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Being a supervising professor or thesis advisor at Aalto University

The guidelines on this page describe the duties of the supervising professor and thesis advisor and the rights and responsibilities of doctoral students. To make doctoral education more efficient and to ensure the availability of supervision for doctoral students, the university has drawn up guidelines on the supervision of doctoral students already in 2011.

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Sufficient and high-quality supervision based on a relationship between the supervising professor and the doctoral student is a key quality factor in the doctoral education process. We have approximately 3000 doctoral students at Aalto University. For them, supervision means everything. Their studies consist of three modules: “Doctoral thesis”, “General research studies” and “Research field studies”. The module "Doctoral thesis" takes most of the time of the doctoral student.

Doctoral studies are meant to take four years (4) of full-time studying or, alternatively, maximum of eight (8) years if one studies part-time. This means in total more than three (3) years of co-operation between doctoral students and supervising professor and/or thesis advisor(s).

Aalto University's Doctoral education services have also created a similar resource for the doctoral students (Being a doctoral student at Aalto) which also contains useful information for supervisors.

Supervisory roles and doctoral personal study plan

Based on the different type of supervision needed, Aalto has made the following distinction between supervisory roles:

Supervising professor
A supervising professor is an Aalto University professor whom an Aalto school has appointed to hold overall responsibility for the degree of the doctoral student and the related supervision arrangements. The supervising professor may also act as the thesis advisor. Supervising professors are responsible not only for the degree of the doctoral student (ie. courses chosen for the doctoral personal study plan) but also for the supervision arrangements of the doctoral students. Hence, you as are really important for your doctoral students!
Co-supervising professor
A co-supervising professor is an Aalto University professor, or a professor in another Finnish or a foreign university, whom the school has for special reasons appointed 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 act as the thesis advisor.
Thesis advisor
A thesis advisor is a school-appointed person who has expertise in the subject area of the doctoral thesis. The duties of the thesis advisor are defined in the supervision plan of the doctoral student prepared jointly by the supervising professor, thesis advisor(s) and the doctoral student.


The duties and rights of the supervising professors, thesis advisors and doctoral students have been agreed on in the Academic Affairs Committee on 20 December 2011. Degree regulations on doctoral education (DRDE), item 3, obliges schools to nominate supervising professors to doctoral students from the research field confirmed to the doctoral student in question. In addition, Degree regulations on doctoral education (item 3) obliges schools to nominate one or more thesis advisors who are knowledgeable in the research field confirmed to the doctoral student in question.

Since 1st August 2021, Aalto University General Regulations on Teaching and Studying (hereafter referred to as OOS) item 17 obliges every doctoral student to make a new doctoral personal study plan (DPSP), including the following documents:

  1. a plan concerning the content, scope and duration of studies with credits (i.e. Sisu credit plan);
  2. research plan;
  3. supervision plan;
  4. financing plan; and,
  5. career plan.

OOS section 17 obliges our schools to provide guidance to prepare and update the doctoral personal study plan. The implementation of the doctoral personal study plan including all this is followed up yearly by the supervising professor (DRDE item 4). The supervising professor is also responsible for the supervision arrangements of the doctoral student. (DRDE item 5). The supervision arrangements must be agreed upon at the start of the doctoral studies. The supervising professor, thesis advisor(s) and the doctoral student make a written supervision agreement (as part of the DPSP) where they agree on the responsibilities, rights and obligations of each party involved in the doctoral education process. The supervision agreement shall be updated as necessary.

AAC has decided (20 December 2011) that the supervision of a doctoral student means that a supervising professor meets with the doctoral student more often, discusses regularly with the doctoral student and ensures that the DPSP is updated when needed.

See a model supervision plan.

NB. The terminology on this page has been updated according to the changes of degree regulations on doctoral education that entered into force 1 August 2021.

Supervision of doctoral students at Aalto University

Sufficient and high-quality supervision based on a relationship between the supervising professor, thesis advisor(s) and the doctoral student is a key quality factor in the doctoral education process. Appropriate supervision also enhances the quality of the research work. Good supervision allows the doctoral student to complete his/her 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.

School-specific guidelines on doctoral supervision

In addition to the university-level guidelines, schools have complementary information on doctoral supervision. Please see each doctoral programme's Into webpapges in the table below.

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.

Research ethics and research integrity

Research ethics and promoting the responsible conduct in research consists of both preventing any harm caused to the research subject, and behaviour in the researcher community. Research integrity advisers are listed in this page.

People in a library

Research Data Management (RDM) and Open Science

Properly managed research data creates competitive edge and is an important part of a high-quality research process. Here you will find links to support, services and instructions for research data management.

People talking with each other

ACRIS Instructions

Learn how to add your research outputs and other activities to ACRIS research information system.

MDF-levyn pintaa lähikuvassa

Turnitin originality check

Turnitin is a system that helps write original text by identifying similarities in texts stored in an extensive database. Find here links to instructions for teachers and student on its use.

Graphic image.

Communication and supervision interaction

A well-functioning relationship between supervisor and the doctoral student  is of utmost importance during the doctoral studies. Doctoral students and their thesis advisors and supervising professors may face challenges stemming from the different national, cultural and organisational backgrounds of all participants. In Aalto, we follow our code of conduct.

Resources for challenging situations

It is likely that doctoral students encounter some kind of challenging situations during their studies. These problems and issues are meant to be solved in a supporting manner. Please see the links below for information on what kind of support is available for you and doctoral students at Aalto.


Support for challenges during your doctoral studies

If you experience any type of harrasment, bullying or misconduct, or have issues with supervision, see below (scroll down) what kind of support is available for you. All members of the community have a responsibility for the atmosphere and well-being of their workplace and studying community. See Code of Conduct at Aalto.

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Students studying together

Doctoral student well-being and welfare

Aalto University offers varied support services accessible to all doctoral students. There is a lot of help available for you at Aalto. Check also the community health care services. The health, safety and wellbeing of our student community is essential and is indeed one of our strategic initiatives.

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Doctoral education services

Doctoral education services team is part of Learning Services.

See contact information
Aalto Conferment 2018, Photo: Matti Rajala

See also

Networking for doctoral students

Aalto University is actively networking nationally and internationally and the department professors have excellent individual contacts worldwide. This provides the doctoral students various possibilities to get contacts and peer support. The university has several international thematic doctoral programmes running under the six Aalto doctoral programmes.

Aalto ELEC Project Gala 8.12.2016

Doctoral theses

Aalto university doctoral theses are published open in Aaltodoc publication archive. The majority of the theses are article based theses including several publications in referred international journals. Monographs are accepted, too. In the field of art and design, a thesis may also include artistic components like an art production or a series of art productions connected to each other.

Kaksi opiskelijaa selailemassa lasisen vitriinin päällä olevaa kirjaa Oppimiskeskuksessa.

Doctoral graduates of Aalto University in working life

Aalto University Career Services conducts career tracking surveys to follow up careers of doctoral graduates.

Tohtorinhatut promootiopäivänä

Related webpages

Learning Services

Aalto University Learning Services (LES) is responsible for all services which facilitate the smooth progression of studies at the university.

Kuvassa kaksi opiskelijaa tutkii tietokoneen ruutua pöydän molemmiin puolin.Photo: Unto Rautio

Research & Art

Our research focuses on seven key areas combining four core competences in the fields of ICT, materials, arts, design and business together with three grand challenges related to energy, living environment, and health.

Sensual Mathematics Exhibition. Photo by Henri Vogt.
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