PhD Handbook

The purpose of the handbook is to provide important information regarding the doctoral course at the Faculty of Medicine. The handbook is primarily intended for prospective and current PhD candidates, but it will also be useful for supervisors, members of evaluation committees and others who are interested in our PhD programme.

PhD Handbook, pen and cup of coffee

Foto: Elin Lunde, UiO

The PhD Handbook was last updated December 2017. Please view our PhD webpages for updated information.


Established in 1814, the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Oslo is the country's oldest faculty of medicine. The Faculty's teaching and research extends over a large area and has a clear international profile.

The doctoral training at the Faculty of Medicine is organized as an educational programme. At the same time, it is an important contribution to research through the candidates’ thesis work. The research training takes place in active research environments and/or research schools. Prospective PhD candidates will find an overview of research environments offering doctoral training by consulting faculty and institute web pages in their field of interest.

The overall strategy of our PhD-programme is to:

  • recruit excellent candidates within medicine and health research
  • offer high quality supervision and research training
  • create a stimulating and creative learning environment
  • educate candidates who are highly skilled within research, education and development work
  • educate candidates who are demanded for positions within research, education and development

It is our ambition that your years as a PhD candidate at the Faculty of Medicine will prepare you for your future career, whether it will be in or outside academia.

With our best wishes for your years at the Faculty of Medicine

Frode Vartdal Dean and Hilde Nebb Deputy Dean of Research

About the handbook

The handbook is based on the "Regulations for the degree Philosophiae Doctor (PhD) at the University of Oslo" from 22 June 2010 and Supplementary rules for the degree of Philosophiae Doctor (PhD) from 25 June 2013

While the handbook provides an overview of the whole PhD course, more detailed information will be available on our website PhD in medicine and health sciences.

Links to relevant documents and forms are also given at the end of each section below.

If you are employed as a research fellow, you have both an employment relationship to the Faculty of Medicine or another employer and a student relationship to the Faculty of Medicine. The handbook only contains information concerning the student relationship and the PhD programme. For information on the rules and guidelines that apply to employment at UiO we refer to the UiO internal personnel handbook (Norwegian).

Expected learning outcomes

Doctoral training aims to qualify the PhD candidates for research activities and other kinds of work requiring a high level of scientific insight. In addition to conducting independent research, the doctoral candidate shall acquire advanced theoretical and methodological competence and general academic skills in accordance with the Norwegian Qualifications Framework (in Norwegian) (pdf).

Supervisors, PhD courses, research groups and research schools are responsible for strengthening general and transferable skills and offering tailored training that meet the needs of PhD candidates.

After successfully completing the PhD programme the candidates should have acquired the following knowledge, skills and competence:


The programme will give you knowledge about:

  • The knowledge status and needs within your own field of research nationally and internationally
  • The diversity of research approaches and research methods relevant to medical and health research
  • Standards for quality research within your own field and within medical and health research in general
  • Strengths and weaknesses of your own research methods and methodological challenges within your own field
  • The foundation of science and principles of knowledge acquisition in medical and health research
  • Ethical dilemmas and principles within medical research including the Health Research Act (in Norwegian) and other relevant legislation
  • Principles for convergence and interdisciplinarity in medical and health research
  • Forms and principles of research innovation


The programme will provide you with skills to:

  • Demonstrate original, independent and critical thinking in your research
  • Identify and develop innovative research questions
  • Keep up to date on research in your field
  • Participate in academic discussions nationally and internationally, for instance through participation in workshops, seminars and conferences
  • Read and critically assess the breadth of medical research literature in medical and health research
  • Discuss, select and apply relevant research methods to answer a research question
  • Reflect on and discuss the strengths and weaknesses of your own research methods and results
  • Reflect on and discuss ethical and epistemological dilemmas in research
  • Apply national and international principles and rules of ethics, including the Health Research Act (in Norwegian)
  • Publish articles in internationally recognized journals within your field
  • Disseminate research finding to non-scientists and the public
  • Draw on interdisciplinary knowledge and expertise when approaching complex research questions

General competence

The programme will give you a general competence to:

