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Becoming a doctoral student


  1. Paths To Research Studies
  2. Entry requirements
  3. Various forms of research studies
  4. Choice of supervisor and project
  5. Vacancy announcements for doctoral studentships and application for admission
  6. Selection and admission
  7. Introduction to the organisation
  8. For non-swedish nationals


1) Paths To Research Studies

There are two basic conditions for studying a third cycle programme; the will to do it and admission to the programme. The personal commitment is often based on a fascination with science in general and perhaps a certain subject in particular. This can also be combined with an ambition to gain a professionally valuable education. One aspect which is important to many people is the opportunity to work for four to five years in a creative environment with many international contacts.

The decision to aim for a third cycle studies programme often emerges in the final phase of second cycle education, perhaps inspired by contacts with doctoral students via teaching or privately. Writing a degree project provides a taste of what it is like to work independently on a research assignment. The degree project can also put you in direct contact with researchers, who may encourage you to undertake further studies in the third cycle. It is not unusual for people only to arrive at the same insight a few years after their Master’s degree, when they have tried an alternative career outside university. Although many of the research students at the faculty did their first and second cycle studies here, we also have a major influx of doctoral students from other higher education institutions within and outside Sweden. The faculty also strives actively to widen participation. The faculty wants to encourage applications from students from other higher education institutions in Sweden as well as from students with degrees from other countries.

2) Entry requirements

Pursuant to the Higher Education Ordinance, for admission to third cycle studies, applicants must satisfy the general and specific entry requirements and must be considered in other respects to have the ability required to benefit from the course or study programme.

A person meets the general entry requirements for third-cycle courses and study programmes if he or she:

  1. has been awarded a second-cycle qualification or
  2. has satisfied the requirements for courses comprising at least 240 credits of which at least 60 credits were awarded in the second-cycle, or
  3. has acquired substantially equivalent knowledge in some other way in Sweden or abroad.

The higher education institution may permit an exemption from the general entry requirements for an individual applicant, if there are special grounds. The specific entry requirements shall be essential for students to be able to benefit from the course or study programme. These requirements are established for each research studies subject and are specified in the general syllabus for each subject. The specific entry requirements usually entail the student having good core knowledge of the subject.

3) Various forms of research studies

Within the framework described above, research studies can be conducted in various forms. The most common arrangement is that the doctoral student is employed under a doctoral studentship, as a member of a research team in Lund with activities based at Lund University. It is possible, however, to be admitted with forms of funding other than a doctoral studentship. Doctoral students can be admitted with personal scholarships, for example from a foundation or an organisation abroad. Doctoral students can also be admitted to research studies within the framework of employment outside the University, through an agreement between their employer and the University. In principle, and regardless of the form of funding, it is also possible to conduct research studies in cooperation with another higher education institution, with the doctoral student admitted to both institutions and receiving a double degree. In that case, the arrangement is often that the doctoral student spends half the study time in Lund and half in the other institution, with supervisors in both places. As a rule, this requires well-established cooperation between the supervisors and a somewhat similar structure for research studies in both higher education institutions. Of course, far-reaching collaborations can also be conducted through the doctoral student visiting other research teams for shorter or longer periods, without necessarily being admitted to a higher education institution other than Lund University.

4) Choice of supervisor and project

A third cycle studies programme is always individually designed; during the application procedure, the doctoral student can, to a certain extent, influence the conditions which will apply specifically to him or her. The most important factors are the research project, the supervisor, the departmental duties in addition to research, experimental equipment and opportunities for study or conference travel.

For the department, admitting a doctoral student is a significant financial undertaking, as this requires not only the availability of funds for maintenance but also for premises, equipment and other relevant resources. The funds for this come partly from the faculty through direct government funding, and partly via external grant providers. In the latter case, these grants vary greatly, but as a rule, what they have in common is that they are awarded to specific researchers for specific research projects. If a doctoral student’s project (salary, material costs, etc.) is entirely financed with external funds, the supervisor and the main features of the research assignment are, as a rule, established before the doctoral student comes into the picture. In reality, the future doctoral student gets to select one of several specified research projects each with their respective supervisor. A doctoral student works very closely with his or her supervisor so it is important for both parties to determine whether there are good prospects for a fruitful professional collaboration. At the time of admission, a principal supervisor is always appointed as well as at least one further supervisor.

5) Vacancy announcements for doctoral studentships and application for admission

The basic rule is that all doctoral studentship vacancies at the faculty are to be advertised publicly and that anyone should be able to apply. All vacancies for doctoral studentships are posted on the University website but they may also be advertised through other channels.

