PhD Student FAQ

Kohteesta Fuksiwiki
Loikkaa: valikkoon, hakuun



New (01/2019): General information for doctoral students at the University of Helsinki at

So what am I, a PhD student, doctoral student, graduate student or doctoral candidate?

The term "graduate student" refers, as it is used in USA and UK, refers to students working on a post-graduate degree, i.e. a master's or a PhD. The most equivalent finnish term "jatko-opiskelija" refers to only PhD students (or those working on their licensiate). As such, using the term "graduate student" can cause some confusion. The university refers to you as a "doctoral student" (fin. "tohtorikoulutettava"), but other common synonyms are "PhD candidate" and "PhD student".

How many PhD students are there at the department?

According to the yearly report of the department, during 2016 there were 67 doctoral students enrolled in the Doctoral School of Computer Science. Of these, 27 (40.4%) were from abroad and 15 (22.4%) were women.

How many of them work at the department?

The university staff listing lists 51 people in doctoral student positions on 27/3/2018. Note that this number excludes those that are not employed by the department in any capacity.


What is HIIT and am I a member?

"Helsinki Institute for Information Technology (HIIT) is a joint research institute of Aalto University and the University of Helsinki for basic and applied research on information technology."

You are probably a member if your supervisor is.

What is FCAI?

The Finnish Center for Artificial Intelligence (FCAI) is a joint venture by the University of Helsinki and Aalto University to work "towards the next generation of AI that is interactive, dependable, and data-efficient".

It is so new (as of 27/3/2018) that nobody yet knows what it does in practice.

What is HiData?

Helsinki Centre for Data Science (HiData), aims to "create a world-class research and research-based education hub of data science in Helsinki, as a joint effort between the University of Helsinki and Aalto University."

It is so new (as of 27/3/2018) that nobody yet knows what it does in practice.

What is HICT?

The Helsinki Doctoral Education Network in Information and Communications Technology (HICT) is a collaborative doctoral education network hosted jointly by Aalto University and the University of Helsinki, the two leading universities within this area in Finland. The network serves as a collaboration platform for doctoral education combining all the relevant subfields of computer science and information technology at Aalto University and the University of Helsinki. It involves at present 65 professors and almost 300 doctoral students, and the participating units graduate altogether more than 40 new doctors each year.

HICT published multiple yearly calls for paid PhD positions in both UH and Aalto. See

What is INFORTE?

INFORTE is a state wide programme for ICT professionals. It is designed to offer networking and education events to PhD students and professionals working in Finnish companies, polytechnics and public administration.

Student Associations

What is HYY?

The Student Union of University of Helsinki (HYY) targets itself at bachelor's and master's students. The only(?) real reason to join is to get the doctoral student card that grants you a discount at the Unicafe.

Is it worth it to pay the annual HYY registration fee?

That is very much an open research question. Report in if you know

What is HYVÄT?

HYVÄT is the association for University of Helsinki doctoral students.

Who fights for our cause?

Technically HYVÄT, but they have very little say in things.


Are there any?

Unicafe has a small one, unisport has something as well. Otherwise you are largely out of luck.


What courses do I need to take?

The degree structure of DoCS can be browsed here:

Starting from 1/8/2017, the mandatory studies consists of a doctoral thesis, 30 ECTS credits worth of scientific studies and 10 credits worth of transferrable skills.

What are "scientific studies"?

Everyone needs to take a course on research ethics (1-2 cr), complete a personal study plan (0 cr) and participate in the PhD seminar (3-5 cr). The rest of the 30 cr of scientific studies are basically "whatever that your advisor believes is useful for you" with the caveat that from courses offered by the CS department, only Advanced studies are accepted.

What is the PhD seminar?

The seminar meets on average twice per term and you are expected to attend at least 75% of the meetings over three years. You are also expected to give out a few presentations:

1. A new student presentation (5 minutes; who you are and what is the topic of your PhD studies) 2. 2nd year presentation (20-30 minutes; current status of your doctoral studies, your topic and what kind results you have got this far, your study process this far) 3. scientific presentation (20-30 minutes; description of some of your research work)

What are "transferrable skills"

These are courses that advance skills required for academic work such "DONAS-102 Conference presentation", "DONAS-108 Philosophy of science", "DONAS-105 Principles of peer review", "DONAS-107 Project management and leadership" etc.

