Scope and content of a doctoral programme

Last changed: 12 October 2017
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The scope of doctoral education

The scope of doctoral education is regulated by the Higher Education Ordinance. The content is governed by doctoral education subjects and degree outcomes. The doctoral education at SLU is regulated by the SLU guidelines for doctoral education which is decided by the vice-chancellor. For a specific doctoral student, the version of the guidelines applies that was valid at the point of admission for that student if the student does not choose to change to a newer version. Please observe that before 1 January 2013 faculty specific guidelines were valid for the doctoral students admitted at that time.

Doctoral education subject and general study plan

Each doctoral student is admitted to a specific doctoral education subject and follows the general study plan for this subject. In the general study plan the requirements for education within this subject is presented.

Planning, follow-up and individual study plan

Planning and follow-up involve a number of compulsory steps, and must be documented in the individual study plan (ISP).

Procedure when a course or programme is unsatisfactory - counselling and support

Time frame for doctoral education

The doctoral education can be finished with either a doctoral degree after 4 years of net study time, or with a licentiate degree after 2 years net study time. 

Individual learning outcomes

The degree outcomes describe the knowledge and proficiency to be achieved by the doctoral student in order for the degree to be awarded. The process of achieving these outcomes, that is the content and form of the programme, may vary from one student to another, depending on factors such as the student's prior knowledge and the nature of the thesis work. The supervisor and student must arrive at a common understanding of the implications of the degree outcomes for them specifically, that is they must formulate individual learning outcomes for the programme. All planning and follow-up must include a discussion of the student's current knowledge and proficiency in relation to the learning outcomes.

Rights and obligations

At least two supervisors must be appointed for each doctoral student, and one of them should be appointed principal supervisor. Doctoral students are entitled to supervision during their studies, unless the Vice-Chancellor decides otherwise by virtue of the Higher Education Ordinance. A doctoral student may request to change supervisor.

The faculty board decides on any change of supervisor. Applications can be made either by an individual student, or by a student and his/her supervisor together.

Doctoral students should

  • actively and independently pursue their studies, both experimental and theoretical parts, and document the research results so that a thesis can be presented and defended after 4 or 2 years net study respectively;
  • continuously inform supervisors of educational, scientific and practical developments and propose changes and adaptations motivated by how the thesis project is progressing;
  • after consultation with the supervisor, take part in PhD courses;
  • be well informed about SLU's rules and policies for doctoral education.

Supervision and responsibilities

At least two supervisors are appointed for each doctoral student. One of them is nominated as the principal supervisor. Students are entitled to supervision during their studies, unless the Vice-Chancellor decides otherwise in accordance with the Higher Education Ordinance, Chapter 6 Section 30. A  student may ask to change supervisor.

 The principal supervisor is responsible for the content and quality of the education. He/she should also make sure that the content of plans and reports is well in line with the subject tradtion, and the character of the thesis work.

The supervisor and doctoral student must arrive at a common understanding of the implications of the degree outcomes for them specifically, that is they must together formulate individual learning outcomes for the programme. Together, they should continuously discuss and follow up how the education is progressing and adjust the planning accordingly. This is documented in the indivual study plan.

The principal supervisor is responsible for determining whether the student has achieved the learning outcomes related to the degree, see chapter 5.4 in the guidelines for doctoral education, and for ensuring that the thesis is of good quality according to the critera applied within the discipline.

Supervision policy

Supervisors should

  • guide the student in both practical and theoretical issues, and keep abreast of educational theoretical and practical advances;
  • strive to create favuorable conditions for scientific discussions between student and supervisor, and other members of faculty;
  • guide and encourage the student in terms of methodology, literature, publishing and networking;
  • have a professional approach in order to promote equality and all forms of non-discrimination;
  • not commit to more students than he/she can provide adequate supervision for;
  • be well informed about SLU's rules and policies for doctoral education.

The main supervisor is responsible for

  • the quality and of the research project, which constitute the base for the thesis work. The project should be of reasonable extent
  • that the doctoral student get adequate courses within the education
  • that follow ups of the education, including external pre-examination procedure, are conducted according to the guidelines
  • thesis defence and/or licentiate seminar is being prepared and conducted according to the guidelines
  • continuing his/her education for supervision and pedagogics with help of courses offered by for example SLU

To be qualified as principal supervisor


A principal supervisor at SLU must

1. be admitted as a docent (approx. associate professor) or professor;

2. be employed by SLU;

3. be employed at the same department as that to which the doctoral student has been admitted;

4. have documented training in supervision methodology equivalent to the training required to be admitted as a docent at SLU.

If the principal supervisor has a fixed-term position as an adjunct professor, for example, at least one of the assistant supervisors must be employed at the same department as that to which the doctoral student has been admitted, and have documented training in supervision methodology.

The faculty board may grant exemption from criterion 3 if at least one of the assistant supervisors is employed at the same department as that to which the doctoral student has been admitted.

The faculty board may grant exemption from criterion 4 provided that an education plan for a training course in supervision methodology is adopted at the same time. The education plan is to be adopted following consultation with the Division of Educational Affairs.

Advice and support

Information from the faculties

Page editor: lotta.jaderlund@slu.se