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Independent Study

As a PhD student, you have the option of doing an independent study in collaboration with your principal supervisor or other senior colleagues and include it as part of your course programme. You may also want to team up with one or more other students when planning an independent study. As one student puts it:

‘Team up with a colleague! The fact that there was two of us and not just one was not only a key factor in ensuring a successful process; it also helped us include discussions and dialogue in our independent study – everything you also get from following regular courses.’ (Graduated student).

Content and ECTS assessment

The elements of your independent study should be similar to those of a regular PhD course: Literature, online activities (meetings, webinars or presentations), as well as examination by a senior colleague. If the examination is conducted by your principal supervisor, another internal senior colleague should attend as an external examiner. There are no specific requirements for the format of the test, which may be conducted as an oral interview, a written assignment etc.

As a starting point, you may benefit from taking previously approved courses when preparing an independent study. For example, an independent study can also be based on courses that have been cancelled (e.g. due to COVID-19):

‘... Use bibliographies from other courses as a starting point! What scared me was that compiling literature is something of a Herculean task, but by using courses that have been cancelled as your starting point, for example, you can more easily put a good structure together. It’s also an opportunity to be very specific in relation to your own project and compose a course that is 100% relevant.’ (Graduated student).

When determining the ECTS weighting of your independent study, it must be based on the PhD School’s guidelines, which estimate that 1 ECTS corresponds to approx. 25-30 hours of work, including preparation, reading, lectures, exam activities etc.

For further discussions regarding how to prepare an independent study, please contact Chairman of the PhD Committee, Jørgen T. Lauridsen, at


There are no specific requirements for the format of the testing. If your principal supervisor is in charge of the exam, it is expected that another senior colleague can assist the exam as an external examiner.


The approval process for an independent study consists of two parts:

1. When preparing an independent study, you must first apply for pre-approval by filling in the application form for setting up a PhD course. Your application and all relevant documentation must be submitted to the PhD School’s mailbox. The application will then be screened by the chairperson of the PhD committee. Please note that all courses resulting in 5 ECTS credits or more are processed and approved by the PhD committee. Please allow for a slightly longer processing time in these cases.

2. Once you have completed your independent study, you must apply for approval of completed course activity as in the regular courses, workshops, conferences or seminars. The signed form is submitted together with all relevant material (including documentation of the completion and content of the activity) to the PhD School’s mailbox, upon which your application will be processed. Please be aware that all courses resulting in 5 ECTS points or more are processed and finally approved by the PhD committee. Please allow for a slightly longer processing time in these cases.

Last Updated 08.03.2023