Startpage for Swedish National Agency for Higher Education

Please note! The Swedish National Agency for Higher Education was closed down on 31 December 2012. Instead two new agencies have been established: the Swedish Council for Higher Education and the Swedish Higher Education Authority. This website will continue to operate as the new agencies will have links to information it contains.  

Third cycle (doctoral) programmes

A third cycle (doctoral) programme builds on the skills, knowledge and conceptual ability learned in first (undergraduate) and second cycle (Masters') programmes. The aim is to produce capable researchers to work within or outside the higher education sector.

A third cycle programme usually lasts for four years and leads to the award of a doctorate. However, it is also possible to enrol on a two-year programme leading to a licentiate degree. It is also sometimes possible to apply for the award of a licentiate degree after two years of doctoral studies.

Third cycle programmes vary greatly but all consist of course work, writing a thesis and collaborating with a supervisor. In addition, many programmes include various kinds of research seminars. Most doctoral students have some kind of paid employment at the higher education institution, often including teaching at undergraduate level.

Every discipline offering doctoral studies must have a general syllabus that includes details about the programme contents, the general and specific entry requirements, selection criteria, and forms of assessment. In addition, every doctoral student must have an individual study plan detailing the rights, obligations and expectations of the faculty, supervisor and doctoral student.

Third cycle qualifications

A licentiate degree may be awarded on completion of 120 higher education credits, including a thesis equivalent to a minimum of 60 higher education credits.

A doctorate may be awarded on completion of 240 higher education credits, including a doctoral thesis equivalent to a minimum of 120 higher education credits.


Applicants must fulfil the general entry requirements, i.e. completion of a second cycle programme, or completion of 240 higher education credits of which 60 must be second cycle, or corresponding qualifications from abroad or equivalent knowledge. Applicants must also fulfil the specific entry requirements enabling them to benefit from third cycle studies, i.e. prior knowledge from higher education programmes, professional experience, and relevant language proficiency. If there are more applicants than places, HEIs may decide the selection criteria.

For more information about applying for doctoral studies, go to (new window) »

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