Admission to doctoral studies
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This page gives an overview of the steps you need to take if you are planning to apply for doctoral studies at the University of Tartu:
When can you apply?
- 1–15 February (some specialities)
Admission information is announced by 15 January, admission decisions are made by 15 March. Studies begin in September.
- 1–15 May (main intake)
Admission information is announced by 15 April, admission decisions are made by 15 July. Studies begin in September.
- 15–30 September (some specialities)
Admission information is announced by 1 September, admission decisions are made by 15 October. Studies begin in February at the latest.
- 15–30 November (some specialities)
Admission information is announced by 1 November, admission decisions are made by 15 December. Studies begin in February at the latest.
How to prepare your application?
Before applying we suggest that you learn more about our doctoral studies in general, the specialities we have to offer and their specific requirements. Make sure you meet our prerequisites for admission and prepare your application documents well in advance.
The University of Tartu is Estonia's leading research and development institution with more than 1100 doctoral students. Comprehensive doctoral programs and research opportunities in Tartu allow you to pursue your interests in a multicultural and multidisciplinary community. During your doctoral studies you will have the chance to collaborate with peers and professional researchers worldwide through participation in international conferences, projects, and short or long-term mobility schemes.
Research is the main component of your doctoral study. The doctoral degree comprises of the doctoral thesis and studies that support your research process. Your dissertation can be either a monograph or article-based, with the possibility to integrate applied or artistic research. You will have the opportunity to follow a flexible curriculum that enables you to tailor your doctoral studies to your specific research project and career preferences. About 120 doctoral degrees are defended annually at the University of Tartu, which is more than half of the total number in Estonia.
A doctoral degree at the University of Tartu will position you for a a career in academia: a total of 62 researchers from the University of Tartu belong to the top 1% of most-cited researchers in the world (ESI Web of Science). In addition to honing your skills for different academic careers, a doctoral degree can also prepare you for a variety of jobs outside academia. As a doctoral student, you will develop various transferable skills via courses, trainings and workshops, which are invaluable both in academia and outside.
From the 2022/2023 academic year, doctoral student places will mainly be offered as state-funded junior research fellow positions. The junior research fellow's salary is comparable to the Estonian average salary. If the faculty has suitable funding and willingness to supervise the student, it may also be possible to be admitted as a student (without the employment contract of a junior research fellow). See further information about the status and funding of doctoral students.
The University of Tartu offers 8 doctoral programs with various specialities to choose from. If you study on a full-time basis, you can complete your degree in approximately four years. Read more about the regulations and organisation of PhD studies at the University of Tartu. Admission is regulated by the Admission rules documents in Doctoral Studies.
A master’s degree or equivalent is a prerequisite for admission to doctoral studies. This means that your master’s degree should enable you to apply for doctoral studies in the education system in which you received the master’s degree. However, there might be differences between higher education systems and access requirements to PhD programmes in different countries. To apply to the University of Tartu, your qualification should correspond to a master’ degree in the Estonian higher education system.
We will assess your qualification during the application period and may send your education documents to the Estonian ENIC/NARIC (Academic Recognition Information Centre) for evaluation at any stage of the application process. The official evaluation at the ENIC/NARIC Centre takes about 30 days. If the evaluation is negative and your qualification does not give you access to PhD studies in Estonia, we cannot admit you to doctoral studies at the University of Tartu and will withdraw the admission offer, if you have received one.
Make sure you also meet our language requirements.
We have listed our PhD programmes and specialities here. Programme websites give an overview of the programmes and specialities, requirements for admission and links to institutes/schools that coordinate the specialities. You can learn more about faculty research groups and corresponding conditions on the institute webpage. Try to find the speciality that best suits your research interests and academic background.
Applying if you have a qualification in another field
Unless otherwise stated in the speciality or programme requirements on the faculty website, your master´s degree could be in another field or speciality. However, all applicants are evaluated based on their doctoral thesis project or motivation letter, which must be submitted upon application. The admissions commission will also look at your education background, in addition to which you should be able to prove sufficient competence in your chosen field.
For most programmes, finding a supervisor is not compulsory, although it is advisable. Finding a supervisor is the applicant´s responsibility. The objective is to make sure that there is relevant competence to supervise your proposed thesis topic at the University of Tartu.
To find a supervisor, visit the faculty and institute´s website to find out more about their academic staff and their research interests. Look at the publications written by your potential supervisor as well as their projects and supervised theses via ETIS.
When contacting potential supervisors, please attach your CV to your email and describe your proposed research topic. Please note that supervisors get a lot of emails from applicants. If you want to make your email easily noticeable, present the information clearly, concisely and professionally.
