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Third-cycle (PhD) programmes


7.Higher education

7.5Third-cycle (PhD) programmes

Last update: 12 June 2022

Organisation of doctoral studies

Postgraduate university or doctoral studies are provided in all fields - biomedical and health science, biotechnology, social sciences, humanities, natural science, technical science, interdisciplinary and artistic fields. According to the Ministry of Science and Education’s Directory of Study Programmes, most doctoral studies are available in social sciences, humanities and technical science.

Doctoral studies take three years minimum and normally award 180 ECTS credit points. Meeting all required conditions and publicly presenting their dissertation makes one eligible for the academic degrees of doctor of science or doctor of arts, corresponding to level 8.2 of the CROQF (level 8 of the European Qualifications Framework).

The institution of higher education that is providing doctoral studies should have study programmes vertically aligned within the same area or field. A programme in the interdisciplinary area that is not performed at undergraduate and graduate levels must be vertically aligned with those areas and fields that constitute the interdisciplinarity. Doctoral studies are conducted by universities or their constituents, independently or jointly. Also, several doctoral studies within one or several scientific and/or artistic areas may be joined in a doctoral school.

Doctoral studies do not require lectures, but they must include original research in either science or arts that has a satisfactory level of credibility, depth, and quality. The research is most often presented in the form of a dissertation or published papers and its content and requirements are regulated by internal regulations of universities and their constituents. All doctoral dissertations and papers must be publicly available at database DABAR


Admission requirements

Terms of enrolment are defined by higher education institutions and a public call is normally published one month before the beginning of lectures. Formal requirements for postgraduate doctoral studies include completed adequate university graduate studies (level 7 of the CROQF), a certain minimum level of achievement on the preceding level of education, and other terms defined by the higher education institution. Academic credit for all previously accomplished achievements and acquired knowledge is awarded in accordance with each institution’s internal regulations.

In most cases, elements that are taken into account during the assessment procedure include past academic credit (including the candidate’ average grades from the graduate level), the research draft, the number and quality of published papers, letters of reference from mentors or some other scientist, interview, foreign language proficiency, involvement in some scientific project, and others.

Doctoral studies’ enrolment quotas are determined by higher education institutions themselves depending on the availability of mentors and infrastructure, needs of the society, and candidates’ interest. The usual way to attract (talented) students to doctoral studies is to make an announcement through daily newspapers and the institution’s web pages.


Status of doctoral students/candidates

One becomes a doctorand – candidate for a doctorate – by enrolling in doctoral studies.

The amount of tuition for a doctoral study is determined by the higher education institution organising it. Most doctorands pay for it themselves or have their employer cover the cost and in most cases, the employer is a higher education institution or some other research institution hiring this doctorand as a teaching/research assistant. The institution providing a doctoral study can also enrol its assistants in doctoral studies without tuition. Other potential sources of financing doctoral studies are research projects, such as the Croatian Foundation for Science, which covers project owners’ costs of salaries and tuitions for doctorands/assistants involved in a project.

Doctoral studies can be full-time or part-time.

Postgraduate students are not entitled to standard student benefits available at lower levels of studying (subsidized meals, subsidized housing in student dormitories or in private accommodation, student employment contracts concluded via intermediaries, i.e. student centres or state scholarships).

An exception to this rule are postgraduate students with a disability, who are entitled to financial assistance for accommodation in student dormitories, a transport allowance covering part of their transportation costs, and a means-tested scholarship.



Most students attending doctoral studies are already members of the academia or have a job in the field of science, in the real sector, or in public sector/administration.

The employability of doctorands is encouraged with their inclusion in research projects, teaching at graduate and undergraduate levels and involvement in joint projects by higher education institutions and the business sector.  

Furthermore, most programmes at the level of doctoral studies also include the acquisition of transferable skills that are useful for further development of careers in scientific research and other areas. Doctorands are generally encouraged to work on their presentation and lecturing skills by giving seminar presentations, participating in course debates, and presenting at national and international conferences.



Students of doctoral studies may enrol in the next year of study if they have completed all their obligations stipulated in the study programme by a specified deadline.

Doctorands’ progress and compliance is monitored through their mentors’ reports, at the meetings of the doctoral studies Council, and through their own progress report.

If the Council of doctoral study concludes on the basis of an annual assessment that a doctorand’s performance has been unsatisfactory, they may deny to the doctorand the right to continue studies.

A doctoral dissertation must be an original and independent product of scientific work, which is assessed by the mentor, the higher education institution, and the university before an oral examination by the examining commission who will grade it.

Dissertations must be publicly defended and after that they are made publicly available. Higher education institutions providing doctoral studies need to permanently archive all their dissertations in the National and University Library’s online repository for graduation theses and doctoral dissertations with public access - DABAR.



A doctoral study is considered completed after the doctorand has fulfilled all relevant obligations and successfully defended the doctoral dissertation, earning the academic title of doctor of science (dr. sc.) or doctor of arts (dr. art.), including the designation of scientific area and field. All rights under labour law applicable to doctors of science/arts take effect from this point on.

Doctor of science/arts diplomas are issued by the University.


Organisational variations

There are certain differences in the practice of carrying out doctoral studies depending on the institution providing them and on the scientific area or field in question. Furthermore, there is the option of doctoral studies in arts, which in most cases includes a final work of art together with dissertation. Despite various operational approaches to doctoral studies, they all have in common the requirement for making a scientific/artistic contribution to the candidate’s field of interest, in the form of dissertation/work of art or published scientific papers.

Doctoral studies come in different forms. In its standard and most frequent form, a doctoral study is organised by one or more university constituents or the university itself. Doctoral studies may be conducted as joint study programmes of several universities in Croatia or as joint international programmes, with universities from several countries participating. Joint/combined doctoral study programmes allow for the possibility of multiple diplomas, one joint diploma, or a single diploma, issued by the institution in which the doctorand enrolled and where the dissertation was defended. Some universities also offer dual or cotutelle doctoral programmes; doctorands are awarded two personal mentors during studies at two institutions and therefore earn two diplomas. However, in most cases, these are not formally joined/combined programmes in the strict sense.