In addition to the main intake in May, admission for some specialities may take place on
1-15 February, 15-30 September or 15-30 November.
The Faculty of Arts and Humanities at the University of Tartu is the most diverse and internationally well-known centre for research in the Humanities in Estonia. The research fields range from zoosemiotics to archaeological chemistry. This diversity is supported by the structure of admission – all specialities offer the chance to apply for a doctoral research position with your own topic.
Starting from the 2022/2023 academic year at the Faculty of Arts and Humanities opened a new doctoral programme in humanities, that combines 22 specialities:
- English Language and Literature
- French Language and Literature
- Spanish Language and Literature
- German Language and Literature
- Russian Language and Literature
- Scandinavian Languages and Literature
- Classical Philology
- Translation Studies
- Estonian Literature
- Comparative Literature
- Theatre Studies
- Art History
- Semiotics and Culture Studies
- Finno-Ugric Studies
- Religious Studies
The main focus of doctoral studies is on the doctoral thesis and research related activities. A study module (30 ECTS) must be completed to develop the necessary competencies and skills. Depending on the research topic, the doctoral student, in collaboration with the supervisor(s), can make purposeful choices regarding activities and courses that support the research work. The selection of courses in the specialist knowledge sub-module supports field-specific knowledge and skills. In the transferable skills sub-module, completing the course “Introduction to Doctoral Studies in Humanities" and a research ethics course or training in the first year is mandatory. The remaining courses and training will be chosen in collaboration with the supervisor(s) to contribute the best to the thesis and professional development. The doctoral student's progress in the program is assessed at least once a year during regular progress reviews. Graduation requires completion of the programme in full and defense of the doctoral thesis.
Admission requirements for Humanities
Masters’s degree or equivalent qualification
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.
English language proficiency - please make sure you also meet our language requirements.
Citizens of the Russian Federation who, under the legislation of the Republic of Estonia, cannot apply for a long-stay visa or residence permit to study or do not have a valid legal basis to stay in the Republic of Estonia until the end of the curriculum’s standard period of study are not eligible to apply to the University of Tartu in the 2023/2024 academic year.
According to the current legislation, citizens of Belarus can apply for Estonian long-term visa or temporary residence permit for studies and are therefore eligible to apply to the University of Tartu.
You can usually apply with your own research topic to the Humanities pogramme. Finding a prospective supervisor before applying for the programme is essential for a successful application. Please see further information on the faculty´s website. The main intake is on 1-15 May (if you received your master´s degree abroad) or 1-15 June (if you received your master´s degree in Estonia). In addition, admission for some specialities may take place on 1-15 February, 15-30 September or 15-30 November.
See the admission details for May 2023 intake on the open calls webpage
Evaluation of applicants
All candidates must submit a doctoral thesis project and CV with their application in the Dreamapply application system. Candidates are evaluated in two stages:
- After the application deadline, the Admissions Commitee evaluates the doctoral thesis projects. It is assessed on a scale of 0 to 50 points, minimum positive score is at least 35 points.
- Applicants whose doctoral thesis project is assessed positively will be invited to the interview. International applicants who cannot be present at the interview in Tartu, may conduct an online interview. Applicants will be informed of their interview date and time by the respective faculty. Minimum positive score is at least 35 points out of 50.
The maximum final score is 100 points. Based on the number of available study places, the best applicant(s) acording to the admissions ranking receive the admission offers.
The requirements for the doctoral thesis project and the evaluation criteria can differ depending on the speciality. Below you will find specific conditions and requirements for every speciality, as well as contact information in case you have further questions.
Doctoral thesis project (3–5 pages):
The project must clearly define the research question, justify its relevance and relevance in the field, describe the proposed data inventory (incl. the principles of data collection), main secondary sources and methodology for solving the research problem. Requirements for doctoral thesis projects:
- research topic complies with the main research areas of the institute;
- clearly formulated research question;
- justification of the novelty of the perspective;
- knowledge of the main issues in the field and the ability to position ones thesis there;
- description of the methodology to be used;
- overview of the main sources and literature; and
- possible courses of action to find a solution.
