A guide to doctoral studies

Doctoral studies is an education aiming to prepare your for independent work as a scientist or equivalent qualified tasks following your degree.

Doctoral studies should teach you:

• Scientific methods, critical and scientific thinking.
• Planning, implementation and evaluation of scientific tasks/projects.
• Problem solving within fixed time frames.

Doctoral studies should give extensive basic knowledge in a research subject, but also specialist knowledge in a more narrow area of a research subject.

Here you can find information about doctoral studies from the Swedish Council for Higher Education:

Doctoral studies

General study plan

All of the faculty's doctoral (third-cycle) subject areas have a general study plan describing the outline and content of the education, entry requirements and selection of applicants.

General study plans

Based on the general study plan for a research subject, an individual study plan will be drawn up by the doctoral student and the supervisor.

Principal supervisor and assistant supervisor

The Faculty of Science and Technology has overall responsibility for the supervision of doctoral studies within the departments.

At the same time, it is incumbent on the departments and the individual supervisors to share this responsibility and provide supervision of good quality. Supervision shall, in the best possible way, take into account the research subject and personal aspects of the individual doctoral student.

The principal supervisor is responsible for:

• the research carried out by the doctoral student being in compliance with ethical standards.
• ensuring functional financing of the research project.
• providing opponent and chairman to the public defence of the dissertation, members of the examining committee and others concerned in the field, with a copy of the thesis.

The principal supervisor must have undergone a supervisor training course. Supervisor training courses are arranged by the university's organisation for university education methodology and teacher support, UPL.

The course Postgraduate supervision in practice


Individual cooperation agreement between supervisors and the doctoral student

In order to clarify the doctoral student/supervisor relationship at an early stage, some research groups have drawn up cooperation agreements between supervisors and the doctoral student. These agreements are more individual and, among other things, they describe and clarify the right to use research results and the order of authors, as well as a research plan up to the thesis defence and an annual plan of activities. In particular, it is vital to point out the importance of clarifying the right to use research findings and the order of authors at an early stage.

Individal study plan

The individual study plan is drawn up jointly by the candidate seeking doctoral studies and the prospective supervisor.

The individual study plan is drawn up by the head of department after consultation with the doctoral student and his/her supervisor. It is reviewed at least once a year and revised if necessary, so that the study plan is constantly kept up to date. Major changes, such as replacement of supervisors and/or thesis subject area are to be notified in writing to the head of department and director of postgraduate studies for further decision by the head of department and registration in Ladok.

The distribution of credits between thesis, courses and literature studies varies between different departments. The thesis work must, however, be worth at least 120 ECTS, and the corresponding requirement for a licentiate degree is 60 ECTS. Umeå University uses a web based system for individual study plans.

Web-ISP – web based system for individual study plans for doctoral students

Cleared points (ECTS) in a doctoral education

Information about the doctoral student's activities during the current academic term shall be noted in Ladok by the relevant department by 30 June and 31 December each year at the latest. The information is usually communicated to the department administrator.

Follow-up of doctoral students

The annual follow-up is carried out by the departments of the doctoral students together with the supervisor(s), preferably in conjunction with a meeting with the reference group.
The director of studies for postgraduate studies at each department is responsible for the dean's office receiving a list of all the doctoral students at the department and their updated individual study plans.

This follow-up is not carried out if a doctoral student has not been active for special reasons, such as parental leave. As soon as the doctoral student becomes active again, irrespective of the level of activity, a follow-up shall be carried out.

If a doctoral student has not been active for other reasons, he/she should be contacted to notify an interruption in postgraduate studies. The doctoral student must be contacted and can withdraw from the research place using a special form. If a doctoral student cannot be contacted, a so-called administrative interruption can be entered in Ladok.

Faculty or externally financed employment

A doctoral position may be externally financed or faculty financed. In the case of faculty financed employment, the first employment contract for a doctoral student is for one year at most, but will be automatically extended as long as the doctoral student fulfils the individual study plan.

A doctoral position of employment may not be held for longer than eight years and never longer than corresponding to doctoral studies on a full-time basis for four years. If a doctoral student so requests, employment may be for work on a part-time basis, but not less than 50 percent of full-time.

Up to 20 percent of the employment period may consist of service in the department (teaching, other research than the doctoral student's own and administrative work), which gives a maximum study period of five years.

