Admission to doctoral education at KI

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Doctoral students need a proper, secure working environment marked by sound leadership and with a focus on their growth into independent researchers. Karolinska Institutet (KI) works continuously to strengthen weak doctoral educational environments and to support the individual student. The capacity to provide a solid research environment that promotes quality doctoral education is assessed at the point of admission.

Permission from the head of department prior to recruitment / ‘Green light’

Before advertising a doctoral position at KI, a prospective supervisor must obtain the written approval of his or her head of department, who then assesses this person’s abilities as a supervisor and checks the available finances.

A new doctoral student can from 1 January 2018 only be admitted to doctoral education at KI on the premises that the principal supervisor can present an approved ‘green light’ decision at the admission seminar. This means that an assessment has been done of the suitability as supervisor, previous track record and available time for supervision, as well as the financial resources of the applicant.‘Green light’ is a tool for interfering at an early stage to avoid situations where some of the prerequisites for a good doctoral education are missing.  


The candidates’ individual merits and suitability are assessed, and a selection is made on the following criteria:

  • documented knowledge of the subject that is of significance to the research area
  • analytical expertise
  • other documented knowledge/experience which may be of significance for doctoral education in the subject.

Admission seminar/Admissions Board

The admission procedure has the same overall structure at all KI departments.

The Board of Doctoral Education has delegated decisions on doctoral admissions to the heads of whichever department the students are to register at.

Admissions Board. Each department has an Admissions Board responsible for preparing applicant cases, organising and evaluating admission seminars and submitting candidate proposals to guide the head of department in his/her decision.

Each Admissions Board comprises:

  • the department’s director of doctoral education (chair)
  • at least three faculty representatives
  • at least one student representative.

If necessary (e.g. if the focus of the study plan falls outside the board’s competence), other experts may be co-opted.

Admission seminar. The admission seminar is where students present their research projects to the Admissions Board.

Before making a suggestion for decision on admission, the Admissions Board has to judge the following factors:

1. Doctoral educational environment

  •     whether there is an environment that promotes doctoral education of the highest quality (see the guidelines below)

2. The research project

  • the quality of the project
  • the feasibility of the project
  • whether the requirement for ethical permits has been taken into account

3. Individual study plan

  • if the proposed courses and the content of the study plan, in general, are relevant and sufficiently extensive in relation to the learning objectives and the requirements of the general syllabus
  • timetable
  • funding plan

4. Applicant

  • whether the applicant’s knowledge of the English language is sufficient in order to benefit from doctoral education in an international perspective
  • whether the applicant is familiar with what doctoral education at KI involves
  • the applicant’s ability to benefit from the education, based on the overall information in the application and information gained during the admissions seminar

5. Supervision

  • whether the proposed principal supervisor has the means to assist with good, professional supervision
  • whether the proposed co-supervisor(s) will be able to contribute the relevant complementary expertise.

It falls to the head of department to decide whether an application is to be accepted or rejected. Should an application be accepted, the individual study plan is established at the same time.

The Admissions Board judges whether there is a study and research environment capable of promoting the highest quality doctoral education (point 1 above) in accordance with a set of established guidelines:

  • Are there opportunities for contacts with other doctoral students and researchers, e.g. through networking activities, seminars etc.?
  • Is there support available for the doctoral student's studies, e.g. in the form of postdocs, statisticians, biomedical analysts and other researchers?
  • Are there opportunities for international exchange/contacts?
  • Have alternative ways to achieve the objectives been described, should those outlined not lead to success?
  • What previous experience of supervision does the supervisory group have, i.e. the principal and co-supervisors?
  • Presence of the supervisors in the group - full or part-time, the same physical workplace, etc.? How many doctoral students are currently being supervised?
  • How well described is the supervisory approach?
  • How will the supervision of the proposed doctoral project be organised (in which way will the various competencies of the supervisors be utilised in the project)?


KI requires all principal supervisors, except those who have already supervised a student to graduation, to undergo supervisor training. Before the student is admitted, however, all principal supervisors must take KI’s online course on the rules of doctoral education.

More on quality of supervision

Individual study plan

KI has a detailed individual study plan template on which the following information is given:

  • How the outcomes for doctoral education will be achieved
  • Research plan
  • Timetable
  • Intended degree (licentiate or PhD)
  • Supervisory requirements
  • Mentor (need not be established at the time of admission: students have a year to find one or more mentors)
  • Studies requiring ethical permits and details of existing permits and permits that have yet to be applied for
  • Any teaching the student plans to do
  • CV (appended)
  • Financing plan for the entire period, including a plan for the student’s own maintenance and the sources of financing to be used (appended).

You find additional information about the application process at your department's webpage or by contacting the administrative officer for doctoral education at your department. 

The individual study plan is followed up annually. More on following up academic progress.

More on the work being done to ensure a strong doctoral educational environment for students.

AdmissionDoctoral education