The Johan Skytte Institute of Political Studies offers the opportunity to gain a doctoral degree (PhD) in Political Science by enrolling in its English language PhD programme. During the four years of PhD studies, students are required to collect credits through coursework, teaching, international publishing, conference participation and work on the doctoral project. The following text gives a detailed overview of the requirements, including information about credit points, formats of dissertations and funding opportunities.
After you have successfully passed the admissions process and have been admitted to the PhD programme there are a number of immediate first steps that need to be taken:
The doctoral programme in political science lasts four years and consists of 240 European credit points (ECTS). The programme is divided into two main parts: course work (60 ECTS) and the doctoral dissertation (180 ECTS). The course work includes major field subjects (36 ECTS - including Doctoral seminar, Political Science Classics courses, Elective major subject courses), university-wide optional courses (6 ECTS), teaching requirement (6 ECTS) and other optional courses (12 ECTS). See the curriculum structure in the Study Information System.
All major components of the current curriculum are explained in more detail below.
The broad goal of the seminar is to help PhD students succeed in the PhD. programme and to facilitate their transition from being a student to being a scholar. The seminar offers information about the main elements and requirements of the PhD programme (the dissertation itself, coursework, the publication requirement, the conference participation requirement, the teaching requirement, etc) and provides a forum for discussing these. It seeks to convey professional standards and know-how, covering a broad range of themes from publishing, conference participation, and professional associations to research funding. At the end of the course students are required to present and defend a substantially revised research plan - the Dissertation Prospectus - in front of a greater audience of other doctoral students and lecturers.
These are independent study courses leading to qualifying exams in any two of the following four fields:
The candidate must work through a set of prescribed literature and successfully pass an oral exam (in some cases a written assigment is required). Detailed exam programmes (reading lists) are available for each exam. Contact the professor/lecturer in charge to schedule the exam date and get details about the readings:
There are generally two opportunities to take the exam each year (in December/January, and May/June).
The students must complete the following courses:
1) Paper at an international scholarly conference, 6 ECTS. The candidate may receive elective credit for a scholarly paper delivered at an internationally recognized and/or pre-reviewed conference, (e.g. annual meetings of the ECPR, IPSA, ISA, etc). To get credit for conference participation, two main criteria must be met: 1) you attended this kind of international scholarly conference 2) you produced a scholarly paper for the conference (as opposed to just ‘giving a talk’). To get credit, send your conference paper along with the name, location and dates of the conference (e.g. the official website) to the programme coordinator Maili Vilson. NB! PhD students admitted in 2016 and later must collect 12 ECTS for conference presentations, so in addition to the course above, another 6 ECTS will be collected under Research on doctoral dissertation.
2) Special Seminar in Political Science, 6 ECTS. This is a forum for faculty members and more advanced PhD students to present and discuss their own current research. To get credit points for the colloquium, the PhD student must attend at least 80% of the meetings as well as present his or her research. In the first year of study, the contribution to the colloquium comes in form of the dissertation prospectus defence (usually held in May); in later years students can present planned conference papers/ research articles or major sections of their dissertation etc. To learn more about the research colloquium visit the special section under Research on this website.
3) Methodology in the social sciences, 3 ECTS. This is a flexible course which provides each PhD student with the opportunity to use any methods training courses necessary for conducting their research to also fill the curriculum. For example, a students can transfer credits gained from ECPR methods schools or any methods courses taught at the University of Tartu or any other higher education institutions that correspond to the level expected from the PhD studies.
4) Current topics in the social sciences, 3 ECTS. This is a flexible course which provides each PhD student with the opportunity to use any training courses necessary for conducting their research to also fill the curriculum. For example, a students can transfer credits gained from ECPR methods schools or any summer or training schools that correspond to the level expected from the PhD studies.
Each semester the Office of Doctoral Studies coordinates different university-wide doctoral seminars. Courses offered include, for instance, Academic writing skills, Bioethics, Intellectual Property, Learning and Teaching in Higher Education, and Public speaking. The list of courses changes somewhat from year to year, as new courses are being added. See in SIS for courses offered in any given semester.
To help PhD students acquire teaching skills and prepare them for an academic career, a teaching requirement has been included in the programme. Such teaching must amount to 6 ECTS and may consist of the following activities:
PhD students should gradually build their ‘teaching portfolio’. In principle, any combination of the above is fine as long as your portfolio includes some actual classroom teaching (i.e. it should not consist of thesis supervision only).
