Rules on doctoral studies

Approved by the RU Executive Committee, March 2014.

1.  Introduction

The aim of Reykjavik University's doctoral studies is to benefit industry and society through

  1. strengthening research and knowledge generation in the University's academic fields, and
  2. training of young scientists.

These rules take into account the Bologna Process on cooperation in higher education in Europe as well as internationally recognised principles relating to the organisation and quality of doctoral studies. These rules are also set in accordance with rules no. 37/2007 on Rules for doctoral programmes in universities according to Article 7 of law no. 63/2006, issued by the Ministry of Education, Science, and Culture on 17th of January 2006.

These rules apply to doctoral studies at Reykjavik University, both regarding the organisational framework of the studies and their quality requirements.  Within the framework of these rules, the University's Schools have the freedom to organise their doctoral studies in greater detail in light of the unique features and traditions of their respective fields of study. 

2.  Administrative arrangements of doctoral studies

The School Research Councils are responsible for the supervision of their respective Ph.D. programmes.  They are charged with organising their respective Ph.D. programmes on the basis of these rules and with such further details as appropriate for their School. Furthermore, School Research Councils shall make recommendations to the Dean concerning the admission of candidates to the Ph.D. programme, as provided in Article 4, and recommend the appointment of supervisors and thesis committees, as provided in Articles 5 and 6.  The Councils and the supervisors shall observe the development of doctoral studies at the international level and monitor the quality of the studies at RU accordingly.  The Councils shall ensure that the quality of doctoral studies at Reykjavík University is comparable with the quality of similar studies in other countries.

3.  Substance of doctoral studies

The core of Reykjavik University's doctoral studies is scientific research conducted by doctoral candidates constituting an independent contribution to the creation of knowledge in their chosen field. 
The Reykjavik University Ph.D. programme comprises 180 – 240 ECTS, normally to be completed in 4 years or less.  The maximum permitted period of study is determined by the respective School.

On the conclusion of doctoral studies, candidates should have acquired the following knowledge, skills and competencies:

  • General knowledge of the basic principles of their academic fields and expert knowledge of the specialist field or research field forming the subject of their study.
  • Knowledge of research methodologies in their chosen field and skills in the use of scientific working methods.
  • Formulate, plan and carry out independent academic research.
  • Make independent and original contributions to the creation of knowledge in their field.
  • Conduct critical analysis and assessment of the subjects of their field.
  • Present the conclusions of their research and prepare them for publication in peer-reviewed publications.
  • Conduct scientific and practical work in their areas of expertise.
  • Gain experience of teaching activities or other form of knowledge instruction related to the subjects of their field.

4.  Applications and requirements for admission

Only candidates who have completed master's studies at the university level or comparable studies may enrol for doctoral studies at Reykjavik University.  Applicants must have demonstrated excellent performance in their studies and career and be perceived as capable of showing initiative in the advancement of scientific knowledge.  The Schools may impose additional requirements with regard to the preparation of applicants, e.g. regarding expert knowledge and course attendance.

The application should, at the minimum, be accompanied by transcripts of diplomas, a curriculum vitae and list of publications, together with a statement of purpose.

All applicants must demonstrate that they have secured sufficient funding to cover tuition and living expenses for the duration of their doctoral study. The assessment of applications should take account of the education and experience of applicants and the statement of purpose.  The assessment shall also take account of whether the staff and research environment of the School, as provided in Articles 5 and 7 of these rules, and its financial position, will permit the admission of doctoral candidates in the field requested. Selection of candidates for doctoral studies shall be based on objective criteria and principles of non-discrimination.

A response to an application for admission to the Ph.D. programme shall be made within two months of its submission.  If an application for admission to doctoral studies is rejected, a statement of the reasons shall accompany the response.

A contract shall be made between the School and each doctoral candidate, providing for the progress of studies and the rights and obligations of the candidate on the one hand, and the School on the other hand. The contract will be annual and renewed only upon satisfactory progress during the previous year. Doctoral candidates must be registered for fall and spring semesters during their doctoral studies.

5.  Supervisors

Schools shall assign a primary supervisor to each doctoral candidate pursuant to the nomination of the School Research Council. The primary supervisor shall have a permanent position as an assistant professor, associate professor or full professor at Reykjavik University. In case of a joint degree, the primary supervisor may come from the other university.  In addition to the primary supervisor, doctoral candidates may be assigned additional supervisors from within or outside the University. The role of the supervisors is to advise doctoral candidates in their research work, track the progress of their studies, and monitor the quality of their research work. Doctoral candidates shall have regular access to their supervisors. 

Primary supervisors are required to meet the following academic requirements.

  • A primary supervisor shall have a Ph.D. degree.
  • It should be ensured that the candidate's research pertains to the field of specialisation of the primary supervisor and that the primary supervisor has published work relevant to the candidate's research in recognised academic outlets. 
  • Primary supervisors shall be active participants in the research community and experts in their respective fields with a clear contribution and impact.  Assessment of this qualification shall take account of academic publications, experience of international research cooperation and funding of research projects.

If a primary supervisor becomes unable to adequately supervise the candidate, then the School Research Council shall find a replacement, or resolve the issue otherwise.