An individual doctoral student can normally be compensated for student union work for a maximum of 40 days per year.

Overtime compensation is not paid.

The minimum salaries for doctoral employment, "the doctoral steps", are set by local negotiations between the university and trade union counterparts. These negotiations take place in connection with the salary review for other employees at the university.

The doctoral steps (in Swedish)

Other forms of funding

Other forms of funding, such as scholarships, can only be provided if the doctoral student has external financing, and are only available for a maximum of two years. Those who are financed by scholarships must be admitted as postgraduate students. It is therefore not permitted to start postgraduate studies without being admitted as a doctoral student.

Decisions on the establishment of scholarships are taken by the dean on proposal by an individual department.


Postgraduate education includes courses in research education. The extent of the courses varies from subject to subject, but is usually about 60-90 ECTS for a doctoral degree. The course part may amount to a maximum of 120 ECTS.

For doctoral students admitted during and after 2014 (for the exact dates refer to the general study plan) a mandatory inter-faculty course module of 10 ECTS of a general nature will be included for those with a doctoral degree as the final goal. For those with a licentiate degree as the final goal, the mandatory inter-faculty course module will be 8 ECTS. The courses will be organised for doctoral students at each department. They may be general courses such as scientific theory, statistics, and the history of ideas or more specific courses for your specialised area. If you are associated with a research school, the courses will be organised within that school. Umeå University also organises courses for doctoral students and those with a PhD. This is done mainly by university education methodology and teacher support (UPL) courses which include, among other things, basic university education methodology courses.

The purpose of the courses is partly to provide the postgraduate student a general competence in the subject, and partly to provide sufficient knowledge to carry out the work for the thesis. Some literature is mandatory for doctoral students within a subject, and this is laid down in the general study plan. Other literature is individual and adapted to the individual research tasks. The individual courses are chosen by the doctoral student in consultation with the supervisor and are laid down in the individual study plan. Courses are completed with some form of examination with the grades pass or fail.

Research seminars

Research seminars are an important form of ongoing support for many doctoral students. Doctoral candidates, teachers and other researchers at a department or within a research group meet regularly under the guidance of a seminar leader to discuss new methods and findings, recently published literature in the subject and the various problems that doctoral students may encounter. How often seminars are held varies. The research seminar also makes it possible for doctoral students to submit a chapter, parts of the thesis or a manuscript for review and discussion.

Research ethics

Det är av vikt att respektera vissa etiska regler som forskare och doktorand. Exempel på sådant som inte är accepterat är att "frisera" forskningsmaterial vilket är liktydigt med att förvanska materialet, eller att "stjäla" andras material för att sedan publicera detta i eget namn. För att undvika det sistnämnda är det viktigt att klargöra vilka som är delaktiga i projektet och författarordning före själva skrivandet.
It is important to respect certain ethical rules as a researcher and doctoral student. An examples of what is not acceptable is "hairdressing" research material, which is tantamount to misrepresenting material, or to copy others' material and then publish it in your own name. To avoid the latter, it is important to clarify who are involved in the project and the order of authors before the writing takes place.

Government Offices of Sweden on research ethics: "Good practice in research" (in Swedish)


Aurora is the university's web page for employees. It has information and links, news, a calendar and a press release database.

Aurora – for Umeå University employees

Every Thursday you receive an e-mail with the week's news gathered in a newsletter.

On the faculty web page there is current information from the faculty of science and technology. You will find forms, guidelines, policies and other documents for faculty employees here.

Faculty web page for employees

The faculty also sends out a newsletter every week on Fridays.


If you are employed as a doctoral student you are covered by Umeå University's insurance policies.

Insurance at Umeå University

Parental leave

Sickness benefits

What applies in cases of sickness and parental benefits with other forms of funding, such as scholarships, varies with the source of funding. You should check what is relevant in your particular case.


If you are employed as a doctoral student you are covered by Umeå University's vacation regulations.


If you become unemployed during doctoral studies

If a postgraduate student becomes unemployed, the matter is judged by the same rules that apply to other students. There are no specific rules for postgraduate students in the unemployment insurance scheme.
You do not need to be a member of a trade union to be in the unemployment benefit fund.

Academics' official unemployment benefit fund, AEA

Frankie Ekerholm