Degree structure 2020-2022, 40 ECTS

from 1 August 2020 onwards

The Doctor of Science (Architecture) and the Doctor of Arts (Art and Design) degrees consist of 40 ECTS credits of theoretical studies, and a doctoral thesis. The completion of a doctoral degree equals four years of full-time studies, and eight years of part-time studies.

The Licentiate of Science (Architecture) degree consists of 40 ECTS credits of theoretical studies, and a licentiate thesis. The completion of a licentiate's degree equals two years of full-time studies, and four years of part-time studies.

The doctoral and licentiate degrees in the School of Arts, Design and Architecture consist of three study modules: Doctoral or Licentiate thesis, General research studies (15-25 ECTS), and Research field studies (15-25 ECTS). Total of course work is 40 ECTS credits.

 General research studies 15-25 ECTS credits

Learning objectives

  •  knowledge of the general theory of science and the arts
  •  general knowledge of research methods
  •  academic writing skills, communication skills, information literacy
  •  good argumentation skills, competence to present one’s own research, and to address ethical questions relating to research.
  •  transferable work life and career skills, pedagogical studies

Primarily completed with courses offered by the Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture. Also courses taken in other Aalto Schools or in other universities can be included here, as well as substituting literature (exams, literature reviews or essays).

Compulsory courses

ARTS-L0100 Introduction to Doctoral Studies, 1-2 ECTS (1 ECTS compulsory component)
LC-L1010 Research Ethics for Doctoral Students, 1-2 ECTS (1 ECTS online component of the course is compulsory, 1 ECTS workshop days are recommended)
ARTS-L0102 Doing Research, 6 ECTS

15-25 ECTS

 Research Field Studies, 15-25 ECTS credits

Learning objectives

  • field specific knowledge of the theory, history and methods
  •  field specific argumentation and communication skills
  •  required skills and knowledge to conduct research in the doctoral candidate’s specific research topic

Suggested ways to complete the module

  • Department’s / Research field’s doctoral seminar (compulsory)
  •  Winter/summer schools, thematic research seminars
  •  Other courses
  •  Writing essays or literature reviews (ca. 250-300 pages of research literature equals 1-2 ECTS credits). The supervising professor shall determine the amount of credits according to how extensive and demanding the literature is.
  •  Literature, either according to the department’s literature list or as agreed with the professor
  •  Reflective report on art and creative practices related to thesis topic
  •  Conference paper/presentation
  •  Teaching at a university, preparing a lecture or a series of lectures on history, theory or methods of the student’s own research field, thesis advising

All independent studies need to be agreed with the supervising professor in advance.

Compulsory: Doctoral seminar

Department’s / Research field’s doctoral seminar, min. 4 ECTS

If the doctoral candidate would like to participate to some other doctoral seminar instead or would like to propose some other arrangement, this needs to be approved by the supervising professor.

Seminars usually meet approximately once a month. Doctoral candidates present their own research projects as well as discuss field specific theories and literature. Seminars teach academic reading, writing and discussion.

15-25 ECTS

 In total:

40 ECTS

 Supplementary studies, 10-20 ECTS credits

The number of credits required as supplementary studies is decided together with the admission decision, but the exact content of the studies can be decided by the supervising professor at the start of the doctoral studies. The number of credits required may not exceed 20 ECTS.

Supplementary studies are usually required for those applicants who do not have a sufficient educational background for the research field in question (for example applicants who do not have a Master of Arts or Master of Science (Architecture) degree). In addition to studies completed at the Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture, the school may accept corresponding studies completed at other universities to fulfil the competence requirements. The supplementary studies must be completed after the study right has been granted.

10-20 ECTS

Doctoral Thesis

The doctoral thesis is an individual research composed during the four years of study. The doctoral thesis is written on a topic related to the research field approved for the doctoral candidate. A doctoral thesis shall contribute to new scientific knowledge. The thesis includes a public defence after pre-examination process. Accepted forms of theses are monographs, article-based doctoral theses, theses including artistic components, as well as other works meeting corresponding scientific criteria. A doctoral thesis is a public document, as all thesis works in Finland are public (law 621/1999).


Transition from 60 ECTS to 40 ECTS

Doctoral students who have started their studies before 1 August 2020 may apply to transfer to study according to the new degree structure of 40 ECTS. Doctoral degree of 60 ECTS, according to the degree structure prior to 1 August 2020, can be completed until 31 December 2023.

Instructions on how to apply for transition

  1. Discuss your situation with your supervising professor and about the studies to be included in your degree.
  2. Make a Sisu study plan following the 40 cr degree structure (choose the newest curriculum period for your study plan): Doctoral Personal Study Plan
  3. Fill out the Application to transfer to the 40 ECTS degree structure: Applications and forms
  4. Send the Application form with a PDF of you Sisu study plan attached to your supervising professor and ask them to sign the application, and submit it to doctoral-arts@aalto.fi.

Max. 40 ECTS of prior studies can be transferred to the new degree structure. The Learning outcomes and the mandatory courses in the General Research Studies (15-25 ECTS) and Research Field Studies (15-25 ECTS), must be considered. The mandatory courses ARTS-L0100 Introduction to Doctoral Studies (1-2 ECTS) and ARTS-L0102 Doing Research (6 ECTS) are usually not required if the student already has successfully started their studies and research work. LC-L1010 Research Ethics for Doctoral Students (1-2 ECTS) can be substituted by studies giving similar learning outcomes.

Studies completed in the Studies supporting the research work of the student, may be included in the Research Field Studies, considering the module’s Learning outcomes.

The doctoral student will be informed of the decision on the transfer.