If there are rules for the speciality in which you are interested, you will find them on the faculty website. For example, some specialities announce their own research topics, from which applicants must choose. In this case you do not need to find a supervisor.
Centres for doctoral studies and institutes
Depending of the speciality, it´s possible to apply with your own topic or choose the topic from a fixed list. If the open call website does not include information regarding set list of thesis topics, it´s possible to apply with your own research topic.
Faculty of Arts and Humanities:
- you can usually apply with your own research topic;
- you are required to submit a doctoral thesis project for your chosen research topic by the application deadline.
Faculty of Social Sciences:
- you can usually apply with your own research topic to the specialities in Law, Media and Communication, Psychology and Sociology;
- when applying for specialities in Business Administration, Economics and Political Science, you can choose from a set list of topics or apply with your own topic (please pay attention to the speciality-specific requirements on the programme website).
- when applying for specialities in Educational Science and Science Education, you must choose from a set list of topics. It is not possible to apply with your own topic during the application period. If you wish to propose your own topic, it is advised to find a supervisor earlier (see the “How to find a supervisor” section) and reach a prior agreement;
- you are required to submit a doctoral thesis project for your chosen research topic by the application deadline.
Faculty of Medicine:
- you can usually apply with your own research topic to the specialities in Medicine and Pharmacy;
- when applying for specialities in Exercise and Sport Sciences and Neurosciences, you must choose from a set list of topics. It is not possible to apply with your own topic during the admission period;
- you are required to submit a doctoral thesis project for your chosen research topic by the application deadline.
Faculty of Science and Technology:
- Admissions is project-based. The faculty announces research projects from which applicants must choose; it is not possible to propose your own topic during the application period. If you wish to propose your own topic, it is advisable to find a supervisor earlier (see the “How to find a supervisor” section) and reach a prior agreement.
- you are required to submit a motivation letter for your chosen research project by the application deadline.
From the 2022/2023 academic year, doctoral student places will mainly be offered as state-funded junior research fellow positions (the admitted candidates will have both student and employee status at the univerity). Fixed-term employment contract is concluded until the end of the person's standard period of study. The junior research fellow's salary is comparable to the Estonian average and corresponds to the minimum salary rate of junior research fellows at the University of Tartu (which is in 2023 1,720 euros per month for full-time work, net salary ca. 1400 euros). The standard duration of the doctoral programme is four years and the standard workload is 1.0. Upon agreement with the thesis supervisor, it may be possible to have a lower workload. The minimum workload is 0.5.
Some study places do not include a junior research fellow position and the person is only admitted as a student (without the employment contract). This enables to apply for different scholarships, but the university or state has no obligation to provide a stipend/income to the student.
It´s not allowed to start the studies as an external student anymore, but it is still possible to continue unfinished doctoral studies as an external student.
See further information about the status and funding of doctoral students.
Industrial doctorate is a form of cooperation between university, partner organization and doctoral student. Doctoral student can also work as a junior research fellow at another institution (e.g. research organization or private enterprise). An industrial doctoral student conducts research that is relevant to a company or institution.
Further information regarding industrial doctorate (available only in Estonian).
The joint supervision agreement's purpose is cooperation between the University of Tartu and a foreign university in supervising the doctoral student and conducting research related to the doctoral thesis. The result is one doctoral thesis, which is defended before a joint council set up by two universities. If the thesis is successfully defended, both universities issue a diploma with reference to the degree awarded by the other university.
If a doctoral student is already studying at a foreign higher education institution, it´s possible to admit the student to the University of Tartu without a public competition. Upon signing the joint supervision agreement, the university verifies the applicant's compliance with the admission requirements. The student must have a master´s degree or equivalent qualification and international applicants must submit a proof of language proficiency.
See further information about signing the joint supervision agreement.
Contact person in the Office of Academic Affairs: Reet Marits, firstname.lastname@example.org
How to apply?
International applicants can apply online via the DreamApply application system. The application form is open during the application period and you must upload all required documents there by the application deadline. If you fail to submit the documents by the deadline, your application is not considered for admission and we do not process it further. You can apply for one study place only.
All documents listed below must be uploaded to your DreamApply application by the application deadline. Documents submitted after the deadline are not accepted.
- online application
Complete the application form in DreamApply and submit it by the application deadline.
- doctoral thesis project/motivation letter (depending on the requirements for your chosen study place)
You will find guidelines on how to prepare the written work on the open calls website, where you can also find out if the study place requires a thesis project or a motivation letter.
- education documents in their original language
The following documents are required:
- official copies of both bachelor's and master's diplomas
- diploma supplement (bachelor's and master's transcript/mark sheet, including the description of the grading scale).
