The Start-up Phase of the PhD studies

Below is an overview of the start-up phase of the PhD education. The process from employment and admission to the PhD studies until a written agreement and an approved plan of education.

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Admission to PhD programmes

There are different ways to fund a PhD programme. The most common of these is full funding through grants (which normally leads to employment at the University of Stavanger). An employer can also fund a PhD candidate and other sources of external funding are also accepted. Private funding is normally not allowed.

The majority of our PhD students are funded through scholarship/grant schemes that encompass a three or four year employment contract between the candidate and the University of Stavanger. The appointment to a PhD fellow position leads to admission to the PhD programme. Admission is granted under the assumption that the candidate hands in a completed project and education plan (PhD plan) to the faculty, within the time limit stipulated in the employment contract. The plan will be evaluated and subsequently approved by the doctoral committee.  

While examining the PhD plan, the doctoral committee should also be presented a well-reasoned suggestion as to who will be the supervisor (group). The planned study programme, including any dissemination of academic results and international research stays must be further specified and will be evaluated when the PhD plan is available. If the PhD plan is not in place within the deadline stated in the employment contract, the employer has grounds to terminate the employment contract.

When an applicant is the recipient of external funding, the employment relation is not managed by the University of Stavanger. In this situation, the financial terms of participation in the PhD programme must be clarified by the funding party and the University of Stavanger before the application can be approved. This applies, for e.g. to candidates financed through the National Research Council’s Industrial PhD Scheme and Public Sector PhD Scheme.The UiS requirement is that external funding must cover an amount in line with the Research Council of Norway’s round sum for funding PhD candidates. This sum includes salary, social security costs, social and operating costs and well as funding for study abroad periods. The faculty stipulated potential requirements concerning residence duty.

Applicants, who are not fully funded through scholarship schemes, must produce documentation assuring that a minimum of 50% of their working hours during the PhD programme can be used for PhD education and that a minimum of one year can be allocated to full time studies. A possible requirement of being in residence at the University of Stavanger is stipulated by the faculty or PhD programme.

Regular rules of employment apply to PhD candidates, whether they are employed at the University of Stavanger or by an external party. Guidelines pertaining to conditions of employment at the University of Stavanger are maintained in the Personnel Manual. In addition, the research fellowships are governed by the Regulations concerning terms and conditions of employment for the posts of post-doctoral research fellow, research fellow, research assistant and resident (2006).

Candidates who are not employed at the University of Stavanger must apply for admission to the programme / course of study. Once funding/the letter of appointment is in place, the supervisor has been contacted and an outline of the project description is in place, the application for admission to the PhD programme must be delivered to the PhD coordinator at the concerned faculty. The faculty’s doctoral committee must approve the application before the commencement of the PhD training. Admission to the PhD programme is intitally granted on a conditional basis (see the paragraph below).

According to PhD regulations § 2-2, the application must include:

1. Documentation of education that forms the basis for admission                    
To be admitted to the PhD programme, applicants must have a five year masters degree or its equivalent. Applicants must have a strong academic background. The faculty can determine additional requirements.  (See Regulations § 2-1 Admission).

2. Description of the PhD project that includes:

  • A scientific description of the project, which includes thematic area, research questions and the choice of theory and methodology
  • Progress plan
  • Funding plan
  • Plan for the coursework
  • Information about any plans for a research stay abroad
  • Plans, if any, for study abroad / stay at another institution
  • Plan for research dissemination
  • Documentation of special needs for academic and material resources
  • Information about any restrictions on intellectual property rights that are intended to protect the rights of others
  • An account of any legal and/or ethical issues raised by the project and how these can be addressed and clarified
  • Proposal of at least one supervisor as well as a statement of association with an active research community.

Applications must be submitted to the appropriate faculty on the stipulated application form. The main academic supervisor must sign the application. The relevant department / centre must certify that office space and other infrastructural assistance can be provided to the candidate.

Only candidates with external funding need to apply separately for admission to a PhD programme. The faculty’s doctoral committee handles application for admission to the PhD programme. Admission will normally be subject to funding, admission capacity, the individual work plan, further development of the scientific rationale of the project, additional educational qualifications and/or intellectual property agreements. The basis for the admission decision and its contents are described in PhD Regulations § 2-3. If the application for admission is rejected, the candidate has the opportunity to appeal (PhD Regulations § 10-1).

Once the candidate is granted admission, the faculty will send the PhD candidate a letter of admission and the Agreement on admission to the PhD education (docx), together with UiS’ PhD Regulations and Guide for PhD Education. The letter of admission issued by the doctoral committee will provide a deadline for the preparation and submission of the work plan5 for doctoral training.

