisor’s supporting statement at the application stage.

In connection with admitting students to doctoral education, the Faculty must ensure that they have access to high-quality supervision and support in the field of their dissertation. Postgraduate students are recommended to have two supervisors who have completed a doctoral degree and of whom at least one  has a permanent or long-term employment contract with the Faculty of Law. As a rule, one supervisor can simultaneously supervise no more than 12 students who are actively completing their doctoral degree. The supervisor’s recommendation does not bind the doctoral programme in its decision on admission. If a supervisor has too many students to supervise, this may constitute grounds for rejecting an application.

The Faculty responsible for the target degree makes the final decision on granting the right to complete the degree based on a proposal by the steering group of the doctoral programme. Each student’s supervisor(s), doctoral degree title and doctoral programme will be confirmed in conjunction with admission. In addition to supervisors, each student will be assigned a supervising professor, who may also serve as one of the dissertation supervisors.


Next application period will be from September 14, 2018 until September 27, 2018.

NB: The applicant must, in good time before submitting the application, contact the relevant discipline for his or her theme for research and discuss the preliminary research proposal, the study plan and arrangements for supervision: In addition to the application statements from the applicant’s prospective supervisors are required. Applicant should ask his/her prospective supervisor(s) to submit their statement(s) by the application deadline using this form:

Supervisor’s statement: an electronic form

Applications are submitted using an electronic application form, which will be open during the application period. All applicants must submit the following documents as part of their application (point 1 is integrated in the electronic application form; points 2-7 are submitted as scanned attachments).

The required documents to be attached to the form:

1. Research plan

The instructions on how drap up your research plan are found by looking at the University of Helsinki research plan template. The following fields related to the research plan are included in the electronic application form (the number in parentheses indicates the maximum number of characters per field, spaces included):

Brief summary of the research plan (1500)
Significance of the project in relation to current knowledge (1500)
Objectives of the research (2000)
Effects and impact beyond academia (500)
Research methods (2000)
Research material to be used and its significance for the research project (1000)
Data management plan (1500)
Critical points for success, alternative implementation strategies (500)
Ethical issues (1000)
Publication plan (including a preliminary outline of a monograph) (1000)
Methods for ensuring open access (more information available on the University Library's website, 500)
Schedule for the research (500)
Funding plan for research and doctoral studies (500)
Applied funding and salaried positions (500)
Motivation for choosing the University of Helsinki as the site of doctoral research and motivation for selecting the doctoral programme (500)
Mobility plan (500)
The most important research literature (1000)

2. Study plan

The personal study plan (PSP) must present the content of the studies and the dissertation, and a schedule and funding plan for the work. The personal study plan will be assessed specifically for its feasibility and appropriateness.

With regard to the timetable, particular attention should be paid to the fact that a full-time postgraduate student should aim to complete the dissertation in about four years and that the required studies must be completed before preliminary examiners are sought for the dissertation. Supervisors are expected to support their students in attaining this objective. The supervisor and doctoral student are required to jointly outline the topic and content of the dissertation in such a way that the degree can be completed within four years of full-time study.

3. Short curriculum vitae including list of publications, if any.

4. A copy of your previous degree certificate (Master's degree or equivalent) and a copy of a detailed transcript of studies included in the degree. Applicants graduated from the University of Helsinki attach electronic copies of their degree certificates and transcript of studies as well as applicants graduated outside of the Helsinki University.

5. Verification of language skills. The University of Helsinki demands an indication of academic level language skills of all applicants. Please acquaint yourself with the options for verifying your language skills in either Finnish, Swedish or English in good time before applying. Additionally, you will need to have sufficient skills in any other languages needed for your research topic. Your skills in these languages will be assessed based on the application documents (e.g. transcript of studies) as well as preliminary discussions with your potential supervisors.

N.B. Applicants who have not completed their previous degree in the University of Helsinki must also send officially certified copies of the documents mentioned in points 4. and 5.  by post. For more information on the means of having the documents officially certified, please see here.

Depending on the applicant’s background also points 6-7, if relevant:

6. Applicants whose previous degree(s) were in some other field of study than law must state in their application the reasons for wishing to take a postgraduate law degree

7. Other possible supporting documents:

- Description of other degrees
- Statement on theses
- Grants and rewards received


The applications, along with the required additional documents, must be submitted by the end of the application period. Applications are submitted using an electronic application form, which closes at 3.00 PM (Helsinki time) on the last day of the round of applications. Those applicants who are required to send certified copies of the additional documents by post must make sure that these documents arrive by the end of the application period.