  • Receive and utilize supervision
  • Work in multidisciplinary teams with complex research questions
  • Use databases and information and communication technology-based research tools
  • Participate in the organization and management of meetings, conferences and seminars
  • Work in a structured and independent manner in order to reach your objectives
  • Gain an overview of and acquire advanced knowledge
  • Develop innovative and critical thinking
  • Express yourself clearly and concisely both orally and in writing
  • Analyse, evaluate and communicate your own strengths and weaknesses
  • Develop your knowledge, competencies and skills continuously and purposefully
  • Provide constructive and critical feedback on others' academic work
  • Build and manage professional networks
  • Constructively contribute to a good working and learning environment


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Quality assurance

Ethical approvals

Research projects covered by the Health Research Act or animal research regulations must be approved in advance by the Regional Committee for Medical and Health Research Ethics (REK) or the Norwegian Food Safety Authority. This concerns all projects which intend to generate new knowledge about health and disease. All candidates must along with their supervisors consider whether their project requires an approval from REK. If the project requires an approval, a full application must be submitted. If there is doubt whether approval is necessary REK must be asked for a preliminary assessment.

Other projects treating participant/personal data must have ethical approval from the Protection Officer (Personvernombudet) (in Norwegian) at the hospital or the Data Protection Official for Research (NSD).

Semester report

The candidate should submit reports every semester on the progress of the research. This reporting is done in the StudentWeb. The report should indicate the progress of the research and the educational component. Any significant deviation from the original time schedule or other particular aspects should be specified. The semester report system will be implemented for the first time in December 2017.

Mid-term evaluation

All PhD candidates will undergo a mid-term evaluation after fifteen months, but not later than eighteen months after admission. It is the responsibility of the principal supervisor to organize the mid-term evaluation and to appoint an evaluation board that will evaluate the progress and scientific development of the project.

Three weeks prior to the evaluation the candidate should send the following to the committee/evaluator:

  • a short self-report on a standardized form
  • a maximum of 20 pages from selected manuscripts in preparation
  • the original PhD project plan

In addition the candidate should prepare a presentation showing achieved results and explain any deviations from project plan. The duration of the presentation should be about 15 minutes.

After the candidate’s presentation there will be a 45 minutes discussion with the evaluator/evaluation board. Topics for the discussion are: Progress according to project plan, evaluation of the hypothesis, chosen methods, preliminary results, presentation of results, coherence in the work and possible suggestions for adjustments. This  discussion is open to the supervisor and an audience.

The evaluation ends with a closed talk between the committee/evaluator and the candidate without the supervisor present.

The total time frame for the midterm evaluation is 90 minutes. The mid-term evaluation was implemented autumn 2015.

Performance appraisals

Candidate and principal supervisor should carry out performance appraisals and discuss the different aspects of supervision. The first appraisal should be held when starting up on the PhD project when supervision and mutual expectations are discussed and determined. The PhD education’s expected learning outcomes should be reviewed. Candidate and supervisor should together consider what training is required according to the expected learning outcomes.

The next appraisal should be carried out 6 months later, and should focus on project progress and collaboration. If relevant, the head of division may also participate in the appraisal. Annual appraisals should thereafter be held throughout the admission period.

All candidates on the PhD programme must as of 1.1.2016 carry out periodic appraisals.


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Admission and funding

In order to become eligible for admission to the PhD programme, you must be able to document a minimum of one year’s funding in a full-time position. This must cover both living costs and funding of the research project. You must also submit a realistic plan for funding of the remaining period. This could be realized through a university fellowship or a scholarship from an external funding source. It is a precondition that a minimum of 50% of working hours can be devoted to the doctoral training.

You should have completed a Master’s degree or have an equivalent educational background and your average grade should be no less than B (B on the master thesis). International students must document their English language skills. In addition, a project description that only covers the applicant’s specific PhD project must be enclosed with the Application.

Every candidate must have at least two supervisors in order to be admitted to the PhD programme. All supervisors must have a doctoral degree or equivalent academic competence.


