Supervision of doctoral studies
The supervision plan explains the roles and responsibilities of the supervising professor, thesis advisor(s), and the doctoral student and describes what has been agreed. It is part of the doctoral personal study plan and is updated as needed. The plan is valid until the scheduled time of graduation, assuming that it has been followed. Supervision plan template is available at
For supervising professors and thesis advisors
Roles and responsibilities
The supervising professor is an Aalto University professor who is responsible for overseeing the doctoral student's studies and may also be appointed to act as a thesis advisor. Thesis advisors have expertise in the subject area of the doctoral thesis, and one or more are appointed for each doctoral student.
If doctoral students have questions about supervision, their primary contact person is their supervising professor. If necessary, they can also contact the Doctoral education services.
When starting doctoral studies, the doctoral student commits to long-term goal-oriented study and research. The doctoral student has a right to study in accordance with the doctoral personal study plan and to receive knowledgeable guidance in his/her studies on a regular basis. In return for such guidance, the doctoral student commits to studying in accordance with the doctoral personal study plan. In addition, the doctoral student commits to acting in compliance with the guidelines of the National Advisory Board on Research Ethics on good scientific practice.
The responsibilities of the doctoral student are:
- preparing, in collaboration with the supervising professor, a doctoral personal study plan, DPSP
- notifying the supervising professor of any changes necessary to DPSP, or of any problems with following the plan
- negotiating with the supervising professor on the choice of research topic and preparing a thorough research proposal under the supervision of the supervising professor; giving an account of the objectives, contents, methods and schedule of the research
- familiarising him/herself with the ethical principles of scientific research and acting in compliance with good scientific practice in his/her research
- carrying out research independently and in a self-directed manner in accordance with the research proposal and within the limits of the research project
- actively publishing results in the publication fora of the field
- providing teaching related to the research field and communicating the results of his/her research to others
- aiming at, together with the supervising professor, securing funding for the doctoral studies
- reporting on the progress of the research to the supervising professor on a regular basis
- annually enrolling at the university
The supervising professor is in charge of the supervision arrangements for the doctoral student. The supervising professor is obligated to supervise those doctoral students who have enrolled as attending students, who have progressed in their studies according to their doctoral personal study plans, and who report on the progress of their studies on a regular basis. The supervising professor may either propose to assign some of the duties mentioned below to the thesis advisor(s) or also propose to act as the thesis advisor him/herself. What is said below of the duties of the supervising professor shall apply, as appropriate, also to the thesis advisor(s), where compliant with the division of responsibilities specified in the agreement.
The supervising professor is responsible for the supervision of the doctoral student and supports the implementation of the funding plan. The supervising professor provides guidance in the execution of the research and instructs the doctoral student in critical and independent thinking in research and artistic activities. The supervising professor encourages the doctoral student to actively publish his/her research results in the publication fora of the field of research/art in question, and guides him/her in publication writing. The supervising professor supports and encourages the doctoral student. The supervising professor is also responsible for ensuring that full-time doctoral students are not burdened excessively with duties other than doctoral research work. Participation in teaching is, however, part of doctoral education and obligatory for those with a doctoral researcher's employment contract (max 5%).
The supervising professor goes through and approves the doctoral personal study plan of the doctoral student. In addition, the supervising professor follows up on the progress of the studies and that of the research work on a regular basis: the supervising professor and the student discuss the progress of the studies on a regular basis, and the doctoral personal study plan is updated accordingly as necessary. At minimum, the plan is checked once a year. This follow-up requirement concerns full-time and part-time doctoral students in doctoral programmes.
The supervising professor is responsible for ensuring that the doctoral student is aware of good scientific practice and the ethical principles followed in his/her field of research as well as of the regulations concerning immaterial property rights, and monitors that the student adheres to such principles. To this end, the supervising professor and the doctoral student have a discussion at the start of their supervision relationship in order to look into the questions of research ethics and related practices relevant to the work of the student.
The supervising professor is responsible for ensuring that the doctoral student is aware of the requirements for a doctoral thesis and of the stages included in the preliminary examination and the public examination of the thesis. When the manuscript of the doctoral thesis is complete, it may only be submitted for preliminary examination after the supervising professor has issued a statement confirming that the manuscript is ready for preliminary examination. The supervising professor makes sure that the doctoral student makes the necessary corrections proposed to the doctoral thesis manuscript by the preliminary examiner(s). The preliminary examination can only start when course requirements are fulfilled.
