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Doctoral studies

This page gives you an overview of doctoral studies in the University of Tartu: the programmes, regulations, planning stages, stipends and more. 

The University of Tartu offers eight doctoral programmes, which are coordinated by faculty-based centres for doctoral studies. Each programme contains multiple specialities offered by the faculty. Doctoral studies are provided by the Faculty of Arts and Humanities, the Faculty of Social Sciences, the Faculty of Medicine, and the Faculty of Science and Technology.

NB! Doctoral studies in Estonia are currently going through big changes that will be implemented in the 2022/2023 academic year. If you would like to learn more about how the University of Tartu plans to develop doctoral studies, please see here.

Read more about admission to doctoral studies

Doctoral programmes before the 2022/2023 academic year

Doctoral programmes starting from the 2022/2023 academic year

Doctoral studies at the University of Tartu

The University of Tartu has 1,150 doctoral students, comprised of around 30% international students. Of 1,600 academic staff members, 15% are international.

Learn more by visiting the page University in brief

Research is the main component of doctoral studies, constituting at least 75% of the programme. The focus in all the activities of a doctoral programme is the doctoral thesis, other academic activities and study support the research process and provide transferable competencies. If you study on a full-time basis, you can complete your degree in approximately four years. About 120 doctoral degrees are defended annually at the University of Tartu.

Doctoral students conduct research under the guidance of their supervisor, often as a member of a university research group. In addition to a University of Tartu supervisor, doctoral students can have a supervisor from another university or R&D institution. A knowledge transfer doctoral student conducts research that is relevant to a company or institution. Doctoral students can make use of one of a number of funding opportunities to gain international experience.

The goal of doctoral education is to cultivate the research mindset, to nurture flexibility of thought, creativity and intellectual autonomy through an original research project.

Salzburg Principles, European University Association (2010)

A doctoral degree prepares you for an academic career and a variety of jobs outside academia as a lead professional specialist. In addition to speciality and field-specific knowledge and skills, the holder of a PhD has an advanced capacity to formulate research questions and handle complex problems, management and teamwork as well as the ability to communicate clearly.

Organisation of doctoral studies

The University of Tartu's doctoral studies are organised by the Regulations for Doctoral Studies (RDS). The RDS includes the general rules of supervision, the individual plan, progress reviews and the degree application procedure. 

The University's good practices are recommended reading for all doctoral students, especially Good Practice of Doctoral Studies. 

For general study-related issues such as registration to courses, recognition of prior learning, etc., see Study Regulations. General study instructions and guidelines are also available here.

Faculty-specific requirements, such as faculty progress review procedures, are available on faculty doctoral studies pages.


Document forms

Planning and completing doctoral studies

The individual plan is the doctoral student's research and study plan, compiled in cooperation with his or her supervisor(s). During the progress review the review committee assesses the doctoral student’s academic progress in doctoral studies and research and in their completion of the individual plan.

After the doctoral student has been matriculated, the individual plan is compiled for the whole period of doctoral studies; this is a general plan of action. Together with the progress report, the doctoral student submits the individual plan for the next semester/study year; this is a more detailed action plan. The doctoral student compiles the individual plan for the entire study period as well as the detailed plan for the first semester within two weeks of matriculation. With the progress review report, the doctoral student submits the updated individual plan for the next review period.

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At the progress review the review committee assesses the doctoral student's progress in research and studies based on their programme and fulfilment of the individual plan.

First year doctoral students are reviewed twice: one semester after matriculation and two semesters after matriculation. From the second year onward, the progress of the doctoral student is reviewed once per academic year, two semesters after the last progress review.

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Detailed rules and guidelines for applying for a doctoral degree are available in the web version of the Regulations for Doctoral Studies. 

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Status and funding of doctoral students

This sub-page gives an overview of doctoral student’s status and the different possibilities to fund your doctoral studies. There is no tuition fee for doctoral students at the University of Tartu, including international students. However, it is essential to understand the different conditions and opportunities arising from different statuses. You can find more information on the following link.

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Study abroad

Mobility scholarships

ASTRA doctoral schools

Doctoral schools aim to improve the quality and efficiency of doctoral studies through cooperation between Estonian universities and other partner institutions. The activities of doctoral schools include both specialised and interdisciplinary interests, supporting local and international cooperation between students in their studies and research.

Learn more

Doctoral theses defences

Defended theses


Check out the new ENLIGHT courses for the 2022/2023 academic year

The ENLIGHT network has announced the first courses of the 2022/2023 academic year. Choose the course you would like to participate in and apply today.
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