The project should include information on the earlier research experience (master’s thesis, research presentations, publications) and possible preliminary agreements with supervisors.
The oral interview consists of the applicant´s 10-minute presentation for the admissions committee and a discussion on relevant issues of the speciality related to the doctoral thesis project.
Interview is based on a CV, that is submitted together with the online application. The CV provides an overview of the applicant’s earlier studies and research, thus also showing the applicant’s preparedness and research maturity. Interview is also used to assess the applicant´s motivation and expectations for doctoral studies.
Assessment of the thesis project (maximum score is 50 points):
- relevance in the field and connection with the main research areas of the institute (max 20 points);
- methodology and theory (max 20 points);
- feasibility (max 10 points).
During the interview, the following is assessed (maximum score is 50 points):
- educational background and work experience in the field (based on the CV), (max 15 points);
- motivation for studies and work in the field (max 15 points);
- ability to present the research material and explain the bases of theory and methodology of the thesis project (max 20 points).
Speciality representative: Raili Marling, firstname.lastname@example.org
The structural elements of a doctoral thesis project (5000–9000 characters) are:
- topic of the doctoral thesis. The purpose and overview of the research – what kind of a problem the thesis is going to solve;
- theoretical context – a short summary of the nature of the problem and the most important related research;
- research methods – the research methodology that will be used to solve the problem and that is necessary for such work;
- hypotheses – expectations for the results, their novelty and importance;
- planned format of the doctoral thesis; and
The assessment of the feasibility of a doctoral thesis project covers the following:
- compliance with the applicant’s former research and the proposed doctoral thesis;
- applicant’s overall competency in the field and earlier research, based on the experience and professional development presented in their CV;
- preliminary agreements with supervisors at the University of Tartu.
The defence of the thesis project takes is conducted as an oral interview, based on the doctoral thesis project and relevant issues of the speciality. Applicants are assessed on the basis of their knowledge of the field, the clarity, depth and scope of the problem, the clarity of the working hypotheses, the applicant’s preparedness for research in the field, their oral and written presentation skills, and their motivation and preparedness to complete doctoral studies successfully on time.
Speciality representative: Kristin Kuutma, email@example.com
Doctoral thesis project (3–5 pages) should contain the following:
- topic of the doctoral thesis, the purpose and overview of the research – what kind of a problem the thesis is going to solve;
- name of the prospective supervisor;
- theoretical context: a short summary of the nature of the problem and the most important related research;
- research methods: the research methodology that will be used to solve the problem and that is necessary for such work;
- hypotheses: expectations for the results, their novelty and importance;
- planned format of the doctoral thesis;
- planned schedule of doctoral studies: conducting research and studies, studies abroad, research projects and other activities related to the specialty done at the university and outside the university.
Doctoral thesis project assessment criteria:
- novelty of the topic (originality and authenticity or novelty of results);
- the applicant’s ability to find and formulate the research problem (a clear research purpose and hypotheses used as a basis of the thesis);
- adequacy of research methods;
- knowing their way around the sources;
- feasibility of a thesis on this topic and its relation with the applicant’s earlier research;
- feasibility of the planned timetable.
The curriculum vitae of the applicant is used to consider the following:
- prior work experience and education of the applicant
- professional development of the applicant
- motivation of the applicant
Interview is used to assess the following:
- ability to connect the research project with previous scientific work and academic career (the number and quality of publications will also be assessed)
- ability to present the main idea, problem and stages of the planned doctoral thesis
- the perspective of completing the doctoral programme successfully within the nominal study period.
Speciality representative: Janet Laidla, firstname.lastname@example.org
The doctoral thesis project (length up to 3 pages) must include the following:
- justification for the choice of the topic and the research purpose;
- main issues dealt with in the thesis and an illustrative structure (recommended);
- short overview of the most relevant former research in the field;
- presentation of the research methodology;
- illustrative list of literature;
- timetable for the work.