Please see our country-specific requirements as well. There may be special requirements for education documents depending on the country in which study took place.
- official translations of both bachelor´s and master´s diplomas and diploma supplements into English
Translations are not required if the university issued these documents in English. As certified translations we consider
1) official translations made by the issuing institution (university) bearing their original signature, stamp, etc., or
2) translations made and certified by a sworn translator (or certified by a notary).
- proof of English language proficiency
This applies to all international applicants. If you need to take an accepted English language test, the test must be taken by the application deadline.
- proof of Russian language proficiency for the Russian Language and Literature speciality
- copy of passport page stating the applicant’s personal particulars
Your passport must be valid during the application period.
- curriculum vitae
You will find an example form here. You can format your CV differently, but it must reflect all the points given in the sample file.
Submitted applications can not be edited. It is only possible to upload new documents (e.g. graduation certificates).
International applicants who have completed their previous study level in Estonia or who are about to graduate from an institution in Estonia may apply via SAIS or DreamApply. NB! You can access SAIS only with a valid Estonian ID card or residence card.
For the May-June intake the application systems are open at different times:
- 1 – 15 May DreamApply for international applicants (all faculties)
- 1 – 15 May SAIS for study places at the Faculty of Science and Technology
- 1 – 15 June SAIS for study places at the Faculty of Arts and Humanities, Faculty of Social Sciences and Faculty of Medicine
Required documents for international applicants graduating in Estonia
- online application in SAIS or DreamApply (please note different deadlines in May-June)
- doctoral thesis project or motivation letter (depending on the study place for which you are applying). It is specified on open calls page.
- curriculum vitae (example form here)
- proof of English must be submitted only if you have not graduated from an English-taught bachelor´s or master´s programme in Estonia (applies to international applicants).
- copies of master´s documents must be uploaded in SAIS only if there is no information about your master´s studies on your application ("Education" section). SAIS uses the data available from the Estonian Education Information System (EHIS)
- a copy of your passport is required in DreamApply, but not in SAIS.
If you graduate from the University of Tartu in summer 2023, the most recent transcript of your master´s studies is not required. Information will be verified from the Study Information System. If you graduate from some other higher education institution, you must upload the most recent transcript to DreamApply.
If paper copies of documents are required, we will inform you via SAIS/DreamApply after processing your application.
Applying in SAIS is different from applying in DreamApply:
- Some of the instructions in SAIS are available only in Estonian
- In SAIS we do not give feedback to all applicants. You will receive feedback only if we require additional information or documents. In this case, you will receive notification from SAIS by email. Please check your mailbox regularly, including junk mail
- If you are admitted, you must accept the study place in SAIS (the same is true with DreamApply) within seven days. International applicants in SAIS receive an official admission letter by email in two weeks after accepting the study offer.
Applicants graduating in 2023 and having their diplomas issued later than the application deadline, should electronically submit their most recent official transcript of records by the required deadline along with the rest of the required documents.
Please note that you must have graduated from your master´s studies by 1 August, 2023. The graduation documents must be submitted by 7 August.
For the September and November intake you must have graduated by the application deadline. If you are applying in February and your studies start in the same spring semester, you must have graduated by the application deadline.
We start processing all applications after the application deadline; you will receive feedback on your application in DreamApply. Processing applications takes time, and we kindly ask you to be patient. During the main intake in May we are able to give feedback to all applicants within three weeks of the application deadline. During other periods you will receive feedback one week after the application deadline.
Please note that applications with deficiencies will be rejected and will not be considered for admission. The decisions on applications will be made based on the electronic copies uploaded to DreamApply.
Evaluation consists of two steps:
- Evaluation of doctoral thesis project/motivation letter (depending on the requirements for the study place).
If you have uploaded all the required documents to DreamApply by the deadline and meet our admission requirements, your application will be forwarded to the admissions commission, which evaluates your doctoral thesis proposal/motivation letter.
- Conducting the entrance interview
If you score at least 35 points out of 50 for the thesis proposal/motivation letter (except the speciality in Law), you will be invited to attend an entrance interview (online video interview for international applicants). The respective institute will send you the exact time of the interview a few days before the interview date.
Both the doctoral thesis project/motivation letter and admission interview are assessed on a scale of 0 to 50 points, the minimum positive score is 35 points. Each components gives 50% of your overall score (except the speciality in Law) with a maximum overall score of 100 points. Applicants are admitted based on a ranking list composed of these scores.
The speciality in Law: doctoral thesis project is assessed on a scale of 0 to 60 points (the minimum positive score is 42 points) and interview is assessed on a scale of 0 to 40 points (the minimum positive score is 28 points). The maximum overall score is 100 points.
