Doctoral education

Being a supervising professor or thesis advisor at Aalto University

Sufficient and high-quality supervision based on a relationship between the supervising professor and the doctoral student is a key quality factor for doctoral education and research. We have approximately 3150 doctoral students at Aalto University. For them, supervision means everything.

Good supervision allows the doctoral students to complete their studies and the associated research within the time specified in the doctoral personal study plan. Defining a shared set of university-level principles for the supervision of doctoral students furthers the equal treatment of all students.

The doctoral programme committees monitor and develop the school-level practices of supervising doctoral students in line with the university policy. The supervision principles are defined in a manner that does not regulate supervision in too much detail but allows individual needs to be considered in each guidance case.

Doctoral education

Supervision of doctoral studies

Instructions and information for doctoral students, supervising professors and thesis advisors about supervision

Read more
Photo of a part of a painting with letters S painted on white background

Pedagogical training: Doctoral supervision (3 ECTS) 14.9.-23.11.2023, enrolment open until 11.8.2023

A pedagogical course for supervisors and advisors of doctoral students at Aalto in autumn 2023

Read more
Pedagogical training elective course

Supervision resources

Accepting new doctoral students & inviting visitors

Double affiliation

It is possible for professors to get a fixed term double affiliation in a partner school at Aalto. The purpose of the double affiliation is to establish research collaboration between schools and to have a double affiliation when applying for funding.

When a professor has acquired the double affiliation agreement with a partner school from Aalto, the research collaboration can also include supervision of doctoral students in the partner school.

A professor may become the only supervising professor of a doctoral student in the partner school if:

  • The professor has a double affiliation agreement with the partner school (signed by the department heads of both schools)
  • The professor has been assigned to a research field of the partner school for the fixed term of the double affiliation. The professor can be assigned to the research field of the partner school, only if the department head of the department where the research field is located supports this. The professor has to give reasons for this need (e.g. he/she has acquired funding to a project in the partner school)
  • The degree and the result of the degree in the funding model will go only to the partner school (i.e. the school of the doctoral student).

Please note:

  • The doctoral student and the supervising professor will follow the processes and requirements of the partner school, i.e. the school that has granted the study right for the doctoral student.
  • The matters regarding this doctoral student will be processed only in the partner school (i.e. school of the doctoral student).
  • The double affiliation professors assigned to a research field at the partner school will not be listed on the research field list at the Into web-pages.
  • In cases where a double affiliation professor (fixed term) takes a new doctoral student in the partner school, the supervision plan needs to include the name of a second  professor from the partner school (i.e. school of the doctoral student), who is willing to continue as the supervising professor of that doctoral student if he/she has not graduated before the double affiliation agreement has expired.

Doctoral personal study plan (DPSP)

The doctoral personal study plan (DPSP) is a tool for discussing about your doctoral students' plans and agreeing about the framework for their thesis work and your supervisory relationship.

DPSP has 5 parts:

  1. Credit plan (Sisu) (a plan concerning the content, scope and duration of studies with credits)
  2. Research plan (free format, Aalto template available)
  3. Supervision plan (Aalto template)
  4. Financing plan (free format, separate instructions)
  5. Career plan (free format, separate instructions)

All doctoral students must have a DPSP and update it when necessary.  Supervising professor's responsibility is to yearly follow their students' implementation of all the parts of the DPSP (according to Degree regulations on doctoral education), but keeping up-to-date with the plans of the student more often is recommended.

Supervising professors must confirm their student's DPSP at the start of the studies. After that, they should confirm the DPSP e.g.

  • If the supervising professor, advisor(s), research topic or research field changes.
  • If the funding situation changes significantly.
  • If the student takes courses in another university.
  • When the student starts pre-examination, they must have an up-to-date and confirmed credit plan (Sisu) and career plan.

DPSP is collected and stored in the Student Success Hub (interface for faculty) / MyStudies (interface for students).

Student Success Hub for Aalto faculty is used online at

Degree structure and curriculum

The doctoral degree at Aalto University consists of 3 modules:

  1. General research studies
  2. Research field studies
  3. Doctoral thesis

The study modules 'General research studies' and 'Research field studies' comprise altogether 40 or 60 ECTS (40 ECTS in the fields of art and design & technology, 60 ECTS in the field of business). The scope and content of each of the study modules are described in the curriculum of the doctoral programme. Credit points are not awarded for the doctoral thesis. 

