Who can act as a supervising professor or a thesis advisor?

Supervising professor

The Doctoral Programme Committee assigns one of the professors in charge of the research field as the supervising professor for the doctoral candidate. The supervising professor must be a tenure-track professor of the school, though for special reasons, the dean of the School can decide that a non-tenure track professor with a doctor's degree may act as a supervising professor (all such professors are included in the list). A retired professor (e.g. Emeritus or Senior Advisor) cannot be the supervising professor.

The supervising professor holds the overall responsibility for the degree of the doctoral candidate and the related supervision arrangements. The supervising professor may also act as the thesis advisor.

Duties of the supervising professor

Thesis advisor

The Doctoral Programme Committee appoints at least one advisor who must hold a doctor’s degree. In case of an artistic or practice-based dissertation, a second advisor, who does not hold a doctor’s degree, can be appointed based on artistic merit or competence in the area of research. Advisor(s) can be external to the School or Aalto University, in which case the Department is responsible for their fees. As necessary, the supervising professor of the dissertation may also act as the thesis advisor.

The Department's Head of Research makes the proposal for the appointment of the advisor. A current CV including publications (most relevant) is needed for the proposal.

Duties of the thesis advisor, thesis advisor's fee


Co-supervision with Aalto University means, that in case of a multidisciplinary dissertation, a co-supervisor (professor with doctor's degree) can be appointed from anohter Aalto School. This includes dividing the funding received for the completed dissertation between the Schools. By the proposal of the home Department, the Dean of the home School decides about the dividing of the degree between the Aalto Schools after which the co-supervisor can be appointed by the Doctoral Programme Committee.

The co-supervisor shares with the supervising professor the overall responsibility for the degree of the doctoral candidate and for the related supervision arrangements.

International co-supervision: Cotutelle agreement - joint supervision

 Division of education result between schools or departments

Under the Aalto funding model, the schools receive result-based funding based on the number of doctoral degrees awarded. Aalto University has agreed to enable the division of doctoral education results between its schools for the purposes of resource allocation under the Aalto funding model, in cases where the degree is produced jointly by two schools. The change is designed to boost doctoral-level collaboration between the Aalto schools and further the Aalto strategic goal of promoting multidisciplinary research.

It should be noted that the division of degrees is only a statistical tool developed for the purposes of the funding model. For the funding model the degree is divided so that both schools earn 0.5 degrees. The division of degrees does not have any other effects on the school-level statistics on doctoral degrees.

The division of doctoral degrees for funding purposes between the Aalto schools requires clear evidence of collaboration. Dividing a degree follows uniform principles in the university:

  • The doctoral candidate and the supervising professor are from the same school. In addition to the supervising professor, the doctoral candidate must have a co-supervisor at the partner school.
  • A person who can act as a supervising professor in his/her own school can also act as a co-supervisor.
  • The supervising professor and the co-supervisor draft a joint proposal for dividing the degree between the schools in which the research work is done (evidence of collaboration). The freely formulated signed proposal and the supervision plan is sent to the doctoral programme of the school of the doctoral candidate.
  • The proposal must be made as early in the studies as possible (preferably with the application for doctoral studies).
  • The decision on dividing the doctoral degree with the partner school rests with the dean of the school of the doctoral candidate (since this school “gives up” 50% of the result-based funding for this degree). The decision of the dean is communicated to the doctoral programme of the partner school.
  • The doctoral candidate carries out the doctoral studies according to the process of his/her school and the degree will be awarded to the doctoral candidate only from his/her own school.
  • Only the name of the school of the doctoral candidate is mentioned on the doctoral dissertation cover, but on the reverse of the title page the name of the co-supervisor should be mentioned. The collaboration of the two schools can be mentioned e.g. in the preface or in the introduction part of the dissertation.

Accepting new doctoral candidates

New doctoral candidates are accepted to the Aalto Doctoral Programme in Arts, Design and Architecture only once a year, with the application period in March for studies starting in September. Application is competitive, typically only about 25%-30% of the applicants are selected.

Exception: If the Department receives external funding for doctoral candidate's position, it is possible to handle their applications to the doctoral programme in continuous application. In such cases the Head of the Department and the Planning Officer for the doctoral programme must be contacted well in advance before the Open position call is published. In such case the applicants first apply for the open position and only the selected applicant applies for the study right in the doctoral programme in the continuous application.

Prospective applicants requests

If you receive an email from a prospective applicant with questions about eligibility or instructions for applying, please forward it to doctoral-arts@aalto.fi to be answered.

If the applicant is asking if you could act as their supervising professor, you are expected to answer. At this stage we cannot promise a study right for the applicant, but you are supposed to let them know whether or not you are a suitable supervising professor for their particular research topic. It is recommended to let the Head of Research know about such applicants as well.

Instructions for applicants:

Studying from abroad

The Doctoral Programme is mostly structured so that is benefial for the doctoral candidates to be present in the Helsinki region. Studying from abroad can be quite problematic from the viewpoint of organising advising, too. Large part of doctoral studies are independent but the courses offered mostly require physical attendance. We encourage doctoral candidates to spend as much of their study time as possible in the Helsinki region, to be able to connect to the Department's research community and complete the required studies.

Study plan and independent studies

The personal study plan is an official document approved by the supervising professor in which the courses included in the degree are confirmed in detail: course code, name and credits. The courses are also grouped according to the degree structure. The study plan also includes the doctoral candidate's plans regarding dissertation work, possible artistic components, funding, international periods etc. The plan needs to be confirmed by the supervising professor and the Head of the doctoral programme. The plan should updated as studies progress and at least the first and the final plan need to be officially confirmed.

