Application instructions for 2021

Application instructions for Spring 2020

 Admission schedule
  • Application opens on Mon 2 March 2020 at 9 am (UTC+2)
  • Application ends on Mon 23 March 2020 at 3 pm (UTC+2)
  • Applicants should follow the electronic application system for information regarding the processing of their application.
  • Phase two for shortlisted applicants in April-May
  • The results of the admission are published on Mon 1 June 2020
  • Accepting the offer at latest by 26 June 2020 3 pm (UTC+2)
  • Study right is valid from 1 August 2020 and courses will start in September 2020.

Doctoral degree

Research fields and supervising professors (Into)

 Degree structure and scope

To complete a doctoral degree the doctoral candidate needs to complete the studies listed in the degree requirements (40 ECTS, from on 1.8.2020) and write a dissertation.

Degree structure and coursework (Into)

Who can apply?


Please note that unfortunately we cannot confirm the eligibility of an individual prospective applicant outside the actual application process. The eligibility is always assessed based on the degree certificates of the applicant and the educational system of the country of the degree awarding institution.

Eligible for studies leading to a postgraduate degree shall be a person who has completed
(1) an applicable higher university degree;
(2) an applicable higher polytechnic degree;
(3) an applicable education completed abroad which in the awarding country gives eligibility for corresponding higher education.

A person whom the university judges otherwise to have sufficient knowledge and skills for the studies may also be eligible for Doctor of Arts or Doctor of Science (Architecture) studies.

A student admitted to study towards a Doctor of Arts or Doctor of Science (Architecture) degree may be requiered to complete supplementary studies in order to acquire the knowledge and skills needed for the studies.

Master’s degree earned abroad

Students holding a master’s degree earned abroad are eligible for doctoral studies provided their master’s degree qualifies them for equivalent doctoral studies in the country where the degree was earned. Such degree combinations earned in Europe are recognized in accordance with the principles of the Bologna Process (3+2 years). Degrees earned in non-European countries must include a minimum of 4 years of studies and a master’s thesis, and be deemed by the School as providing the student with an adequate knowledge base for doctoral studies in the School of Art, Design and Architecture.

Finnish polytechnic Master’s degree

The potential of applicants with an applicable Finnish polytechnic master’s degree for successful doctoral studies is assessed by the School case by case. If the School deems the applicant with a polytechnic master's degree as having potential for completing the doctoral degree, the applicant will be assigned a sufficient amount of supplementary studies to allow him or her to start the doctoral studies. International applicants with a previous degree corresponding to a Finnish polytechnic degree are subject to the same rules as those with a Finnish polytechnic degree.

Language Requirements

You might be required to submit a language test result even if your previous degree was taken in English (depending on the country of the institution). Please read more below.

 Language requirements

An English language test is not required of applicants who have earned:

  • a degree taught in Finnish, Swedish or English in a higher education institution in Finland.
  • a degree in an English-medium programme at a higher education institution in an EU/EEA country, provided that all parts of the degree were completed in English. The language of the degree must be stated unambiguously in the degree certificate or its appendix, or in the transcript of records or other official document issued by the awarding higher education institution.
  • an English-medium higher education degree requiring a physical on-site presence at a higher education institution in the United States, Canada, Great Britain, Ireland, Australia or New Zealand.

If the degree includes studies also from another institution, they too must be completed in English at an institution that meets the requirements for exempting the student from taking an English test. An exception to this are studies completed during a student exchange.

All others must submit their language test results within the application deadline.

Acceptable English language certificates and their minimum score requirements in 2020:

  • IELTS (Academic): 6.5 and 5.5 for Writing
    • iBT (Internet-based Test): 92, and 22 for the Writing section or

    • PBT (Paper-based Test): 580, and 4.0 for the Writing section or

    • PDT (Paper-Delivered Test) Reading 22, Listening 22, and Writing 24

  • Cambridge Certificate in Advanced English (CAE): A, B or C
  • Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE): A, B, C or Level C1
  • Pearson Test of English Academic (PTE A): 62, and 54 for writing

IELTS, TOEFL and PTE test results are valid for two years from the test date.

CAE and CPE certificates as well as National Certificates of Language Proficiency are valid indefinitely.

The language proficiency in Finnish or Swedish can be proven with the National Certificate of Language Proficiency (YKI) issued by the Finnish National Agency for Education at the minimum proficiency level of 4 in all subtests (reading comprehension, writing, listening comprehension, and speaking). More information about prooving language proficiency in Finnish or Swedish from

National Certificates of Language Proficiency ( are valid indefinitely. The tests can only be completed in Finland.

Registration for a language proficiency test

Please make sure that you register for the language test well in advance. There might not be test dates available or they may be fully booked. You need to take the test early enough in order for the result to reach Aalto University in time. Please check from the testing center how long it takes for the test result to arrive at Aalto University. To find out more about the test dates and test centres, please visit the website of the test organizer:

Applicants must submit a copy of the language certificate by the end of the application period.

