Admissions for doctoral studies

Planning to apply for a doctoral study right at our programme? Good choice! To start with, you should read the University’s general instructions for doctoral applicants. Once you’re acquainted with those, come back here to read more about the programme-specific selection criteria and instructions for applicants.



Students admitted to the Doctoral Programme in Political, Societal and Regional Change can complete the degrees of Doctor of Social Sciences and Licentiate of Social Sciences, Licentiate of Philosophy and Doctor of Philosophy as well as Licentiate of Science (Agriculture and Forestry) and Doctor of Science (Agriculture and Forestry) degrees. Please, check which degree is available in the chosen faculty with your background studies. All postgraduate students admitted to the doctoral programme will be admitted to pursue doctoral studies, but if they so wish, they can first complete a licentiate degree.

The right to complete a degree may only be obtained through a selection process. Out of four application periods annually determined by the University of Helsinki, the doctoral programme uses two: the second application period during the spring term and the first application period during the autumn term. 

To start with, you should read the University’s general instructions for doctoral applicants where you can find detailed instructions how to prepare the required documents for your application. Once you are acquainted with those, come back here to read more about the programme-specific selection criteria and instructions for applicants.

A right to pursue a doctoral degree can be granted to an eligible applicant who has completed an applicable second cycle degree in a Finnish or foreign university or an equivalent degree and is considered to have sufficient qualifications to complete the degree and presents an acceptable personal study plan and dissertation plan. The studies included in the previous degree must be relevant to the profile of the programme and the disciplines represented therein.

Granting the right to pursue postgraduate studies requires that the doctoral programme is able to assign a supervisor for the applicant’s doctoral dissertation in compliance with the regulations of the University and the faculty. 

A successful application is formally eligible and scientifically suitable (in quality and in substance) for the doctoral programme. Eligibility is estimated in regards of background degree and studies included in it, and also in regards of language proficiency. Only applications meeting the eligibility criteria continue for scientific evaluation in the doctoral programmes.

To be able to apply, you must have your Master’s degrees studies (or equivalent) completed. If you have not graduated yet, 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 application period. This must be confirmed in a free-of form certificate by official representative (e.g., Student Services Office) of the university admitting the degree. Applicants who are granted a study right must be able to present a verified copy of their official degree diploma before accepting the offered study place. Applicants who have previously completed a doctoral degree in another field are also recommended to outline the scholarly grounds for reapplying for doctoral studies.

The doctoral programme recommends that, well in advance of submitting their application, applicants contact the supervisor relevant to their research interests to discuss their preliminary study and research plans as well as dissertation supervision arrangements. Applicants are expected to use their initiative in finding a supervisor. A favourable statement from the desired supervisor is not yet required at the application stage.

When considering the capacity of a master’s degree holder to complete a doctoral degree, the following matters will be taken into account, among others:

  1. Sufficient previous study performance; as a rule, the grade of the prior degree final thesis should be at least 4/5, magna cum laude or comparable, and the applicability of the studies for the programme and the disciplines included in it.
  2. The quality of the research plan and the link between the planned dissertation with research conducted in the disciplines represented in the doctoral programme. The research plan adheres to the format and scope of research plans determined at the University level.
  3. Availability of supervision and related resources (incl. coordinating academic): The person accepting supervisor role may not have more than six full-time postgraduate students to supervise.


 The Doctoral Programme has two application periods for doctoral study rights each year – one in the spring and one in the fall.

The next application period is from April 1, 2021 09:00 AM EEST until April 15, 2021 03:00 PM EEST.

Applicants will be informed of the decisions by June 10, 2021. Those granted a study right must accept it by June 24, 2021. Study rights granted in the April round of applications will begin on August 1, 2021.

The instructions on this page concern applicants who are applying for a doctoral study right. If you wish to apply for a salaried doctoral candidate position, please acquaint yourself with the instructions related to applying for a salaried position. Please note that the applications are processed separately and you will be notified separately of the decision concerning your study right application and of the recruitment decisions for the salaried positions.

Applications must be submitted via the online application form. Before submitting an application, applicants are advised to contact teachers in the suitable field to receive instructions concerning the suitability of their research proposal for supervisory and research profile in the field (no supervisory assistance can otherwise be offered for the research proposal). Teachers’ email addresses can be found under each doctoral programme supervision information. You can find their research interests from University of Helsinki Research Portal. Email messages sent to teachers must be accompanied by a preliminary research proposal (max. 5 pages). Information about a potential supervisor is asked on the application form.