Candidates employed at UiS will usually receive the above-mentioned documents from the PhD coordinator at the relevant faculty. The employment contract will be sent by the HR department.

The candidate and main supervisor should work as quickly as possible to rewrite the project description and assess the need for adjustments. This process must be complete no later than three months after the admission decision has been taken.

A potential obligation to be in residence at UiS must be indicated in the letter confirming the admission.
The faculty/researcher school itself can stipulate such an obligation.

If the application process results in admission, this is formalised through a written document, “Agreement on Admission to the PhD education (docx)

The agreement is completed by the PhD candidate and the other involved parties and must be sent to the faculty's PhD coordinator.

During the course of the PhD programme, if there is a need for changes to the agreement, this shall be clarified in cooperation with the concerned department heads and this will also be documented in the progress report. Both leave and other conditions that result in changes to the agreement must be amended in the Annual Progress report.

The final work plan processed and formally approved

The work plan is an important tool for creating a solid and realistic programme for the implementation of the doctoral studies.

The completed PhD plan (including the individual training plan, further development of the academic rationale of the project, additional education and/or intellectual property agreements) must normally be made available no later than three months after the candidate has received temporary admission. Once the doctoral committee approves the PhD project plan, it is considered to be the final work plan for the PhD programme. In such an instance, the PhD candidate and supervisor(s) need only notify of changes to the project plan in conjunction with the annual progress report, unless the changes are substantial, e.g. if the hypothesis is profoundly changed or the data collection/chosen methodological approach is not feasible.

The information in the final work plan is used as the basis for the annual progress report and the mid-term evaluation.

During the programme, it is important to have an updated plan. Significant changes to the plan must be entered into the annual progress report, once the relevant authority approves such changes. The plan is a critical tool for creating a solid and realistic programme for the implementation of doctoral studies within the stipulated timeframe. In cooperation with their supervisor(s), the PhD candidate must at all times ensure that the plan is up-to date.

Checklists for the Start-up Phase

Checklists for the candidate and supervisor

  • If you are employed as a research fellow at UiS, you will receive a letter of admission and other important documents together with the employment contract.
  • If you have another employer than UiS, you must submit an application for admission to the programme, with required documentation, to the faculty's PhD coordinator as soon as funding/ employment at another institution has been clarified.
  • Ensure that you are familiar with UiS’ PhD regulations and the PhD programme’s study plan.
    You should also familiarise yourself with PhD education webpages on the university website.
  • Upon admission to the PhD programme at UiS, a signed version of the admission agreement must be returned to the faculty's PhD coordinator at the earliest after the main supervisor has been appointed.
  • If admission to the PhD programme was subject to modifications, these stipulations must be dealt with within the deadline mentioned in the doctoral committee’s admission decision. If the caveat was scientific elements in the project description, the PhD candidate and the supervisor(s) should revise the plan and submit it to the doctoral committee for final approval.
  • During the course of study, if there are significant changes to the final work plan, these must be amended in the annual progress report. The changes must be approved by the relevant authority before they are included in the annual report.
  • If you have an agreement regarding compulsory duties, communication and planning with the supervisor(s), and the Head of Department/employer is essential, before completing the agreement for admission to the PhD programme.
  • Ensure that you are familiar with UiS’ PhD regulations and the PhD programme’s study plan.
    You should also familiarise yourself with the PhD education webpages on the university website and on the intranet.
  • If the supervisory relationship is confirmed before the application for admission to the programme has been handed in, the supervisor is entitled to help in designing the PhD project. This includes assisting in finalising the scientific rationale, coursework, dissemination and study abroad options.
  • Sign the agreement upon admission to the PhD programme at UiS.
  • Once admission has been granted, the supervisor and the candidate must collaborate to prepare a project description/work plan. This will be handed in to the doctoral committee for final approval within the deadline specified in the admission decision.
  • If there are changes to the final work plan during the course of study, this must be registered in the annual progress reports. Substantial changes require formal approval, such approval must be in place before the changes are included in the progress report.
  • Ensure, as early as possible, that the PhD candidate is involved in a relevant, active scientific community at UiS and also in external networks.
  • Ensure that the PhD candidate knows the rules and regulations that apply to the PhD programme.
  • Ensure that the PhD candidate is familiar with the guidelines for research ethics in force at the institution and  in the scientific community in general.
  • Study abroad can be very instructive, and it is therefore important that you start thinking at an early stage about the institutions and environments that may be relevant for your candidate to visit.

Guide for PhD Education