Guide for prospective doctoral students

The society needs new scientific knowledge as well as academic experts. Doctoral education prepares the doctoral student to be an expert in the chosen field and provides the doctoral student with analytic thinking, problem-solving, communication and information technology skills.

Doctoral studies are much more than the dissertation. Doctoral studies are the candidate’s own project, during which his or her knowledge, skills and the readiness to apply those skills are developed in different operational environments.

Doctoral studies in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences stress the ability to conduct research independently, the ability to complete and report an extensive research project, and the ability to present and defend the research in a public examination.

A person who wishes to pursue doctoral studies (that may in special cases also include licentiate studies) must apply for admission. The application is directed at the faculty that organises the doctoral training for the subject. List of subjects offering doctoral studies at the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences can be found on the Postgraduate Degrees page. More information on the personnel and the research of different departments can be found here:

Admission for doctoral studies in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences gives the student the direct right to complete a doctor’s degree. 


Selection criteria 

In accordance with Section 37 of the Universities Act (558/2009), eligible applicants for studies leading to an academic or artistic licentiate or doctoral degree have completed (1) a relevant master’s degree awarded by a university, (2) a relevant master’s degree awarded by a university of applied sciences, or (3) a relevant study programme abroad which in the awarding country gives eligibility for the corresponding level of higher education. The university may require a student admitted to study for an academic or artistic licentiate or doctoral degree to complete the necessary supplementary studies in order to acquire the knowledge and skills needed for the study programme. The extent of supplementary studies is decided by the faculty. The supplementary studies are not included in the licentiate or doctoral degree.

Admission criteria for doctoral studies

The University of Jyväskylä requires that a student selected for doctoral studies has sufficient basic knowledge of the discipline in which the dissertation is to be completed and has received at least a grade of Good, 3/5 for the master’s thesis or another grade of a similar level. Doctoral student admission follows detailed admission requirements prepared by faculties based on the following general admission criteria:

  • Applicant’s knowledge and skills
    • success in studies that provide eligibility to apply for doctoral studies
    • appropriate language skills required for the studies
  • Research subject
    • the suitability of the research subject for the research strategy of the department/faculty
    • the level and feasibility of the research and study plan
  • Supervision: the availability of expert supervision and the sufficiency of related resources
  • Commitment: the doctoral student’s commitment to complete the degree

At the admission stage, students selected for a doctoral programme are expected to commit to the completion of the degree. An applicant’s commitment is assessed in accordance with his/her possibilities to (1) participate in education organised by the University, (2) complete the degree in the target time (four years when studying full time) and (3) integrate with research communities. The assessment pays attention to the full or part time nature of studies, the need and possibilities for remote studies, other study rights to pursue a doctoral or master’s degree and the possibilities to network within the University, in Finland and internationally.

In addition to the general eligibility requirements mentioned above, the Doctoral School at the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences requires that the applicant

  • plans the postgraduate studies so that she or he can complete the degree in four years;
  • conducts research that is compatible with the research strategies of the faculty and the department;
  • plans the postgraduate studies so that they are compatible with his or her career goals;
  • agrees to keep his or her supervisors up-to-date about the progress of the dissertation research and the overall postgraduate studies; and
  • agrees to obey the principles laid out in the supervision document.

Language profiency

Students selected for doctoral degree programmes are required to have proficiency in Finnish or English at the admission stage.

A certificate in the proficiency of Finnish or English is not required if the applicant has completed a higher education degree that provides eligibility to apply for the studies or a higher education degree in Finland. A certificate in the proficiency of English is not required if the applicant has completed a higher education degree that provides eligibility to apply for the studies or a higher education degree in English in an EU/EEA country, Switzerland, the United States, Canada, Australia or New Zealand. The language of examination must have been English and the thesis must have been written in English. The language of examination must be detailed in the degree certificate or its attachment, the transcript of records or other official document issued by the higher education institution.

