The PhD Programme – University of Copenhagen

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Information on the PhD Programme


Being a PhD student at the Department of Political Science

The Department of Political Science at Copenhagen University offers a stimulating research environment for those wishing to pursue doctoral studies within the subjects of Comparative Politics, Public Administration and International Relations. The Department of Political Science currently has around 45 full time faculty staff, providing the basis for doctoral supervision of a wide range of research topics. There is currently about 35 PhD students affiliated with the Department, which prides itself on its lively doctoral student community. 

The PhD programme aims to achieve close integration into departmental research and the wider networks and research projects in which departmental staff are involved. Interdependence between the PhD programme and every-day academic life at the Department is envisaged as a two way process: it is a precondition for acceptance of a PhD proposal that research of a high standard is pursued at the Department within the topic chosen by the doctoral student. A significant part of the development and renewal of the Department's research agenda is expected to come from the younger generation of researchers.Til toppen

Objectives of the PhD Programme

The overall objective of the PhD programme is to provide doctoral students with a wide range of skills applicable to vocations throughout higher education, jobs in university level research and other knowledge-intensive sectors, public as well as private.

In addition to specialised expert knowledge within a particular field, the successful doctoral candidate will have gained experience and competence in designing research projects, questions of methodology, communication and public outreach skills. The latter will include teaching and oral and written presentation of work in academic and non-academic fora. Another important ingredient in the programme is the recommendation that doctoral students experience an international research environment, usually through a six month study abroad.Til toppen

The Department and Supervision of PhD Topics

Although proposals within all political science topics are welcomed, applicants are recommended to bear the Department's research interests in mind when choosing their research topics. Information about current research projects, and institutions and research centers based in the department, can be found at website. It is precondition for acceptance into the PhD program that the department has the necessary expertise for supervising the project suggested.Til toppen

Elements of the PhD Programme

The PhD programme consists of several key elements:

  • Individual supervision by a professor or associate professor
    A second supervisor can be appointed where necessary. He or she can be based outside the Department but must also be a senior lecturer/associate professor, a professor, or in possession of equivalent qualifications. The supervisor has the job of guiding the doctoral research, and ensuring that the student completes research training that conforms to the requirements for attaining the PhD degree. Student and supervisor have joint responsibility for working out an individual study plan and for revising this if and when necessary. The supervisor and Ph.D. student make twice-yearly evaluations of the student's progress
  • Compulsory twice-yearly postgraduate seminars
    Participation in the postgraduate seminars is compulsory for all enrolled PhD students. In addition each PhD student presents work-in-progress at postgraduate seminars on at least three occasions. One presentation should be a detailed research plan, another would be a draft of the main analysis (e.g. empirical analysis or theoretical development) and a third should be a nearly finished chapter of the dissertation. The director of the PhD programme and the supervisor of the PhD student presenting a paper are obliged to participate in the seminar. The student may invite discussants with special expertise from outside the Department 
  • PhD- students are recommended to spend six months abroad. Examples of academic institutions visited include London School of Economics and Political Science, Essex University, Harvard University, and the Norwegian Foreign Policy Institute
  • As an integral part of the programme the PhD student must gain teaching experience or other forms of communicative work directed towards a wider audience. Normally this will take the form of teaching post-graduate MA classes in subjects directly related to the student's thesis. Other forms of outreach-oriented work could include presenting results from the student's own research through lectures, courses, editing of material etc. 
  • A number of seminars and guest lectures are offered beside the "official" part of the post graduate training and PhD-students are expected to participate actively in departmental research seminars and more informal research seminars. As a whole, the Department places great emphasis on the integration of individual PhD students into the department's research environment. All students are attached to one of the Department's three specialisation-oriented staff groups (Comparative Politics, Public Administration and International Relations), and have the opportunity to present and receive feedback on work in progress papers at seminars held by each groupTil toppen

Responsibilities as a PhD Student

PhD candidates accepted into the PhD programme (except privately funded ones) are required to perform the equivalent of 840 hours of paid work as part of the three year PhD programme. Teaching comprises four ‘semester hours' (i.e. Four hours of teaching per week in term time, or the equivalent of this amount), but may also include additional supervision of project work at undergraduate and/or Masters level. As far as possible, PhD students are given the option to teach subjects related to their research areas.

Any remaining hours required to make up the total of 840 hours must be predominantly research-related or research-outreach activities, e.g. research assistance to existing research programmes, editorial work, organising seminars, lectures, courses, conferences and so forth. PhD students some way into their studies may also, by agreement with the director of PhD studies, be asked to function as 'tutors' for newly enrolled candidates, introducing newcomers to departmental PhD life. The nature and timing of paid work should be specified in the schedule drawn up in the application process (see below). Til toppen


Applying for grants to pursue PhD studies

Applications for grants are judged by an academic panel according to the following criteria:

  • The originality, coherence and plausibility of the research proposal submitted by the applicant;
  • The relevance of the project to the research agenda of the Department and its areas of specialisation (see above) and whether the Department can provide the financial and professional resources necessary;
  • An assessment of whether the applicant has the necessary personal qualifications and/or capabilities to complete the project

The research proposal should comprise an outline of the research project, maximum 10 pages long. This should define the research question and describe the focus of the project and the theoretical approach and methodology envisaged.

A study schedule should also be included, showing roughly when the elements of the PhD programme are planned to take place - e.g. when planned periods of data collection, study abroad, teaching responsibilities, courses and possible conference participation are envisaged.

Danish government regulations ("General Information on PhD studies") lay down that the Department may only accept holders of a Masters degree with demonstrated abilities as political scientists for the PhD programme. This means that candidates will normally have completed five years of study within political science or related disciplines, and will have written a first class Masters thesis. Applicants with other degrees and curricula may be judged on a case-by-case basis.

The budget should contain a rough estimate of expenditures for travel, conferences, possible fieldwork, special equipment and so forth. In most cases the institute will cover such expenditures but in some cases the PhD student will be asked to provide funding from external sources.Til toppen

Additional links

Additional information on enrolment procedures as well as general information on PhD-Studies can be obtained from The Faculty of Social Sciences - Per Bjerregaard Nielsen: Tel. +45 35 32 35 38, email The Faculty of Social Sciences can also be reached by fax at +45 35 32 35 32.

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