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Third-cycle (PhD) programmes


7.Higher education

7.5Third-cycle (PhD) programmes

Last update: 27 November 2023

A Doctoral Diploma is the highest academic degree awarded in all domains after 3-4 (by exception even 5) years of study and original research. It follows the first academic degree (or master's degree) and requires the passing of examinations and the submission of an original thesis.

The holder of a doctoral diploma is granted the Ph.D. title in the respective field of science or arts.

According to the Education Law no 1/2011, the PhD represents the third cycle of higher education and allows for a qualification of level 8 within EQF/CEC and within the National Qualification Framework.

It takes place based on a Code of PhD Education, approved by government decision.

Organisation of doctoral studies

The doctoral studies are organised in fundamental domains of sciences and arts.

In sciences the doctoral studies are organised in the following domains:

  • exact sciences
  • natural sciences
  • humanistic sciences
  • social and political sciences
  • sciences of education
  • economy sciences
  • juridical sciences
  • agriculture and forestry sciences
  • medical sciences
  • architecture and urbanism
  • engineering sciences
  • theology and military sciences.

In arts the doctoral studies are organised in the following domains:

  • visual arts
  • music
  • theatre
  • cinematography
  • ballet
  • physical education and sport.

Doctoral studies are finalised with a doctoral thesis and are recognised through a diploma de doctor.

The PhD programmes can normally be organised as:

  • full-time programmes
  • part-time programmes. 

The doctoral studies comprise the following: 

  • High general training within a doctoral school, usually in the form of lectures and workshops.

  • A preparation plan determined by the doctoral candidate and his/her supervisor, and, subsequently approved by the council of the department, respectively by the scientific council of the research institute.

  • Preparation and elaboration of the doctoral thesis. The title and the subject of the thesis are approved by the council of the department, respectively by the scientific council of the research institute; the student is allowed to change the subject once.

  • Public presentation of the doctoral thesis.

By Order no. 3131/2018, ethics and academic integrity courses were included in the curricula for all university study programs. For doctoral students, the courses can be found in each training program and are mandatory.

The structure of the training programme consists of:

  • theoretical
  • practical activities for the specific field of the doctoral studies.

According to the Education Law no 1/2011, the PhD educational programs may be organized by accredited or temporarily authorized Doctorate Organizing Universities.

Doctorate Organizing Universities may be organized by consortiums or partnerships, or by consortiums or partnerships legally concluded between a university or a university consortium and research and development entities.

Universities, or partnerships with consortiums organizing one or several accredited or temporarily approved Doctorate Organizing Universities represent Doctorate Organizing Universities (IOSUD), recognized as such by the Ministry of Education, based on the accreditation or temporary authorization and periodic evaluation.

The Romanian Academy may establish the Doctorate Organizing School of the Romanian Academy, in compliance with the provisions of this law on the authorization, accreditation and operation as higher educational institution.

Each Doctorate Organizing School (or simply Doctoral School) is assessed individually, for each area, for accreditation:

  • The assessment of the Doctorate Organizing School is made according to its performance and the institutional capacity of IOSUD to which the Doctorate Organizing School belongs.
  • The assessment of the Doctorate Organizing Schools is made by ARACIS or by another national or foreign agency for academic quality assurance, based on the CNCS reports as to the quality of the research and on the CNATDCU reports on the quality of the human resources.
  • The criteria system and the assessment methodology are set by order of the Ministry of National Education, based on joint proposals of ARACIS, CNCS and CNATDCU. 

Evaluation methodology for doctoral university studies is established by Order 3651/2021

Each Doctorate Organizing School is assessed periodically, every 5 years.

PhD programmes are of two types:

  • Scientific PhD, which has as final result the production of original scientific knowledge, relevant at international level, based on scientific methods. The scientific PhD is an essential condition for a career as a researcher or professor in the higher education system.

  • Professional PhD, in arts and sports, which has as final result the production of original scientific knowledge based on scientific methods and systematic reflection, on artistic creation or on sports performance at national and international high level and which may represent a basis for the professional career in higher education and research in arts and sports.