Once work corresponding to 6 ECTS has been completed, send a brief description of your teaching activities (including names and dates of courses taught or assisted, theses successfully supervised, etc) to the maili.vilson [ät] ut.ee (programme coordinator).
Additional doctoral-level courses of the candidate's own choosing (including courses offered by other Universities), or language courses are also applicable. Any third Political Science Classics course is also an option, as is any additional interdisciplinary social sciences courses.
In accordance with the University of Tartu's ‘Procedure for Awarding Doctorates’ (English; Estonian), a PhD candidate must have a minimum number of publications before he/she may defend the doctoral dissertation. These publications can be:
a) Scholarly articles indexed by Web of Science Science Citation Index Expanded, Social Sciences Citation Index, Arts & Humanities Citation Index and/or indexed by Scopus (excluding chapters in books)
b) articles in journals which belong to the category ‘A’ or ‘B’ of ERIH;
c) Peer-reviewed articles in other international research journals with an ISSN code and international editorial board, which are circulated internationally and open to international contributions;
d) Articles or chapters in publications of renowned international publishing houses;
e) Monographs published by acknowledged international scientific publishing houses.
Based on these publication categories, there are three ways to submit a doctoral dissertation:
In political science, the most common form of dissertation is type 2, however, a candidate may also consider the other options and discuss them with his/her advisor. Publications published before the commencement of doctoral studies at the University of Tartu may be accepted toward this requirement, subject to review by the Board of the Institute. The defence of the thesis takes place in the form of a public academic discussion after all other requirements for the degree have been met. For additional information, see the Procedure for Awarding Doctorates on the UT main website.
As a University-wide requirement, PhD students must pass an annual progress review (atesteerimine). At the Johan Skytte Institute of Political Studies, the progress review usually takes place in late August every year.
What is the progress review? The purpose of these annual meetings (PhD student + supervisor + 3 or 4-member committee) is to assess the progress a PhD student has made in the programme. The meeting is a 20-30 minute discussion based on the student's individual study plan (English; Estonian) and the progress review form, which you have to submit in advance (English; Estonian). As a result of the meeting, the committee must make a recommendation, i.e. choose one of the following options:
The basis for this decision is coursework completed, credit points earned and progress made on the dissertation (including research activities related to the dissertation such as publications, conference presentations, participation in research projects). Ideally, to complete the programme in four years, one should earn 60 ECTS per year. 45 ECTS per year and above is considered sufficient for full-time study (täiskoormusega õpe), 30-44 ECTS per year is sufficient for part-time study (osakoormusega õpe).
The UT Study Regulations with section on ‘Progress review of doctoral students’ are available here (see section V.5).
Who must pass the progress review? All PhD students, except those who are on academic leave. Note: if your academic leave ends within a few months of the scheduled review period, you should still pass the progress review because it would be difficult to arrange a separate review meeting later on.
What is expected of the PhD student? For the progress review meeting:
>> Please prepare your progress review report and be prepared to discuss activities of the past year in light of your individual study plan (coursework, progress made on the dissertation, conferences, publications, projects, etc). The information you give in this form constitutes the basis for the discussion and decision, so please be sure to list all of your relevant achievements and describe progress made on the dissertation in sufficient detail.
>> Have a clear overview of how many credit points you (will) have earned by the end of the semester.
Doctoral allowance is available for students who:
The amount of the doctoral allowance is €660 per month (as of 2018). The application to receive the doctoral allowance should be submitted via SIS during the period September 1 to September 30. The application should be submitted once for the entire study period; there is no need to re-apply every year.
Information on non-state stipends and other funding opportunities is available here. One can apply for travel support from Kristjan Jaak or the DoRa programme (short-term travel, extended stay abroad). The Skytte Institute is also a member of the Doctoral School of Economics and Innovation which organises various events and offers mobility opportunities.
There are also limited employment opportunities for PhD students at the Institute (mostly in teaching). PhD students can also be involved in various institutional or individual research grants held by faculty members (for instance, PhD students participating in grant projects supported by the Estonian Research Council can be paid an additional stipend not exceeding €200 per month).
Procedure for assessing doctoral students progress in research and conducting progress reviews in the Faculty of Social Sciences
Good practice of doctoral studies (in Estonian, in English)
For more information, please contact the PhD programme coordinator Maili Vilson, maili.vilson [ät] ut.ee.