Studying and Living in Finland LUT Alumni Experience by Aisulu Harjula

What is Finnish PhD studies: a typical studying or a real work?

Let’s take a Finnish example of postgraduate education process…

A way of becoming “a working student”

In Finnish educational system postgraduate doctoral studies related to research can be also concidered as a full-time work. A combination of three elements such as a work, study and research makes the learning process quite complicated and demanding. But the outcome of studies is worth of it: a successful PhD continues his/her work either in a specified industry or in an academic field.


Steps of the admission process

Generally the admission process starts from an applicant’s initiative who completes the following steps:

1. An applicant chooses and defines a university to apply;

2. He/she makes a research about this university and finds relevant faculties;

3. He/she distantly gets to know professors, becomes familiar with their interests and field of studies by examining their publications;

4. Then he/she examines obtained information: whether it matches with applicant’s own interests;

5. Finally, an applicant should answer questions:

      a) How do I find a supervisor?

      b) Where do I find a scholarship/a grant?

So what about funding?

I had an opportunity to meet and talk to the Head of Study Affairs at LUT Graduate School, Sari Damstén who has explained a PhD application process from the inside.

“As for funding, the situation has been changed. Previously, there were national doctoral programmes which received funding from the Academy of Finland. These networks were able to offer funded  positions for some doctoral students to apply. Today universities are responsible for funding the previously granted network positions of their students with the budget money and allocate money for new positions as well. The economic situation is tight at the moment” says Sari Damstén.

If a university has some finance to hire PhD students it opens available research positions on its website. Earlier such practice wasn’t a common practice in Finland but nowadays due to the transformation of national PhD programmes to the university ones, universities’ graduate schools have begun announcing open positions more often.


Verification of international degrees

Sari Damstén says, “Most of international degrees are recognized in Finland, i.e. they allow applying  for doctoral studies but in some cases depending on the content of the degree extra prerequisite courses may be required.”

More information about an application process and eligibility criteria can be found at the Center of International Mobility website.

PhD: full time work vs full time studies

Anna Shcherbacheva, a PhD student from Faculty of Mathematics, LUT comments, “It’s still partly studying: you are obliged to pass some courses of your own choice. You can even take courses from world-famous Princeton and Stanford  universities (for more details see Coursera web page). Some advanced positions in R&D compartments require doctoral degree as a must. And I need to notice that the level of salaries in R&D is drastically higher than average salaries.

I highly appreciate an opportunity to get my doctoral degree while being young. This is an outstanding experience elder people often can’t afford due to variety of reasons: economic issues (they concentrate on earning more and achieving career goals), having children (takes much of one’s time and requires additional money) and losing brain flexibility (it’s much harder to extend your knowledge and invent a brand-new ideas when you’re getting elder).”

PhD is also a research work. You are officially employed (at least, it’s a case of Finland) and responsible for your work. Sometimes you collaborate with professionals from other fields: for instance, I have background in math and I’m building a mathematical model of disease spread while my colleagues specialize in biology. So I’m forced to extend my own scope of knowledge.

As a PhD student you travel all over the world to participate in conferences and to work on shared publications. PhD is a specific work experience, not exactly the same as being employed in industrial company. The main issue of doctoral studies is whether you are really able to produce a complete and sustainable piece of work? Are you able to take your responsibilities? The doctoral degree is more like a driving license: it confirms that you are capable of making things done!”


Are chances equal for everyone?

I guess that everywhere, and in Finland too, people tend to hire people whom they can trust to. In previous posts I already mentioned that Finnish values are a hardworking attitude and a timed delivery. It’s quite hard to find those candidates who will not only start their PhD studies but also complete it on time. That’s why Master’s thesis students who have already recommended themselves as good candidates have more chances to be employed when they are interested in PhD education.

For me a way to complete PhD studies doesn’t seem an easy way. But I’m planning to make it and go through this hard process of getting a PhD degree. It’s goingto be very interesting at least !

About The Author

Researcher at LUT, Master of Economics, LUT & GSOM Saint Petersburg State University. Focus on Strategy, Innovation and Sustainability. Background in natural sciences.


  1. Francis 17.2.2014 at 15:50

    I find this blog very interesting and useful as well since I have long term goals towards education and planning to have a PhD as well. Its a starting point for me. 🙂

    • Aysulu 17.2.2014 at 16:09

      Thank you for comment, Francis! I’m very glad that this info helps you with your plans and is useful!

  2. Possible 18.2.2014 at 16:28

    This is a nice piece, but the editor would have done better by perusing the article so that much of the typos is avoided..

  3. Anna 18.2.2014 at 17:27

    “PhD is also a research work. You are officially employed (at least, it’s case of Finland) and is responsible for your work.”

    And what about some students (like me) who don’t get money for PhD, those less fortunate ones? I am not sure I am not officially employed at the moment because I don’t have any funding or salary. Basically, I am officially a student but not an employee.

  4. Emad 18.2.2014 at 18:20

    Well, i must say this blog is very helpful and interesting. I just want to make sure that if there is any specific requirements of CGPA or something for PHD!!

    • Aysulu 25.2.2014 at 10:28

      Thank you, Emad. I think all official information is available at CIMO website (the link is in the blog).

  5. Alex 18.2.2014 at 23:00

    “And what about some students (like me) who don’t get money for PhD, those less fortunate ones?”
    The employment contract related to PhD is associated with the so-called “four year tenure research track” and IS an actual employment. However, PhD studies by itself do not necessarily require an active work contract if the pursuant is able to cove his expenses by some other means.

  6. shirlley 1.3.2014 at 23:10

    I could nοt refrain from commentіng. Perfeϲtly written!

  7. moncler 1.3.2014 at 23:59

    Hi! Just wanted to tell you keep up the good work!

  8. Singh 6.2.2016 at 22:00

    Thanks for the nice article.

    Do university sponsor expenses for international conference for part-time PhD students?

    Person having full time job can manage his living expenses and there is no tuition fee. Funding would be needed only for international conferences, do they need to apply for some funding for it?

    • Aisulu Harjula 7.2.2016 at 13:31

      that’s an interesting question, let me get in touch with someone who knows! I will write back as soon as I get to know.

    • Aisulu Harjula 28.2.2016 at 22:53


      Sorry for my late reply. It wasn’t easy to get to know such details. As for the money, it depends on your supervisor and the head of the department. Usually you will need to do together with your supervisor a study plan with funding resources before you apply for PhD studies at LUT.

  9. jagpreet singh 27.4.2016 at 07:13

    Its quite interesting, if ph.s considered as a official work then will it help to get PR for any non-EU research scholar.

  10. Ilia Gugenishvili 5.1.2017 at 22:44

    Hi! Thanks for an interesting post.

    I have a question regarding the permit PhD candidates get.

    As I know if you finance your studies you get the Student permit, hence B category. But if you get the scholarship or salary you must apply for the permit as a Researcher (not as a student). Does this also mean you get the A category permit or do you still get the B category permit, even though your PhD studies are funded?

    Thanks a lot,

    • Aisulu Harjula 6.1.2017 at 20:51

      Hi! Thanks for your comment. I think it depends on a type of your funding – whether you have an employment contract or a personal scholarship. A-type permits are only for employment contracts, even funded students usually get B-type. You can check more from

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