The application process in a nutshell

Do you wish to pursue a doctoral degree at the University of Helsinki? Congratulations, you’ve come to the right place! Read all the available instructions on this page carefully and start preparing your application well in advance before the next round of applications.

On this page, you will find a step-by-step breakdown of the entire application process. Start here and then proceed to the more detailed instructions available on this site and the website of your chosen doctoral programme. A carefully prepared application is the first step on the road to a doctorate!

All of the University's 32 doctoral programmes admit new doctoral students twice a year. All programmes take applications in the September application round. Application rounds are organised also in November, February and April. In addition, some programmes have a summer application round for graduates of University of Helsinki. Once you’ve chosen a doctoral programme, check your programme's website to see which application rounds are in use in your chosen programme.

During the academic year 2020-2021 the admission periods are as follows:

1–15 September 2020
3–17 November 2020 (only some doctoral programmes)
2–16 February 2021 (only some doctoral programmes)
1–15 April 2021 (only some doctoral programmes)
19–30 July 2021 (only graduates of University of Helsinki, only some doctoral programmes)

Please note that the application closes at 3 PM local time on the last day of the application round.

Once a year in September, University of Helsinki also offers salaried doctoral candidate positions. The salaried position only includes an employment contract. In addition to this, you should apply for a study right if you don’t already have one. It is advisable to apply for the salaried position and the study right at the same time.

Due to the Corona virus situation there is an exceptional deadline for submitting enclosures in the November application round.

Attach to the application form as PDF files copies of your transcript of records and degree certificate, as well as their possible translations. In addition to these, you must attach a proof of language proficiency if you have one.

If you have not submitted, in paper form, officially certified copies of your transcript of records and degree certificate, or if you have not been able to complete a language test in time for the application period, you may be conditionally accepted.

If you are conditionally accepted, you must submit, in paper form, officially certified copies of your transcript of records and degree certificate to University of Helsinki Admission Services by February 12th, 2021 at 3 PM local Finnish time.

Note the possible country specific requirements for educational documents.

If your educational background can’t be used to prove your language skills, you must have a language test result that meets UH requirements by February 12th, 2021 at 3 PM local Finnish time. The result must be made available to UH by February 12th, 2021 at 3 PM local Finnish time.

If you are conditionally accepted and you do no deliver by the deadline officially certified copies of your transcript of records and degree certificate, and a proof of language skills that meet UH requirements, you will lose your study place.

Information about officially certifying documents and language requirements, as well as country specific requirements can be found in our general instructions about applying to doctoral programmes at UH.

1.    Make sure you are eligible for doctoral studies. The main rule of eligibility is that you must hold either a Finnish Master’s degree or a foreign degree that is roughly comparable to a Finnish Master’s degree. A foreign degree is, as a rule, considered comparable when it makes you eligible to apply for doctoral studies in the country where you have completed the degree.

Acquaint yourself both with the general rules of eligibility and with the possible additional, doctoral programme -specific rules well before applying.

An important part of eligibility are the language requirements. University of Helsinki demands an indication of academic level language skills in either Finnish, Swedish or English of all applicants. Acquaint yourself with the language requirements in good time before applying to assure that you will have enough time to take a language test, if needed.

You can prove your skills in any of these three languages – it does not have to be your doctoral dissertation’s language. The language that you choose to prove your skills in will be marked as the language of your doctoral degree. Please note that University of Helsinki has a specified list of acceptable ways to prove your language skills. You cannot prove your language skills in any way that is not listed.


2.    Choose a discipline and find the doctoral programme best suited for you. Doctoral education at the University of Helsinki is organized in 32 different doctoral programmes, working under four doctoral schools. The boundaries between the programmes are flexible, and you can usually also take courses offered by other doctoral programmes. Through your doctoral programme you will belong to a doctoral school.

In choosing which doctoral programme to apply to, you can proceed in two ways:

  • Look into the webpages of the programmes and read through the programme description, curriculum and activities. Once you have found a programme that suits your interests, research topic and/or background, click through the list of supervisors to familiarize yourself with their research.
  • Start with finding a supervisor and discuss the choice of doctoral programme with them.


3.    Look for supervision. Finding a supervisor is an important step in the application process, and it is a good idea to start the search early – i.e. months before the application round begins. Most doctoral programmes require that you have a supervisor, in some cases even two, when you submit your application.

In many ways, the most important person in the whole process of obtaining a doctorate is your supervisor. He or she will supervise your research and guide you through your doctoral degree.

A good starting point for finding a potential supervisor at the University of Helsinki is the University’s research portal. The research portal is where UH researchers update their latest publications and other activities. Under “Research units” you can find faculty-specific lists of principal investigators. You can also type in appropriate keywords in the Search engine to find principal investigators and research groups within your field.

Please also note that many research groups have their own websites and it is worth looking into these as well.

After finding a potential supervisor, contact him or her to discuss your research ideas and plans. Please note that professors and principal investigators get dozens of emails from potential doctoral candidates. If you want to get your email noticed, you must give the professor/ principal investigator the information they need, quickly, clearly and professionally.


4.    Choose your degree. Many of the doctoral programmes are multi- or interdisciplinary and provide qualifications for doctoral degrees awarded by different Faculties. When you apply, you must mark your target degree in the application form.

The choice of degree depends on your academic background – different earlier degrees make you eligible for different doctoral degrees. For more information on the choice of degrees in your chosen doctoral programme and the rules of eligibility for each degree, please see your doctoral programme's website.


5.     Prepare your application documents. If you do not submit your documents following the instructions, your application may be rejected. You must submit officially certified paper copies of your degree certificate and transcript of records to Admission services of University of Helsinki.

Check if there is a country specific requirement for your documents. If there is a country specific requirement in place, you must follow it. Neglecting the requirement may lead to your application being rejected.