Exceptions from the obligation to advertise vacancies can be made in the following cases: if the doctoral student is to undergo third cycle education at Lund University while employed elsewhere (known as an industry-employed doctoral student), if the doctoral student previously started third cycle studies at another higher education institution, or if there are similar special circumstances. Another exceptional circumstance can be that an eligible and suitable candidate has a personal scholarship, for example from a university, public authority or company abroad.

See current vacancies at LU on Lund University website

6) Selection and admission

General principles for selection and admission

In addition to the Higher Education Ordinance, the University’s Admission Rules govern the admission process. Pursuant to the Higher Education Ordinance, the number of doctoral students admitted to third-cycle courses and study programmes may not exceed the number that can be offered supervision and otherwise acceptable conditions for study, and whose studies are financed. In addition to this, the faculty has established a more detailed definition of acceptable study conditions. Admission to research studies for which maintenance is ensured through a doctoral studentship is delegated to the departments. Admission to research studies with “alternative funding” (for example scholarship recipients and industry-employed doctoral students) on the other hand is decided at the faculty level, with the dean taking the formal decision on admission.

University rules on admission (PDF, 107 kB, new window) - in Swedish only

The regulatory document "Acceptable study conditions" is found on the webpage about regulatory documents and forms.


Admission to an advertised doctoral studentship is thus always done by the relevant department, with the selection among the applicants taking place in an open and collegial process on the basis of the applicants’ qualifications in relation to the formal entry requirements and the qualifications specified in the vacancy announcement. General selection criteria within each subject are stated in the general syllabus. The fact that an applicant is considered able to transfer credits from prior courses and study programmes or for professional or vocational experience may not alone give the applicant priority over other applicants.  An applicant who is not deemed to have the ability to complete third cycle studies is not to be admitted, even if the person in question meets the formal entry requirements. Recruitment and selection are to take diversity and equal gender distribution into account in compliance with Lund University’s policy for gender equality, equal opportunities and diversity. Precedence will be accorded to the under-represented gender in cases where all other qualifications are equivalent, unless there are specific reasons not to do so.

Policy for gender equality, equal opportunities and diversity (PDF, 88,5 kB, new window) - in Swedish only

Decision on admission

Before the decision on admission is taken, documentation on the basis for the decision, including the proposal to admit a particular applicant and its justification, is to be drawn up and communicated to the applicants. This is normally done at least two weeks before the decision on admission is taken. Applicants are to be informed of the possibility of submitting objections to the proposal on admission and of how to proceed. Objections are to be submitted in writing to the department within the deadline it provides. The decision on the applicant to be admitted is then taken, with any objections taken into account in the process. At the latest seven days after the decision on whom to admit, all applicants are to be informed. The decision on admission to third cycle studies cannot be appealed.

The department is to send the decision on admission to the Ladok office at Student Affairs, which registers the admission in Ladok. In connection with the admission, an individual study plan is to be drawn up (this is dealt with in a separate section).

You'll find the regulatory document "Guidelines for advertisement, selection and admission to PhD studies" on the webpage about regulatory documents and forms.

Application for Second Cycle Degree

At the latest at the time of admission, the student must obtain his or her first or second cycle degree (Bachelor’s, one or two year Master’s). The student applies for the degree certificate to the degree office, using a special form.

Information and forms for applications for a degree certificate on Lund University website

Admission to licentiate studies

It is possible to be admitted to studies leading only to a licentiate degree within all the research studies subjects at the faculty. The admission is made on the same basis and according to the same criteria as those for admission to a doctoral degree programme. The dean takes the decision on admission; it is not delegated to the department. The faculty takes a restrictive view of admissions to licentiate degree studies and will only allow such admissions in exceptional circumstances.

Admission of a previously registered doctoral student

An application to change subjects in third cycle studies for a previously admitted doctoral student is handled as a new admission and requires the doctoral student to report in writing that studies in the previous subject are abandoned if he or she is admitted to the new subject. This report is done on a special form and the termination of studies is registered in Ladok by the department in whose subject the doctoral student is terminating his or her studies.

A doctoral student admitted to studies leading only to a licentiate degree and wishing to continue studying towards a doctoral degree must apply for new admission to third cycle studies leading to a doctoral degree on the same conditions as all other applicants to third cycle education.

If a doctoral student has completely abandoned his or her research studies and registered the termination in Ladok, a new decision on admission by the department is required for the student to resume studying.

On 18 December 1998, the University board decided that no student may be admitted to third cycle studies at more than one faculty at Lund University.