Outside of courses, a lot of practical work can also translate to credits here. Examples include presenting a paper at a conference, organizing a conference or a workshop, traveling to a summer school, acting as an advisor to a public body etc.

Any recommended courses?

Courses directly or strongly un-directly related to your research. Math and statistics are also probably okay.

There is a course called XX from YY department? Can I take it? Can it be included in to my Ph.D. Studies?

Whatever you supervisor says is OK, is OK. Check first.

How about the courses from Language Center?

Courses in scientific writing and advanced English are probably okay.

I have already 7 credits in transferrable skills. I’d like to take a course that is worth 5 credits? Do I lose 2 credits?

Effectively, yes. However, some courses may be shifted between the two categories.

How do I get my PhD?

What are the Licensiate studies?

The same, but with a shorter thesis.

How does the Finnish postgraduate studies compare with those of the US, UK, Germany, and France?

  • US: Pretty similar, however students usually start doing their PhDs already after the bachelor degree.
  • Germany: Pretty similar, including the studies.
  • France: Depending of the various institutes some students take first a year-long Diploma degree that includes studies. Others may not necessarily take any courses.


What is a monograph dissertation?

Its one long book that is your thesis. The university rector has decreed that the maximum length is 250 pages.

What is an article-based dissertation?

Its maybe 3 to 5 (usually 4 to 6) peer-reviewed and high quality scientific articles accompanied by summarizing report of typically a maximum of 50 pages.

Should I do a monograph or an article-based dissertation?

The article-based dissertation is the safe bet.

Will my dissertation be scored? On what scale?

Yes. Possible grades are Fail, Pass and Pass with Distinction.

See [1].

Licensiate (Ph.Lic.)

What is a Licensiate ?

It's a degree between MSc and PhD that you get if you complete all the PhD coursework and then do a Licensiate thesis. The length is not specified but is maybe half of a PhD thesis.

Any good reasons to go for the Ph.Lic. degree?

Not everyone makes PhD, so the licentiate degree is at least above a Master.

It says in the study guide that getting Ph.Lic. takes 2 years. However, the PhD student seminar takes three years and is mandatory. What gives?

The seminar is negotiable, if you finish your licentiate in 2 years, you can also do the seminar in 2.

Taking time off

Can I take time-off while doing my PhD?

Probably yes, however your topic might lose its validity. If your funding has an end-date it might not move.

I’m taking my maternity/paternity leave, any words of advice?


Posters and presentations

I need a poster. How to make one and where to print it?

You can get templates (PowerPoint and inDesign) from UniMaterialBank. Access either from the University network or via the browser-based VPN.

Printing can be done either yourself (Max A3 sheets, so for larger posters you need to tape them together yourself) or via unigrafia. Unigrafia prices are about 15e for A2, 32e for A1 and 64e for A0. A cardboard tube is 7,50e.

Delivery time for paper posters are 3 working days if picked up from the print at Hiomotie. Delivery time for other pick-up points (including Exactum) is 4 working days. You can expedite the process by maximum two days at 62,00e per day expedited.

I need to give a presentation, where is the template?

An official powerpoint template can be obtained from UniMaterialBank.

Any beamer templates for LaTeX users?

No official ones, but several unofficial beamer templates are available for those that prefer LaTeX. See f.ex. (PRs appreciated)


I would like find out what others are doing. Is there an easier way than knocking on every door?

Browse TUHAT and/or personal websites. Google Scholar is also useful.

I need to run an experiment and I need resources, how to proceed?

Ask your professor for help.

I need volunteers for my experiment, how to proceed?

Ask your professor for the proper way to proceed.

Where to get funding for my research?

The are too many possibly relevant sources to list here. Talk to your professor.

Are grants taxfree?

Yes and no.

“All grants awarded by the University in 2010 are taxfree as long as the total of grants received from private or public corporations (after expenses) does not exceed the annual artists’ state grant, which in 2009 was 18.400,65 euros.

The University does not withhold tax on the grants awarded, but they will be reported to the Tax Office. It is advisable that the grant recipient contact the Tax Office in order to provide for any additional tax.”

I have a mathematical question, to whom to turn to?


