Admissions to 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, where you can find detailed instructions on how to prepare the documents required for your application. Once you’re acquainted with those, come back here to read more about the programme-specific selection criteria and instructions for applicants.

The doctoral degrees available in the Doctoral Programme in Theology are Doctor of Theology and Doctor of Philosophy. Applicants aiming for the Doctor of Theology degree must hold either a Master of Theology degree completed in a Finnish University or a comparable foreign Master’s degree in the field of Theology. Applicants aiming for the Doctor of Philosophy degree can apply with a relevant second-cycle degree other than a Master of Theology or an equivalent degree from a university outside Finland. A degree is regarded as relevant if it includes sufficient studies in a subject which, given the topic of the proposed doctoral dissertation, can be regarded as a suitable basis for doctoral studies.

It’s important that you make sure in good time before applying that you are eligible to apply for doctoral studies. The following things are considered when evaluating eligibility:

  • General requirements related to your academic background.
  • Language requirements.
  • Verifying your academic background and language skills following the given instructions.
  • Fulfilling the minimum requirements set for supervisory arrangements (see selection criteria). Finding supervision can take time – start early.

Only applications meeting the formal criteria for eligibility continue to scientific evaluation in the doctoral programmes. More information on the general eligibility requirements and language requirements, as well as on the means of verifying these is available in the University’s general instructions for doctoral applicants.

In addition to fulfilling the general rules of eligibility, your previous degree must be relevant to the planned research topic and discipline. A degree is regarded as relevant if it includes sufficient studies in a discipline which, given the topic of the proposed doctoral dissertation, can be regarded as a suitable basis for doctoral studies.

To be able to apply, you need to have all the studies required for the degree you apply with completed, graded and registered by the end of the relevant application period. No exceptions are made to this rule. Applicants who are granted a study right must be able to present a certified copy of their official degree diploma before accepting the offered study place.

It’s good to note that admissions to the programme are quite competitive and it’s important to prepare the application carefully. The number of applications received varies from one round to another, but in a typical round of applications approximately half of the applicants can be accepted. For more information on the criteria used to evaluate applications, please see the selection criteria further down the page.

The yearly admission quota for the year 2020 is 19. No more than half of the yearly quota can be admitted in the spring round of applications. A doctoral study right can only be gained through the admissions process – applying to the programme outside the bi-annual rounds of applications is not possible.

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

  • The autumn application period is from September 1, 2020 09:00 AM EEST until September 15, 2020 03:00 PM EEST. Applicants will be informed of the decisions by November 27, 2020. Those granted a study right must accept it by December 11, 2020. Study rights granted in this round of applications will begin on January 1, 2021.
  • The spring 2021 application period will be from April 1 to April 15, 2021. Study rights granted in this round will begin on August 1, 2021.

Preparing the application

Applications are submitted using an electronic application form, which will be open during the application period. You’ll find the link to the form in the section ‘Submitting the application’.  Take care to acquaint yourself with the information listed below, related to the research- and study plans, supervision arrangements, and application documents, and prepare your application with care and in good time before the deadline.

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 attachments):

1. 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 (menu)
  • Specification or additional information on the field of research
  • Language of the dissertation
  • Other language skills needed for completing the doctoral dissertation
  • Brief summary of the research plan (2000)
  • Research plan contains mathematical special characters or chemical formulas (yes/no)
  • 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.
  • Rationale for 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 and materials to be used and its significance for the research project (3500)
    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.
  • 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.
  • Does the research project require animal testing? (yes/no)
  • The most important literature references for the research plan (2500)
  • Form of the dissertation (an article-based dissertation or a monograph)
  • Publication plan and timetable for the articles or a preliminary outline of the monograph (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 for your research (2000)
  • Planned funding for the research project including received and applied notable funding thus far (1000)
    If you haven’t (yet) applied for funding or a funded position, you can write here ”no”.
  • 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 (1500)
    Previous experience in research work, other scientific work and/or scientific merits, including possible academic awards and other academic acknowledgements.
  • Possible previous publications and conference presentations (1500)
  • Possible 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. Preliminary study plan. Before drawing up your own preliminary study plan, please acquaint yourself with the doctoral programme's degree requirements available further down this page. 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):

  • Discipline-specific studies, 30 ECTS (1500)
  • Transferable skills, 10 ECTS (1500)
  • Completed doctoral studies (in ECTS) so far, if any

4. The title and summary of your Master's thesis or equivalent, or a description of previous academic publications (maximum length 1500 characters, including spaces).

5. Names of the supervisors, who have agreed to supervise your thesis. For further information on the requirements placed on supervision, please see the selection criteria section on this page. Applying without the agreement of at least one supervisor (employed by the Faculty awarding your target degree) is not possible.

6. 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.
N.B.
If you have completed all the studies required for eligibility (please see section “Who can apply”), but have yet to graduate and receive your diploma, you must include 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 in either Finnish, Swedish or English. Please acquaint yourself with the University's language requirements and options for verifying your language skills in either 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 6. and 7. by post. 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 3 PM (Helsinki time) on the last day of the round of applications.

The certified hard copies of additional documents must be delivered by post / courier to the Admissions Services of the University of Helsinki. For instructions on how to submit your documents, please see here. N.B. Due to the corona virus situation there is an exceptional deadline for submitting additional documents in the September application round. Please see the detailed instructions in the university’s general instructions for doctoral applicants.

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

The dean of the Faculty decides on the admission of postgraduate students based on the proposal of the steering group of the Doctoral Programme in Theology. The steering group will request a statement about the application from the relevant discipline, but is not bound by the statement when making its decision. As regards applications to programmes other than the Doctoral Programme in Theology, a statement will also be requested from the steering group of the applicant’s choice of programme.