Degree structure 2018-2020, 60 ECTS

Curriculum 2018-2020 for Aalto Doctoral Programme in Arts, Design and Architecture (PDF)
Doctoral degree according to this degree structure, may be completed until 31 December 2023. (TSAK 3/2020)

Please note that if you have started your studies before 1.8.2018, you also follow this structure, but the compulsory courses are only recommendations for you, not requirements.

 Aims of doctoral education

Education objectives

Doctoral education prepares the doctoral candidate for academic career as highly qualified researcher or, increasingly also for diversity of career pathways outside of academia in most demanding expert positions or to act as entrepreneur. 

The education is carried out in a multidisciplinary international scientific community through research work and various forms of education and learning. High quality field based education and transferable skills training together with network-building ensure the development of doctoral candidate’s competences.

Learning outcomes

Graduated doctors have the capability to work in a multidisciplinary and international environment together with various actors. They have the capability to lead things and / or people.

They have the ability to search and apply knowledge and the ability to use research methods and to create new scientific knowledge. In the field of arts, they may also have the ability to independently create methods or products or performances that meet high artistic standards. 

They are able to publish scientific results in reviewed publications and disseminate the results on scientific forum.

They are able to make such syntheses and critical assessments that are required to solve complex problems in research and innovation and in other areas of society. They have versatile written and oral communication skills and are able to work and communicate information in several languages. They work responsibly with respect to ethical and sustainable considerations and their work in the scientific community follows responsible conduct of research.

(Degree structure 2018-2020)

 General research studies 14-18 ECTS credits

Learning objectives

  • knowledge of the general theory of science and the arts
  • general knowledge of research methods
  • academic writing skills, communication skills, information literacy
  • good argumentation skills, competence to present one’s own research, and to address ethical questions relating to research.
  • transferable work life and career skills, pedagogical studies,

Ways to complete the module

Primarily completed with courses offered by the Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture. Also courses taken in other Aalto Schools or in other universities can be included here, as well as substituting literature (exams, literature reviews or essays).

Compulsory courses

ARTS-L0100 Introduction to Doctoral Studies, 1-2 ECTS (1 ECTS compulsory component)
LC-L1010 Research Ethics for Doctoral Students, 1-2 ECTS (1 ECTS online component of the course is compulsory, 1 ECTS workshop days are recommended)

(Curriculum 2018-2020, TSAK 21.3.2018)

14-18 ECTS

 Studies in the field of research, 14-16 ECTS credits

Learning objectives

  • field specific knowledge of the theory, history and methods
  • field specific argumentation and communication skills

Ways to complete the module

  • Department’s / Research field’s doctoral seminar
  • Winter/summer schools, thematic research seminars
  • Optional courses
  • Writing essays or literature reviews (ca. 250-300 pages of research literature equals 1-2 ECTS credits). The supervising professor shall determine the amount of credits according to how extensive and demanding the literature is.

Compulsory: Doctoral Seminar

Doctoral candidate has to participate in the Department’s / Research field’s doctoral seminar for at least 2 semesters, preferably throughout the whole studies. If the doctoral candidate would like to participate to some other doctoral seminar instead or would like to propose some other arrangement, this needs to be approved by the supervising professor.

Seminars usually meet approximately once a month. Doctoral candidates present their own research projects as well as discuss field specific theories and literature. Seminars teach academic reading, writing and discussion.

(Curriculum 2018-2020, TSAK 21.3.2018)

14-16 ECTS

 Studies supporting the research work of the student, 26-32 ECTS credits

Learning objectives

  • To give the doctoral candidate the required skills and knowledge to conduct research in their specific research topic

Ways to complete the module

  • Literature, either according to the department’s literature list or as agreed with the professor,
  • Courses
  • Conferences, workshops
  • Preparing doctoral candidates own publications and articles
  • Teaching at a university, preparing a lecture or a series of lecture on the history, theory or methods of the student’s own research field
  • Art or design productions (when the target degree is Doctor of Arts)

Researcher mobility and studies abroad are highly recommended and can be included here.

Just to participate in a conference is not enough, the student must also write a review or a report or lecture diary of it to the professor.

(Curriculum 2018-2020, TSAK 21.3.2018)

26-32 ECTS

 In total:

60 ECTS

 Supplementary studies, 10-20 ECTS credits

These studies are often required of those students who have

a. taken an old graduate degree at the University of Art and Design Helsinki (203/94). The
    studies required are often language studies or other supporting studies.

b. have taken a Master’s degree at in other fields than arts, design or architecture. The
     general study requirement may be fulfilled with courses that are directly related to the
     research interest, or to general art, design or architecture theory and history or language courses.

The length and necessity of the supportive studies are to be determined together with the professor at the beginning of the studies.

10-20 ECTS

Doctoral Dissertation


If a student admitted to the doctoral programme has previously completed a licentiate or doctoral degree, the extent of the required studies required for the degree shall be determined separately.

A personal study plan (HOPS) is made at the beginning of the studies by the candidate and the supervising professor. The plan should be updated yearly. The Head of the Doctoral Programme confirms the study plan.


 Credit transfer

Doctoral candidates can attend also other postgraduate courses offered by other Aalto Schools or other universities, if permission is granted by their supervising professor. If have already completed some courses at another institution or wish to do so, you must agree about the transfer of credits with your supervising professor and enter it to your personal study plan (HOPS). Do note that after completing courses in another institution you will need to ask for a transcript of records from that institution and apply for a credit transfer at Aalto University.

Instructions for applying: Credit transfer (Into)

Degree structures prior to 2018, 60 ECTS

Doctoral degree according to these degree structures may be completed until 31 December 2023. (TSAK 3/2020)

The degree structure for students who have started their studies prior to 1.8.2018 is otherwise the same as the degree structure 2018-2020, but the compulsory courses are only recommendations for you, not requirements.