Support to doctoral students

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There are various kinds of support function for doctoral students at Karolinska Institutet (KI).

The principal supervisor

The principal supervisor is the first person of recourse for students in need of support and advice. Doctoral supervisors at KI are required to take a professional approach to their role, which means ensuring that all education and research that is planned and executed is of a high standard and realistic in scope relative to the students’ individual study plans.

Supervisors are expected to make themselves available to their students, to be clear and consistent in their supervision, and to critically review the results obtained. Supervisors are also required to promote equal treatment by taking a firm stand against all forms of discrimination and harassment and to be fully familiar with the rules and conditions of doctoral education.

Read more about supervision in the Rules for doctoral education.


The main role of the co-supervisor is to complement the scientific expertise that exists within the project. The specifics of the role can vary, however, and must be clearly detailed in the students’ individual study plans.  

Directors of doctoral studies

The directors of doctoral studies at the departments represent the extended arm of the Board of Doctoral Education. Their roles include ensuring that the board’s intentions can be implemented and helping the students by providing support and information on such matters as admissions, individual study plans, credit transfer, half-time procedures, degree requirements and supervision as well as on problems or conflicts should they arise. They also play an important part in following up the students’ academic progress.

The remit of the directors of doctoral studies (in Swedish) was updated and clarified in 2014.

Administrators for doctoral education

The administrators for doctoral education at the departments provide the students with information and practical administrative support and advice, for example regarding admissions, individual study plans, credit transfer, half-time procedures and degree requirements.

External mentor

Each student has one or more mentors to supplement the input of the supervisors. The external mentors can come from within the university or from the council health services, industry or other sector of society, and are there to help students seeking independent advice on, for example, career planning or contact with healthcare consumers and other extramural sectors, or on any other issue they feel uncertain about.

The Doctoral Students’ Ombudsperson

The doctoral students’ ombudsperson is an independent expert employed by the Medical Students’ Union (Medicinska Föreningen) to support the doctoral students. The ombudsperson works under complete confidentiality, unless explicitly told otherwise by the doctoral student that seeks advice.

Central directors of doctoral studies

The central director of doctoral studies/coordinator Ingeborg van der Ploeg advises on matters requiring central support, such as those relating to the student-supervisor relationship. She and fellow director of doctoral studies Robert Harris also provide support to the departments’ own directors of doctoral studies.

Student health center

The student health center offers treatment to students suffering from study-related medical, mental and social problems. The centre also runs health promotion and preventive campaigns and arranges different events, including group activities and seminars on such themes as stress, speech anxiety, low self-confidence/esteem and performance anxiety.

Occupational health and counselling helpline

Previa offers preventive and rehabilitative occupational health services for all doctoral students (both employed at KI and scholarship-holders).

Doctoral students (both employed at KI and scholarship-holders) may also call the counselling helpline operated by Falck Healthcare, whose experienced consultants give advice on work-related psychosocial issues and private matters of a legal or financial nature.

Safety representatives for doctoral students

Safety representatives have the mission to watch over and work for good working conditions (physical, organizational and social). They collaborate with managers and doctoral students, but they are not responsible for taking measures etc.

Since May 2018 Elena Di Martino is appointed student safety representative for doctoral students.

Doctoral students with an employment at KI may also discuss work environment issues with a local safety representative at the department. Ask the Work environment group at the department whom to contact.

Organisation, roles and responsibility relating to the work environment

Career Service

KI's Career service offers activities and information to help doctoral students build a career.

International staff services

KI’s International staff services gives practical information to overseas students on residence permits, Swedish courses for doctoral students and other such matters.


Doctoral educationDoctoral student