6.  Thesis committee

Schools shall appoint a thesis committee pursuant to the nomination of their respective Research Councils.  The role of the thesis committee is to evaluate the research proposal, follow the progress of study (see Article 8) and provide a reasoned opinion on whether a doctoral thesis is acceptable for defence.  The thesis committee may be assigned other tasks in consultation with the supervisor and the Research Council. The thesis committee shall be appointed within 9 months of the start of a candidate's doctoral studies.

The thesis committee shall consist of 3-5 scholars who are active participants in the research community and recognised experts in the relevant field of study.  In this respect, account shall be taken of the academic requirements for primary supervisors, see Article 5.  At least one member of the thesis committee shall work outside the School. Attention should be given to gender balance when forming the thesis committee.

7.  Research environment

Steps shall be taken to ensure that doctoral studies at Reykjavik University are conducted in an active research environment.  Doctoral studies shall be conducted in cooperation and connection with domestic and foreign groups of recognised scientists or research institutions.  Doctoral studies may be planned in cooperation with other academic institutions and a doctorate may be awarded jointly with another university.

Doctoral candidates shall be provided with adequate working conditions. Doctoral candidates shall be given the opportunity to monitor trends and innovations in their respective fields of study in community with other doctoral candidates and/or scholars, e.g. by attending meetings and conferences or studying at a foreign research or academic institution during part of the period of study. 

Reykjavik University should ensure that doctoral candidates reap the benefits of the exploitation (if any) of their R&D results through legal protection and, in particular, through appropriate protection of intellectual property rights, including copyrights. The contract between the doctoral candidate and the School should specify what rights belong to the doctoral candidate and/or, where applicable, to the University or other parties, including external commercial or industrial organisations.

8.  Progress of study

By no later than the end of the first year of study a doctoral candidate shall submit to the thesis committee a complete research proposal.  The research proposal shall include a summary of the state of the art in the field in question as well as a proposed research topic (one or more) which will serve as basis for the doctoral thesis.  The proposal shall also include a planned schedule of the progress of the remainder of the studies.  The thesis committee shall evaluate the research proposal, basing the evaluation on whether the proposal reflects the candidate's possession of adequate expertise, whether the candidate's proposed research is feasible, and whether the project adequately extends the frontier of knowledge and is of sufficient academic importance.  In exceptional cases candidates may be granted an extension of their deadline for submitting a research proposal. Once a research proposal has been approved by the thesis committee, it shall be reviewed by the School Research Council.

Supervisors shall monitor the progress of the studies and the quality of the research work during the period of study.  In order to ensure the quality of their doctoral studies, Schools may set requirements in their programme descriptions for course attendance, presentations of research projects and/or publication of works in peer-reviewed publications.

Each doctoral candidate should undergo a yearly progress review, both to guard the rights of the candidate as well as the quality criteria of the School/University. The candidate submits a progress report, to which the primary supervisor adds comments. The thesis committee evaluates the complete report and may request changes to it.  When the progress report has been approved by the thesis committee, it shall be reviewed by the School Research Council. If progress is substandard and the thesis committee is unable to propose a solution, the Council may suggest ways to remedy the situation, including such possibilities as assigning the candidate to another supervisor or supervisors or even terminating the doctoral study. The respective School grants ECTS credits for each semester, based on progress reviews and consultation with the primary supervisor.

The RU Research Council holds annual reviews of the Ph.D. programmes, and the on-going Ph.D. work in each School, as a general quality assurance exercise.

9. Doctoral thesis and defence

Doctoral candidates will complete their research with a doctoral thesis, which is an independent body of work constituting an original contribution to the field.  The thesis committee will evaluate the thesis and return a reasoned opinion about the thesis' likelihood of satisfying the School's requirements and whether the candidate should be invited to submit the thesis for defence to the School Research Council. 

The thesis committee and one or more examiners together form the thesis defence committee. One or more examiners shall be appointed to participate with the thesis committee in the doctoral thesis defence.  The examiner(s) shall be recognised authorities on the topic of the dissertation, preferably from a foreign institution. They shall be independent from the candidate and the supervisors, which includes not having joint publications in the preceding five years or having joint grants. The selection of an examiner, which needs to be ratified by the School Research Council, should be made at least 4 months before the defence.

When the thesis has been deemed to be acceptable for defence by the thesis committee, a doctoral thesis defence is held before the defence committee. 

In the course of the defence the defence committee shall evaluate both the substance of the thesis and the candidate's defence.  Immediately following the defence, the defence committee shall decide on the award of a Ph.D. degree.  A Ph.D. degree may only be awarded if the candidate has carried out independent original research that sufficiently extends the frontier of knowledge and is of sufficient scientific value and scope to merit the degree.

In case the defence committee finds the thesis and/or the defence lacking the committee can award the candidate as follows:

  • In case of serious flaws the committee can fail the thesis without option of resubmission.
  • In case of flaws in structure or lack of academic rigor the committee can request a resubmission of the thesis with a 6 - 12 month period for the student to work out the defined flaws.
  • In case of minor flaws the committee can award a Ph.D. degree with an extended period of refinement, 3 – 6 weeks, where the thesis committee will validate changes made before publishing.
  • In case of no flaws the committee can award the Ph.D. degree right away.

The student has a right to a full written explanation of the defence committee's decision in case of fail or flaws found in the thesis and/or defence of the thesis. The decision of the defence committee is final and cannot be challenged.

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