The project is assessed from the perspective of its research quality, including the following:
- whether and how much the topic complies with the main research areas of Estonian and Finno-Ugric linguistics and has been approved by the supervisor;
- whether and how much it includes the justification of the novelty of the perspective;
- whether and how much it provides an overview of the main sources and literature;
- whether and how much it shows that the applicant is familiar with the main issues of the topic;
- whether and how much the applicant indicates the possible courses of action to find a solution
Doctoral thesis projects are defended during an interview. Applicants present their projects and answer questions from admissions committee members.
The assessment of the project defence covers the following:
- ability to relate the project with their earlier research and academic career (incl. the quantity and quality of publications);
- ability to present the idea, problems and main stages of the work;
- motivation to complete doctoral studies successfully on time.
The assessment of the feasibility of a doctoral thesis project covers the following
- links of the project with larger research projects;
- existence of the infrastructure and other resources required for the work;
- relationship between the applicant’s former research and the proposed doctoral thesis;
- applicant’s overall competency in the field and earlier research, in view of the experience and professional development presented in their CV.
Speciality representative: Ann Veismann, email@example.com
Doctoral thesis project (3–5 pages + references)
- Present a research question or a set of research questions which the doctoral project will answer.
- Contextualize the research question(s): describe the state of the debate in the relevant literature and, on this basis, explain why it is important to address the research question(s)--show that by answering this question, you will make a valuable contribution to the current state of debate in the relevant literature.
- Explain how you will work out the answers to your research question(s). If you have ideas about what the answers are to your research questions, then explain how you will defend these answers.
- Present a work-plan: explain how you will fit your strategy for answering your research question(s) into the timeframe of doctoral work at the University of Tartu: how you will meet the requirements and deadlines at each stage of your PhD. Your plan must be plausible. In presenting your plan, you must show that you really do understand what work is required to achieve each of the requirements by the relevant time.
The doctoral thesis project will be evaluated on the basis of the following criteria:
- the ability of the applicant to understand and adequately formulate the research question(s);
- whether answering the research question(s) really does/do make a valuable contribution to the literature the thesis is meant to be a contribution towards;
- the applicant's knowledge of the relevant philosophical literature;
- whether the applicant’s strategy for answering their research question(s) is both clear and convincing;
- whether the applicant’s work-plan shows that the student understands the requirements of a doctoral degree at the University of Tartu to the extent required to complete the degree on schedule;
- whether the applicant’s application overall provides a compelling reason to believe the candidate will produce not just passable research, but research of high quality that will contribute both to the good standing of the candidate and the UT Department of Philosophy;
- the feasibility of the work proposed, given the supervision competencies available at the University of Tartu Department of Philosophy.
The candidate’s CV must include a list of research work already completed by the candidate. When applying for a PhD position in Philosophy it is strongly recommended that the candidate adds to her CV a writing sample, which will be taken into account when assessing the candidate’s proposed research project. The writing sample’s length should correspond to the length of a typical philosophy paper in the field of Philosophy on which the candidate wishes to write their doctoral thesis (but certainly no longer than 50 pages).
The writing sample will be assessed in accordance with the following criteria:
- the clear presentation of a claim to be defended;
- the clarity of argumentation in defence of this claim;
- the validity, soundness and convincingness of the argumentation;
- how well structured the writing sample is;
- whether the writing sample is up to date with the relevant literature;
- whether the writing sample has been published/is forthcoming in a journal of good quality;
- relation to the proposed doctoral thesis: i.e. applicants whose writing sample supports the view that the applicant is competent in the area the doctoral thesis will be a contribution towards are likely to score higher than applicants whose writing sample shows no such support.
Interview will be evaluated based on the following criteria:
- the extent to which the applicant’s interest, prior education and/or work experience suit the objectives and learning outcomes of doctoral studies;
- skills in analysis, argumentation, and self-expression;
- the extent to which the applicant shows they will be an active contributor to the intellectual community of the University of Tartu Department of Philosophy;
- the extent to which the applicant seems capable of meeting the requirements of the University of Tartu Philosophy speciality on time, and to a high standard;
- readiness for continuous learning and professional development.