I have a statistical question, to whom to turn to?


I need to translate something to / from language XX, who can help?

The Department has an official translator, currently Marina Kurtén. She can direct you to other translators given a specific language.

What is a Principal Investigator?

A person in charge of a research group.

Reporting research

Where do I report my research contributions?

You submit them to TUHAT.

What is TUHAT?

TUHAT has two purposes. For the university, it's an information gathering tool that is used to prepare for the yearly reports on what the university is doing.

For the staff (including doctoral students) it provides a platform for reporting your publications (mandatory) and concurrently acts as an academic CV.

Login to TUHAT from here:

Can I publish my work on my home page? Even the copyrighted conference papers?

Conference copyrights may include a clause that the authors can host their own copy of the submitted paper. The proper thing to do is to check the copyright clauses that you have signed.

If self-hosting is allowed, consider uploading the .pdf file to TUHAT as well. In cases where self-hosting is not allowed, TUHAT still allows you to link to the publisher's online repository.

Work and hours

The following sections only apply to those that are employees of the department.

What is the annual workload?

1624 hours.

What are the daily working hours?

No such thing. Doctoral student are under the 1624 hours yearly system. You are allowed to distribute your work over the whole year as you see fit. It's, however, a good idea to discuss this with your research group.

Most people come in around 10am and leave around 6pm.

Can work from Monday to Thursday 9 hours and take the Friday off?

Yes. But note that meetings etc. will still apply. If you work for a project funded by a third party, you might need to divide the hours equally between the days in SoleTM for reporting purposes.

Can I work at home?

Yes, as long as you make progress.

Are there other duties outside of research?

You should generate a annual plan of how to divide your workload with your professor. Usually some time is allocated for teaching, as many contracts have language like "5% of work time is to be spent on teaching". The plan is tentative and may become wrong, but you should plan it as thoroughly as you can.

It’s done annually in SoleTM.

Do I report my hours?

Yes, in SoleTM. Ask your professor and/or the HR for help.

What if I work overtime?

No such thing. Your contract says 1624 hours so that's what you'll get paid for. It's your responsibility to take time off. Reporting over 7.25 hours per day in SoleTM might cause problems with outside funding, so check with your professor.

What is SoleTM?

Sole is a bureaucratic tool implemented for the sole purpose of satisfying our funders.

I work for projects A, B, and C and get funding from X, Y. How to input my hours?

Ask your professor and/or HR.

I’m feeling ill what should I do?

Call in sick by emailing your supervisor. Consider booking an appointment with occupational health services (nurse or doctor). You can take up to three days of sick leave without seeing a doctor or a nurse. But it's a smart move to get checked up, since the university is paying.

See for more instructions.

I planning to take holidays, how to proceed?

Agree about your holidays with your professor or administrator. In practice, you might not need to do anything, if your on the 1624.

I work for a project funded by a third party, does the same apply to me as well?

Largely, yes. There's some weird stuff regarding how the reporting of the

So, if when I wake up I see that the sun is shining and the birds are singing, can I just “call an audible” and take the day off?

This is the University. The responsibility is yours. That being said, you'll probably be working on Saturdays just for the joy of getting your PhD eventually.

What is the YPJ?

YPJ is the salary structure. It'll likely get overhauled during 2018.

What are the demand levels? And what about the personal performance levels?

There are 11 demand levels and 9 personal performance levels. The demand levels should reflect the demands of your work, and the personal levels, in turn, your performance on it.

How and when the demands levels move horizontally or vertically? How can I affect this?

Publishing often and with high quality is usually a good thing.

At which YPJ demand level I can expect to find myself in my 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th year?

Around demand level 2 when you start, moving to level 3 when you are half-way done and to level 4 when have maybe a year left. Performance-wise, expect to start at level 3 as default, but level 5 is supposed to be the "neutral" performance level.

Again, the system is expected to change during 2018.

What are the salaries for doctoral students in the US, UK, Germany, or France?

NOTE: Possibly horribly outdated and does not account for tuitions etc.

  • US: ~ 2000-2500 e
  • Germany: ~2000 e
  • Spain: ~1000 e, grants are usual.
  • France: ~1500 e
  • UK: XXXXe and a lot of students do their PhDs without any salary.

