General Study Syllabus for Astronomy and Astrophysics

Astronomy and astrophysics

Swedish title: Astronomi och Astrofysik


Responsible department: Department of Physics and Astronomy

Subject-specific parts (*) of the general study syllabus in Swedish adopted by the The Doctoral Education Board (FUN) on 2023-03-15. Translation approved 2023-03-15.

Faculty-common parts approved by the Faculty Board of Science and Technology on 2022-04-26. Revision on 2023-02-07.

The faculty-common parts go into force on 1 July 2022. The Faculty-common parts also apply to those who started their doctoral education prior to 1 July 2022, except if this would have a negative impact on the conditions for doctoral students.

Subject description *

Astronomy includes a large number of subfields of different nature, both theoretical and observational and also technical. Astronomical research at Uppsala University is mainly conducted in the following areas: the physics of the Milky Way and other galaxies, the physics of stars, cosmology, and the physics of planetary systems. Within a PhD project it is only possible to focus in depth on some of these areas. The research process is divided into observational and astrophysical components.

Observational research uses telescopes and advanced instruments to gather information about distant space objects. Observations must be performed with the right methods and instruments to maximize new information about the studied objects. Sometimes one can find existing information in data archives. Sometimes one has to develop and build an entirely new instrument to achieve the scientific goals. By participating in such projects, students get the opportunity to develop new methods for data acquisition and analysis and also get early access to unique observations.

The data collection is strongly linked to astrophysical studies of matter, radiation and processes in space in the form of theoretical and numerical models. Here, the objects' physical properties are studied with the aim of understanding how different processes affect the objects' structure and evolution. Astrophysical studies are linked to space physics, plasma physics, particle physics, nuclear physics, atomic physics and theoretical physics to name a few. Advanced knowledge in these fields must often be applied in order for astrophysical problems to be solved.

Astronomical research strongly relies on international collaboration. A major part of today's observational material is collected at large international facilities. Examples of such are the European Southern Observatory, ESO, where a number of European countries collaborate, and several different space telescopes that are made available through the European Space Agency ESA. Data archives from satellites, optical and radio telescopes are of utmost importance.

Information about on-going research within Astronomy and Astrophysics can be obtained, for example, by following seminars and lecture series as well as through discussions with teachers involved in postgraduate education. Check also the website of the Division of Astronomy and Space Physics. (uppdatera länk)

Aim and objectives for the education

Overall aim and objectives of the education

Doctoral education shall develop the knowledge and skills needed to be able to conduct research independently (Higher Education Act, 1992:1434). The Higher Education Ordinance’s System of Qualifications (Appendix 2, 1993:100) sets out the requirements to be met for a doctoral and licentiate degree, respectively (see individual study plan template).

Subject-specific objectives *

Education on PhD level starts from the undergraduate and master education in astronomy and physics and provide further insights into the more important parts of the subject as well as in-depth knowledge in at least one sub-area. Through supervision and thesis work, the doctoral student must be well prepared for a critical and independent research activity and/or for other professional activities, focussed on in-depth subject insight and research experience. Doctoral students must receive a broad methodological education and knowledge of the research development in astronomy and astrophysics. The doctoral student must also be able to present his goals and results in oral and written form to various target groups in English and, in the case of Swedish-speaking doctoral students, in Swedish.

Entry requirement

General entry requirements

General entry requirements for doctoral education are regulated in the Higher Education Ordinance as follows:

An applicant shall be considered as meeting the general entry requirements if they have

  • completed a degree at the advanced level (Master’s level), or
  • completed course requirements of at least 240 credits, of which at least 60 credits are at the advanced level (Master’s level), or
  • acquired substantially equivalent knowledge in some other way in Sweden or abroad.

The University may permit an exemption from the general entry requirements for an individual applicant, if there are special grounds (Chapter 7, § 39 of the Higher Education Ordinance).

In order for a person who has completed course requirements of at least 240 credits (under the second item above) to be considered eligible at Uppsala University, the 60 credits at advanced level must include a degree project of at least 15 credits (AFUU § 2, UFV 2022/729).