Applications and additional documents sent by email are not accepted. Incomplete applications are not considered.

The certified copies of additional documents must be delivered to the Admissions Services of the University of Helsinki. For instructions on how to submit your documents, please see here.

With all your questions regarding applying doctoral study right, please contact:




Degree structure and courses

All doctoral students are integrated, on the one hand, into the Doctoral Programme in Law and, on the other hand, into the Faculty of Law and relevant research projects. The part-time students’ commitment is enhanced.

For more information, see the teaching curriculum of the programme.


The aim is that all doctoral students would spend abroad at least couple of months during their doctoral studies. These studies may be independent research work, attending particular courses or getting a diploma. The international and domestic travel grant applications are organized by Doctoral School in Humanities and Social Sciences (HYMY) and the application period is two times per academic year. More intormation and a link to application form can be found on this page as well as in Flamma closer to the application.

It is recommended that two supervisors be appointed for each doctoral student and at least one of the supervisors is a professor or a docent and is affiliated in the Faculty of Law.

One supervisor may have a maximum of twelve active supervisees, and the number can be increased only for compelling reasons. When determining the number of supervisees, attention should be paid particularly to the number of the supervisor’s full-time and part-time supervisees, his or her performance as a supervisor, as well as his or her other responsibilities within academia and the university community.

The Faculty has approved recommendations for the principles of good supervision in the Doctoral programmes at the Faculty of Law. Both the applicant and the prospective supervisor should consult them already during the application process. The purpose of the recommendations is to enable the doctoral students and their supervisors to establish good supervision practices.

The Faculty of Law's principles of postgraduate supervision.

Supervision agreement

The student and supervisor draft a supervision agreement at their first meeting after the right to study has been granted. The supervision agreement aims to improve the student’s and supervisor’s commitment to the project as well as clarify their respective responsibilities as to the progress of the studies. The supervision agreement provides at least the schedule of the doctoral studies and dissertation project concerning when (how often) the student and supervisor meet, as well as how and how often the student reports on his or her progress. The supervision agreement should also provide for the distribution of labour between the supervisors. One copy of the agreement must be submitted by post or scanned via e-mail to the planner of the Doctoral Programme in Law. Contact information can be found below.

The common tools used by the student and supervisor are the research plan compiled at the beginning of the studies and the personal study plan, PSP, which is reviewed on a regular basis over the course of the supervision process. The supervisor and postgraduate student communicate with each other several times per academic year depending on the intensity of the research and other studies. It is recommended that the postgraduate student and the supervisor discuss the status of the studies, the student’s participation in research seminars and the progress made at least once per term.

General information on supervision

Supervision is a vital component of postgraduate education. By accepting the task of supervisor the teacher commits to supervise the applicant during the course of his or her postgraduate studies. The supervisor agrees to supervise, support and monitor the systematic completion of the dissertation, related research and postgraduate studies, as well as the doctoral student’s emergence as a member of the scientific community and his or her maturation and development as a researcher and expert. Correspondingly, the student commits to his or her research project and to being responsible for pursuing the studies systematically. The Faculty monitors the postgraduate students’ progress in accordance with principles determined by the University of Helsinki.

In case the supervisor retires or transfers to other duties, he or she will inform the postgraduate studies coordinator of his or her intentions as regards continuing the supervision. If the retiring or transferring supervisor wishes to discontinue the supervision, the postgraduate student can propose that a new supervisor be appointed.

If the need arises to change the major subject and/or the supervisor before the completion of studies and/or fundamentally change the topic of the research, the application to do so will be discussed at the steering committee of the doctoral programme, taking into consideration the statement of the prospective supervisor and, if the topic of the research is to be changed, the research plan related to the new topic presented by the student.

Postgraduate students must receive supervision in both research and postgraduate studies.

Contact information

The Director of the Doctoral Programme
Ari Hirvonen, University Lecturer

The Steering Committee of the Doctoral Programme
Massimo Fichera, Academy Research Fellow
Katri Havu, Associate Professor
Ida Koivisto, Post-Doctoral Research Fellow
Tuomas Ojanen, Professor
Juha Raitio, Professor
Ville Pönkä, University Lecturer
Salla Hyvönen, doctoral student representative
Tero Kivinen, doctoral student representative

Planning officer for the Doctoral Programme
Tiina Käkelä
General info on doctoral studies:

Postgraduate Student Services for the Faculty of Law (questions related to applying for doctoral study rights, and the examination of doctoral theses):