Feas­ib­il­ity, suit­ab­il­ity & sci­entific sig­ni­fic­ance

Feasibility, scientific significance and suitability to the research profile of the doctoral programme are emphasised in the assessment of the quality of the research plans. In the assessment of study plans, weight is placed on the feasibility and appropriateness for the dissertation project in question. When assessing the timetables, special attention is paid to the fact that a full-time doctoral student should aim to complete the dissertation and related studies in approx. 4 years. Supervisors are expected to support this goal.

The suitability of the previous degree as a basis for the planned dissertation project, previous study performance and the availability of high-quality supervision are also a central part of the criteria. Lack of suitable supervision resources can be used as grounds for rejecting an application.

Su­per­vis­ory ar­range­ments

A doctoral student must have at least two supervisors who have completed a doctoral degree. At least one of the supervisors must be in a permanent or long-term employment at the Faculty granting the doctoral degree. At least one of the supervisors must hold the title of docent or similar scientific qualifications. A preliminary agreement from potential supervisors is required when applying. In cases where the search of a second supervisor is still underway, exceptions can be made – in these cases, an applicant can submit the application and be accepted with an agreement from only one supervisor (this supervisor must be in a permanent or long-term employment at the Faculty). The decision-making is not bound by the preliminary agreements received from the potential supervisors.

Supervisors who currently have 10 or more active supervisees cannot take on new doctoral students. The supervisor's merits as a supervisor as well as his/her other academic obligations are taken into account in the selections. Should one of the appointed supervisors be about to retire or otherwise leave the University within a year from the decision on admission, assurances must be given that the student will, after this, have at least one supervisor who is in a permanent or long-term employment at the Faculty. Especially in cases where the topic of the doctoral thesis is multidisciplinary, supervisors are often sought across discipline boundaries.

In addition to the supervisors, a coordinating academic is appointed for each student. In cases where one of the supervisors is a professor, he/she can also act as the coordinating academic. The applicant is not expected to find a coordinating academic – the supervisors will take care of this before giving the discipline's statement on the application.

  • For more information on finding supervisors, please see the Contacts -section of this website.

Language re­quire­ments

Applicants are always required to have sufficient language skills in either Finnish, Swedish or English. These language skills are assessed following the University of Helsinki general regulations on language requirements in admissions and accepted methods of verifying language skills. The applicant must, at the start of their doctoral studies, have fluent academic language skills in one of these languages. For more information on the methods of verifying language skills, please see the university’s general instructions for doctoral applicants.

Applicants must also have sufficient language skills in any other languages they will need related to their own specific doctoral research work. These language skills are evaluated based on preliminary supervision discussions, other possible contacts and the application documents. The supervisors will, as a part of the evaluation process, give their estimate on the adequacy of these language skills. The final evaluation is made by the doctoral programme’s steering group.

The research proposal must specify the language of the doctoral dissertation. When assessing the research proposal, consideration will be given to whether the supervision of the applicant as well as the preliminary examination, approval and assessment of the doctoral dissertation are possible in the language specified by the applicant.

A doctoral degree at the Doctoral Programme in Theology and Religious Studies consists of a doctoral dissertation and 40 credits of obligatory studies. The obligatory studies are divided into 30 credits of discipline-specific studies and 10 credits transferable skills (general competence studies). All students must complete the research seminar. Other studies are divided into six areas – all students are expected to choose studies from a minimum of three different areas. Completing at least 1 credit of Research Ethics is compulsory. More information on the degree structure is also available on the University's general website on doctoral education.

Discipline-specific Studies (30 credits)

  • Research Seminar 5cr. or 10 cr. (Compulsory. The scope of the research seminar is, as a rule, 5 credits.)

Research Ethics (Choose 1–5 credits. Completing at least 1 credit is compulsory)

  • Research Ethics: Basics
  • Research Ethics: Other studies

Internationalization (Choose a maximum of 5 credits)

  • Internationalization: Conference 1
  • Internationalization: Conference 2
  • Internationalization: Research exchange or teaching at a foreign university
  • Internationalization: Other international research activities

Content Studies Supporting the Thesis Work (Choose a maximum of 15 credits)

  • Content Studies Supporting the Thesis Work: Texts in original languages
  • Content Studies Supporting the Thesis Work: General discipline-specific content studies
  • Content Studies Supporting the Thesis Work: Previous research in the discipline
  • Content Studies Supporting the Thesis Work: Current research in the discipline
  • Content Studies Supporting the Thesis Work: Field-specific specialization

Methodological and Theoretical Studies (Choose a maximum of 20 credits)

  • Methodological and Theoretical Studies: Field-specific methodological studies
  • Methodological and Theoretical Studies: General methodological studies
  • Methodological and Theoretical Studies: Field-specific theoretical studies
  • Methodological and Theoretical Studies: General theoretical studies
  • Methodological and Theoretical Studies: Philosophy of Science
  • Methodological and Theoretical Studies: Data Management

Publishing and Science Communication (Choose a maximum of 5 credits)

  • Publishing and Science Communication: Scientific publications
  • Publishing and Science Communication: Scientific editing work
  • Publishing and Science Communication: Other science communication

Language Studies Supporting the Thesis Work (Choose a maximum of 5 credits)

  • Language Studies Supporting the Thesis Work: Latin for doctoral students
  • Language Studies Supporting the Thesis Work: Other languages

Transferable skills (general competence studies) (10 credits)

Complete 10 credits of transferable skills in one or several of the following areas:

  • Doctoral Programme's Doctoral Course 1–3, 1 credit each
  • Communication Skills, Publishing and Science Communication
  • University Pedagogy
  • Research Leadership and Science in Society
  • Career Planning and Worklife Skills
  • Other General Competence Studies