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PhD candidates are assigned a principal supervisor and one or more co-supervisors. The supervisors’ research qualifications must cover the necessary research fields in such a way that the group as a whole has competence in all research aspects of the PhD candidate’s research project. In collaboration with the PhD candidate, the supervisors  will draw up the project description and support the PhD candidate throughout the doctoral training period. The supervisors have a particular responsibility for ensuring  that the PhD candidate is trained to develop as a researcher with high ethical standards, and to avoid all research misconduct. In addition, supervisors are responsible for including the PhD candidate in the academic community as a colleague of the research  group. The candidate and his/her supervisors will have regular contact and keep each other informed of all matters of importance for the completion of the PhD programme.

Rights and obligations of the parties

The supervisor is to:

  • Make a plan for the PhD course based on the project description and the candidate’s knowledge needs
  • Give advice on the definition and limitation of the subject and research topic
  • Discuss and evaluate hypotheses and methods
  • Help the candidate with orientation in the academic literature and data (library, archives etc.)
  • Discuss concepts and presentation (the outline, linguistic form, documentation etc.)
  • Keep up to date with the candidate’s progress and evaluate the progress with reference to the work plan
  • Assist in introducing the candidate to relevant scientific communities
  • Discuss results and their interpretation
  • Give the candidate supervision in questions of research ethics related to research in general, publishing data, and writing the thesis, including ethical approval from the Regional Committees for Medical and Health Research Ethics ( REK), Data Protection Official (NSD) for human samples/interventions or the Norwegian Food Safety Authority and the Norwegian Animal Research Authority (research involving animals).
  • Obtain all necessary permits and concessions for the research
  • Organize performance appraisals with the candidate
  • Organize the mid-term evaluation of the candidate
  • Propose members of the evaluation committee
  • Propose chair of the defence

The doctoral candidate is to:

  • Carry out his/her research effectively, to a high standard and within the prescribed period of study
  • Attend PhD events at the university, faculty and institute and to attend the courses agreed upon with his/her principal supervisor
  • Agree and strictly abide by a timetable for regular contact with the principal supervisor, at least once a month, and for the submission of the written work
  • Give the supervisor reports or drafts of parts of the thesis and submit his/ her written work by agreed deadlines to allow sufficient time for comment and discussion
  • Fill out contract for the change of supervisors (pdf) if a supervisor is appointed or resigns
  • Throughout the work, live up to the principles of research ethics which apply to the subject area
  • Obtain the necessary permits, concessions, recommendations, etc., related to the research on which the thesis is based
  • Deliver the semester report, participate in the periodic appraisals and in the mid-term evaluation


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Educational component

The educational component consists of minimum 30 credits (ECTS). This must be completed and approved before candidates may submit the thesis for evaluation. All activities included in the educational component must be of a high scientific standard and provide a sufficient amount of breadth and depth in the scientific field. It is recommended that the educational component be completed during the first half of the PhD study period.

The educational component consists of a compulsory part and an elective part.

Compulsory component

The compulsory courses will prepare the candidates for complex and interdisciplinary problem solving through a general medical education.

There are two compulsory introductory (INTRO) courses, INTRO I and INTRO II. INTRO I should be attended during the first semester and addresses fundamental questions in research such as ethics and the philosophy of science as well as different research designs and methods. The course also provides an overview of various research traditions within the medical field, including molecular and cellular biology, clinical research, and health service research. In addition, the course demonstrates the importance of convergence by showing how the different methods and traditions are complementary when they are used together to approach a concrete research case: obesity.

INTRO II is held in the third semester of the PhD programme. The main objective is to provide participants relevant practical skills related to scientific medical writing, writing for the public and media, as well as presentation skills, including poster presentations. Other topics include the concept of innovation and the defence.

A startup seminar for new PhD candidates and their supervisors is a mandatory part of INTRO I. The mid-term evaluation is a mandatory part of INTRO II.

Elective component

The elective part of the research training component consists of a minimum of 20 credits, of which 15 credits must consist of PhD courses completed at a Norwegian or international institution. The educational component should be planned in consultation with the supervisor(s).


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Thesis requirements

A thesis for a PhD degree should consist of at least three scientific articles published in or drafted for assessment by international journals with peer reviews. At least one of the papers must be published. Normally, it is required that candidates are first authors of at least two articles.

In addition to individual articles, the thesis must contain an overall presentation of the scientific results with a thorough comparative discussion. This overall presentation must be an independent scientific document in which the candidate has the opportunity to elaborate and discuss aspects of the articles.