The duration of the doctorate university study program is, as a rule, 3 years.

In special situations, the duration of the doctoral university study program can be extended by 1-2 years, with the approval of the university senate, at the proposal of the doctoral supervisor, and within the limits of available funds. The duration of these studies is extended, consequently, with the cumulative periods of interruptions approved.

Admission requirements

The Ministry of Education yearly develops a framework methodology for the organisation of the admission in the Romanian public and private educational institutions on an annual basis.

Currently, the admission framework is regulated by Order No. 3102/2022, for the approval of the Framework Methodology regarding the organization of admission in undergraduate, master, and doctoral study cycles. 

Each higher educational institution elaborates and applies its own regulations for the organization of the educational programmes it provides.

Any candidate from the member states of the European Union, from the European Economic Space and from the Swiss Confederation may take the admission exam for a public, private or confessional higher education for each educational cycle and programme, in the same conditions provided by law for Romanian citizens, including as far as the tuition is concerned.

Higher education institutions may charge candidates with registration fees for the organisation and execution of the admission, in the quantum approved by each university senate. In their own methodologies, university senates may decide upon fee exemption or reduction.

A person may benefit from financing from the budget for a single graduation programme, for a single master’s degree programme, and for a singer Ph.D. degree programme.

Only the graduates of the master’s degree programs or equivalent studies have the right to participate to the admission to PhD programs.

Status of doctoral students/ candidates

The person admitted to a PhD educational programme is a doctoral student respectively, during their entire registration in the programme in question, from the registration moment and to the finalization of their studies, less the periods when their studies are interrupted.

Supervision arrangements

The competence of PhD mentor/ tutor/ supervisor is granted by order of the Ministry of Education, at the proposal, of CNATDCU for granting the habilitation certificate - abilitare in compliance with the standards and procedures developed by the Ministry of Education.

These standards are set in accordance with the evaluation criteria relevant at international level, proposed by CNATDCU and approved by order of the Ministry of Education.

The minimal standards for the acceptance of the competence certificate file by the CNATDCU are not dependent upon the didactic position and are identical to the standards for granting the professor title. 

The habilitated teaching and research staff and the scientific researchers who have the competence to become Ph.D. tutors become Ph.D. tutors after they have been authorized in this respect. 

The habilitation - abilitare represents the certification of a person's quality to conduct doctoral theses, following Order no. 3121/2015 regarding the organization and development of the process of obtaining the qualification certificate.

To supervise PhD studies, the teaching and research staff who have obtained such right must conclude a labour contract with a IOSUD or another IOSUD-member institution and must be a member of a PhD organizing school.

In the context of the university mobility policies, IOSUD may employ, on a contractual basis, specialists from abroad who have the legal right to be tutors.


PhD students are employed by IOSUD or by any of the IOSUD members as research assistants or assistant professors, on a definite period.

During their entire activity, the student attending full-time programmes benefit from:

  • the acknowledgement of their study years as specialised work experience
  • free medical care, without paying the contribution to the social insurance, unemployment, health and work accident and occupational diseases insurances.

The PhD student may perform teaching activities, in compliance with the education services agreement, in the limit of 4-6 normal classes/week.

The teaching activities that exceed this level will be paid according to the legislation in force, falling under the Labour Code, and requiring the observance of the rights and obligations of an employee and the payment of contributions due by law to the social insurance, unemployment, health and work accident and occupational diseases insurances.

According to the pension law, the PhD education is an assimilated period, and is taken into consideration when deciding the contribution rate, except for the case in which the  student registers revenues for which, during this time, he/she is paying contributions to the social insurances.


The examinations are performed by an Examination Commission.

Students can advance in their education and training programme if obtaining the minimum mark of good in examinations and a pass qualification for the research papers/creative works.

If they fail one examination or if one research paper is not accepted, they may sit for the examination once more, or may defend their research paper/creative work again.


