The PhD as a research degree

As an education programme the PhD consists of a series of courses and a thesis in which the doctoral student carries out an individual research project. The education programme as a whole corresponds to a net study time (nettostudietid) of four years of full-time studies (240 hp), the successful completion of which results in the award of a doctoral degree. To be accepted to a PhD programme certain admission requirements must be met, both general and subject-specific (to be determined by each individual faculty). Also, the candidate must be deemed to have the required skills and abilities to complete the degree successfully. If a candidate is from outside the Nordic countries, and does not have a previous education entirely in English, the candidate needs to have passed a test of English skills (IELTS or TOEFL). Each particular area and faculty has more detailed information about the relevant application conditions on their websites.

The faculty board may admit students to research-level studies leading to either a licentiate degree or a doctorate. It is considered important that the creation of a two-stage model of admissions is avoided. Therefore, when a student is admitted to a licentiate program, a special explanation must be incorporated in the student’s individual study plan. Admission of students to licentiate programs is to be decided by a Faculty board, or equivalent thereof, and may not be delegated. Graduate students originally admitted to a program leading to a licentiate may, upon renewed application and approval, continue their studies toward a doctorate. Research students who originally planned to complete a doctorate may be permitted to conclude their studies with a licentiate. (The stated follows from section 3 of the Admissions Ordinance for Studies at the Graduate Level Uppsala University, UFV 2006/1972.)  

Change of supervisor

Change of supervisor

If problems arise relating to supervision, the PhD student ought to firstly raise the issue directly with the supervisors, the head of the department (prefekt) or those responsible for the department’s post-graduate programme (i.e. director of research studies, studierektor för forskarutbildningen, or equivalent).  At any time during such a process you can turn to the Ombud for PhD students who can offer confidential advice.

According to national legislation (the Higher Education Ordinance, chapter 6 § 28 section 2), doctoral students have the right to request a change of supervisor, if they wish to do so. A PhD student is accepted to a Department at the University, and not to e.g. an individual supervisor there employed or to a project. A change of supervisor can involve complications, but it is a legal right, and thus the faculty and department are obligated to assist where necessary. The person responsible is the head of department. However, at some departments, this duty has been delegated to the director of research studies.

It is the duty of the head of department to find a solution, which as far as possible satisfies the interests of all parties. In some cases, e.g. where the student is nearing completion of the research, it should be considered whether the original supervisor should retain scientific responsibility for the project. In cases where the student has only recently begun the research, a change of project can be considered in addition to a change of supervisor. The extent to which this is motivated varies between different research subjects.

It is often easier to change a supporting supervisor than changing the main supervisor. It is not particularly uncommon that a change of supporting supervisor is made due to a project progressing in a direction where scientific reasons motivate such a change.  

A change of supervisor should take place if:

  • a supervisor is no longer employed by or adjuncted to the university, or takes full-time leave of absence over a longer period,
  • if duties within the university, or illness, make it difficult to fulfil the obligations of supervisor, or
  • if there is a conflict of interest. For more information, see regulations concerning conflict of interest in the university sphere (Jävsregler inom universitetets verksamhetsområde): (only available in Swedish)

In the case of a change of supervisor, the individual study plan must be revised and its changed conditions must be reported to Uppdok and to the Faculty Office (or the equivalent thereof at your faculty) for registration.


The PhD programme requires completing a range of courses, including e.g. reading courses. The extent of the course part of the research degree varies from subject to subject, but can be up to a maximum of 120 hp. The aim of these courses is in part to provide a general competence in the subject, and in part to ensure the necessary skills to complete the research work for the doctoral thesis. Certain courses are obligatory for all PhD students within a particular subject, others are a matter of individual choice in line with the specific demands of a given project. The obligatory elements shall be clearly stated in the general study plan, or in the study plan for the subject (ämnesutbildningsplanen) if such a plan exists. The individual courses you opt to study should be chosen in consultation with your supervisors as well as stated in your individual study plan.