Speciality representative: Alexander Stewart Davies, firstname.lastname@example.org
Doctoral thesis project must specify the topic of the doctoral thesis in Estonian or in English and in the original language if it is not Estonian or English, accompanied by the field(s) of study (up to three) associated with the topic, based on the CERCS (Common European Research Classification Scheme) classification.
A doctoral thesis project must include the following:
- research topic;
- reasoning of the choice of the topic, delimitation of the topic in the field of study, and the research purpose;
- short summary of former research on the topic;
- presentation of the research methodology;
- presentation of the preliminary structure of the thesis;
- presentation of the hypothesis, where necessary;
- list of possible source materials; and
- timetable for writing the thesis.
The recommended length of the project is up to 5 pages (12 500 characters with spaces), and it must include the name and the signature of the applicant and the date.
Doctoral thesis project and its feasibility is assessed based on the following:
- the novelty of the topic;
- the applicant’s ability to find and formulate the research problem and purpose;
- adequacy of research methods;
- knowing their way around the sources;
- feasibility of the chosen project and relatedness with earlier research or work in the field.
Applicant´s CV is used to consider:
- previous work experience and educational background;
- candidate´s motivation.
Interview takes 15 minutes. The applicant has 5 minutes for presenting their motives and the project they have submitted with their application. The remaining 10 minutes are used for asking the applicant questions about their motivation and thesis project. The exam may take place, at the applicant’s choosing, either in Estonian or in English.
The interview will be evaluated based on the following criteria:
- ability to connect the research project with previous scientific work and academic career;
- the temporal perspective of completing successfully the study programme within the nominal study period.
Speciality representative: Urmas Nõmmik, email@example.com
Doctoral thesis project must specify the following:
- topic of the thesis,
- summary of the nature of the problem and themost important related research;
- purpose of the research – what kind of a problem the thesis is going to solve;
- the applicant’s ability to find and formulate the research problem (a clear research purpose and hypotheses);
- research methodology that will be used to solve the problem; adequacy of research methods;
- novelty of the topic (originality, authenticity of results);
- expectations for the results – their novelty and importance;
- preparedness to deal with the topic, knowledge of the relevant materials,
- relatedness with earlier research or work in the field;
- knowing their way around the sources.
- preliminary agreements with supervisors;
- ability to be in Estonia during the studies.
During the interview the following is assessed:
- oral justification for the thesis project;
- motivation to begin the studies;
- oral presentation skills.
Speciality representative: Alexander Stewart Davies, 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 only apply for one speciality or project.
If you apply with a master´s degree obtained in Estonia, you can apply via SAIS or DreamApply (see details below).
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
You will find guidelines on how to prepare the doctoral thesis project in the section "Evaluation of applicants"
- education documents in their original language
The following documents are required:
- official copies of both bachelor's and master's diplomas
- diploma supplements (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. A language certificate must be submitted by the application deadline. 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). Applicants will receive feedback and notifications through the DreamApply system to their e-mail. Incomplete applications or those submitted by e-mail will not be considered for admission.
Guide to submitting electronic application on DreamApply.
Applying if you have not yet graduated
Applicants graduating in 2023 and having their diplomas issued later than the application deadline, must electronically submit their most recent official transcript 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.
Evaluation of your previous qualification
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.
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 after 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 by the Admissions Commission
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 for evaluation. If your doctoral thesis project receives a positive score, 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.
Admission results (including offers) will be announced to all applicants personally via DreamApply. 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:
- a 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).
NB! 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.
Beginning of your studies
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.
Estonian applicants should apply via National Admission Information Systems (SAIS). Further information in Estonian.
International applicants graduating in Estonia
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: DreamApply is open on 1-15 May and SAIS is open on 1-15 June.
Required documents for international applicants graduating in Estonia
- online application in SAIS or DreamApply (please note different deadlines in May-June)
- doctoral thesis project
- 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)
- proof of Russian language proficiency for the Russian Language and Literature speciality
- copies of master´s documents. If you apply in DreamApply and your degree is not from UT, upload the graduation documents. Information about UT graduates will be verified from the Study Information System and scans are not needed. If you apply in SAIS, the information about your master´s studies will be available in the "Education" section and uploading additional scans is not needed. 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.