The supervising professor assists the doctoral student in career planning, and ensures that the doctoral studies and research process equip the doctoral student with not only research skills but also transferable skills.
Who can act as supervising professor?
A supervising professor must represent the research field (BIZ: major) of the doctoral student and is appointed by the Doctoral Programme Committee of the School. A supervising professor must be a tenure-track professor of the school, though for special reasons, the Dean of the School can decide that a non-tenure track professor with a doctor's degree may act as a supervising professor. A retired professor (e.g. Emeritus or Senior Advisor) cannot be appointed as supervising professor.
ELEC: If a non-tenure track professor is assigned as the supervising professor, also a deputy professor has to be assigned. The deputy professor has to be a tenure track professor of the research field, who takes over as the supervising professor, if the non-tenure track professor cannot continue the supervision until the doctoral student has graduated.
SCI: A deputy supervising professor has to be assigned always. The deputy professor has to be a tenure-track professor of the school.
In other Schools deputy professors can be assigned if necessary.
Who can act as thesis advisor?
A thesis advisor must hold a doctoral degree. However, in ARTS, it is possible to appoint a second thesis advisor, who does not hold a doctor’s degree, based on artistic merit or competence in the area of research.
For special reasons, such as multidisciplinarity of the doctoral thesis or cotutelle agreement with a foreign university, an Aalto University professor, or a professor of some other Finnish or foreign university can be appointed by the Doctoral Programme Committee to share, together with the supervising professor, overall responsibility for the degree of the doctoral student and for the related supervision arrangements. The co-supervisor may also be appointed act as a thesis advisor.
Co-supervisior will be included in the supervision plan of the doctoral student.
See more information on co-supervision below.
If your collaboration between doctoral student and supervising professor does not work, they can contact the Doctoral education services of their programme and discuss how to proceed. Here are a few choices:
- Discussion between the doctoral student and supervising professor
- Considering if an additional thesis advisor could be appointed (e.g. if the supervising professor is too busy).
- Discuss with the Director of the doctoral programme
- Discuss with HR at your department or the Head of the department
- If the doctoral student wants a second opinion of something related to supervision, they can ask for a confidential “second opinion” from our ombudspersons. Check Ombudsperson for doctoral students | Aalto University
- If the problem is severe and the code of conduct (Code of Conduct) was not followed, first check Aalto University's instructions related to Preventing harassment and inappropriate conduct | Aalto University.
In challenging situations doctoral students can turn to Support for challenges during your doctoral studies.
Change of supervising professor, thesis advisor, research field, thesis topic or status
If the doctoral student's supervisory arrangements, research field, thesis topic or full-/part-time status change, the School must officially confirm the change. More information on full-/part-time status (aalto.fi)
The supervising professor is responsible for supervisory arrangements of their doctoral studetns and for making sure that the students have appointed thesis advisors. Supervisory arrangements can change e.g. if the supervising professor retires or another advisor needs to be appointed.
First the doctoral student and the supervising professor should discuss the change, and then submit the application form to the Doctoral education services of their doctoral programme.
The form "Change of supervising professor, thesis advisor, research field or mode of study" is available at
Change of supervising professor and / or thesis advisor(s)
- All: CV and list of publications if the thesis advisor is from outside Aalto University
- CHEM, ELEC, ENG, SCI: also supervision plan
Change of research field
- ARTS: research plan
- BIZ: up-dated credit plan (Sisu) for the new research field
- CHEM, ELEC, ENG, SCI: Appendix not required if only the name of the research field changes
Change of topic of the doctoral thesis
- All: research plan
Change of status (mode of study)
- From full-time to part-time: Appendix not required
- From part-time to full-time: ARTS & BIZ: Appendix not required
- From part-time to full-time: CHEM, ELEC and SCI: supervision plan and research plan,
- From part-time to full-time: ENG: research plan
Resources for challenging situations
Well-functioning relationships between supervising professor, thesis advisor and the doctoral student are of utmost importance during the doctoral studies. Doctoral students and their thesis advisors and supervising professors may face challenges stemming from i.e. the different national, cultural and organisational backgrounds of all participants, or differences in working styles or ways of expressing themselves. You can always turn to the Aalto University Code of Conduct for the ‘fair play rules’ of our university community.
