Status and funding of doctoral students

This page gives an overview of doctoral students' status and the different possibilities for funding 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 

The organisation of doctoral studies changed significantly from the academic year 2022/2023. The conditions vary according to the time of your matriculation. 

Doctoral students matriculating in the 2022/2023 academic year or after 

From the 2022/2023 academic year, doctoral student places will mainly be offered as state-funded junior research fellow positions. 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). The conditions of student places are specified in the competition information 

You have been admitted to a student place and a junior research fellow position: you are a student and an employee of the university. The student status enables you to apply for different student scholarships. To gain international experience, explore the options for mobility grants. 

Good to know  

  • 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 2024 1,830 euros per month for full-time work, net salary ca. 1450 euros). An additional monthly salary or scholarship can be granted by the supervisor or the institute.

  • Junior research fellows/doctoral students are not entitled to the doctoral allowance or performance stipend. 

  • Fixed-term employment contract is concluded until the end of the person's standard period of study. The workload corresponds to the planned period of study in the individual plan. The standard duration of the doctoral programme is four years and the standard workload is 1.0. The minimum workload of a junior research fellow is 0.5. 

  • The period of study of a doctoral student, including suspensions of doctoral studies, may not exceed eight years, unless the doctoral studies are suspended for caring for a child of up to three years of age or for conscription or alternative service in the Defence Forces.

  • The specific duties of the junior research fellow are agreed upon in the individual plan. A junior research fellow must be engaged in research, development and creative activities for at least 80% of the working time. 

  • The result of the doctoral student’s progress review determines whether the employment contract is continued. 

  • If the doctoral student is exmatriculated, the employment contract is terminated. 

  • The junior research fellow is entitled to annual leave based on the employment contract. Doctoral studies of the junior research fellow are suspended based on the junior research fellow’s request for the period during which the junior research fellow is on maternity leave, parental leave, in conscription or alternative service or, by agreement of the parties to the contract, on unpaid leave.

  • The student of industrial doctorate can be the employee of a company or institution that is a partner under the corresponding cooperation agreement. In this case, he/she is the student at the university.

  • The employment contract establishes the conditions related to intellectual property: as a general rule, the moral rights belong to the author, but the economic rights to the intellectual property created in the execution of work duties belong to the University of Tartu.

The position of a junior research fellow involves institute-related duties and obligations but also ensures the same rights as other university employees have. In addition to a stable income, national health insurance and paid annual leave, the different social guarantees arising from the employment contract include entitlement to sickness benefit, applicability to occupational health and safety requirements, access to workplace facilities and equipment, reimbursement of business trip expenses, in-service training courses and the opportunity to use staff services.  

UT intranet provides more information regarding employment contracts and granting stipends.


International students from non-EU/EEA countries should keep in mind that: 

  • you need to apply for a D-type visa to come to Estonia, 

  • you can apply for temporary residence permit to study when you are already in Estonia.  

Learn more about visa and residence permit application procedures


You have been admitted to a student place and have a student status. This enables you to apply for different scholarships for students. To gain international experience, explore the options for mobility grants 

Good to know  

  • To admit a student, the academic unit must have capacity to supervise the student and suitable funding/project to finance student's research.   

  • The period of study as well as plan of studies and research are agreed upon in the individual plan. 

  • The standard duration of the programme is four years. The period of study of a doctoral student, including suspensions of doctoral studies, may not exceed eight years, unless the doctoral studies are suspended for caring for a child of up to three years of age or for conscription or alternative service in the Defence Forces.

  • The doctoral student is not entitled to receive a doctoral allowance or performance stipend, and the university or state has no obligation to provide a stipend. 

International students from non-EU/EEA countries should keep in mind that to apply for a visa or temporary residence permit, they will have to provide proof of sufficient means of subsistence for the entire stay in Estonia. If a student has been accepted to the doctoral student position, monthly income must meet the requirements established by law, in addition to which the student will need to purchase health insurance coverage for the full period of study in Estonia. Moreover, when planning funds, take into account monthly living expenses in Estonia.  

Learn more about visa and residence permit application procedures



Doctoral students matriculated in the 2021/2022 academic year or before

You have the status of a student. This enables you to apply for different scholarships meant for students. To gain international experience, explore the options for mobility grants

All doctoral students studying full-time are entitled to receive a doctoral allowance of 660 euros per month for the four years of the standard duration of the curriculum.  

To receive the doctoral allowance, the student must 

  • study full-time or part-time without the obligation to pay tuition fees, 

  • be a citizen of Estonia or reside in Estonia on the basis of a long-term or temporary residence permit, or a permanent or temporary right of residence, 

  • have successfully passed the progress review in the academic year preceding the granting of the allowance, or be a first-year doctoral student, 

  • not be on academic leave. 

Learn more about doctoral allowance

The University of Tartu grants doctoral students with excellent study results 400 euros per month in addition to the doctoral allowance. 

To receive the performance stipend, the student must 

  • study full-time and have performed 100% of the curriculum according to the progress review, 

  • not be on academic leave, 

  • not be on the extension year, i.e. studies must not have exceeded the standard duration of the curriculum, 

  • be a first-year doctoral student who has not had a progress review yet, 

  • not perform work in the university on the basis of an employment contract that supports their doctoral studies, 

  • not receive Dora Plus or other doctoral stipend. 

Learn more about the performance stipend

Doctoral students may receive other scholarships in addition to the doctoral allowance and the performance stipend, but the specific requirements and possible restrictions of different funding opportunities must be kept in mind 

International doctoral students not employed have Estonian national health insurance during the period they receive PhD allowance (660 euros monthly income). During the extension period or academic leave (even if taken for health reasons), Estonian national health insurance is not granted. The employed students have national health insurance coverage.

Learn more about student health insurance

A doctoral student matriculated in the 2021/2022 academic year or before can apply for the position of a junior research fellow. The position can be financed by the state, faculty or institute. 

Good to know  

  • Opening a position and term of employment contract decision are made by the head of unit.  

  • Junior research fellow employment contract is concluded to follow a university's doctoral programme and at least 80% of working time should be spent on the research, development and creative activities. 

  • Junior research fellows are entitled to annual leave based on their employment contract; in addition, as students, they are entitled to academic leave. 

  • Junior research fellows are entitled to national health insurance as employees. 

  • Junior research fellows must be matriculated to doctoral studies at the University of Tartu. If the junior research fellow is exmatriculated, the employment contract will be terminated on general legal grounds. 

  • Junior research fellows cannot be granted a performance stipend.

Ask for more information about open positions of junior research fellows from the centre for doctoral studies of your faculty or from your institute. More information on employment contracts is available in the UT intranet

Learn more about visa and residence permit application procedures


Tuition fee

As a general rule, there is no tuition fee for doctoral studies. Exceptions to this rule:   

  • doctoral students studying part-time pay a tuition fee of 100 euros per semester, 

  • external doctoral students pay a tuition fee of 100 euros per semester.  

Learn more about tuition fee


A salary or a stipend?

A doctoral student may be paid a salary or a stipend. When deciding on the appropriate payment method, following articles of the Income Tax Act must be taken into account.   

A salary is a payment for work done, which is paid after the work has been completed. Learn more

A stipend is a future-oriented benefit, which is paid for the promotion of the acquisition of knowledge or skills, development of competences and creative or scientific activities. A stipend does not include payments which recognise or remunerate any activities or by making which a person who made the payment acquires the rights to the work. Learn more

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