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 carefully and start preparing your application well in time 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 elsewhere 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, in September and in April. Some of the doctoral programmes also admit new students in November and February. Once you’ve chosen a doctoral programme, check your programme's website to see which application periods are in use in your chosen programme. During the academic year 2018-2019 the admission periods are as follows:

14–27 September 2018
1–14 November 2018 (only some doctoral programmes)
1–14 February 2019 (only some doctoral programmes)
2–15 April 2019

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. The 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.

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:

1) 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.

2) Start with finding a supervisor and discuss the choice of doctoral programme with them.

Look for supervision. 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 TUHAT. TUHAT is the University’s research portal 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 in TUHAT 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.

Finding a supervisor is an important step in the application process, and it’s a good idea to start the search early. Most doctoral programmes require that you have a supervisor, in some cases even two, when you submit your application.

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 inform us of 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.

Prepare your application documents. You must submit paper copies of your degree certificate and transcript of records to Admission services of University of Helsinki. The documents must be officially certified. See here for in-detail instructions. Also, 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. See here for the country specific requirements.

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

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, but 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. More information on funding is available here.

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.

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. Use the University of Helsinki research plan template as a model when drawing up your research plan – with the help of the template, it’s easy to make sure that you have covered all the essential bases.

The study plan should include studies that support the completion of your doctoral thesis and your development as an expert in your field. The study plan should be planned to enable you 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.

In addition to your application, you will need to provide additional educational documents to verify your language skills and your academic background. These documents will need to 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. For more information on the required documents and the means of having them certified, please see here. 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 Admissions Services before the end of the application deadline! NB. If you have graduated from the University of Helsinki, you do not need to deliver the documents in paper, but you do need to attach them to the electronic application form.

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 four application periods for doctoral studies every year. Once you’ve 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.

The application form is open for viewing already before the beginning of the application period but some of the fields will only become visible once you start filling in the form.

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.

Decisions on admission are made based on a 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. To To this end, 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@helsinki.fi) know in case your address changes after you’ve 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 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’ve been unjustly treated.

Admission results for the September application period will be released by November 30, 2018, study place must be accepted by December 14, 2018.

Admission results for the November application period will be released by January 31, 2019, study place must be accepted by February 15, 2019.

Admission results for the February application period will be released by April 1, 2019, study place must be accepted by April 15, 2019.

Admission results for the April application period will be released by June 14, 2019, study place must be accepted by June 28, 2019.

If you have read all the instructions, and you still have questions on applying for doctoral studies, please contact admission services: phd-admissions@helsinki.fi

If you want to know more about the different doctoral programmes, please contact the programme directly, or contact your chosen faculty’s student advisors.