Supervising at doctoral level

The main task of the supervisor is to help doctoral students develop into independent researchers with a scientific approach.

When a student is accepted to the postgraduate program, two supervisors are appointed, a principal supervisor who has primary responsibility for the program and an assistant supervisor. One of the supervisors should be at least an associate professor. If the proposed principal supervisor is not an associate professor the postgraduate programs committee will also assess the suitability of the principal supervisor for the assignment based on documented (CV and scientific production) scientific progress since completion of the PhD. One of the supervisors should be employed by or hold an adjunct position at Uppsala University. Read more about the Admissions Ordinance for Postgraduate Studies at Uppsala University in the university’s collected rules and regulations online.

The postgraduate programs committee of the Faculties of Medicine and Pharmacy formally decide on principal supervisors and assistant supervisors in conjunction with admission of doctoral students.

Download the form for admission to postgraduate studies and the form for individual study plan.

Supervisory duties

In many cases the doctoral student and the supervisor will collaborate on a research project and both be named as authors on the works that will be included in the doctoral student’s dissertation. In these cases the requirements for contact between supervisor and doctoral student are met. In other cases the supervisor and doctoral student may work in different departments and supervision may then have more of an advisory nature or involve monitoring, rather than close collaboration. In these cases the supervisor-doctoral student relationship may be associated with problems and may be inadequate from the standpoint of the doctoral student. Other problems may arise when the supervisor is temporarily located in another city or changes area of activity. An action program was developed to deal with situations that the doctoral student or the supervisor experience as unsatisfactory.

The supervisor must keep up to date on the rules and forms of the scientific discipline as well as:

  • Ensure that the doctoral student acquires the knowledge specified in the study plan.
  • Ensure that adequate resources for the project are made available to the doctoral student at the department.
  • Facilitate the doctoral student’s participation in relevant postgraduate courses, symposia, and conferences according to the individual study plan.
  • Support and encourage and be available for discussions with the doctoral student to the extent stated in the study plan.
  • Help broaden the doctoral student’s network of contacts at the department by encouraging them to present their project in seminar format both at the beginning of their project and at regular intervals thereafter.
  • Ensure that the dissertation project proceeds at a reasonable pace so that the work is completed within the stipulated time; this is best accomplished through ongoing and close contact in the research project.
  • Take responsibility for initiating, conducting and documenting an annual follow-up and mid-way review.
  • Determine when the dissertation project is ready for public defense; it is primarily the responsibility of the supervisor to assess when the dissertation fulfills the demands that can be placed on an academic thesis regarding both quality and scope. (It is the opinion of the faculty board that all subprojects in the dissertation must meet the scientific and formal criteria for publication in recognized international scientific journals).
  • Propose – together with the head of department – an external reviewer and members of the examining committee and inform the doctoral student about the rules surrounding defence of the thesis.

Changing supervisors

It is possible to apply to the postgraduate programs committee to change supervisors. The doctoral student must provide a well-founded explanation for the change. The doctoral student, all of the supervisors, and the department chair must sign the request. If the principal supervisor cannot be available for a longer time because of e.g., illness, being out of town, etc, a new supervisor should be appointed.

Information about a course: Supervising at doctoral level

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Last modified: 2021-03-22