Special entry requirements *

Eligible candidates for doctoral studies in astronomy and astrophysics must have completed courses in physics and astronomy comprising at least 120 credits. Examples of educations that can give such eligibility in addition to the astronomy master's program are civil engineering education in technical physics and natural science programs with specialisation in physics or equivalent education abroad.

The exact division between the number of credits in astronomy and physics is defined by the recruitment committee and explicitly stated in the announcement of the doctoral position.

Advertisement, selection and admission

Information and advertisement

Admission shall be made on a competitive basis following open advertisement of a doctoral place, with the exception of that which is specified in Chapter 7, § 37 of the Higher Education Ordinance. The advertisement shall be made available locally and on the University’s website ( at least three weeks before the application deadline and should be given appropriate national and international dissemination.


Selection among the applicants shall be carried out with consideration given to their ability to successfully conduct their studies. The assessment criteria for selection are:

  1. knowledge and skills relevant to the thesis work and the subject/specialisation
  2. assessed ability to work independently, for example
    • ability to formulate and address scientific problems
    • written and oral communication skills
    • ability to carry out independent critical analysis
  3. other experience relevant to doctoral studies, e.g. professional experience.

The assessment criteria may be demonstrated, for example, by supporting documents, an interview or a skills test.

In addition, an assessment is made of the applicant’s general competence and personal qualities, as well as their ability to collaborate. If a number of applicants are judged as being equal, preference shall be given to applicants from the underrepresented legal gender among the doctoral students in the subject/specialisation.

The mere fact that an applicant is deemed to be able to be awarded credits for prior studies or professional experience for the purpose of doctoral studies shall not give an applicant preference over other applicants during selection (Chapter 7, § 41 of the Higher Education Ordinance).


A doctoral student is admitted to a doctoral programme in a doctoral subject/specialisation. Admission of a doctoral student with full-time employment in their doctoral studentship at Uppsala University is decided by the head of the relevant department, except in cases specified in the Faculty’s guidelines for doctoral education (TEKNAT 2021/301). Admissions with other forms of funding are decided by the Faculty Board’s Working Committee after preparation in the Doctoral Education Board.

Structure and content of doctoral education

Doctoral education consists of courses and research work, and can take various forms, as specified in the individual study plan.

The research project must be well-defined and the level of ambition must be set taking into account both the degree objectives of the programme and the net study time (maximum 48 months for a doctoral degree or maximum 24 months for a licentiate degree).

Requirements for doctoral degree *

The requirements for the doctoral degree consist of passed examinations in the courses included in the approved individual study plan of each doctoral student, as well as a passed public defence of the degree project. The studies awarded a doctoral degree comprise 240 higher education credits (four years of full-time studies), of which the doctoral thesis comprises a minimum of 120 higher education credits and the course part a minimum of 60 higher education credits.

Requirements for licentiate degree *

A doctoral student who has acquired at least 120 higher education credits (two years of full-time studies) is eligible for a licentiate degree. The requirements consist of passing the examinations included in the program stage and producing an academic paper that required an equivalent of at least 60 higher education credits. The course work should amount to a minimum of 30 higher education credits.


The head of department is responsible for ensuring that sufficient time is allotted for the department’s doctoral students to receive the necessary supervision. A doctoral student has the right to request a change of supervisor (Chapter 6, § 28 of the Higher Education Ordinance).

Individual study plan

The principal supervisor, in consultation with the professor responsible for doctoral studies (FUAP), is responsible for drawing up an initial individual study plan prior to admission. The head of department approves the study plan in connection with admission. The individual study plan shall contain a timetable for the doctoral studies, specification of how supervision is organised, and a description of the undertakings of the doctoral student and the department during the period of studies. The individual study plan also specifies the courses included in the doctoral student’s education.

The individual study plan must be revised at least annually in collaboration between the doctoral student and their supervisor. The revision involves following up on the doctoral student’s progress in relation to the degree objectives and previous plan, as well as planning for further studies. The FUAP approves the revised study plan.

Follow up*

Regular follow-up of doctoral student’s progress within the program takes place at the supervisor's meeting twice a year. All aspects of the education are discussed, i.a. courses, research, articles, the doctoral student's social situation, ISP as well as work for the department in addition to the doctoral education, etc.

