Individual Study Plan with Intended Learning Outcomes (ISP)

Each doctoral student must have individual intended learning outcomes that can be followed up to help ensure that he or she achieves the national qualitative targets.

At the doctoral thesis defence/licentiate seminar, all doctoral students must have achieved the knowledge and skills specified in Annex 2 of the Higher Education Ordinance, in the general study plan for medical science and in the individual study plan.

All doctoral students must have an individual study plan for their doctoral studies. The individual study plan includes the planning and follow-up of all the components of doctoral studies. The study plan is designed jointly by the applicant for doctoral studies, the prospective supervisor and the examiner.

The individual study plan, which is part of the application form for admission to doctoral studies, must include:

  • Supervision information
  • In-depth literature study
  • Doctoral courses and other credit-bearing modules
  • Research plan for thesis work
  • Time schedule and funding plan
  • Individual intended learning outcomes

Supervision information

The form and scope of supervision is to be described in the individual study plan.

In-depth literature study

The literature study should include literature within the subject area so that the doctoral student acquires both in-depth subject knowledge and breadth of knowledge. The in-depth study must include standard works as well as special literature in the subject area of the thesis. Examples of journals that the doctoral student shall follow regularly, or other literature, should be specified. Proposals for further reading are to be prepared jointly by the supervisor, examiner and doctoral student.

Doctoral courses and other credit-bearing modules

The doctoral student's choice of doctoral courses and other credit-bearing modules is briefly described in the individual study plan.

Research plan for thesis work

The attached research plan (minimum 2 pages, maximum 10 pages) must include the name of the doctoral student, the title of the project, background, objectives, methods, any preliminary results and the significance of the project for human health.

Ethical review/Authorisation

Some studies require the approval of a human or animal ethics committee and/or authorisation by the Swedish Authority for Privacy Protection (IMY). The principal supervisor has overall responsibility for ensuring that the studies included in the thesis are reviewed and approved by the appropriate bodies. Documentation of approvals and permits, together with applications and any other relevant information, shall be available to the doctoral student, as these may be subject to review and discussion at presentations, publications or theses defence.

When a study is to be included in a thesis from the Faculty of Medicine at Umeå University and it involves research on human subjects in a country other than Sweden, the ethical standards that apply in the other countries concerned as well as those that apply in Sweden must be met. This means that ethical approval may be required from several countries, but also that an advisory opinion may be required (see below).

Pursuant to the Swedish Act (2019:504) on Responsibility for Good Research Practice and Review of Misconduct in Research (Lagen om ansvar för god forskningssed och prövning av oredlighet i forskning), any part of the research that involves human subjects and which are to be conducted in Sweden shall be reviewed in accordance with the Act. In case of uncertainty as to what is meant by "the parts of the research" in individual cases, the Swedish Ethical Review Authority (EPM) can be consulted.

When collaboration is to take place between researchers employed by the faculty and researchers abroad, and in particular when data collection on research subjects will be carried out abroad, active researchers at the faculty are responsible for ensuring that ethical review has taken place in the country where data collection shall occur and that the review has been carried out in accordance with international guidelines, such as the Helsinki Declaration or The Council of Europe Convention on Human Rights in Biomedicine

For those parts to be implemented in another country and which thus do not fall under Swedish law, the EPM should be involved to provide an advisory opinion. This means that an application is sent to the EPM for the entire study, with a request that the Board provide an advisory opinion (rådgivande yttrande, check box in the form) even for those parts that the Board does not consider it can decide on under Swedish law. EPM then reviews the study in its entirety and issues a decision for the parts to be carried out in Sweden and an advisory opinion for the parts to be carried out abroad.

Please note that for doctoral theses, the Umeå Faculty of Medicine requires an ethical review of all parts of the thesis in order to grant the application for public defence. Formally, it is the principal (Umeå University) who submits the application to EPM, which is then signed by the head of department/equivalent. In practice, it is a doctoral researcher (often the supervisor) who drafts the application to the EPM. Where appropriate, the application can specify that the project is a doctoral degree project (the doctoral student can be a collaborator in the implementation of the study together with the supervisor), see also Application guidance (Swedish).

It is also important that all ethical review has taken place before data collection starts. The advisory opinion is also not given retroactively. Therefore, the application for collection abroad also needs to be made before data collection starts. In cases where a doctoral project is to be based on data already collected after ethical approval in another country, an advisory opinion cannot be obtained retroactively for the collection itself, but an assessment regarding whether it is appropriate to process these already collected data can be obtained. Thus, the part of the research carried out in Sweden must be subject to ethical review, and the application must describe the data collection abroad and its ethical considerations and approvals, and an advisory opinion must also be requested for those parts that do not fall under Swedish law. This also applies in cases where foreign data on research subjects are deemed to have been collected in a way that does not require ethical approval.

This means that a researcher at Umeå University, who undertakes a supervisory assignment for a doctoral student who will conduct parts of the study in another country, is responsible for ensuring that the ethical review as described above takes place both in the country where the data collection will take place and in Sweden where the defence of the doctoral thesis will take place. This presumes that a supervisor will participate in the planning and design of the study. In cases where the doctoral student's research is based on pre-collected material with only foreign ethical approval, a report of foreign ethical review must be made to the Faculty of Medicine, and be included as a basis for an application to the Swedish EPM for ethical review, before the doctoral student's research commences.

The guidelines have been drafted by the Faculty Ethics Committee and approved by the Faculty Board.

Time schedule and funding plan

The individual study and funding plan is drawn up in collaboration between the supervisor, the head of department and the doctoral student. The plan must be approved by the head of department. The time schedule must be adapted to the extent of the education, 240 credits, and length, maximum eight yeras. If the supervisor's funding plan cannot be met, funding responsibility is transferred to the department.

For doctoral students who are pursuing their studies within the framework of another employment, the study and funding plan must also be approved by the supervisor and employer departmental organisational head to ensure that the doctoral student gets the time needed to complete the education.

Individual intended learning outcomes

The national targets for the doctoral degree describe the knowledge and skills that the doctoral student shall have achieved by the time of the summative assessment. The doctoral student, supervisor and examiner should together discuss and establish an understanding of what the national qualitative targets mean for the individual doctoral student, and how the doctoral student will achieve the qualitative targets. Individual learning outcomes are then formulated for the course of study, tailored to the doctoral student, the subject and the project.


The application for admission must be signed by the doctoral student, principal supervisor, assistant supervisor, examiner, head of department and, where applicable, the head of department. By signing the individual study plan prior to admission, those concerned certify that the plan is deemed realistic and that there are no other objections. The head of department and the principal supervisor are responsible for the accuracy of the documentation submitted to the Faculty Office.

The individual study plan must be monitored annually and revised during the course of study. The principal supervisor and the doctoral student are both responsible for keeping the study plan up to date. 

Lena Åminne