The PhD thesis is drafted in compliance with the requirements decided by the IOSUD in its PhD regulation and in compliance with the regulations of the national Code for the PhD University Studies approved by GD no. 681/2011 with subsequent amendments and additions in 2016.

Doctoral studies are finalised through a thesis publicly defended and evaluated by a commission of specialists approved by the university senate.

  • The commission comprises a chair, the Director of the doctoral programme and three official reviewers, specialists with outstanding scientific activity holding a diploma de doctor in the domain (professors, lecturers, academicians, scientific researchers of rank I – from the country or abroad) of which at least two do not work in the respective IOD.
  • The members of the commission produce review papers containing general and analytical assessment remarks, and their conclusion on the academic value of the thesis, expressing their agreement or disagreement upon the awarding of the diploma de doctor.

The PhD thesis is defended in a public meeting before the PhD commission, after the positive evaluation of all the referees.

The defence of the PhD thesis may take place in the presence of at least 4 of the 5 members of the commission, with the mandatory participation of the commission’s president and PhD mentor.

The public defence must include a session of questions by the members of the PhD commission and the public.

Based on the public presentation of the PhD thesis and of the official referees’ reports, the PhD commission evaluates and deliberates upon the grade that the thesis receives. The grades are:

  • Excellent
  • Very good
  • Good
  • Satisfactory 
  • Unsatisfactory.

Excellent is usually granted for maximum 15% of the candidates who acquire the PhD title in a certain IOSUD, in the course of an academic year.

If the PhD student has observed the requirements provided in the scientific research programme and the grade of the PhD thesis is Very good, Good or Satisfactory the PhD commission proposes to award the PhD title, proposal that is submitted to CNATDCU for validation.

Following the evaluation of the file, CNATDCU, proposes to the Ministry of Education to grant or to not to grant the PhD title.

If the grade is Unsatisfactory, the PhD commission will identify the content elements that must be remade or completed from the thesis and will request a new public defence.

The second defence of the PhD thesis takes place before the same PhD commission, as in the case of the first defence.

If, following the second public defence, the PhD thesis is graded Unsatisfactory, the PhD title is not granted, and the student shall be expelled. 

Order No 5110/2018 provides the minimum national standards for the award of the title of doctor. 

The minimum national standards for the award of the doctor's degree are a set of 35 standards specific to doctoral fields assigned to the commissions of the specialty of CNATDCU.



Minimum national standards for the award of the doctorate:

To be awarded the title of doctor, it is necessary to fulfill the following minimum standards:

  1. publication of at least three articles in minimum indexed scientific journals three international or Web of Science databases, of which, for one article, the doctoral student has the capacity of the sole author, first author, or corresponding author.
  2. the presentation of at least three scientific papers at international conferences in the field, proven by the conference program.

The PhD title is granted by an order of the Ministry of Education, after the validation of the thesis by CNATDCU. 

The validation follows Article 168 of the National Education Law no. 1/2011, with subsequent amendments and additions, and with the provisions of the Government Decision no. 681/2011 on the approval of the Code doctoral studies, as amended and supplemented.

The CNATDCU examines and decides on complaints concerning non-compliance with quality or professional ethics standards, including the existence of plagiarism in a doctoral thesis, following methodology set out in Annex 3 of the which forms an integral part of order No 5229/2020 for the approval of the methodologies relating to the granting of the habilitation certificate, the awarding of the title of doctor and the settlement of complaints concerning non-compliance with quality or professional ethics standards, including about the existence of plagiarism in a doctoral thesis.

Organisational variation

The PhD education may take place under a co-tutorship, in which case:

  • a student carries out his/her activity under the simultaneous guidance of a tutor in Romania and another one in a different country, or
  • under the guidance of two tutors from different universities in Romania, based on a written agreement between the institutions involved, or 
  • PhD mentors are from the same IOSUD, but are specialised in different fields of study, or if one of the PhD mentors has reached the retirement age, in compliance with the university Charter.