Doctoral degree

The awarding of a doctoral degree is made on the basis that the student has completed the necessary courses for the research programme, and that a doctoral thesis has been examined and approved via public examination. This thesis presents the results of the research project in a way that demonstrates the candidate’s ability to formulate and treat academic problems independently. A doctoral thesis should convey new knowledge and in this way improve our knowledge. There are two types of thesis: monographies and article-based theses (sammanläggningsavhandlingar). A monograph is a unified and coherent work, while an article-based thesis is composed of a number of articles that have been written during the process of the research degree, accompanied by a unifying summary of these (kappa). Certain of the articles included may have been co-authored with several other people, but the individual PhD candidate must be the main writer for a significant proportion of the thesis. At least three weeks before the final public examination, the doctoral thesis must be publicly available at the University library with a sufficient number of copies to allow satisfactory review of the work prior to the examination. There is a fair amount that needs to be arranged in connection with this examination and the publication of a thesis. A check-list can be found here:



Licentiate degree

The licentiate degree can be completed after two years of full-time studies, provided that all the necessary courses have been completed and that the research student has written a thesis equivalent to at least 60 hp, which has been defended and approved at a ’licentiate seminar’. A PhD student who has been admitted to a doctoral programme cannot be forced against their will to submit for a licentiate degree, even if it is common practice in some subjects to complete a licentiate degree on the way towards a doctoral degree. Certain subjects also insist upon an obligatory ’half-time control’ seminar after two years (in which case this is to be included in the individual study plan). Details as to how the examination of the licentiate thesis is to proceed can be found in the general study plan for each subject’s research degrees.

Pedagogical training for undergraduate teaching

PhD students who teach undergraduate courses should normally have completed introductory teacher training or have attained equivalent skills via other means. It should be noted that all doctoral students at Uppsala University have the right to attend the shared, university-wide course in pedagogical training, and it is the Head of Department or Director of Studies that approves participation in such courses. Different faculties have different models in place for how they compensate for the time that PhD students spend in completing this course. Some departments are prepared to recognize this course as equivalent to a course for the research degree and thus include it as such. Other departments regard this course as a matter of staff training, and treats it as part of the employment as an assistant (institutionstjänstgöring; see below for more details). Some general information about teaching and educational training at Uppsala University can be found in the document Teaching and Learning at Uppsala University ( For more information about the teaching at your department, you can contact your supervisor, or for instance the director of research studies or faculty doctoral council.

Study plan

According to national university regulations each PhD programme should have a General study syllabus (allmän studieplan). In addition to this, an Individual study plan (Individuell studieplan) should also be agreed upon for each PhD student (the Higher Education Ordinance, chapter 6 § 29). The latter plan shall include details such as the particular degree being pursued, the time-plan for the programme, the financing of the studies, any intended teaching, any special conditions relating to place of work, computers and other equipment, as well as information about the project’s supervisors and the extent of supervision expected. (More information on the General study syllabuses and Individual study plans can be found in the Guidelines for Third-cycle Education at UppsalaUniversity: The individual study plan is a document with legally binding effect and is to be reviewed at least once per year by the PhD student and supervisors, modified where necessary and then signed by PhD student, supervisors and the Head of Department. If needed, the individual study plan should be revised more often. The purpose of such follow-up is to ensure the research project is proceeding satisfactorily, and to recognize and solve potential problems at as early a stage as possible. All parties should remember that the study plan is a legally binding document, which means that it states your obligations as a PhD student, and at the same time the University’s obligations towards you. This also means that the study plan can be utilized, e.g. by a PhD student who feels that something provided for in the study plan has not been given.


For each PhD student at least two supervisors should be appointed: a main supervisor, with primary responsibility for the research degree and the doctoral thesis, and a supporting supervisor. At least one of these supervisors must be qualified as a ’docent’. Similarly, at least one supervisor must be employed by, or adjunct to, Uppsala University. The chief task of the supervisors is to help the PhD student develop into an independent researcher. The supervisor should:

  • Act as a conversant in an academic discussion, helping with the choice of thesis topic and ensuring that this is realistic and practically conceivable.
  • Review manuscripts and other relevant material, and aid in the process of revising texts and results for publication.
  • Recommend appropriate courses and interesting and relevant reading material.
  • Assist with establishing contact with other institutions in Sweden and abroad.
  • Help in guiding the PhD student in visiting and participating in international conferences and meetings.
  • Recommend potential sources of research funding and financial support.