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Content of the PhD programme

The PhD programme aims to provide you as a PhD student with the necessary skills that will enable you to become a qualified researcher – that is, a scientist able to conduct responsible and independent research according to the principles of good research practice.

The PhD programme gives 180 ECTS credits, which is equivalent to three years of full-time study.

The three years run from the date you are enrolled for the PhD until the date you submit your thesis. It does not include assessment and defence of the thesis or awarding of the PhD degree.

Below, you can find more information about the content of the programme.

A part of the enrolment form is the PhD plan. The PhD plan must include the following points:

  • An overall plan for the project and programme
  • Agreement on the form of supervision
  • Plan for PhD courses
  • Plan for participation in active research environments
  • Plan for teaching and other kind of knowledge dissemination
  • Agreements on intellectual property rights, if applicable

If there are changes to your PhD plan, these should be accounted for in the progress reports.

A good working relationship between you and your main supervisor will be essential for the success of your PhD programme. Disagreements can occur, however, and if this relationship breaks down it is likely to affect your PhD plan and the financing of your PhD. Therefore, it is very important that you contact the Graduate School if you are experiencing serious problems with your supervisor, either in the working relationship or at a personal level. The Head of the PhD School can then help to find a solution. As a last resort, it is possible to appoint a new main supervisor.

To apply for a change of main supervisor, you need to complete a special form, and send it to the Graduate School. You will need to enclose the CV and a written statement of consent from the proposed new supervisor. 

Termination of employment

If a main supervisor terminates their employment at the Faculty, it is common practice that they cannot continue as the main supervisor, but can act as co-supervisor. If the PhD student has completed the majority of the PhD programme, however, it is possible to apply for permission to keep the person in question as main supervisor. It is essential that the Graduate School is contacted if a main supervisor terminates their employment at the Faculty. 

Additional supervisors or change of co-supervisor

Sometimes during the PhD programme, the main supervisor and the PhD student consider that additional expertise is needed for the project. This can accommodated either by attaching another co-supervisor to the project or by replacing a co-supervisor with a new one.

You need to inform the Graduate School of any changes in your supervisor team. Please send an email to explaining the changes and attach a letter of consent from the new supervisor.

PhD students and their main supervisors are kindly asked to formally assess the progress of the PhD project on a regular basis.

Progress reports should be filled in and submitted to the Graduate School every half-year on set dates: 1 May and 1 November.
The reports must be filled in and submitted using an online tool provided by the Graduate School and following these four steps:

Step 1: The PhD student and his/her main supervisor will receive an invitation to use the progress report tool. The invitation includes an individual link that must be used to start the process. The Graduate School sends out progress report invitations in the beginning of March/October.

Step 2: The PhD student fills in the report with information about courses, knowledge dissemination activities, and research stays, and gives a brief statement regarding the overall progress of the project. The PhD candidate then forwards the progress report to the main supervisor.

Step 3: The main supervisor reviews the report and either a) sends it back to step 2 for reediting by the PhD student, or b) accepts the report and fills in a brief supervisor's statement. Then, the main supervisor submits the report to the Graduate School.

Step 4: The Graduate School  reviews and files the report. Once processed, the PhD student and the main supervisor are notified about the Graduate School's review of the progress report.


All PhD students mustgain experience with teaching and dissemination of knowledge during their 3-year programme. As an employed PhD student, you can be asked to participate in teaching or other kinds of knowledge dissemination activities for up to 280 hours a year.

As a PhD student, you are expected to participate in active research environments, including one or more research stays at other (primarily international)research institutions. Please note that although it is not a requirement to visit an international research institution, it is highly encouraged. Your main supervisor or supervisor team will usually have a number of contacts in relevant national and international networks that you can collaborate with in different ways.

As a PhD student you are expected to participate in active research environments, including research stays at other, primarilyinternationalresearch institutions. However, it is not a requirement to engage in a stay at an international research institution, but it is highly encouraged. Please note that the Graduate School do not grant subsidies to courses and a study period abroad during the same period. It should be possible to plan your courses around your study period abroad.

A stay abroad is arranged between you and your main supervisor. Please remember to inform the Graduate School of the time period involved in the stay. Also, if you are under contract with The University of Southern Denmark during the time period, you will have to apply for a relocation of workplace. This is done by sending an e-mail to the head of department.

For insurance purposes, please make sure to contact the International Staff Office at SDU ( before leaving Denmark.

The standard PhD programme is three years. If for some reason you will not be able to complete the programme within this time, you need to apply for an extension of the enrolment period. 

To do this, you complete a form and send it to the Graduate School Secretariat. An extension is usually for a maximum of 12 months and you must be able to document financing for the extra enrolment period. Please note that if you are employed full-time as a PhD student, this employment period cannot exceed 36 months.

In the event of an extension, your PhD plan will be adjusted accordingly. Note that half-yearly reports will still need to be sent in every 6 months until you submit the PhD thesis.


Parental leave/adoption

As a PhD student, you are covered by the University’s maternity/paternity leave agreement. A brief summary of the rules is given here. Please contact the Human Resource Office for further information.

The mother has a right to 6 weeks of paid leave prior to the expected birth date and, no later than 3 months before date of expected birth, has to inform the Personnel Office (att. Vivi Madsen, 6550 2976) in writing of:

  • Due date (expected birth date)
  • When she expects to start the maternity leave

No later than 8 weeks after the birth the Personnel Office has to be notified about how the rest of the maternity leave will be held (number of weeks with/without pay, any sharing of maternity leave).

The father has a right to 2 weeks of paid paternity leave. No later than 4 weeks before the expected leave, he must inform the Personnel Office in writing of the dates.

PhD students with other employment need to contact the involved employment authority to inform them about the maternity/paternity leave and to obtain further information about the financial situation during parental leave.

The student should also notify their main supervisor, the department secretary, the research unit and the Graduate School Secretariat about their dates for parental leave and when they expect to resume the degree programme. The PhD student's enrolment and employment period will be extended to take account of the parental leave.

Other leave of absence

Under special circumstances, you can be granted a leave of absence from the PhD programme, usually for a maximum of 12 months. This may be due to particular events or stages in the PhD project, or for personal causes. You can apply by submitting a written application to the Head of the Graduate School, explaining the circumstances and enclosing a statement from your main supervisor. The decision is based on individual assessment of each case. If granted, the period of enrolments will be extended to include the leave of absence. Please also see "Part-time study". 


If you experience long-term illness (more than 4 consecutive weeks), you can be granted an extension of your PhD period. You can apply by submitting a written application (find it here) to the Head of the Graduate School, explaining the circumstances and enclosing a statement from your doctor. The decision is based on individual assessment of each case. If granted, the period of enrolments will be extended accordingly (including the deadlines for the half-yearly reports).


Last Updated 07.10.2021