PhD Student FAQ

Loikkaa: valikkoon, hakuun

About this FAQ

If technically feasible, it would be a very good idea to implement a feedback "thumbs-up" button. This button, when clicked, would re-sort the list according to which items have been most helpful for readers.

If you have ideas on how to implement the above, don't hesitate to mention them.


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

You are a graduate student, but the department web site refers you as a PhD student. If you work at the department your formal title is a doctoral student. Synonyms include at least doctoral candidate, other universities may have other titles.

In other languages:

The Department title:

  • FIN: tohtorikoulutettava
  • SWE: doktorand

PhD Student:

  • FIN: Jatko-opiskelija
  • SPA: Estudiante de Doctorado or Doctorando
  • FRE: Doctorant or Thésard
  • ITA: Studente di Dottorato or Dottorando

How many PhD students are there at the department?


How many of them work at the department?


What is HIIT?

You are probably a member if your supervisor is.

What is TUHAT?

"TUHAT is the tool for gathering information for reporting at UH. TUHAT also includes web pages for researchers and departments, as well as a feature for printing e.g. lists of publications. TUHAT has replaced the university's publication register JULKI and the other knowledge databases, ASTI, MUTI, YHTI, and TUHTI.

The goals of TUHAT are − to increase the visibility of research (home pages for researchers and units; in 2011, will be integrated) − to offer a versatile tool for reporting on research (e.g. reporting on publications and social interaction indicators to UH, lists of publications for funding applications/reports), − to support the analysis and evaluation of research (e.g. publications of a department, bibliometrics, activities according to discipline)."

and for editing your profile

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.

Are the any benefits for PhD students?

There are some discounts which apply to PhD students as well:

  • Unicafe offers discounted prices for PhD students.

Is it worth it to pay the annual registration fee?

That is very much an open research question. By paying the fee, you get the student newspaper and possibly other benefits as well.

Do I need the Lyyra-card?

There is a small discount if you use the card to pay your lunch at Unicafe.

The price of the card is around 16 e, which makes roughly 4 e per year, depending on how many years your studies take. =)

What is the PhD studies committee?

What is the Doctoral education committee?

“The Rector has decided on the establishment of a Doctoral education committee, a joint venture between the university's scientific council and the council for study affairs, for years 2012-2012. [sic]”

More in Finnish

Is there a student body for PhD students?


Who fights for our cause?

Trust no one. Currently, PhD students are mostly omitted from all considerations for benefits.


First, look here:


How do I get my PhD?

What are the Ph.Lic. and Ph.D. Studies in Computer Science?

Studies in the Field of Research, 50 credits and General PhD studies, 10 credits.

So, the studies are the same for both Ph.Lic and Ph.D degrees?


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 are the differences between a monograph dissertation and a stack dissertation?


Which one is the safe call?


How many articles do I need for my stack dissertation?

Roughly 6-10

Which courses count as a part of the Studies in the Field of Research?

50 credits of courses related to your research topic. Only mandatory course is the PhD Student Seminar (for people started in or after 2008).

Which courses count as a part of the General PhD studies?

Note that when selecting courses from the Department of Computer Science, only Advanced studies will do. Basic and Intermediate studies are categorically out of the question.

On top of that, basically anything your Professor commits to will do.

Any recommendations?

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 professor 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 General PhD studies. 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.

What are the International scientific activities? Note the limit of 10 credits.

So International scientific activities count as Studies in the Field of Research or General PhD studies?

Yes, if your professor agrees.

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.

Can I take courses after I have gotten my Ph.Lic. or Ph.D. degree?


Can I take time-off while doing my PhD?

Probably yes, however your topic might lose its validity.

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


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

There are templates in Alma. You can print it in Helsinki University Print (Yliopistopaino).

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

There are templates in Alma. The official template is known to be “challenging”, at best, so it is recommended to tweak it a little bit.

What is a graduate school? Should I apply for one?

A graduate school is a small organisation, which members are graduate students with, usually, similar set of research questions. Graduate schools can offer their students teaching, advice, peer support and funding. You should definitely consider applying. If you are awarded a funded position, you might even get to see a rare glimpse of smile on your supervisor’s face.

Will my dissertation be scored? On what scale?


It says that I have to get at least grade that 3/5 from all my courses. So, this is not an average?