Often doctoral students encounter some kind of challenging situations during their studies, and we hope to be able to give support through those situations.
You can also consult the Recommendations for doctoral thesis supervision by the Finnish Advisory Board on Research Integrity (TENK) and Universities Finland UNIFI (external link).
Co-supervision within Aalto - division of doctoral education results
Under the Aalto funding model, the schools receive result-based funding based on the number of doctoral degrees awarded. Aalto University has agreed to enable the division of doctoral education results between its schools for the purposes of resource allocation under the Aalto funding model, in cases where the degree is produced jointly by two schools. The change is designed to boost doctoral-level collaboration between the Aalto schools and further the Aalto strategic goal of promoting multidisciplinary research.
It should be noted that the division of degrees is only a statistical tool developed for the purposes of the funding model. For the funding model the degree is divided so that both schools earn 0.5 degrees. The division of degrees does not have any other effects on the school-level statistics on doctoral degrees.
The division of doctoral degrees for funding purposes between the Aalto schools requires clear evidence of collaboration. Dividing a degree follows uniform principles in the university:
The doctoral student and the supervising professor are from the same school. In addition to the supervising professor, the doctoral student must have a co-supervising professor at the partner school.
A person who can act as a supervising professor in his/her own school can also act as a co-supervising professor.
The supervising professor and the co-supervising professor draft a joint proposal for dividing the degree between the schools in which the research work is done (evidence of collaboration). The freely formulated signed proposal and the supervision plan is sent to the doctoral programme of the school of the doctoral student.
The proposal must be made as early in the studies as possible (preferably with the application for doctoral studies).
The decision on dividing the doctoral degree with the partner school rests with the dean of the school of the doctoral student (since this school “gives up” 50% of the result-based funding for this degree). The decision of the dean is communicated to the doctoral programme of the partner school.
The doctoral student carries out the doctoral studies according to the process of his/her school and the degree will be awarded to the doctoral student only from his/her own school.
Only the name of the school of the doctoral student is mentioned on the doctoral thesis cover, but on the reverse of the title page the name of the co-supervising professor should be mentioned. The collaboration of the two schools can be mentioned e.g. in the preface or in the introduction part of the doctoral thesis.
Dividing doctoral degrees is an option for doctoral degrees earned at the beginning of 2015 or later. Thus the degree cannot be divided retrospectively.
SCI Doctoral Programme Committee 15.9.2015
To boost doctoral level research collaboration between the departments of the School of Science the doctoral degree can be split between two departments in the funding model of the School. The division is only observed in the funding model, the degree still goes to the department of the supervising professor and the doctoral student.
- The doctoral student and the supervising professor are from the same department. In addition to the supervising professor, the doctoral student must have a co-supervisor at the partner department.
- The co-supervisor must be a professor in charge of a research field of his/her department.
- The supervising professor and the co-supervisor draft a joint proposal for dividing the degree between the departments in which the research work is done (evidence of collaboration). The freely formulated signed proposal and the supervision plan is sent to the Student Services of the Doctoral Programme.
- The proposal must be made as early in the studies as possible (preferably with the application for doctoral studies).
- The decision on dividing the doctoral degree with the partner department rests with the Head of the department of the doctoral student (since this department “gives up” 50% of the result-based funding for this degree). The decision of the Head of department is sent to the doctoral programme. The Head of the department can e.g. sign the joint proposal made by the supervising professor and the co-supervisor.
- The doctoral student carries out the doctoral studies according to the process of his/her department and the degree will be awarded to the student only from his/her own department.
Only the name of the department of the doctoral student is mentioned on the cover of the doctoral thesis, but on the reverse of the title page the name of the co-supervisor should be mentioned. The collaboration of the two departments can be mentioned e.g. in the preface or in the introduction part of the thesis.
Research fields and supervising professors
The research fields of the School of Business are called major subjects.
Research fields and supervising professors at ARTSMajors and supervising professors at BIZResearch fields and supervising professors at CHEMResearch fields and supervising professors at ELECResearch fields and supervising professors at ENGResearch fields and supervising professors at SCI