At the beginning of the doctoral position, the doctoral student and supervisor together present the research project at the so-called 4-month seminar. The seminar should take place within the first 6 months, but the recommended time is approximately 4 months after starting. After the seminar, the supervisors meet with other staff involved in PhD education and discuss whether the proposed project is in line with the requirements for doctoral education and whether the student has shown understanding of the upcoming work.

A half time seminar, which could be a licentiate seminar, should be scheduled for the third year.

At least 6 months before the defence, the doctoral student should present the research results to be included in the thesis at a division-wide seminar. After the presentation, the supervisor’s college representatives decide if the work towards the thesis defence is to continue as planned.


Faculty-common courses

A course in research ethics, with a minimum of 2 credits and content equivalent to the courses provided by the Faculty, shall be included for the licentiate and doctoral degrees. An introductory course to doctoral studies and a course in scientific writing are also recommended.

Doctoral students who teach should undergo teacher training for higher education. This is specified in the individual study plan, and can either be a credit-bearing course element or take place within the framework of the doctoral student’s departmental service.

Teacher training for higher education, lasting 5 weeks, is equivalent to 7.5 credits at the Faculty, and may be included in the doctoral programme.

Basic Swedish language training for doctoral students who do not have Swedish as their first language may be a credit-bearing course element or take place within the framework of the doctoral student’s departmental service.

Subject-specific courses *

Within the education at postgraduate level, there may be different form of courses, such as regular lectures, literature studies, practical exercises, relevant international schools at the corresponding level, etc. The courses should provide broader insights into the subject as a complement to the specialised competence gained in the research work. The courses included in the individual study plan can be primarily chosen from the courses offered at division/department level. The list of such courses should be continuously revised.

The individual study plan for the doctoral degree can, for example, contain:

  • Compulsory and educational courses for doctoral students.
  • Two or three subject-oriented courses for a total of up to 20 credits corresponding to research areas pursued in division (A): physics of planetary systems, physics of stars, physics of galaxies and cosmology; each such course must be not less than 5 credits and be relatively broad in nature.
  • Four courses with a total of up to 30 higher education credits of a research methodology nature (M) concerning e.g., observational methods, hydrodynamics, radiation transport, statistical astronomy, numerical methods in astronomy, etc. or related to specialized issues (S), e.g., planetary physics, stellar evolution, galaxy formation, particle astrophysics, atomic and molecular physics etc. Some of these courses can be taken in the form of summer schools or self-study courses.
  • A course in physics, mathematics or computing (F) worth at least 5 higher education credits, for example given within the coordinated education at postgraduate level at Uppsala University.
  • A 5-credit course of a more general nature, e.g., theory of science, history of astronomy or presentation technique.

Course examiner

Course examiner

For doctoral courses, the teacher responsible for the course normally serves as the examiner. The head of department appoints an examiner for a doctoral course. The task of the examiner is only to determine grades on examinations. The principal supervisor, in consultation with the FUAP and other supervisors, decides which courses and to what extent (number of credits) the doctoral student is allowed to be credited for in their doctoral studies, and this is documented in the individual study plan.

Credit transfer

It is up to the principal supervisor, in consultation with the FUAP and other supervisors, to decide which examinations (courses or other elements carried out during the study period of the doctoral education) the doctoral student will be allowed to count towards their doctoral studies and to what extent (number of credits). This shall be documented in the individual study plan. The task of the examiner is only to determine grades on examinations.

An assessment must be made as to whether credits can be awarded for prior studies or professional or vocational experience (that have been completed prior to admission to doctoral education) (Chapter 6, § 8 of the Higher Education Ordinance). At the Faculty, the FUAP is responsible for the assessment.

Thesis, doctoral defence and licentiate seminar


The research work shall result in a scientific thesis that must be defended at a public doctoral defence. The research task may be carried out individually or in collaboration with others within or outside the department. However, the doctoral student must be trained to conduct independent research.

The doctoral thesis can be designed either as a monograph, i.e. a unified, coherent scientific work, or as a compilation thesis, i.e. a compilation of scientific papers with a summary of these. The thesis work must be equivalent to at least 120 credits (Chapter 6, §§ 4–5 of the Higher Education Ordinance, and Appendix 2, System of Qualifications). Theses within the Faculty shall include a popular science summary that is in Swedish and at least two pages long.