Personal study plan (HOPS)

Degree structure and coursework

Courses offered

Independent studies

Often doctoral candidates complete about half of their studies in the form of independent studies. Typically these are conference papers, publication, literature reviews, art productions, teaching, workshops etc. (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.). Only the supervising professor may give credits for independent studies. The independent studies should be planned in advance.

After a single activity (such as conference paper) has been completed, the doctoral candidate fills out the form (Applications and forms) and sends it to the supervising professor, with the necessary attachments for evaluating the activity (publication, review, learning diary etc.). The professor assigns the number of credits and the grade (typically "pass") and send the form to credits-doc-arts@aalto.fi to be registered. Please note that we only register as many independent credits as fits in the degree, so doctoral candidates should always attach their HOPS or transcript of studies to the form also.

Turnitin usage recommended before pre-examination

  • It is recommended to utilize Turnitin to get a similarity report of the text in the dissertation in order to avoid unintentional or intentional plagiarism.
  • The usage of Turnitin can be done in MyCourses, where each professor can have a ready-made workspace for thesis supervision (referred as “MyCourses” later on): How to order and use the MyCourses workspace for dissertation supervision
  • The doctoral candidate can submit all the versions of the journal article / conference paper and dissertation drafts to the supervising professor through the workspace in MyCourses. The Turnitin similarity reports are generated automatically on every submission. If a professor is responsible for several dissertations, all submissions of all doctoral candidates can be viewed in the same workspace.
  • Inclusive usage of Turnitin in the supervision of doctoral dissertations can be seen as one way to ensure ethical scientific writing in Aalto University.
 More instructions

1. Draft versions of the dissertation

The purpose of using Turnitin for draft versions of the journal articles / conference papers and dissertation is to improve the scientific writing of the doctoral candidate and to prevent unpleasant surprises later in the process.

  • The doctoral candidate submits a draft version of the dissertation in a "Draft" activity in MyCourses.
  • The supervising professor can utilize the Turnitin report for assessing the draft. At the same time, she/he can also give feedback to the doctoral candidate with the Turnitin feedback tools or with some other preferred tool.
  • The doctoral candidate revises the draft with help of the Turnitin report and the feedback from the supervising professor.

2. Final version of the dissertation to be sent for pre-examination

The purpose of using Turnitin on the final version of the dissertation manuscript to be sent for pre-examination is to check that the dissertation sent to the pre-examiners does not contain plagiarism.

  • The doctoral candidate submits the final version of the dissertation for pre-examination again in the "Draft" activity in MyCourses
  • The supervising professor interprets the Turnitin similarity report at the same time as she/he assesses other aspects of the content.
    • If the interpretation of the Turnitin report indicates plagiarism, a procedure of handling plagiarism is started (this unfortunate step is unlikely if Turnitin has been used with the earlier versions of the dissertation)
  • The professor fills in the Turnitin report ID on the pre-examination form (306).

3. The final version of the dissertation to be published (permission for public defense has been granted)

The purpose of Turnitin usage for the final version of a dissertation/thesis is bipartite:

  • to make sure again that there is no plagiarism in the final version (if the previous steps are done with Turnitin this is barely needed).
  • to secure that the dissertation is protected against plagiarism by others in future. Technically, the aim is to make sure that the final version of the dissertation will be indexed in the Turnitin repositories one way or another:
    • a dissertation published in Aaltodoc will automatically be indexed into the Turnitin repositories (most cases).
    • if the dissertation is not published in the Aaltodoc (e.g. in cotutelle cases) the doctoral candidate should submit the final published version of the dissertation in the "Version for grading" activity in MyCourses. In this activity the submission is archived in Turnitin student papers repository.



It is responsibility of the supervising professor to

  • ensure that the doctoral candidate is aware of the requirements for a doctoral dissertation and of the stages included in the preliminary examination and the public examination of the dissertation
  • find the pre-examiners for the dissertation
  • make sure that the doctoral candidate makes the necessary corrections proposed to the doctoral dissertation manuscript by the pre-examiner

When contacting potential pre-examiners, you may use the link Instructions for pre-examiners to inform them of the duties of the pre-examiners. For the proposal you will need their current CVs including publications (most relevant). After the pre-examiners have been appointed, the sectary of the Doctoral Programme Committee will send them further instructions and the manuscript.

Instructions for doctoral candidates: Pre-examination to graduation

Public defence and acting as custos

The Doctoral Programme committee will appoint 1-2 opponents and the custos, and confirm the language, date, time and place of the defence. The student and the custos are informed of the decision. If there are changes to the date, time, place, language, or custos of the public defence, the Chair of the Committee can re-confirm them.


The Doctoral Programme Committee appoints the supervising professor as the custos of the public defence. Some other professor of the School with a doctor's degree in the same research field may also serve as the custos.

The custos is responsible for guiding the opponent in matters concerning the procedures of the examination of the dissertation and the public defence. It is the role of the custos to discuss the grade with the opponent(s) and familiarise them with the grading scale used at the school and the principles of grading to be observed. The custos makes sure that the statement of the opponent is made according to the guidelines of the school and is submitted to the Secretary of the Doctoral Programme Committee within 2 weeks from the defense.

Instructions for opponents and the principles of grading

Public examination and post-doctoral party