Admitted candidates have seven days to accept or decline the offer in the application system. The university may withdraw the admission offer if the admitted student fails to inform the university of his or her decision by the stipulated deadline.
Admission offers are conditional. This means that the applicant needs to fulfil certain conditions in order to be admitted (for example, sending application documents by post, obtaining the required level of education). If the conditions are not met, the admission offer can be withdrawn.
The university reserves the right to withdraw or amend any offer or revoke the matriculation of a student if it becomes evident that the application contains fraudulent information, the qualification does not provide access to the chosen study programme, the student is found to have omitted key information from the application or a long-term visa or a residence permit for study is not issued to the applicant. Should such circumstances occur, the university will not be liable for any material or immaterial loss suffered by the student as a result.
All admitted students are required to send application documents by post to: Student Admissions, University of Tartu, Ülikooli 18-132, Tartu 50090, ESTONIA.
The package must include:
- printed and signed application from DreamApply
Please see guidelines
- officially certified copies of diplomas and transcripts/diploma supplements (bachelor´s and master´s, guidelines below)
Please check if you have to follow country-specific requirements when sending education documents
- official translations of both bachelor´s and master´s diplomas and transcripts/diploma supplements into English (if applicable)
- simple copy of passport credentials page
- simple copy of English language certificate
You may send the hard copies of the application documents by the application deadline. This allows us to process the documents earlier, and if you get admitted, the following process will be smoother.
However, you can also prepare the documents and postpone mailing them until you receive the conditional admission offer. If you are admitted, send the documents in the fastest possible way (by courier), making sure they arrive within two weeks. If you choose this option, please prepare the certified copies now so that you can send them out at once if necessary. Getting your documents properly certified can take quite a while. If the documents do not arrive on time, the university has the right to withdraw the admission offer.
Applicants will be informed when their documents have arrived. Please note that the documents are first delivered to the university´s Postal Service and are taken to our office once a day. If you see that your documents have reached the University of Tartu, it does not necessarily mean we have already started processing your documents. Please be patient and wait until you receive a notification via DreamApply, confirming that we have started processing your documents. Please note that the application documents will not be returned.
All copies of education documents (diplomas and diploma supplements/transcripts) must be officially certified. Certified copies should bear an original signature and seal of the certifying authority stating that they are true copies of the original.
The documents can be certified either:
- by an authorised official from the issuing institution
- by a notary
- with an Apostille attached.
Please note that the university does not accept simple copies of original documents or copies of certified copies. Some country-specific requirements also specify the way documents must be certified.
Never send us your original degree certificates, as documents sent by post may get lost and application documents will not be returned. Only send attested copies of degree certificates.
The official admission letter will be sent to admitted students electronically via DreamApply only after the admissions office has received and reviewed hard copies of the application documents and received the evaluation from the Estonian ENIC/NARIC Centre (if applicable).
The electronic admission letter is also sufficient for non-EU students for applying for visa/residence permit at an Estonian embassy.
If you have been offered a doctoral student place with a state-funded junior research fellow position at the University of Tartu, you need to sign a work contract after accepting the study offer. The junior research fellow's salary is comparable to the Estonian average and corresponds to the minimum salary rate of junior research fellows at the University of Tartu (which is in 2023 1,720 euros per month for full-time work, net salary ca. 1400 euros).
You will be contacted regarding the contract by the faculty in one week after accepting the study offer.
Junior research fellows are generally expected to study and work full-time from the time announced on the open call webpage. The exact workload and starting date will be agreed during the contract negotiations. If the university and the applicant fail to reach an agreement on the conditions of the employment contract within one month from accepting the student place, the university has a right to revoke the admission decision. As a general rule, junior research fellows must arrive in Tartu by the beginning of studies and work. Non-EU students also need to have a valid D (long-stay) visa or temporary residence permit (TRP) to stay in Estonia legally.
Once the admission letter has been issued, admitted students may proceed with arranging their arrival.
All non-EU students should first consult information on the process of visa and temporary residence permit application to know where and when to apply for the relevant documents.
Note that housing at the UT dormitories can be applied for during a limited period only, unless specified otherwise on the website. For housing alternatives please find further information on Tartu Welcome Centre website.
Travel information can be found here.
Based upon common queries, the most important information has been summarised into a pre-arrival information website UT Getting Started.
If you apply in February or May, your studies start at the beginning of the academic year. The academic year starts on 4 September 2023.
When applying in September or November, studies begin during the autumn semester (in February at the latest).
General information on academic matters related to PhD studies is described here.