Each course that is to be included as part of your graduate studies will have to have a grade that corresponds at least to 3/5. This, of course, does not apply when a course is graded with the approved/failed approach.


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

Browse their web sites. Update your own for this purpose, as well.

In theory, TUHAT could help. Google Scholar most definitely will.

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?

From graduate schools, foundations, and the Finnish Academy. See above.

Okay, is there a more specific listing available?

Such a listing will probably be assembled here, given time and volunteers.

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?

in English in Finnish


What is the annual workload?

1600 hours.

What happened on August 1, 2010?

Doctoral students were shifted into the 1600 hour annual workload system.

What is the 1600 hour annual workload system?

It's a plan how to distribute your annual workload. The plan is tentative and may become wrong, but you should plan it as thoroughly as you can.

It’s done annually in Sole.

more (in Finnish)

But, I still work 7.25h per day and 36.25 per week?

No, the 1600 is actually a good thing and allows you unpreceeded autonomy in planning your work. But note that most PhD students work a lot of overtime in order to finish their studies as soon as possible.

So there is no overtime?

Technically, there was no overtime before the 1600. Now, there actually is, as you can plan your work yourself and take time off to balance deadline rushes and such. In practice, this is exactly the same system as before.

What is Sole?

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?


Can I round the numbers in Sole? That is, use e.g. 7, instead of 7.25?

Well, it should work as long as the ratio remains the same.

Be warned though, that rounding down too much will cause that Sole does not scale up the hours on monthly basis. Sounds complicated? It is.

More, in Finnish

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

Yes. But note that meetings etc. will still apply.

Can I work at home?

Yes, as long as you make progress.

I’m feeling ill what should I do?

Call in sick. Instructions:

Sick leaves should be marked separately into Sole.

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 1600.

However, those whose funding comes from outside the department will have to be careful. Even though with shift to the 1600 system there are now no more holidays as such, putting 7,25 hours per day to Sole all year long will produce more than 1600 hours. What to do, if anything, to correct this, is to be discussed with your supervisor.

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 UPJ?

UPJ is the old salary structure. It is been replaced be YPJ.

Right, so what’s the YPJ then? (in Finnish)

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.

And there are YPJ-tiers as well?

There are four tiers. Doctoral students are on the first one, which covers the demand levels 1-4.

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?


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

  • 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?

“On 9 March 2010, the first negotiations on a collective labour agreement exclusively for universities reached a consensus among the negotiating parties; the employer and employee representatives.

The agreement covers two years and will be valid 1 March 2010 – 29 February 2012.”

more in Finnish

Does the department pay my sporting fee?

The department pays 50% currently. It used to be 100% earlier.

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


I’m on my last year, what are my options?



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 Jaakko Kurhila.

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.

This section will eventually contain "top-five" listing from some of the professors & lecturers at the department. That way, you can quickly find out which conferences and workshops are the most esteemed by our locals.

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. 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.

A fairly good listing can be found here:

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


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 first (in Finnish), then (in Finnish)

Travel plan is done using SAP

How do I book the flights, hotels etc?

Through Area. 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.

Hotelzone can be used to find hotels.

One good way is to search and such, and then mail Area at about the most suitable flight alternative.

So, whatever Area 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 Area 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.

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.

Full list per country can be found,,489&language=ENG (in English),40,90&language=FIN (in Finnish)

Do I need to take travel insurance?

All UH employees are insured by If. However, there are limitations concerning personal belongings (In Finnish and in Alma, double sorry)

If you are EU citizen, you might want to consider getting an EHIC-card, it’s free and might come in handy.

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?

-Charles de Gaulle 1.5 h

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?


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.

Is it for 3, 6, 12 or 18 months?


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.

I have been in XX for YY months can I leave early?


How pays my salary while working abroad? What about the housing?


How does the taxation work?


What sort of formulas do I need to fill?


Any tips for first-timers?


Do I have to prove my language skills?


I was planning to go country XX, do I manage just by English?


Tech Support

I need more quota. What to do?


I need more computational capacity. What to do?


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


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


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

You can set your box to use a proxy. (English link?) (in Finnish)

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


Does HIIT have any useful resources for me?

Yes, but you must be a member of HIIT, check that from your supervisor.;jsessionid=B507378798A497A1E87EA61B3086E26C