Other applicants who are planning to write their dissertations in English must demonstrate their skills in English. Applicants may demonstrate their skills in English with an international language proficiency certificate or the National Certificate of Language Proficiency, which must be passed with the highest level 5 in all skill components (speaking, writing, listening and reading comprehension). The following levels are the minimum requirements for international language proficiency tests: TOEFL: 627 (paper-based test) / 95 (Internet-based test); IELTS: 7 or CPE and CAE: passing level B or C; or PTE (Pearson Test of English): 76. The Pearson test of English, IELTS and TOEFL certificates are valid for two years. The certificate must be valid until the end date of the application period.

Other applicants whose mother tongue is not Finnish and who are planning to write the dissertation in Finnish must demonstrate their skills in Finnish. Applicants may demonstrate their skills in Finnish with the civil service language proficiency certificate, which must be passed with good speaking and writing skills, or with the National Certificate of Language Proficiency, which must be passed with the highest level 5 in all skill components (speaking, writing, listening and reading comprehension).

Faculties may, upon their discretion, decide on tighter language skill requirements and higher point limits study option-specifically. Faculties may, upon their discretion and only in cooperation with the University Language Centre, assess English language skills (academic literacy screening) study option-specifically using other methods than language tests. 

Special conditions for the admission of doctoral students

  • A precondition for granting licentiate and doctoral study rights is that the dissertation for the postgraduate degree will be supervised at the University of Jyväskylä in accordance with its Degree Regulations.
  • A prerequisite for admitting a doctoral student from another university or another faculty of the University of Jyväskylä is that the universities or faculties have agreed in writing that the research material included in the dissertation is to be transferred to be part of the dissertation completed at the University of Jyväskylä or in another faculty of the University of Jyväskylä.
  • An applicant with a postgraduate degree cannot be granted the right to pursue another licentiate or doctoral degree with similar content. For an applicant with a doctoral degree, the faculty evaluates the similarity of the content of the degrees and requests a statement from the Graduate School Steering Board before admission.
  • The University will not process dissertation manuscripts which have not been granted permission for public examination or which have been rejected in another university or faculty of the University of Jyväskylä, unless there are justified grounds to do so.

Application dates

The application periods for doctoral studies are in March (1–29 March 2018) and in August (1–31 August 2018). The March application period is for programmes starting on 1 August. The August application period is for programmes starting on 1 January. The admission decisions are made within six weeks from the end of the application period (by 11 May 2018 and by 12 October 2018).

The student cannot be accepted before the completion of his or her master’s degree. 

NB: According to the law, after being accepted into the programme a student can postpone the beginning of his/her studies only due to the following reasons:

  • he/she is completing compulsory military service (1438/2007) or non-military service (1446/2007), or women’s voluntary military service (194/1995)
  • he/she is on maternity, paternity or parental leave
  • he/she is incapable of starting his/her studies due to an illness or an injury

Application procedure


Prospective students must contact the main representative of the subject at the department organising the doctoral training. During the application process, the research and postgraduate study plans are discussed. At the same time, the applicant’s previous studies and grades are assessed. 

The application must always be supplemented with a research and postgraduate study plan. Especially the postgraduate study plan can be a draft. If the applicant is not a University of Jyväskylä alumnus or alumna, he or she must provide a copy of a certificate of the previous degree.

Supervisors can be discussed during the preparation of the postgraduate study plan.

The application process uses a electronic application form (link will be added later) which includes a funding plan. A copy of the master’s degree certificate, a transcript of records for prior studies, a research plan, a doctoral study plan and other attachments required by the faculty.

If needed, more detailed information regarding the applications will be announced on the faculty web site.

Additional information on the postgraduate study plan

The application must always contain a postgraduate study plan with a scheduled plan of the dissertation work including a schedule for the completion of additional postgraduate courses and other assignments involved in professional qualification.

The doctoral student and either the main representative of the relevant subject or the (prospective) supervisor discuss the content of the required courses and study methods included in the study plan. Personal postgraduate study plans are based on the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences' teaching plan (syllabus).  Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences course programme and other key units of the University of Jyväskylä offering courses and training for doctoral student can be found on the Postgraduate course programme page. The content and extent of the postgraduate studies is planned with the supervisor-in-charge.

