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Third-cycle (PhD) programmes


7.Higher education

7.5Third-cycle (PhD) programmes

Last update: 26 March 2024

Organisation of doctoral studies

The third-cycle programmes in higher education include university specialist studies and doctoral studies. 

University specialist study

The university specialist study is carried out in the third-cycle of higher education, lasts at least one year, or at most two, and upon its completion, 60 to 120 ECTS credits are earned. 

Doctoral study

Doctoral study is conducted in the third-cycle of higher education, lasts three years, and upon completion, 180 ECTS credits are earned. 

321 university specialist and 141 doctoral study programmes in the third-cycle are registered in the Register of Study Programmes. According to the data of the Croatian Bureau of Statistics, in 2022 the highest number of doctoral dissertations was in the field of biomedicine and healthcare (22.8%), followed by the field of technical sciences (20.9%), the field of natural sciences (17.4%), the field of social sciences (17.0%), the field of humanities (11.5%) and the field of biotechnical sciences (8.8%). The fewest doctoral dissertations were from interdisciplinary fields of science (1.6%).

Admission requirements


University specialist study

A person who has completed a corresponding university graduate or a university integrated undergraduate and graduate study can enrol in a university specialist study, while exceptional enrolment can be granted to a person who has completed a professional graduate study if they pass differential exams. More detailed enrolment conditions for a particular study programme are determined by the higher education institution.

Doctoral study

The minimum educational criterion for enrolment in a doctoral programme is the completion of a corresponding university graduate study, a university integrated undergraduate and graduate study, or a university specialist study. 

Enrolment conditions are determined by higher education institutions, and the public call is usually published one month before the start of classes. The formal conditions for a postgraduate doctoral study are the completion of a corresponding university graduate study, a certain minimum level of achievement at the previous level of education, and other conditions defined by the higher education institution. Academic credits for all previously accomplished achievements and acquired knowledge are awarded in accordance with the internal acts of each institution.

In most cases, elements taken into account during the assessment procedure include: 

  • academic success

  • research draft

  • number and quality of published papers

  • recommendations of a mentor or another scientist

  • interview

  • knowledge of a foreign language

  • involvement in a scientific project and others.


Enrolment quotas for doctoral studies are determined by the higher education institutions themselves, depending on the availability of mentors and infrastructure, the needs of society and the interest of candidates. The usual way to attract (talented) students to doctoral studies is to advertise through daily newspapers and the institution's website.


Status of doctoral students/candidates

Higher education institutions adopt regulations that prescribe the status, rights and obligations of doctoral students. 

Pursuant to Article 2, paragraph 1 of the Ordinance on the Conditions and Method of Exercising the Right to Cover the Cost of Student Meals (OG 120/13, 8/14113/2237/23) students of postgraduate university studies and students of postgraduate specialist studies are not entitled to support to cover meal costs.

In accordance with Article 4 of the Ordinance on the Conditions and Method of Exercising the Right of Full-Time Students to Subsidised Housing (OG 68/2023) the right to accommodation in a student dormitory is exercised exclusively by doctoral students with disabilities.


Supervision arrangements

The mentor's obligations are prescribed in the regulations on doctoral studies. 

Mostly, the mentor is obliged to: 

  • monitor the doctoral student's research work from the preparation of the doctoral dissertation concept to the doctoral dissertation disposition in all stages of the procedure; 

  • give instructions to the doctoral student and cooperate in defining the content and method of working on the doctoral dissertation; 

  • be available to the doctoral student during regular consultations; 

  • participate in the presentation of the doctoral dissertation disposition and the presentation of the doctoral dissertation results; 

  • require oral or written reports from the doctoral student once a year on the progress and results of the research;

  • encourage the doctoral student to publish their papers and enable them to participate in scientific and artistic projects

  • submit the annual report of the mentor/co-mentor on the doctoral student's work.



The employability of doctoral students is encouraged by their involvement in research projects, teaching at graduate and undergraduate studies, and by their involvement in joint projects of higher education institutions and the business sector.

Furthermore, most programmes at the doctoral level include the acquisition of transferable skills useful for further career development in scientific research and other fields. PhD students are generally encouraged to work on their presentation and teaching skills by giving seminar presentations, participating in course debates and presenting at national and international conferences.



Doctoral students can enrol in the next year of study if they have completed all the obligations stipulated in the study programme by the specified deadline.

The progress and compliance of doctoral students is monitored through the reports of their mentors, at the sessions of the Doctoral Study Council, and through their own progress report.

If, on the basis of the annual assessment, the Doctoral Study Council determines that the doctoral student did not work successfully, it may deny them the right to continue their studies.

The doctoral dissertation must be an original and independent product of scientific work, which before the oral exam is evaluated by the mentor, the higher education institution and the university, which is evaluated by the examination committee.

Dissertations must be publicly defended and after that made publicly available. Higher education institutions conducting doctoral studies should permanently archive all their dissertations in the public online repository of the National and University Library for theses and doctoral dissertations –  DABAR.



Upon completion of the studies, the student is issued a diploma and a diploma supplement.

Upon completion of the university specialist study, the academic title of specialist with reference to a specialisation (spec. with reference to a specialisation) is acquired, and in the fields of medicine, veterinary medicine, dental medicine, pharmacy, medical biochemistry, psychology and other areas for which specialist training is prescribed by special law, the academic title university specialist with reference to a specialisation (univ. spec. with reference to a specialisation) is acquired.

Upon completion of the doctoral studies, the student is issued a diploma and a diploma supplement. Also, students acquire the academic degree of Doctor of Science, with reference to a scientific field (PhD with reference to a scientific field) and Doctor of Arts (D.A.). 


Organisational variations

For more information on this topic, see section 7.4  Programmes outside the bachelor and master structure