Form for reporting a change of subject (PDF, 63 kB, new window) - in Swedish only

Admission with a scholarship as funding

At Lund University, the establishment of scholarships for third cycle education is not permitted. Scholarships within research studies do occur anyway, if the scholarship has been established by a funder other than Lund University, such as when international students have a scholarship from their home country. Lund University’s policy is that scholarships during research studies should be avoided as far as possible. The admission of a scholarship recipient is not delegated to the head of department, but must be decided by the dean. Such admissions require certain conditions to be met. On the one hand, the size of the scholarship must amount to at least 28 % of the current base price, on the other hand, the department must guarantee in writing certain basic benefits for the doctoral student, as the scholarship in itself does not entitle the student to any social benefits. For admission as of 2014, the department is obliged to sign a special insurance agreement with Kammarkollegiet for scholarship recipients (Chapter 1 Section 11c HEO). This insurance covers the loss of scholarship payments on the grounds of absence due to illness or parental leave. The scholarship recipient is also to be informed in writing of the conditions which apply to scholarship funding. It is not necessary for the scholarship to cover the entire period of study, but if it does not, the department must set up a doctoral studentship for the remaining time. Applications for admission with a scholarship must be certified by the department on a special form which is sent to the faculty office for processing and decision.

The form "Certificate for admission of PhD student with scholarship" is available on the webpage about regulatory documents and forms.

Form for requesting admission with alternative funding (PDF, 83 kB new window)

Admission within the framework of employment outside Lund University

It is possible to study towards a doctoral degree while working for another employer, such as a company or another higher education institution. In such cases, an agreement is drawn up between the department and the employer, clearly setting out all conditions relating to finance and responsibilities. A template for this type of agreement is available on the faculty website. A doctoral student who is employed outside the University is usually referred to as an industry-employed doctoral student, even if the employment is not always with a private company. Admission of industry-employed doctoral students is not delegated to the head of department, but decided by the dean. Applications for admission of industry-employed doctoral students are made by the department on a special form (form for admission with alternative funding, see above) which is sent to the faculty office for processing and decision.

The form "Industry-employed doctoral student agreement" is available on the webpage about regulatory documents and forms.

Admission of a doctoral student also admitted to another higher education institution

A research studies collaboration with another higher education institution requires an agreement specifically designed for the individual doctoral student. National legislation on the structure of research studies can vary greatly between different countries which is why it is extremely important to draw up these agreements carefully. The faculty has an agreement template which is adapted to Swedish legislation. These cooperation agreements are not entered into by the department, but signed by the dean.

You'll find the form "Agreement template for a double degree" on the webpage about regulatory documents and forms.

7) Introduction to the organisation

A good introduction to research studies is an important investment for all parties. After admission, the research student is to be introduced both to research studies and to the workplace, and given the opportunity to get to know the department, its research specialisations and its staff. The doctoral student is to be issued with an access card and relevant keys and informed about relevant administrative systems and procedures (such as managing absence and annual leave). In connection with the drafting of the individual study plan, the rights and obligations of the supervisor and the research student are to be reviewed and discussed. It is a very good idea, in this context, for the doctoral student and the supervisor to compare notes on their expectations for the approaching research studies programme. There is a form for this on the faculty website, which should be used during an introductory discussion with the doctoral student. The form should then be used again when comparing notes once more after a year or so. There is a faculty-wide introductory course for doctoral students. The course is compulsory and all doctoral students should attend it during their first year of research studies. Likewise, there is to be a compulsory introductory course at each department.

You'll find the form "Doctoral student induction – review and expectations" on the webpage about regulatory documents and forms.

8) For non-swedish nationals

The University has compiled information on the web site, relevant for people arriving in Sweden and Lund from other countries for research studies. There is e.g. a handbook with info on insurance, healthcare, banking matters, etc. People who come to Sweden from countries outside the EU for a period of more than one year should be particularly aware that they are not automatically covered by any healthcare insurance before they have obtained a Swedish personal identity number. Hospital care during that short period can therefore be very expensive!

Information for international staff on LU Staff Pages

Page Manager:


Tobias Nilsson
Scientific Officer
046-222 71 82
tobias [dot] nilsson [at] science [dot] lu [dot] se

Faculty of Science
Visiting address: Sölvegatan 27, 222 62 Lund
Internal mail code: HS 39
Mailing address: Box 118, 221 00 Lund
Invoice adress: Box 188, 221 00 Lund
Email: kansli [at] science [dot] lu [dot] se

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