Who can be a supervisor?

Every doctoral student must have at least two supervisors. At least one of the supervisors must be an employee or adjunct employee of Uppsala University. At least one of the supervisors must be qualified as a docent. The principal supervisor must have undergone extensive supervisor training (three weeks full-time) or the faculty's supplementary supervisor training (one full day) combined with corresponding supervisor training at another higher education institution. Assistant supervisors are recommended to undertake training for supervisors (three weeks) during their first year as supervisor at the latest. When supervisors are appointed, attention must be given to the issue of conflict of interest.

The principal supervisor has primary responsibility for all aspects of the doctoral student’s education.The individual study plan should specify the respective supervisors’ tasks and responsibilities.

To ensure effective collaboration during the doctoral studies, supervisors and doctoral students should clarify at an early stage what requirements and expectations they have of each other, preferably in writing as an appendix to the individual study plan.

The department is responsible for ensuring that principal supervisors have the opportunity to carry out their supervisory duties as part of their regular duties. The department must also enable supervisors to undertake skills development.

The supervisor’s responsibilities include ensuring that the doctoral student is given an adequate introduction to doctoral studies. To support this, introductory courses are organised regularly at faculty level. It is the supervisor’s responsibility to introduce the research assignment and methodology. It is recommended that this be documented in the individual study plan. It is the responsibility of the head of department and the supervisor to ensure that the doctoral student receives an adequate introduction to the department’s/division’s procedures, including applicable safety regulations (which must also be followed in the occasionally unusual situations that occur during research).

The role of supervisor includes the overarching responsibility incumbent on the entity authorising the research for ensuring that the research is conducted in accordance with good research practice (SFS 2019:504, Section 5). The supervisor is also responsible for ensuring, via supervision and other parts of their education relating to research ethics, that the doctoral student develops their ability to take responsibility for complying with good research practice in their research. Compulsory courses in ethics are organised regularly at faculty level.

Availability to doctoral students

A supervisor must be reasonably, but not necessarily constantly, available to their doctoral students, such as at scheduled group meetings and discussion times, but equally through spontaneous contacts in the workplace. In situations where supervisors and doctoral students work in separate locations for longer than a month, there should be a mutual agreement on how the contact between the supervisors involved and the doctoral student is to be maintained.

The supervisors’ responsibilities also mean that they may have to deal with questions and problems that are not solely education-related.

Failed thesis

If a thesis receives a grade of fail, it is the responsibility of the supervisor to immediately report this to Uppsala University Library via

The relationship between supervisor and doctoral student should be characterised by professionalism. Many doctoral students work closely with their supervisor at the faculty, and it is natural for conflicts or other problems to arise during a period of four to five years.

Document expectations

If the doctoral student and supervisor have reasonable expectations of each other – made concrete in the individual study plan and in regular structured conversations – right from the start, these need not become a source of distress. The scope, formats and arrangements for supervision must therefore be continuously updated in the individual study plan in consultation between the supervisors and the doctoral student.

Conflict resolution

In the event of disagreements, the parties must first try to resolve the conflict themselves. If this fails, the head of department bears primary responsibility for mediating or finding other solutions. If the conflict is judged to have its basis in serious but purely personal issues, the parties should consider the option of appointing a new supervisor. If the conflict is based on an academic disagreement or a priority claim, mediation involving an impartial outsider should be sought in the first instance. As the doctoral student is at a formal disadvantage, the impartiality of the outsider should be ensured. Doctoral students must be informed of the right to engage a representative in the event of a conflict. The representative could be a union representative, student and doctoral student representative or a colleague.

Excessively close personal relationships between a supervisor and doctoral student may also arise during the period of study. Since the supervisor bears responsibility for making certain formal decisions about the doctoral student’s education, a conflict of interest then arises and a new supervisor must be appointed as soon as possible for the doctoral student in question.

Doctoral students can receive support

A doctoral student who feels they have not been treated correctly at their department/division can turn to one of the following bodies:

  • Doctoral Student Council at the faculty
  • chair of the faculty’s Doctoral Education Board
  • student and doctoral student representative at UU
  • union representative
  • occupational health service.

The doctoral student determines which of these bodies is most suitable, as well as whether an issue should be escalated. As far as possible, the doctoral student’s personal data should remain confidential.

In accordance with the Higher Education Ordinance, doctoral students are entitled to change supervisor. It is the head of department’s duty to find a solution that satisfies the interests of both parties as far as possible, for example through the original supervisor retaining a role as academically responsible for projects in cases where the doctoral student is almost finished. If the case involves doctoral students at the beginning of their programme, it should also be considered whether they can change projects when changing supervisor.

The supervisor should be replaced if:

  • the requirement that a supervisor be an employee or adjunct employee of Uppsala University is not fulfilled;
  • the supervisor is on full-time leave of absence or sick leave over a long period;
  • the supervisor is given new duties that make it difficult to fulfill the duty of supervisor;
  • a conflict of interest arises.

When changing supervisor, the individual study plan should be revised and the new circumstances should be updated in Ladok.

If a doctoral student substantially neglects their undertakings in the individual study plan, the right to supervision and other resources for doctoral education will be withdrawn.

Withdrawing resources requires careful assessment and must be done within the framework of a transparent decision-making process following a format decided by the responsible faculty board.

The grounds for and against withdrawing resources must be stated clearly and the case must be treated with respect and due consideration for the doctoral student’s privacy.

Planning and follow-up of studies

An important aspect of supervision is planning and following up on studies together with the doctoral student. The individual study plan should be revised at least once a year. Once every six months, the doctoral student’s activity and maintenance must be reported into Ladok for deduction from the number of study months used up.

For a doctoral degree, the effective period of study (active study period) is to be a maximum of 48 months and for a licentiate degree a maximum of 24 months. The effective period of study sets the boundaries for employment as a doctoral student. It is therefore important for the doctoral student and supervisor to be aware of the effective period of study and deduct time spent on departmental duties, parental leave, sick leave, leave of absence, etc.