The presentation should provide:

  • A reasoned presentation of the research questions
  • An account of the methods
  • A summary of the papers
  • A discussion of the findings in the light of previous research. The discussion should demonstrate self-critical abilities, especially with respect to the interpretation and discussion of the data

Monographs that are not published can also be accepted as a thesis for the PhD degree. These will be judged by the same criteria as a collection of published articles.

The thesis should in its entirety be written either in English or in Norwegian.


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After submission, the thesis is evaluated by an expert evaluation committee consisting of two opponents and one UiO administrator (committee chair). If approved, the thesis will be defended by discussing the research findings with the opponents at a public defence. A successful defence results in the conferring of a PhD degree, and the diploma is presented at a formal doctoral conferment ceremony.

The doctoral degree (PhD) is awarded on the basis of:

  • An approved doctoral thesis and satisfactory public defence,
  • Approved completion of the educational component, and
  • An approved trial lecture on a topic set by an evaluation committee

The trial lecture

When the dean has approved the thesis for public defence, the candidate must hold a trial lecture on a topic set by the evaluation committee before the defence. The candidate will be notified of the subject by e-mail ten working days before the trial lecture. The trial lecture will be led by the acting dean (chair of the defence), and lasts for 45 minutes. Up to 15 minutes can be allowed for questions and comments after the trial lecture. During the trial lecture, the candidate must demonstrate ability to covey complex knowledge to a wider audience. The target group for the trial lecture is students, colleagues without specialist knowledge. The trial lecture will be held in English, but may also be held in Norwegian if the acting dean deems this appropriate.

The defence (disputation)

The defence lasts for 2–3 hours, and is led by the acting dean.

The acting dean will open the defence by making a brief presentation of the candidate and committee, before the candidate makes a 15-minute summary of his/her research aimed at the general public. The first opponent will then discuss with the candidate (stipulated to take less than 75 minutes). The second opponent thereafter discusses with  the candidate (stipulated to take less than 45 minutes). The candidate will finish the  defence by briefly thanking the university and the committee. The acting dean will thereafter declare that the defence is concluded.


The University of Oslo holds formal ceremonies four times a year to present PhD diplomas to the candidates that pass the public defence.


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Other useful information

Research Schools

The aim of the Research Schools is to offer courses and seminars for PhD candidates and create a dynamic and committed professional and social community. To be eligible, you must be admitted to a PhD programme. Research Schools offer courses that can be included in the elective part of the doctoral training. The Research Schools allow candidates to specialize in a particular subject area. They also provide the opportunity for  network building and collaboration with other candidates with similar research interests.

Research schools administrated by the Faculty of medicine, UiO

  • The National Research School in General Practice (NAFALM)
  • The National Research School in Cardiovascular Medicine (Norheart)

Research schools that the faculty collaborates with

  • National Research School in Medical Imaging - NTNU
  • National Research School in Neuroscience (NRSN) - NTNU
  • National Research School in Population Based Epidemiology – UiT

The Medical Student Research Programme

The Medical Student Research Programme (MSR) is an optional programme for medical students at the University of Oslo who want to perform research during their medical studies.

MedDocs and PhD forums

MedDocs is a network for the PhD candidates at the faculty and is organized in PhD forums for each institute. The PhD forums aim to create dialogue and collaboration between the PhD candidates and organize seminars which supplement the faculty’s courses. The MedDocs and the PhD forums also work to develop the doctoral training through an active dialogue with the faculty and the institutes.

Heads of Postgraduate Studies

All three Institutes at the Faculty of Medicine have a Head of Postgraduate Studies (PhD coordinators) in a permanent academic position with responsibility for the PhD programme.

Specific tasks for the Heads of Postgraduate Studies:

  • Help to assure the quality of admission into the PhD programme
  • Coordinate the research training at the institute
  • Contribute to the development of the research training at the Faculty of Medicine in collaboration with the faculty management (Dean of Research)
  • Develop strategic documents and participate at meetings concerning the research training
  • Constitute an academic contact locally for both PhD candidates and supervisors

The Heads of Postgraduate Studies are also known as PhD coordinators.


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Published Dec. 14, 2017 1:24 PM - Last modified June 11, 2019 6:58 AM