Please check curriculum requirements of your doctoral programme before confirming any DPSPs.

You can advise your doctoral student to find courses from

  • Compulsory courses of the doctoral programme
  • Other courses offered by the programme / School for doctoral students
  • Language and communication courses for doctoral students & Finnish/Swedish courses by Aalto Language Centre
  • Courses on transferable skills and competences offered at Aalto
  • Courses from other Finnish universities, or from our networks like N5T, Cluster, Unite! etc.
  • Aalto University Pedagogical training

Doctoral thesis, pre-examination and defence

Proposing pre-examiners and opponents

The supervising professor is responsible for proposing two independent preliminary examiners (pre-examiners) for the pre-examination and at a later stage one or two opponents for the defence. The supervising professor makes the proposal but may ask the thesis advisor(s) for suggestions for pre-examiners and opponent(s). The doctoral student cannot take part in making the proposal for the pre-examiners and opponent(s), but if they disagree (e.g. in case of bias), they can submit an official written response for the Doctoral programme committee before the pre-examiners / opponet(s) are appointed.

Note: Before making the proposal to the Doctoral Programme Committee, the supervising professor must contact the examiners and check that they are willing to examine the thesis within the given time.

The qualifications and suitability should be shown by presenting the pre-examiners’ and opponents’ CVs and lists of publications or an equivalent clarification (e.g. web links to the examiners’ home pages).


Supervising professor fills out the information on the Pre-examination application (306) form and gives the CVs and publication lists to the doctoral student to be attached to their online pre-examination request.

In addition the supervising professor may use the form Grounds for proposed pre-examiners/opponents (mandatory in BIZ & ELEC).

Doctoral student forms


Supervising professor fills out the information on the Opponent proposal (307) form, including opponent's CV and publication list.

In addition the supervising professor may use the form Grounds for proposed pre-examiners/opponents (mandatory in ELEC).

Doctoral student forms

Requirements for pre-examiners and opponents

  • The examiners have to hold a doctor’s degree.
  • They have to possess sufficient scientific competence and authority in the thesis’ research field or fields and have a sufficient amount of scientific publications. Pre-examiners should actively publish in the field of the thesis.
  • They should be among the best experts within the field from Finland or abroad. They need to be independent experts in the field, external to the School. The recommendation is to use international experts external to Aalto University.
  • A pre-examiner may serve as an opponent. CHEM & ELEC: In this case, also a second opponent must also be appointed.
  • ELEC & SCI: The pre-examiners and opponents cannot be from the school of the doctoral student, the school of the supervising professor, the co-supervisor or the thesis advisor or the research group in which the doctoral thesis is done. Only for very special reasons the examiner can be appointed from another school of Aalto (written motivation why nobody outside Aalto could be appointed).
  • Field of arts and design: It is possible to appoint a third pre-examiner on the basis of artistic merit only (without a doctor’s degree).

Objectivity and impartiality in choosing examiners

The pre-examiners and opponents are to present their own, independent, expert and impartial evaluation of the doctoral thesis and thus they cannot:

  • be a close relative of the student
  • be the student's immediate superior
  • have a too close relation to the author of the thesis, its supervising professor or thesis advisor

Please also see Aalto University's general guidance on objectivity and impartiality (


School-specific guidelines regarding collaborations and more detailed requirements

Best practices from schools

This selection of supervision practices at Aalto University is meant to serve as a tool for peer-learning, providing practical tips and illustrating experiences on doctoral supervision from the ground.

Management of doctoral education

Doctoral Education Working Group (DEWG)

The President has appointed the Aalto University Doctoral Education Working Group, which develops the university’s doctoral education, discusses the mutual issues on doctoral education and prepares the university guidelines.

Dipoli by Tuomas Uusheimo

Management of doctoral education at Aalto University

Doctoral education is lead at the School level by the Director of the doctoral programme and the Doctoral programme Committee (DPC). At the University level the Aalto University Doctoral Education Working Group (DEWG) develops doctoral education, discusses mutual issues and prepares university level guidelines on doctoral education.

Reflections on glass

Doctoral education services

Doctoral education services support doctoral students, supervising professors, thesis advisors and doctoral programme directors in matters related to doctoral studies. Doctoral education services belong to Learning Services.

See contact information
  • Published:
  • Updated:
URL copied!