Rules and guidelines - doctoral studies

Roles and responsibilities for doctoral (third-cycle) courses and study programmes have to follow national and local regulations for Umeå University, including current delegation of authority.

The following documents have been considered:
• Rules for third-cycle courses and study programmes at Umeå University, FS 1.1-87-16.
• Guidelines for documentation of data in Ladok on third-cycle level at Umeå University, FS 1.1.2-1603-14.
• Admission regulations for third-cycle courses and study programmes at Umeå University, FS 1.1-859-17.
• Delegation of authority at the Faculty of Science and Technology, Dnr 103-1701-11

These documents (in Swedish) can be found on the university homepage for doctoral education, together with further regulations and guidelines.

Third-cycle courses and study programmes at Umeå University

Faculty guidelines for credit transer in third-cycle courses and study programmes (in Swedish)

A clear division of responsibilities between the various roles in doctoral education is described in the document:
Roles and responsibilities in third-cycle courses and study programmes at the Faculty of Science and Technology, Umeå University (in english)

Below is a summary:


The examiner has overall responsibility for the content, quality and development of postgraduate education by ensuring, among other things, the quality of the general study plan.
For every doctoral (third-cycle) subject area there has to be an examiner and at least one assisting examiner. They are appointed by the faculty Research committee, in consultation with the Committee for PhD studies, on a proposal from the head of department.
Examiners and assistant examiners must hold a doctoral degree and should be professor, or at least docent, and have supervised doctoral students as a principal supervisor, and have passed relevant education for supervisors.
An examiner can be responsible for more than one third-cycle subject area.

Examiners are responsible for:

• taking part in planning and establishing the first individual study plan for a future doctoral student.
• deciding on credit transfer for course(s) that the student has completed before admission as a doctoral student (should be done in conjunction with admission)
• preparing matters regarding credit transfer from second year master's exams to be decided by the dean.
• deciding on credit transfer of all courses or the equivalent that have been studied and examined at other higher education institutions than Umeå University.
• deciding on credit transfer when a course/education (or part of) replaces a course (or part of) that is compulsory as per the general study plan.
• approving on courses to be included in a doctoral education by signing archived lists from Ladok.
• approving and deciding if all courses are completed by signing the archived list for Ladok.

In preparation for dissertation or licentiate seminar, the examiner should:

• issue a recommendation to the dean whether the doctoral student is ready for dissertation. This includes assessing the scope and quality of the thesis, and if the doctoral student has achieved national qualitative targets.
• after consultation with the principal supervisor suggest opponent and examining committee to the dean (or equivalent for licentiate seminars)

After dissertation or licentiate seminar:

• decide on grades for the licentiate thesis after proposition from the examining committee.
• based on signed minutes signe the archive list for approved thesis/licentiate thesis for Ladok registration.
Matters regarding doctoral students who have the examiner as supervisor/assistant supervisor should be dealt with by the assistant examiner.


The dean is responsible for:

• deciding on credit transfer from the second year of master's degree.
• deciding on chairman, opponent and examining committee (or the equivalent for licentiate seminars) after recieving the examiner's recommendation regarding whether the doctoral student is ready for dissertation.

Head of department

The head of department is responsible for:

• appointing directors of study for doctoral courses and study programmes.
• deciding on admission of doctoral students.
• appointing supervisor and assistant supervisor for each doctoral student.
• deciding on a change of supervisor after the request of a doctoral student.

Director of studies

The director of studies gives advice on various matters to doctoral students, supervisors and examiners.

The following is included in the director of studies responsibilities:

• preparing matters regarding admission to a doctoral study programme.
• introducing new doctoral students to the doctoral study programme.
• preparing matters regarding credit transfer of the second year of master's exams to be decided by the dean.
• quality assessment of new doctoral students' individual study plan.
• determining yearly follow-ups of individual study plans.
• handling referrals and other matters regarding doctoral education.
• coordinating supervisor meetings at the department.

The following matters can be delegated by the head of department to the director of studies:

• informing about the courses offered by the faculty and which courses that are mandatory.
• coordinating the department's doctoral courses.
• informing on local and national regulations for doctoral education.
• coordinating yearly meetings for doctoral students.

Supervisor – principal supervisor, assistant supervisor

The head of department is responsible for appointing at least two supervisors for each doctoral student, one of which must be the principal supervisor. At least one of the supervisors has to have employment for an indefinate period and be at least a docent at the department to which the doctoral student has been admitted. The principal supervisor and assistant supervisor have to hold a PhD and at least one of them must have completed training for supervisors or have equivalent education.

The principal supervisor is responsible for:

• preparing matters on credit transfer upon admission of doctoral students prior to decision by the examiner.
• planning the doctoral student's research and other parts of his/her education together with the doctoral student.
• supervising the doctoral student's research together with the other supervisor(s).
• yearly follow-up of the individual study plan together with the doctoral student. This includes assessing how the doctoral student's education progresses and if needed to suggest measures securing that the student reaches the national qualitative targets at the rate indicated in the study plan.

Reference group

Doctoral students admitted after 2014-01-01 should have access to a reference group. Normally at least two of the supervisors and at least one scientifically merited teacher not related to the doctoral student's research project should be included. One proven alternative is that the reference group consists of two senior scientists, who are not among the supervisors, and a doctoral student who has competed a major part of their studies, so as to more easily be able to identifie problems in the relationship between supervisor and student. Another way to acheive this is that part of the meeting is held without the supervisor present.

The referece group should:

• meet with the doctoral student at least once a year, in conjunction with follow-up of the individual study plan.
• review and give feedback on the doctoral student's individual study plan.
• be able to sense if the project or the communication between doctoral student and supervisor isn't working.
• support the examiner in assessing the quality of the thesis ahead of the dissertation and to what degree the doctoral student meets the national qualitative targets.

Minutes from meetings in the reference group should be added to the individual study plan.

Doctoral student

Every doctoral student has a responsibility for adhering to their individual study plan as agreed with the principal supervisor, and to promptly inform supervisors and/or reference group of any deviations.

The doctoral student is also responsible for:

• periodical follow-ups of their studies, together with the principal supervisor, by documenting the progression in the individual study plan.
• together with the principal supervisor, identify activities to fulfil the national qualitative targets.
• taking an active part in and contributing to the department's scientific environment.

Course examiner

Course examiners for courses at Umeå University must be teachers appointed by the Umeå University according to the vice-chancellor's delegation of authority. For courses within third-cycle study programmes, the course coordinator is normally the course examiner. Grades for a course should be decided by a course examiner (Högskoleförordning 1993:100, 6 kap. 32 §).

Examining committee

Requirements and regulations for the composition of examining committees follows of the Higher Education Ordinance. Regulations for the composition of the examining committees can be found in Regler för utbildning på forskarnivå vid Umeå universitet, FS1.1-87-16 (in Swedish). The examiner proposes the examining committee after consultation with the principal supervisor and is decided by the dean.

The examining committee decides on grades for theses and the defence of theses. For litentiate theses and discussion of litentiate theses the examining committee suggests the grades and the examiner decides on grades.

The examining committee is responsible for grading and assessing the thesis, and the defence of the thesis (for licentiate seminars the discussion) based on the general study plan for the subject and the national qualitative targets.


The faculty opponent must have a high scientific competence in the thesis subject. Normally the opponent is a docent or has corresponding competence from a foreign university.

Normally the opponent should not be active at Umeå University. Propositions for opponents is given by the examiner after consultation with supervisors. The dean appoints the opponent.

The opponent's role is to critically review the thesis and thoroughly discuss it with the respondent during the dissertation.

Frankie Ekerholm