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Third-cycle (PhD) programmes


7.Higher Education

7.5Third-cycle (PhD) programmes

Last update: 27 November 2023

Organisation of doctoral studies

Doctoral programmes are offered by all university-level institutions, some state university colleges and a few private higher education institutions. 

Admission requirements

PhD programmes are based on successful completion of two-year master programmes, or five-year integrated master programmes. Higher education institutions are autonomous in determining the criteria to access doctoral programmes. Applicants must present their application directly to the institution offering the programme. Applications to PhD programmes are formally job applications, as all PhD candidates have employment contracts either at the university college, university, through the Research Council of Norway, or through a company or public employer.

Status of doctoral students/candidates

Doctoral students in Norway are considered as employees and enjoy the same rights, including social security, pension rights, maternity and paternity leave etc.

Supervision arrangements

The writing of a research thesis is mandatory for PhD degrees. For doctoral students, there is a system of individual supervision of the thesis, which also functions as an evaluation of the student's work and progression.  Usually, the university appoints a single senior researcher as supervisor, but there can be more than one supervisor.  


The length of full-time doctoral studies is three years. The majority of those who follow a structured programme are employed full-time for four years but perform other duties for the institution (give lectures etc.) for 25 per cent of the time (i.e. one man-year equivalent). The time that is spent on taking courses differs from institution to institution, but as a general rule amounts to one term (30 ECTS).


A committee of at least three senior academics evaluates the thesis, of these at least one must come from outside the institution, and if possible one from abroad. Then the doctoral student gives one or more lectures and defends his/her thesis in public, where members of the reviewing committee are institutional opponents.


Questions concerning degrees, examinations, and the normal length of a study programme, are decided by the Ministry of Education and Research. The Ministry is about to introduce a PhD in artistic research. The degree will encompass research within the field of arts and include an explicit reflection on the artistic work. The traditional general doctorate (dr.philos.) is awarded on the basis of high-level research conducted over a number of years, leading to the successful defence of a substantial thesis.

Organisational variation

Interdisciplinary training and transferable skills have been integrated into some programmes. In the last few years, interdisciplinary graduate schools have been established connected to centres of excellence.

Two PhD schemes are designed to enhance interaction between companies or public organizations and research institutions, namely the Industrial-PhD scheme and the public sector-PhD scheme. The PhD candidate must be an employee of the company or public organization and be formally admitted into an ordinary doctoral degree programme.