The doctoral thesis must either meet the requirements for publication in an international scientific journal with independent quality review, or be a summary of scientific papers with equivalent quality requirements. If the doctoral student has co-authored a paper with another person, this may be taken into account only to the extent that the individual effort can be distinguished. This should be done through a description of the doctoral student’s contribution in the papers on which a compilation thesis is based. If parts of the work have previously been published by the doctoral student in a licentiate thesis, this shall be made clear.

The licentiate thesis is smaller in scope, but is subject to the same quality requirements for constituent papers as apply for the doctoral thesis.

In consultation with the FUAP and other supervisors, the principal supervisor shall assess when the thesis work has progressed to the point that a date for doctoral defence or licentiate seminar can be set.

Doctoral defence

The forms of defence and the grading of doctoral theses are regulated in the Higher Education Ordinance, the Faculty’s Guidelines for doctoral education (TEKNAT 2021/301) and Admission and grading regulations for doctoral studies at Uppsala University (UFV 2022/729).

The doctoral thesis shall be defended orally in a public doctoral defence. An examining committee appointed by the Faculty decides on the grade for the doctoral thesis.

Licentiate seminar

The Faculty’s guidelines for doctoral education (TEKNAT 2021/301) summarise the rules for the licentiate seminar.

The grade for a licentiate thesis shall be determined by the FUAP, or another professor delegated this duty, in consultation with the principal supervisor and the external reviewer. The principal or assistant supervisor for the doctoral student may not serve as examiner.


The following degree title have been established for astronomy and astrophysics:

Filosofie licentiat- och doktorsexamen

The English translation is Degree of Doctor/Licentiate of Philosophy.

Both the subject and the specialisation are listed on the degree certificate.
The degree title (Teknologie/Filosofie licentiat- och doktorsexamen [Degree of Doctor/Licentiate of Philosophy]) shall be determined by the content of the doctoral education, and not by the doctoral student’s degree from a qualifying programme. If a doctoral student wishes to change their degree title to one that differs from that established for the doctoral subject dispensation is required from the Faculty Board (Working Committee). The request for a change of degree title must be made no later than the time of opponent and examining committee appointment or submission of the thesis for printing, whichever occurs first.

Doctoral and licentiate degree certificates are issued upon application in Ladok.

Regulatory framework and responsibilities for doctoral education

Doctoral education is regulated in the Higher Education Act (1992:1434) and the Higher Education Ordinance (1993:100). These are supplemented by the following local regulations: Guidelines for doctoral studies at Uppsala University (UFV 2022/728), Admission and grading regulations for doctoral studies and study programmes at Uppsala University (UFV 2022/729) and Guidelines for doctoral (third cycle) education at the Faculty of Science and Technology (TEKNAT 2021/301).

Responsibility for doctoral education ultimately rests with the University Board and the Vice-Chancellor (Chapter 2, §§ 2–3 of the Higher Education Ordinance). Through delegation, the Disciplinary Domain Board or Faculty Board has overarching responsibility and supervisory responsibility, but the day-to-day responsibility is exercised by the department in which the doctoral student is registered. Key functions in doctoral education are the head of department, professor responsible for doctoral studies (FUAP), director of doctoral studies, and the supervisor. See the Faculty’s Rules of Procedure (TEKNAT 2019/177) for a description of roles and responsibilities.


During the first months, the PhD student is given the opportunity, in consultation with the supervisor, to adapt details of the research project.

Throughout the education, it is of the utmost importance that the student stays informed about current research in all areas of astronomy and astrophysics. This is done through the study of journal articles and participation in seminars. She/he should also pay attention to the research and teaching activities carried out in astronomy and astrophysics, in space physics and in related subjects, especially physics, at other divisions/institutions.

The value of a doctoral degree in astronomy and astrophysics on the job market depends not only on what is included in it, but also on the experience gained during the work for the division and as teaching assistant, as well as more applied in-depth skills such as, e.g., programming and computational methods, data analysis, applied physics and statistics.

Research in astronomy and astrophysics is conducted within active international collaborations and implies an extensive global information flow. Thus, it is necessary that the doctoral student has a knowledge of English language sufficient for exchanging information about the research area.