Supervisor’s approval form is not compulsory in this doctoral programme. If it is asked on the application form, please, submit an empty page or the e-mail conversation with your potential supervisors.


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 (points 1–5 are integrated in the electronic application form; points 6–7 are submitted as scanned attachmentsand sent to the Admissions Services by post, please see the instructions below):):

The links to the doctoral programme specific Studyinfo forms are on this website:

Applying at Studyinfo (the correct links open during the application period in question)

 The required documents to be attached to the form:

1. A preliminary research proposal.
The research proposal is the most important part of your application. In the electronic application form, the research proposal is divided into the fields listed below. Prepare your research proposal right from the start to fit the different fields and their maximum lengths, so you won't need to start re-editing the proposal when filling in the application form.

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):

Preliminary title of the doctoral thesis

Field of research

Brief summary of the research plan (2000)

Motivation for conducting doctoral research (2000)
Describe your motivation for conducting doctoral research in general and for this topic in particular. Also explain why you have chosen the doctoral programme you are applying to.

Baselines of the doctoral research (2000)
How is the project linked to previous research? What are the most significant theoretical and methodological premises of the project?

Objectives of the research and scientific impact of research results (2000)
What are the objectives of the project and their theoretical and methodological underpinnings? Shortly present the hypotheses and the research questions. Describe the expected research result and their anticipated novelty value in terms of the research field and the current scientific discussion on the research topic. You may also shortly outline the reach, potential applications and utilization value of the research beyond the scientific community.

Research methods (2000)
Outline the research methods, 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.

Research material to be used and its significance for the research project (1500)

Preliminary plan on the collection, usage and storage of the research material.  (1500)
Briefly describe how you plan to collect the research material and use it. Are there any ethical, data protection or copyright issues related to data storage that need to be taken into account? Is it possible to make the data available for the use of other researchers? We do not expect you to master topics related e.g. to open access or to the legal and ethical issues related to data management (e.g. data protection, copyright issues) when you apply. It's enough that you have given the topic thought and recognised the preliminary data management questions that might arise related to your research data.

Ethical issues (1000)
Are there ethical issues (e.g. ethical governance procedures, informed consent, and anonymity of subjects) that need to be taken into account when conducting the research? Does conducting the research require a research permit or a permit from the ethical board and/or the Animal Experiment Board? We do not expect you to be an expert of research ethical questions when you apply. The important thing is that you have considered the possibility of ethical issues related to your research topic and, if there are such issues, given preliminary thought on how to approach them.

Bibliography and sources (2500)

Form of the dissertation (an article-based dissertation or a monograph)

Publication plan (1000)
The preliminary outline of a monograph or, in case an article-based dissertation is planned, a preliminary publication plan for the articles.

Preliminary timetable and funding plan of your research (2000)

Grants and/or funded doctoral candidate positions applied / received thus far. (500)

Estimated year of graduation

2. Previously acquired knowledge supporting the dissertation project (the number in parentheses indicates the maximum number of characters per field, spaces included):

Previously acquired research knowledge
Previous experience in research work, other scientific work and/or scientific merits, including possible academic awards and other academic acknowledgements.

Possible publications and conference presentations (1500)

International experience and other work experience relevant to your doctoral research (1500)

Possible career breaks (1500)
Here you have the option to list reasons that may have caused delay in your studies (for example: possible family leaves, military or civilian service).

3. A study plan.
Before drawing up your own preliminary study plan, please acquaint yourself with the doctoral programme's degree requirements (please see the structure below). In the study plan, 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.

The following fields related to the study plan are included in the electronic application form (the number in parentheses indicates the maximum number of characters per field, spaces included):

Preliminary study plan: Discipline-specific studies, 30 ECTS (1500)

Preliminary study plan: General competence studies, 10 ECTS (1500)

Possible completed doctoral studies so far (in ECTS)

4. The title and summary of your Master´s thesis or equivalent, or a description of previous academic publications (maximum length 750 characters, including spaces).

5. Names of the supervisors, who have agreed to supervise your thesis.
N.B. A signed approval form from supervisors is not required when applying, but the applicant should be in contact with the potential supervisor(s) and discuss his/her preliminary study and research plans before applying. It is an applicant's own responsibility to find a supervisor.

6. Certified official copies of your degree diploma (Master's degree or equivalent) and transcript of studies and official translations of these documents (if needed)

If you have completed all the studies required for eligibility (please see section “Eligibility and Admission Criteria”), but have yet to graduate and receive your diploma, you still must include a certificate by official representative (e.g., Student Services Office) of the university admitting the degree and a detailed study transcript that clearly indicates that all the studies required for the degree have been completed, graded and registered before the end of the application period. 

