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Studying at the doctoral level

Doctoral studies are the highest level of academic education at a university. They comprise 4 years of full-time study or 8 years of part-time study, equivalent to 240 credits leading to a doctoral degree. They prepare you for your continued career, in academia, or outside the university. The main objective of the medical education at doctoral level is to educate researchers who can advance the development in medicine, partly through their own new discoveries, partly through critical examination and introduction of forthcoming new experiences and methods in health care.

The image shows the time frame of the research programme.

Your admission as a doctoral student is tied to a general study plan that specifies overarching learning objectives and requirements. At the Faculty of Medicine, there is one subject at this educational level: Medical Science. The subject includes a variety of topics within the promotion of human health, prevention of morbidity, and alleviation and curing of diseases. The general study plan specifies the eligibility requirements for admission to the doctoral program, the common overall Learning Outcomes for all doctoral students, and the requirements needed to obtain the degree.

General study plan

The research work is the dominant part of your doctoral studies, and the individual study plan specifies how this work is organized. It is drawn up upon admission and followed up regularly. The study plan is furthermore an agreement between the doctoral student and the supervisor and describes the research project, courses, planned thesis components, supervision, conferences, mid-term review and other information necessary for the doctoral student to achieve the goals of their programme.

Individual study plan

A supervisor and assistant supervisor are appointed when the doctoral student is admitted to the doctoral programme. The task of the supervisor is, among other things, to ensure that the thesis work progresses at a reasonable pace, to ensure that the doctoral student acquires the knowledge specified in the individual study plan and to support, encourage and be available for discussion with the doctoral student. All appointed supervisors have completed a doctoral degree of their own, and a training course for supervisors.

For supervisors

Upon admission as a PhD student you are allocated a place in the Research School in Medical Sciences. The school includes training in research methods, research ethics, scientific and oral communication, and statistics. In addition to the research school, there is a generic course in knowledge and methods - Portfolio - where you as a doctoral student document and reflect on your development throughout their doctoral programme. An elective course of 1.5 credits is also mandatory. As of 1 January 2023, the total course requirement is 27 credits, including all of the above.

Research school and portfolio

During your time as a doctoral student, it is mandatory to participate in at least 18 seminars for at least three years of the doctoral programme (at least nine seminars during at least 1 ½ years for doctoral students admitted to a licentiate degree programme) – in the relevant area of medical science. This may include dissertations, mid-term examinations or the equivalent. Exactly what should be included is specified in the individual study plan and participation is documented in your Portfolio course.
Doctoral students are also encouraged to participate in scientific conferences, both in Sweden and internationally. Teaching, administrative tasks and participation on boards and committees may also be relevant activities during your doctoral studies.


When approximately half of the doctoral programme has been completed, a mid-term review is arranged. The half-time review is not a formal examination. Instead, the purpose is to lend support and advice to the PhD student on how to continue the thesis work in the best possible way. Prior to the half-time review, the student writes a brief account of their project and may attach a version of a manuscript to be presented at the seminar. The half-time review takes the form of a public seminar with two external reviewers. The seminar is followed by an individual discussion between the doctoral student, all supervisors and reviewers. The Portfolio is also checked at the half-time review.

Half-time review

The completed thesis is the final goal of the doctoral programme. The thesis is a compilation of scientific articles (or works) that the student has written alone or jointly with one or several co-authors (composite thesis). This means that it contains articles as well as a summary (ramberättelse) that presents the articles and their common context. The thesis normally contains three papers of which one must be published or accepted. The doctoral student is the sole first author of the accepted/published paper as well as having a prominent role on the other papers (the benchmark is first or second author).

Composing your thesis

The dissertation is the actual graduation ceremony of the PhD programme and is a public event.  Prior to the seminar, a chairperson of the defence is appointed, along with an opponent, and an examination board consisting of three persons with scientific competency. In due time before the public defense the examination board carries out a preliminary review of the thesis and issues a statement on whether the thesis is of the scope and quality required for them to recommend a public defence seminar. At the defence, the opponent gives a brief account of the contents of the thesis, and the doctoral student answers questions. The floor is then declared open for a public discussion, during which the members of the examination board and other members of the audience may ask questions and comment on the thesis. The doctoral thesis can be graded pass or fail. The examination board takes into account both the contents of the thesis and its defence when grading.

Public defence