 Applying with an incomplete degree

You may apply for the doctoral studies even if the degree with which you are applying is incomplete, as long as you will graduate before starting your studies. Applicants with an incomplete degree can attach a certificate of student status or a statement by the home university about the estimated time of graduation to their application documents. Please note that you will have to be able graduate by 31 July 2020. If you are not able to graduate or fail to deliver the degree certificate by the given deadline, the offered study place will be cancelled. The deadline will be given separately.

Please note that in some faculties/institutions it may not be possible to graduate during holiday time. The students must reserve enough time to complete all courses required for the degree and for the administrative processes at their home institution.


The School may require the person approved for doctoral studies to take a sufficient amount of supplementary studies to allow him or her to start the doctoral studies.

These studies are often required of those students who have
a. taken an old graduate degree at the University of Art and Design Helsinki (A203/94). The studies required are often language studies or other supporting studies.

b.have taken a Finnish polytechnic Master's degree or a polytechnic Master's degree abroad.

c. have taken a Master’s degree in some other field than art, design or architecture abroad.

The studies required may be directly related to the research interest of the student or studies in art, design or architecture theory or history. In addition to courses taken at the Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture, the School may recognize corresponding courses taken at other universities.

Application and evaluation process

 Evaluation process

The Learning Services process all the applications and check their general eligibility, i.e. check the authenticity of the documents, make sure that the application contains all the requisite documents and that the applicant fulfils the admission requirements. Incomplete or ineligible applications can be rejected at this stage and professors are not obliged to process them. Applicants should check the Monitoring application process page in the application system to get information about the process.

The department’s head of research is in charge of the academic evaluation process, and at least three people who are qualified to acts as advisors for doctoral candidates in the department participate in the assessment of each application.

The academic assessment is carried out based on the application documents and in the phase two of the application also based on interviews.

Based on the assessment of the academic evaluators, the Doctoral Programme Committee makes a proposal of admission or rejection to the Dean of the School of Arts, Design and Architecture. The Dean makes the formal decision on admission or rejection.

 Phase two: interviews and certified documents

Applicants who are selected by the academic evaluators to the phase two of the application are invited to an interview and are required to submit officially certified copies of their degree certificates and transcripts of records. Phase two takes place in April-May 2020.

An invitation to the interview will be delivered to the applicant no less than one week in advance. Interviews can take place in person or over video call such as Skype.

The officially certified copies of documents need to physically arrive to the Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture within the deadline which will be given to you, or your application will be rejected. You will have 3 weeks to submit the documents, so make prepare for procuring and sending the documents and their translations well in advance. More instructions under Required application documents > Paper copies (phase two).

The invitation to the interview and the instructions for submitting the paper copies will be sent to you separately. The 3 week deadline for the submitting the paper copies will start from the date the instructions have been sent by email.

 Academic assesment criteria

Only applications meeting the eligibility criteria will be assessed academically. The academic assessment is based on

  • The applicant's research skills and capability for development demonstrated in the research proposal and study plan, curriculum vitae and portfolio
  • The quality and feasibility of the research plan, and the applicant's ability to complete the studies within target time.
  • The relevance of the research topic and how well it fits to the research focus areas of the department, as well as resources for advising in the area of the research topic.
  • Previous studies
  • The role of the possible artistic components in the doctoral research.

How to apply?

 Before applying

Read the page For prospective students and the application instructions on this page, carefully checking the required application documents.

Research plan is a key document. Check out the instructions and prepare your plan on time.

Before submitting your application you may be in contact with a potential supervising professor or the Head of Research at the Department to find out it the Department has a potential supervising professor in the specific area of your research plan. For more information, see What does it take to become a doctoral candidate? - Supervising professor and research topic under For prospective students.

Check out the language requirements. You must always proof your language profiency either with a language test result or more specifically determined degree certificate - language proficiency cannot be prooved with an interview or in other manner. Please note that if a language test result is required, register for the test as soon as possible. Test organizers take quite a lot of time to submit the results. We recommend that you do the test before the start of the application period. More information about the test dates on the website of the test organizers. More information under Who can apply? - Language requirements.

 Submitting the application

Application (including its attachments in PDF form) are submitted through the electronic application system eAge. The application will be closed on .

Read the information regarding eligibility to apply, application process as well as required documents carefully before filling out an application.

Link to the application:   will be open from Mon 2 March 2020 9 am (UTC+2) until  Mon 23 March 2020 3 pm (UTC+2)

Special conditions starting from 17 March until 13 May: since the Aalto University buildings are closed due to the national measures against Coronavirus, you cannot deliver documents in print or visit our service desk.

Language test results will be needed by 14th of May - we accept both the online results and scanned test results.

Our staff is working remotely and with limited resources. For that reason, be prepared that the processing of applications and granting the right to study might be delayed.

