Planning and follow-up of doctoral education

Last changed: 27 September 2023

In the Higher Education Ordinance, degree outcomes are described for the doctoral and licentiate degrees, and these must be fulfilled in order for the degree to be issued. The degree outcomes describe the knowledge and skills that the doctoral student should have obtained at the degree. The individual doctoral program is jointly planned by the doctoral student and supervisor with the help of the individual study plan (ISP).

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


Time-line of compulsory steps in doctoral education

Degree outcomes in doctoral education

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.


Individual study plan (ISP)

All doctoral student must have an individual study plan (ISP). At SLU these ISPs are created and managed in the digital ISP portal. 

What is an ISP and why should I care? 

What rules applies for courses in doctoral education?

This applies for students admitted after January 1 2013:

The degree must include at least

-        30 credits in the form of courses for a doctoral degree;

-        15 credits  in the form of courses for a licentiate degree.

The general syllabus for a specific doctoral-level subject may specify a higher minimum number of credits. It is possible to require up to 120 credits for a doctoral degree, and up to 60 credits for a licentiate degree.

The principal supervisor suggests courses that may be included in the degree. The faculty board approves the degree, including its constituent courses.

This applies for students admitted after July 1, 2015: In order to be awarded a doctoral or licentiate degree at SLU, the doctoral student must have studied credit-awarding courses in theory of knowledge and research ethics. These courses should e.g. cover rules regarding cheating and plagiarism.

Here you can read more about coures in doctoral education and search for SLU courses in the course data base. 

Travel grants and stipends.

Period of study and study activity

General information on course/programme length

Doctoral courses and programmes that lead to a Degree of Doctor comprise an actual period of study of four years. This corresponds to 240 credits (2 years/120 credits for a Degree of Licentiate). During their actual period of study, doctoral students write their thesis and take doctoral courses. Tasks that are not part of the doctoral students' courses and programmes, but which are carried out in parallel with their studies, mean that the maximum permitted period of study becomes longer than four years (i.e. the course and programme calendar time is extended).

Courses and programmes are planned by the supervisor and doctoral student with the help of the individual study plan (ISP). The plan is adjusted to the conditions of the thesis project as well as the doctoral student's individual knowledge and skills. This is done in order for the doctoral student to be able to meet all the qualitative targets within the time frame of the doctoral studies. As the person responsible for doctoral courses and programmes, the head of department is tasked with ensuring that the ISP, together with a reasonable time plan, correctly describe the supervisor's and doctoral student's commitments, and that they can be fulfilled in regard to the department's prerequisites. If that is the case, the head of department approves the ISP.

SLU's doctoral students are financially supported during their time at the university. A majority are financially supported by becoming employed as doctoral students. The employment means a stable social and financial situation during their doctoral studies. Others have different types of employment at SLU, at partner organisations or are given scholarships. Being financially supported through an employment does not always involve an even pace of study. Taking a doctorate is individual. For some doctoral students, it goes quicker and for others it takes longer to reach their goal. Just as with other education levels, it is the result, not the work effort, that counts.

Once per semester, SLU must report the study activity of all admitted doctoral students and how they are financially supported (through employment, scholarships, etc.). This information is entered into the national student registry Ladok. The actual period of study is registered, and Ladok must therefore display how much of the time the doctoral student is entitled to has expired.


What is not included in the actual period of study?

According to the Higher Education Ordinance (HEO) Chapter 6, Section 29: "The period of study may only be extended if there are special grounds for doing so. Such grounds may comprise leave of absence because of illness, leave of absence for service in the defence forces or an elected position in a trade union or student organisation, or parental leave. Ordinance (2010:1064)." Based on this legislation, SLU has decided that time spent on the activities below are not included in the actual period of study:

  1. Continuous tasks from the department or external partners, etc. (e.g. teaching at first-cycle and second-cycle level) that, according to the ISP, are not a part of the doctoral student's studies.
  2. Temporary tasks from the department or external partners, etc. (e.g. teaching at first-cycle level) that, according to the ISP, are not a part of the doctoral student's studies. Tasks that take 5 work days or less may be included in the actual period of study.
  3. Tasks from the PhD Council.
  4. Trade union tasks that are relevant to doctoral studies at a department or to an employment.
  5. Serving in the Swedish Total Defence.
  6. Parental leave.
  7. Care of a sick child (VAB).
  8. Sick leave (longer than 1 continuous week or more than 7 workdays during a six-month period, provided that a doctor's certificate is submitted).