N.B. The application form enables you to also submit documents related to your possible BA degree, should you so wish. However, submitting these documents is not obligatory.

7. 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 documents mentioned in points 6. and 7. by post. The documents must be submitted as paper copies that are officially certified by the awarding institution, or legalised. There are country specific requirements for documents issued in some countries. For more information on the means of having the documents officially certified, please see here.

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 UTC +3, (at 15.00 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. Education documents sent by email are not accepted. Incomplete applications are not considered.

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

For further information, please contact


Applications meeting the formal eligibility requirements will proceed to the academic assessment of the application, which will take place in the doctoral programme by its supervisors. The final decision on granting the right to pursue a degree will be made by the faculty responsible for the target degree based on a proposal by the steering group of the doctoral programme in question.

When admitting prospective doctoral students, they will be assigned a title of the degree, the doctoral programme and at least two supervisors who hold a doctoral degree, out of whom, as a rule, at least one is employed permanently or on a long-term fixed contract in the faculty where the degree is to be completed. In addition to the supervisors, each student will be assigned a coordinating academic. The coordinating academic may also be one of the dissertation supervisors.

Applicants will be informed of the decisions by June 10, 2021. Those granted a study right must accept it by June 24, 2021. Study rights granted in the April round of applications will begin on August 1, 2021.

PhDs involve a long-term commitment, which requires planning and shared understanding of expectations and responsibilities. In the beginning of doctoral studies, each doctoral candidate makes a personal study plan (PSP) and a supervision agreement. The personal study plan is to ensure that the formal training you take will benefit the aims of your research. Only the student and the supervisor will know what counts as beneficial for each candidate as it varies across research topics and disciplines, and it varies at different stages of the completion of the PhD. Therefore, the personal study plan is done together with a supervisor or supervisors.

These documents – the personal study plan and supervision agreement - are designed to help both PhD students and their supervisors to keep track of progress, and ultimately to approach the goal of achieveing a PhD. 

Degree programme structure 1.8.2017 onwards

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)

  • Regular constructive critique of doctoral candidates’ work: research-theme specific seminars and supervision (minimum of 5 credits and maximum of 10 credits).
  • Training in theoretical approaches and research literature specific to the PhD candidate’s research field (minimum of 5 credits and maximum of 10).
  • Training in methodological approaches and research methods specific to the PhD candidate’s research field (minimum of 5 credits and maximum of 10).
  • 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).
  • International mobility and conference participation (2-10 credits).
  • Training in specialist themes or topics in the social sciences directly relevant to the doctoral research, tailor-made studies (no minimum; maximum of 5 credits).

See more courses on WebOodi

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

  • Academic and transferable skills and techniques (e.g. writing and communication skills)
  • Pedagogy in university education, teaching skills
  • Research management skills and science in society
  • Career planning and general working skills

Courses and events

Module 3: Doctoral Thesis

The preparation of the doctoral thesis is the core work of any PhD candidate. All modules involve contributions to this, but this third module lies at the heart of the doctoral program. This module depends heavily on the supervisors (usually a minimum of two, with one main supervisor or two equal co-supervisors) and the doctoral candidate, working together throughout the period of the completion of the degree. There are four elements to this module:

  • Primary and secondary research and data gathering, which will include becoming fully familiar with existing literature and knowledge in the chosen field.
  • Thorough and rigorous analysis of data, which will include regular academic writing under supervision, and presentation of that work for critical assessment and peer review.
  • The writing of the final thesis in a coherent, concise, well organized and well-presented manner. The thesis can be monograph or article-based, as agreed by the supervision team. The thesis shall be a maximum of 250 pages in total. 
  • Submission of the thesis for examination, followed by a public defence of the thesis, in accordance with the regulations of the University of Helsinki.

The thesis can be monograph or article-based. If it is article-based doctoral thesis, the following information should be taken into account: 

  • The normally expected number of peer-reviewed articles will be no less than three (3) and no more than five (5). The final number must be agreed with the recommendation of the doctoral candidate's main supervisor, and must comply with University regulations. 
  • The contents of the summary, which varies across disciplines and themes, should be agreed with the doctoral candidate's supervisor.
  • The total word count, including summary, conclusion and articles, shall not exceed 250 pages. Exceptions can only be agreed by the doctoral program steering committee, and must be both fully justified in academic terms, and supported by a statement from the PhD candidate's main supervisor.