The postgraduate study plan is created using this form.

The postgraduate study plan must follow the postgraduate course programme.

The dean accepts the preliminary postgraduate study plan during the application procedure. If the application is accepted, the doctoral student must expand their study plan with his or her supervisor(s) within six months from the granting of the study right. Further amendments can be done later as necessary. The doctoral student registers changes agreed upon with the supervisor(s) in the postgraduate study plan. Changes made in the postgraduate study plan during postgraduate studies are approved by the supervisor-in-charge. 

Additional information on the research plan

A prospective doctoral student must submit a research plan (3–4 pages) as an attachment to the application. The plan should include at least

  1. the subject topic and a working title;
  2. the research question(s);
  3. the research methods and theoretical starting points;
  4. the data and sources;
  5. the tentative structure of the thesis;
  6. the current stage of the research (if applicable);
  7. a plan for funding; and
  8. a proposed schedule.

Developing a research plan is the first step to be taken in planning doctoral studies. A more detailed research plan is usually written after the application has been accepted. 


After the expiration of the application period, the Faculty will seek recommendation for the application from the department. The department has a steering group, a research board or their equivalent, which assesses the applications in accordance with their own requirements. The groups are:

  • Department of History and Ethnology: department's steering board
  • Department of Language and Communication Studies: department's research steering group
  • Department of Music, Art and Culture Studies: department's research board
  • Centre for Applied Language Studies: team of supervisors
  • Department of Social Sciences and Philosophy: the board of the doctoral programme of the department of social sciences and philosophy.

The Faculty sends the applications to the head of the department and to the contact person of the relevant group.

The group may invite the applicant for a meeting to answer questions regarding the application. The group may also discuss the applicants with, for example, the main representatives of the relevant subjects or the head of the department.

The group records the endorsements into a statement. The chairperson or the secretary of the group will submit the statement to the faculty.

If the application is not endorsed, the justification is recorded as a part of the statement.

If the application is endorsed, a proposal for the appointment of the supervisor-in-charge and at least one additional supervisor and the follow-up group for the applicant is included in the statement.

  • The person selected as the supervisor-in-charge should be an employee of the University of Jyväskylä and should hold a doctorate and have sufficient academic merits.
  • One or two additional supervisors are also nominated. The supervisors must have completed a doctoral degree or studies qualifying for a doctoral degree. In compliance with the general principles of the University of Jyväskylä Graduate School for Doctoral Studies, at least one of the supervisors must have the title of professor, university lecturer, university researcher, or adjunct professor at the University of Jyväskylä. The criteria for the choice of supervisors include the supervisor’s expertise on the subject and the division of supervision duties within the department. The supervisors may not serve as examiners of the future dissertation.

The dean either accepts or rejects the application based on the recommendations of the above-mentioned instances. At the same time, the dean will also accept or reject the preliminary postgraduate study plan attached to the application. The head of student and academic affairs acts as an official advisor for the decision.

The faculty will inform all applicants about the decision. If the applicant is not satisfied with the decision, an appeal on the decision can be made for the university appeal committee within 14 days of the decision’s announcement.

In addition, the faculty will

  • send enrolment instructions to selected applicants;
  • send information on the admission decisions to the supervisors and the head of department, who transmits information in accordance with the practice of the department concerned; and
  • if requested, send the research plan to supervisors

In accordance with Section 38 of the Universities Act (558/2009), applicants may accept only one student place in a degree programme that begins in the term of acceptance. To monitor the regulation, information on the acceptance of a study place is registered in the Studyinfo.fi service.

The faculty adds the accepted applicants on the faculty list for doctoral students and the supervisor(s) on the relevant mailing lists, if needed.

Instructions for the new doctoral student can be found on the Faculty's Guide for Doctoral Students page.

More information

Contact Coordinator Heli Niskanen, email doct-hum-soc(at)jyu.fi