Does getting my Ph.Lic. degree affect my salary?

In general, yes. But, you may get the same salary even without the degree if you can demonstrate that you have put in the equivalent work and progress.

Will my contract terminate when I graduate?

Depends on your contract. Usually, no.

How to earn extra?

You can assist in courses on overtime, this will reward you more salary. Ask for opportunities from Reijo Sivén.

What is the Tenure track?

“The purpose of the tenure track system is to recruit top researchers to the University of Helsinki. During their tenure track, they will develop and grow into professors with the support of their own unit. The vacancy ad states that applicants should have defended their doctoral thesis some 3-7 years before, and spent the time after that gaining academic and other merits. The main duties of associate professors will be teaching, research, and supervision of studies.

The office of associate professor will be based on two fixed-term contracts. The first contract will be made for 2-5 years. Associate professors who have carried out their duties successfully will be offered another contract for 3-5 years more. After the second period is over, the employee may gain a permanent professorship. This will be decided by a team of at least five professors appointed by the dean, which will be in charge of recruitment and assessment of the career development of the selected associate professor.”

What are the YPJ-meeting? When are they held?

In short, these are for to review past development talks. Furthermore, this is the place to discuss your salary. For doctoral students these are held biannually(?).

What’s the purpose of development talks? When are they held?

Development talks are done to plan, find thing to develop and set goals. They are held in the autumn.

What is the current collective agreement?

After a strike held on 28/2/2018, a new collective bargaining agreement was reached. It's in effect between 1/2/2018 and 31/3/2020. The total raise is 3.45% over the term of the agreement.

Am I a part of a union? If so, who is my trustee?

There are a few union you can join. See for list of union representatives.


I would like to teach, whom to talk to?

To assist in courses lectured by others, contact either the lecturer or Reijo Sivén.

To hold your own courses talk first with your supervisor, then talk to Kjell Lemström.

Do I have to teach?

In general, yes. Everybody should have at least a 5% requirement for teaching, usually handled by assisting your professor on courses lectured by him/her.

What’s the thing with the 20 % or 5 % teaching responsibility?

Depends on your contract. Some people enjoying a five-year tenure-ish contract may have as high as 20% teaching responsibility. It is unusual to have lower than 5%, although in practice, this might be the case.

So, do I get paid extra if my teaching percentage goes over 5 or 20?

Depends on your contract. If you work overtime (over 1600 hrs yearly), you will be paid separately for the courses held or assisted by you.

I’m an assistant in a course and I have friend who is taking the course. Can I grade his/hers exam?

You can, but maybe you shouldn't. Talk with the lecturer about problematic cases. But please note that usually you will know at least some of the students, at least if you've studied at the Department earlier.


How does one find a conference to present one’s research?

One’s supervisor probably knows a few.

There is a conference that I’m interested to participate in, however I have nothing to publish can I still go?

Ask your prof. If it's very relevant to your research, there might be funding for this.

Where do I get the info of the conferences and summer schools that are related to my research?

This is very much an open problem. Ask elder students about the top-name conferences. Then update this section with your preferences.

How do I know if a conference is any good?

By attending it and/or asking those who know better. Some conferences are total scams to begin with, they can be identified through spammed Call For Papers (CFPs), dubiously wide interest fields, sketchy backgrounds, etc.

I have colleagues in XX who work with the same topic, can I visit them?

Depends on your funding, ask your supervisor.

I’m going to country XX and need a visa. How to obtain one?

Usually through consulates, or more simply, and more costly, through travel agents.

I’m Finnish, to which countries I need to apply for visa?

Check your local embassy's web site. If still in doubt, mail the embassy in advance

I’m not Finnish, to which countries I need to apply for visa?

See above. The rules are many and they change. Note that, you may not be able to get the visa from Finland.

Do I need a vaccination, and if so, from where to get one?

For those who have gone through the Finnish health care system, check here

If you work at the department Mehiläinen will provide the necessary vaccinations.

Remember that in some countries you might have to present a certification about your vaccinations.

What is a travel plan? How to do it?

Read this:

Travel plan is done using SAP

How do I book the flights, hotels etc?

Through CWT. Booking the flights yourself applies only if your travelling on a travel grant awarded by the event, i.e., somebody else than the local University is paying.