You can follow the processing of your application in the application system eAge. The application system is used throughout the whole application process. Also the final admission results are published via the application system.

Applicants who are selected for phase two of the application will receive a separate notice by email with instructions for submitting their paper documents and postal address. They are given a maximum of 3 weeks from the notice to submit paper copies of their degree certificates and transcripts of records. These paper copies of documents need to physically arrive to the Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture within the set deadline, or the application will be rejected.

Required application documents

 The application must contain

1. Application form (filled out in eAge application system, see Submitting the application above)
2. Degree certificates from each university attended, including official register lists of study courses taken for the degree (transcripts of records).

You need to scan and upload your orginal certificates/transcripts (with translations, if necessary) to the application system. Prepare to send officially certified copies by mail immediately, if you are notified that you are selected for phase two of the admission.

3. Research plan: includes a schedule for the studies to be completed (study plan), schedule for dissertation, funding plan and possible work plan & schedule for artistic components
4. Curriculum Vitae (CV)
5. Copy of passport or other official document of identification
6. Letters of recommendation and certificates of employment (optional)
7. In the field of art and design a portfolio if the research plan contains work plan for artistic components or product development projects
8. Proof of language profiency (see more below under Language requirements)

Applications which do not contain all documents deemed necessary will not be evaluated.


All documents must be in Finnish, Swedish or English. If the original certificate is in a different language, it must be officially translated to one of the aforementioned languages by an authorised translator. Copies of academic documents and their translations must be certified as authentic by a notary or a university official from your university. The translated documents you send to us should be the original official translations (the paper copies sent in the second phase can also be officially certified copies of the original translations).

Note that you will need to submit both officially certified copies of the original documents in their original language as well as the official translations.

 Paper copies (phase two)

If you are selected for phase two of the admission, you will have a maximum of 3 weeks to submit paper copies of your degree certificates and transcripts of records. These officially certified copies of documents need to physically arrive to the Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture within the set deadline, or your application will be rejected.

Note: for degrees completed at Aalto University, paper copies are not needed.

Degree awarded by a higher education institution outside Finland

The copies of study certificates must be certified by the issuing institution or by a notary public. The copies must be made of the original, official documents. Copies of copies will not be accepted. If the certificate has several pages, each page must be certified from the right side of the page. Each page must be certified separately and indicate clearly the date and the original signature, printed name and stamp of the certifying officer. The mere mention of the official copy (eg. stamp "True copy") is not enough.

Degree awarded by a higher education institution in Finland

The copies of study certificates must be certified either by the issuing institution or by two unbiased signatories. The copies must be made of the original, official documents. Copies of copies will not be accepted.  If the certificate has several pages, each page must be certified from the right side of the page. Each page of the copy must carry the signature, name of the signatory/signatories and date. The signatories must see the original document and the copy of it side by side. By signing they certify that the copy is an unaltered copy of the original document.

The copy of the passport does not need to be officially certified.

Aalto University Learning Services does not take copies of application documents or attest them.


A portfolio is required if the research plan includes a plan for artistic components. Portfolio presents the abilities of the applicant to realise the artistic components planned. Portfolios can be either uploaded to the application systems in PDF form (maximum size for a single document is 500MB) or the applicant can provide a link to an online portfolio. In case of online portfolio, the applicant is responsible for ensuring that the link is accessible for a minimum of 2 months from the end of the application period.

Research plan (Into)

Admission results

 Final admission results

The results will be published on 1 June 2020, and all the applicants will receive an email directing them to the online application system to check their final admission decision. Once the results have been published, a list of the accepted applicants will be published on this site. Note that the list will only contain the names of those applicants who have given the permission to publish their admission decision on the website. If the applicant is accepted to Aalto University, a formal letter of acceptance will be issued.

Admission results 2020

 Appealing against the admission decision

The right of appeal is not intended as means for receiving feedback or asking for further information about the application process. The admission decisions are based on the information the applicant has delivered to Aalto University by the given deadline. The right of appeal means that the applicant has the possibility to request for rectification, if she/he believes that there has been an error in the decision-making process. In the appeal the applicant should specify the error. The letter of appeal must be directed to the Dean of the School of Arts, Design and Architecture.

The letter of appeal must be submitted to the Registry of Aalto University within 14 days after the publication of the decisions:

Aalto University
P.O. Box 11000
FI-00076 Aalto

or by by e-mail:

Visiting address Otakaari 1 B, Espoo (open on weekdays from 9 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.).

Appeals will be processed as soon as possible after the appeal period has ended.

 Accepting the offered study place and start of studies

Successful applicants must inform the university about accepting the offered study place or the offer is cancelled. You will need to accept the offer in the application system eAge and enroll to the first academic year at the same time. The offer must be accepted by 26 June 2020, 3 pm. The accetance is binding and cannot be changed. Detailed instructions will be sent to accepted applicants with the admission letter.

The study right of an accepted applicant is valid from on 1 August 2020. In practice studies start in September 2020.