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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

Third-cycle programmes are doctoral (doktorski) study programmes. They consist of 180 ECTS and are three years in duration. According to the Decree on the introduction and use of the education and training classification system, they are classified within level 8/2.

The doctoral study programmes allow students to deepen their understanding of theoretical and methodological concepts. They are qualified to manage the most demanding work situations as well as scientific research projects in a broad professional or scientific field. They put well-known solutions to the test, improve them and discover new ones. They then continue to develop the capabilities necessary for critical reflection. An obligatory component of these programmes is the fundamental or applicative research papers.

The doktorski study programmes are the basis for the study and research programmes of individual students. Within the third cycle study programme, the obligatory components are defined as for first and second cycle programmes. The field content and ECTS of the obligations, which are arranged into the study and individual research work, are also determined. Among them are joint forms of study work, and group or individual research work. The organized forms of study within the doctoral study programme consist of at least 60 ECTS with 120 ECTS being awarded to individual work on a doctoral dissertation. With the doctoral study programme, academic titles are also defined and formed by law.

Admission requirements

The general requirement for admission into a doctoral study programme is to have completed a second-cycle study programme. During the candidate selection process, the average grade acquired in second-cycle studies as well as achievements in research and professional filed may be considered. The criteria are defined by the study programme.

Potential students may have to complete an entrance exam or test of their artistic or psychophysical abilities. The selection process may also take into account the research work of the candidate, work experience, published articles and completed professional specializations or short postgraduate training programmes. Knowledge acquired before applying to the programme may also be recognized as a fulfilment of programme obligations.

Admission requirements for enrolment in doctoral study programmes are also met by candidates who completed equivalent education abroad.

The call for enrolment is published by higher education institutions (public higher education institutions must acquire before the approval of the Government of the Republic of Slovenia). The call for enrolment includes general information on applications, deadlines and requirements for enrolment in a specific doctoral study programme.

Status of doctoral students/candidates

Students have either full-time or part-time status. If a student is not employed, they are entitled, according to particular regulations, to health insurance and other benefits and rights (for example, student meal subsidies, subsidised transportation, scholarships, etc.). Employed students may take advantage of the rights provided to them through their worker status. The financing of studies for such students is implemented as described in Chapter 3B.

There are two special schemes organised for the two groups of students of doctoral study programmes: “junior researchers” and “junior researchers of the economy”. The first scheme has been running successfully since 1985. Junior researchers collaborate in research work in research groups, programmes or projects at higher professional institutions or research institutes simultaneously with their doctoral studies. They are in an employment relationship for the duration of their studies (3 and a half year) they are employed. Public funds are allocated to their salaries, social contributions, as well as material costs for research activities and study. Junior economics researchers fall into the second scheme. Their legal circumstances are the same: they are employed for a fixed amount of time, have a salary and public resources also guarantee material expenses for research work.

Supervision arrangements

The doctoral studies are provided according to the internal rules of the higher professional institution. Generally, at universities and other higher professional institutions, a special body is appointed to plan, coordinate, organize and simultaneously accept students' study and research work. These are programme councils or commissions for academic research work, doctoral studies and field coordinators. Every student has a mentor (often accompanied by a co-mentor), who advises students in their choice of subjects and guides their research work. The topic of a doctoral dissertation is assessed by a commission and certified by the Senate of the higher professional institute. Mentors may simply be higher professional teachers or scientific workers who have demonstrated their research qualifications (with an appropriate scientific bibliography). The defence of the doctoral dissertation is carried out publicly, before a commission, of which at least one of the members is from another higher professional or research institution, including quite often those from abroad.

The supervision of the doctoral study's execution is also carried out through internal and external evaluation processes.


During the accreditation procedure for doctoral study programmes the following documents shall be submitted:

  • analysis of career opportunities of graduates provided by the employment office or the competent chamber, employer associations or other institutions, competent for the professional fields of the study programme, and
  • agreements and contracts with enterprises on the placement of the foreseen number of enrolled students.

Reflection on the employability of PhD graduates is also promoted by financial mechanisms, i.e. through young researcher schemes as well as the new scheme for the co-funding of doctoral studies. The latter promotes doctoral studies, designed in such a way that the student’s research contributes to the resolution of business problems or current social challenges.