So, whatever CWT suggests is fine?

No. They can and sometimes do f*ck up things, so check the proposed flights ===VERY=== carefully before accepting the offer.

Financially, you don't have to worry whether a suggestion by CWT is to expensive or not. Barring blatant mistakes, of course.

There is a hotel A that is XX e more expensive than B, but is YY km closer to the conference venue, can I book it? What are reasonable XXs and YYs?

There is a max price, but it is so high that it doesn't usually apply. If the conference venue is a hotel, it is usually the best bet for accommodation, even though the price will be higher than for some other hotel further away.

Booking a room from a hotel suggested by the conference organisation is normally okay.

A flight plan A cost XX e more B, but saves my YY hours, is it okay to take it? What are reasonable XXs and YYs?

You will get a daily allowance depending on how long the travel takes, remember that this also counts towards the total.

A flight plan cost XX e more, but lets me sleep later, is it okay to take it?


I’ve heard that it’s preferable to avoid taking flights that have intermediate landings in Russia or China. Why?

It’s because, you might end up in a bit of trouble if your connecting flight is cancelled, where trouble is synonyms with spending a night in a holding cell or in a closed area on the airport.

What to do if I miss a flight?


Can I change my travel plan while on it?

In almost all cases, no.

How to pay a registration fee for a conference?

The easiest is to use your own credit card and ask later for reimbursement. Alternatively ask your supervisor to use his/her university provided credit card.

Can I add holidays to my conference trip?

As it now stands, this kind of manoeuvring is strictly prohibited.

How about a research visit before/after a conference?

If your professor allows it.

Can I use taxi?

Yes, in cases where public transport is non-existing or cumbersome.

Taxi-ride from the airport to the hotel is fine.

How do I get reimbursed?

By doing a travel expenses report.

What costs can I include in my travel expenses report?

  • The travelling (public transport) cost between venue and accommodation.
  • Registration fee.
  • Poster costs.
  • Internet connection if required for work.
  • Other stuff, if your professor says so.

What are the allowances?

During your domestic/foreign trip you will receive a daily allowance to compensate your living cost. Domestically, you need to be at least a certain amount of kilometers from the normal place of work.

See §10 - 13 here:

Do I need to take travel insurance?

All UH employees are insured by the university. See

If you are EU citizen, get an EHIC card.

I lost/broke something, but it was insured, right?

All UH employees are insured by If. However, there are limitations concerning personal belongings

I got robbed, what to do?

Contact police, insurance company and university.

I’m feeling ill, what to do?

Probably best start is to contact the hotel reception, they will arrange further assistance.

I’ve been in an accident, what to do?


I need to make an intermediate landing in the XX airport, how much time to reserve?

If your flight tickets are on the same printout, then it is the responsibility of the flight company to get you on the connecting flight.

Getting separate flight tickets is a very bad idea, as transfers can take unpredictable amounts of time and airport conditions are under constant change.

What about the frequent flyer miles?

Technically property of the university, and need to be used towards a subsequent trip paid by the university.

Can I consume alcohol while on a conference trip?

Within the limits of good taste. If the alcohol is bad, only if somebody else is paying for it.

Do I need a fancy suit/dress?

Depends, smart dressing is probably fine.

Working Abroad

How do I get to work abroad?

Contact supervisor.

Can I choose the place?


I have been in XX for YY months can I extend my stay?

Yes, but your visa may be limited.

Tech Support

I need more quota. What to do?

You need to move your stuff elsewhere. See and consider GDRP.

I need more computational capacity. What to do?

Use Ukko2 or CSC systems.

I need a laptop. Can I have one, please?

If you are employed by the university, yes. Ask your supervisor.

I need to install software to my CS-desktop. What to do?

Ask helpdesk for sudo/admin access. Explain that you need to install stuff.

How do I get to read articles from e.g. the ACM Portal from my home computer?

Use libproxy by appending "" after the TLD of the URL you are trying to access.

For example, if you are trying to access from home, instead access and the PDF link should be clickable after you login with your university account.

I need to make hard-copies. From where to get CDs, DVDs, and USB-sticks?

CDs/DVDs are available the Exactum office supply closet. USB-sticks can be obtained from the department secretary.