What are doctoral studies like?
The University of Helsinki offers research opportunities in various disciplines ranging from stem cell research to church history. The forms and methods of research vary depending on the discipline. Comprehensive doctoral programmes are at the core of doctoral education at the University of Helsinki.
Where is doctoral research carried out?

Each doctoral student belongs to one of the University’s doctoral programmes and pursues their degree in accordance with the curriculum common to all students of the programme.

  • Opportunities for cooperation as part of a multidisciplinary community of young researchers
  • Collegiality and peer support across disciplines
  • Flexible curricula that enable individual planning

The University’s 32 doctoral programmes are divided among four doctoral schools. Operating on different University campuses, the doctoral schools coordinate the operations of doctoral programmes and provide education in research ethics and transferable skills common to all doctoral students.

The University’s faculties oversee the quality of degrees and award the degrees. Applications for the right to pursue a doctoral degree are submitted to one of the doctoral programmes. Each individual programme may include doctoral students from various faculties.

The structure of the doctoral degree

The doctoral degree comprises the doctoral thesis and studies that support research work. If you work on your degree full-time, you can complete it in four years.

The focus of the doctoral degree is on doctoral research. The thesis can be in the form of a monograph or an article-based thesis consisting of scholarly publications dealing with a specific question and a related summary.

The compulsory studies (40 credits) required for the degree in addition to the doctoral thesis are flexibly planned so as to support the doctoral student’s future plans in the best possible way. An individualised degree enables students to develop their expertise as they see fit.

The supervision process

At the outset of doctoral research, new doctoral students choose the research practices best suited to themselves with the help of their supervisors. All doctoral students have the right to receive professional, high-quality supervision.

Doctoral students have at least one supervisor who supports them in carrying out their research. To ensure adequate support, usually at least two supervisors are assigned to each doctoral student.

Read more about the doctoral supervisors of the University of Helsinki in the University's Research Portal. You can search for supervisors using, for example, keywords related to your research. Please note, however, that the portal lists all researchers at the University of Helsinki, including current doctoral researchers, who cannot yet serve as supervisors.

Have you already chosen a doctoral programme? Further information about the supervisors of each doctoral programme and the criteria of supervision is available on the websites of the doctoral programmes.

Thesis committees

A thesis committee, assigned to each doctoral student, provides additional support for individual students and their doctoral research. The committee monitors the progress of research and the quality of supervision, in addition to helping the young researcher with career planning. With the support of their supervisors, doctoral students put together a thesis committee at the beginning of their doctoral studies.

Do you want to learn more? The University’s Studies Service provides more information on the supervisory practices for doctoral theses and thesis committees at the University of Helsinki.

Collaboration and support from the research community

Doctoral students are an important part of the research community at the University of Helsinki. Their most important immediate community consists of their supervisors, other researchers in their discipline or research group, as well as other doctoral students in the doctoral programme. Support and advice is available from doctoral education services on all campuses.

Doctoral students also have other opportunities for collegial contacts and networking:

  • University of Helsinki PhD Students (HYVÄT ry) is an association for doctoral students. The association advocates for the interests of doctoral students at the University and offers various opportunities for collegial activities in both academic and recreational contexts.
  • The Student Union of the University of Helsinki (HYY) advocates for the interests of students, supports the activities of organisations, organises a variety of events and offers benefits and services to its members. Membership is voluntary for doctoral students.
  • UniBuddy is a programme designed for international researchers arriving in Helsinki. It offers those interested a UniBuddy, who helps the new arrival become acquainted with the University, Helsinki and life in Finland during the first term. UniBuddies are voluntary members of the University staff.

Face-to-face meetings are important in building a sense of community. However, the University of Helsinki and its research community are also active online. Follow the University’s social media channels to keep up-to-date about news and topical events related to the University.

You might also be interested in