If your degree is from the University of Helsinki, you do not need to submit paper copies of your educational documents.


6.    Get to know your funding options. At the University of Helsinki, obtaining a doctoral study right does not automatically entitle you to a salary. There are no tuitions in place for doctoral students, and taking care of the costs of living is your responsibility. There are many options for finding funding for your doctoral studies. Before applying, you should familiarise yourself with different funding options and make a preliminary plan on how to fund your studies.

1.    Familiarize yourself with the application round’s deadlines. In the application process, a deadline is definitive. Make sure that you have read all the instructions on applying well in advance so you will not encounter any last-minute surprises. Neglecting the instructions may lead to your application being rejected.


2.    The research proposal is the most important part of your application. Start preparing it early and, if possible, discuss it in advance with your future supervisor(s). In the research plan, you should describe the topic of your proposed doctoral research, how it would link up with existing research, the sources or materials and methods to be used and so forth. In the application form the research proposal is divided in separate answer fields that have sign limits.


3.    The study plan should include studies that support the completion of your doctoral thesis and your development as an expert in your field. You should plan your studies so that you are able to complete your studies in four years of full-time study. More information on the degree requirements in different doctoral programmes is available in the University’s WebOodi course catalogue service.


4.    In addition to your application, you will need to provide additional educational documents to verify your language skills and your academic background. These documents must be officially certified, and submitted according to the possible country specific requirements. Simply taking a photocopy of your degree diploma and sending it to us is not enough. Start preparing your additional documents early – getting your documents properly certified and sent to us can take quite a bit of time, and all the documents must arrive at the UH Admission Services before the end of the application deadline!

If you have graduated from the University of Helsinki, you do not need to deliver the documents in paper. You do need to attach the documents as PDF-files to the electronic application form. Please note that having completed a specialist training programme in medicine at University of Helsinki does not prove your eligibility to doctoral programmes.


5.     Submit your application for the study right in time for the deadline by filling in the electronic application form. The doctoral programmes of the University of Helsinki have two to five application rounds for doctoral studies every year. Once you have chosen a doctoral programme, check the dates for the next round of applications from your doctoral programme’s website. A doctoral study right can only be obtained through the admissions process.

You can open and fill in the application form in Finnish, Swedish, or English. Please note, however, that in some doctoral programmes the research plan must be written in English. Before starting to fill in your application, read carefully the programme specific instructions. Reserve enough time to fill in the application! The form is long and complex.

The application form is in Studyinfo portal.


6.    Wait patiently. We understand the nerve-racking suspense related to applying, but processing the applications and making the decisions will take a couple of months. You will be informed about the decision as soon as it is possible.

In Studyinfo portal the application form cannot be saved as a draft. You can edit your saved application until the end of the application period.

Enter your doctoral programme’s exact name in the search field at Studyinfo. You can filter the search result with “Application period opens in”.  You access the application form in two ways:

  1. Access the application form straight from the search result (“open additional information” -> “Fill in application”
  2. Open the degree description and find the button “Fill in application”.

You can find the November 2020 application round’s doctoral programmes through the links below:

Decisions on admission are made based on predetermined selection criteria. The University has general guidelines on doctoral admissions and each doctoral programme has complemented these guidelines with certain field-specific criteria. The admissions process will measure your motivation, commitment and your suitability for doctoral studies. The central criteria used when assessing the applications are the quality and feasibility of the research and study plans and the availability of high-quality supervision, as well as previous study performance and the suitability of the previous degree as a basis for the planned dissertation project and the doctoral programme’s research profile. For more information on the selection criteria used in your doctoral programme, please see your programme’s website.

Once the decisions have been made, you will be informed of them by e-mail. Make sure that you have filled in your contact information correctly in the application form – and let your doctoral programme and the admission services (phd-admissions(at) know in case your address changes after you have submitted the application.

If the decision is positive, make sure to follow the instructions you receive and accept the offered study place within the set time limit. If you do not accept the study place within the time limit, you will lose the study place. If the decision is negative, you will be explained the reasons behind the decision and have the right to appeal it, in case you feel you have been unjustly treated.


Admission results for the July 2020 application period will be released by August 28, 2020, study place must be accepted by September 11, 2020. Study right will start on August 31, 2020.

Admission results for the September application period will be released by November 27, 2020, study place must be accepted by December 11, 2020. Study right will start on January 1, 2021.

Admission results for the November application period will be released by January 29, 2021, study place must be accepted by February 12, 2021. Study right will start on March 1, 2021.

Admission results for the February application period will be released by April 7, 2021, study place must be accepted by April 21, 2021. Study right will start on 1.5.2021.

Admission results for the April application period will be released by June 10, 2021, study place must be accepted by June 24, 2021. Study right will start on August 1, 2021.

Admission results for the July application period will be released by August 27, 2021, study place must be accepted by September 10, 2021. Study right will start on September 6, 2021.

  • I have a supervisor if my programme requires one already in the application phase
  • I have chosen a doctoral programme, a faculty and a degree that match my prior education and my research idea
  • I have drafted a research plan
  • I have acquired officially certified copies of my degree certificate and transcript of records
  • I have observed possible country specific requirements for my educational documents
  • I have a proof of my language skill that is accepted by University of Helsinki
  • I have familiarised myself with programme specific requirements for the application
  • I know when I can apply and when the required documents must be in University of Helsinki’s  Admission Services
  • I know the address for sending the required paper enclosures

If you have read all the instructions, and you still have questions on applying for doctoral studies, please contact admission services:

If you want to know more about the different doctoral programmes, the research plan, or supervisors, please contact the programme directly. Contact information can be found on the doctoral schools’ and programmes’ web sites.