Knowledge is assessed by oral or written exams and by completing seminar papers. The numerical assessment scale is from 1 to 10, according to which 6 is the lowest positive grade and 10 is the highest. Individual obligations may also be assessed with a simple 'pass' or 'fail' or 'pass with distinction'. The second and third years of study are meant for research work.

In the second year, students must present the topic of their doctoral dissertation. It is based on the commission's assessment grade that the senate of the higher professional institution certifies the topic. The results of the research work must be presented in at least one article, published in an internationally recognized periodical, which has been indexed by the SCI or the SSCI and is from a relevant scientific field. The students must be the leading authors of the article. The doctoral dissertation must be an independent, authentic contribution to the scientific field in question. It is assessed by a commission, which is appointed by the senate of the higher professional institute. It normally consists of three members, with one of the members being from another higher professional or research institution. Suitable foreign experts are often members of the commission. The students must publicly defend their doctoral dissertation before the commission.


Upon the completion of a third cycle study programme at a higher professional institution, students are awarded a diploma with their official scientific title Doctor of Science (doktor znanosti). The diploma may also state the academic field the title is derived from, but the aforementioned academic field is not a component of the academic title. Along with a diploma, students also receive a Diploma Supplement (free of charge, in Slovenian and one of the official languages of the EU). The regulations for the conferral of the diplomas following the completion of the joint doctoral study programmes are the same as for the completion of the joint first or second-cycle study programmes.

Recognition of higher education qualifications in the Republic of Slovenia is governed by the Evaluation and Recognition of Education Act and is based on the  Act Ratifying the Convention on the Recognition of Qualifications concerning Higher Education in the European Region. The ENIC-NARIC centre operates within the ministry responsible for higher education with the role of the national information centre under the provisions of the Convention. The main responsibilities of the centre include collecting and submission of information on the Slovenian education system and foreign education systems, administration of procedures and issuing of opinions on education by the law, preparation of public information for users, international cooperation in ENIC-NARIC networks and broader international cooperation.

Organisational variation

It was only possible to complete the old study programmes at higher professional institutions in Slovenia until after the 2015/16 academic year. This was also the case with study programmes conferring the title of Master of Science (magisterij znanosti) or Specialisation (specializacije), which is by the change of provisions of the Higher Education Act classifying them under the third cycle programmes. According to the Decree on the introduction and use of the education and training classification system, they are classified at level 8/1. Graduates with a diploma from the old university study programme (4 to 6 years in duration) may apply to these programmes. The programme officially of two year’s study consists of 120 credits – as a rule, 90 for the specialised study of subjects from the selected field of study or scientific discipline and 30 for research work or the composition of the MA thesis. Graduates are awarded a diploma and an academic title, usually Master of Science (magister znanosti) or Master of Arts (magister umetnosti). Graduates will be able to continue their studies in the second year of a new doctoral study programme.

Higher professional institutions also offer a variety of short study training programmes that do not confer higher educational qualifications. These programmes are developed to broaden and update the knowledge that students acquired in the graded programmes. They are accepted by the senates of the higher professional institutions. These programmes become publicly recognised if they are accredited by the Slovenian Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (SQUAA). The components of the graded programmes are determined by the law and include the following: fundamental goals, general and subject-specific competences, admission requirements, selection criteria, execution methods and the requirements necessary to complete studies. They consist of at least 10 and at most 60 credits. After the programme, the student is awarded a certificate, which is an official document. These programmes have a long tradition within the fields of study concerned with the education of teachers. Such programmes are also quite common within other fields, for example, economic and business sciences, technical science and health care.

As training study programmes, they can also offer individual modules from the graded study programmes and various other forms of informal teaching, for example, courses, summer schools, training programmes and so on.

If the knowledge and skills from these programmes correspond with the competences determined in the graded programmes, they can be recognised as the completion of study obligations, valued with credits.

With the distribution of public resources at higher professional institutions, post-doctoral projects are encouraged. These include fundamental or applicative research projects, through which researchers, following the acquisition of the doctorate, receive additional research experience, knowledge and training.