Recommended procedure for calculating the actual period of study

  1. Activities included in doctoral courses and programmes are stated in the ISP.
  2. The doctoral student enters, with the help of an  SLU-approved template for calculation of net study time, the type and extent of activities performed that are not included in their studies but which are carried out in parallel with these.
  3. The doctoral education administrator at the department or equivalent provides the principal supervisor with instructions, Ladok excerpts and the Ladok report form in ample time before every six-month Ladok report.
  4. The principal supervisor and doctoral student review how much time has been spent on their courses and programmes during the past six months. This is done by reviewing the doctoral student's personal records and other relevant information regarding sick leave, etc. When they have reached a consensus, they both sign the Ladok report.
  5. The head of department reviews and approves the Ladok report for registration. If the principal supervisor and the doctoral student do not reach a consensus, the head of department decides on the actual period of study in their place.
  6. An authorised Ladok administrator registers the Ladok report.

Annual follow-up

The annual follow-up of the individual study plan (ISP) must be carried out by the student and the supervisor at a formal meeting, and must be based on the general syllabus for the subject, an up-to-date extract from Ladok and the most recent version of the ISP.

The follow-up should focus on the individual learning outcomes and the following must be assessed:

-        How is the programme progressing?

-        Can the programme be completed as currently planned?

-        What action can be taken to improve the programme?

-        What is planned for the coming year?

The following two checklists can be of help:

The follow-up is documented in the ISP. The principal supervisor and the student sign the commitments document, after which the entire ISP is registered and filed. The commitments document is valid for a maximum of one calendar year from the date of signature.

Individual departments/subjects may draw up additional procedures involving seminars and discussions in conjunction with the annual follow-up. If they are compulsory, these procedures are governed by the general syllabus for the subject.

Midway review and seminar

After two years' net study time, but before the midway review (halvtidsuppföljning), the doctoral student must hold a department seminar at which he/she displays sufficient ability to

  • orally present his/her thesis work;
  • discuss and analyse general and specific methods in the subject area;
  • independently discuss and analyse the results achieved.

The oral presentation must be assessed by a person who has been admitted as docent, or possesses scientific competence considered by the faculty board to be equivalent to that required of a docent in the relevant subject. A supervisor or other person with a conflict of interest may not be an assessor. Conclusions and comments from the assessment must be related to the individual learning outcomes and the nature of the subject, and must be discussed with the student in conjunction with the annual follow-up.

This form contains instructions that can be used as help for the evaluator at the midway seminar. It can be handed out to the evaluator before the seminar in order to prepare her/him for the task. The last page contain formal requirements for the evaluator.

Here you will find the regulations and forms used for planning and follow-up of doctoral education at SLU. 

In conjunction with the midway review, the supervisor, doctoral student and a faculty board representative must decide whether the general prospects of the programme and the thesis being completed at the department or under the research project are sufficiently good.

Final seminar - for monograph theses

All doctoral students writing a monograph thesis must hold a final seminar no earlier than nine months before the planned date for defence of the thesis or licentiate seminar.

The doctoral student must present his/her work, answer questions and discuss comments at the final seminar. An evaluator must participate in the final seminar. The evaluator must either be admitted as a docent or possess scientific competence considered by the faculty board to be equivalent to that required to be admitted as a docent in the relevant subject. The evaluator may not be employed at the same department as the doctoral student. A supervisor or other person with a conflict of interest may not be an evaluator.

The evaluator will make a written evaluation of

  1. the quality of the doctoral student and the thesis in relation to the degree outcomes;
  2. the prospects of completing the thesis according to timetable.

The evaluator's written assessment must be attached to the application for defence of the thesis.

The faculty board may stipulate pass grade requirements for monograph theses in the general syllabus for a subject.

The principal supervisor is responsible for assessing whether the doctoral student has achieved the degree outcomes, and for ensuring that the thesis is of good scientific quality recognised within the discipline. Upon application (see chapter 8.2 of the guidelines on doctoral education), the faculty board decides whether the thesis can be defended at a licentiate seminar or public defence of a doctoral thesis, respectively.

If the principal supervisor decides that the thesis and doctoral student are ready for defence of the thesis, even though the evaluator at the final seminar strongly questioned the prospects of the thesis being completed according to timetable, the principal supervisor must apply to the faculty board for an external pre-examination. The application must address the evaluator's assessment.


Procedure when a course or programme is unsatisfactory

The doctoral student ombudsman (DO) provides individual support and counselling, and works to find solutions to problems that may arise in the position as doctoral student.

What do we mean when we say that the doctoral education is "unsatisfactory"?