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Guidelines and rules (in English)

Some guidelines for PhD students at the Department of Psychology and Behavioural Sciences, part of the Aarhus BSS Graduate School, Aarhus University

(valid as from January 2013)

The formal Rules and Regulations for the PhD Degree Programme at the Aarhus BSS Graduate School (BSS) from 2012 (henceforth ‘Rules and Regulations’) are available at The present guideline summarizes the most important rules and regulations from the formal Rules together with issues of particular relevance to students here at the Department of Psychology and Behavioural Sciences (PSY). Further relevant information and recommendations for PhD students can be found in the ‘Survival Guide for PhD students’ written by PhD students at PSY – and in Note about PhD studies at the Department of Psychology and Behavioural Sciences (‘Notat om ph.d.-studiet ved Psykologisk Institut’), primarily meant for supervisors and assessment committee members at PSY, describing for example the requirements for a PhD thesis, the preparation of a summary accounting for the relation between a collection of scientific articles, and the preparation of a co-authorship declaration.

Information meetings regarding PhD studies, for interested students, are held twice a year; at the beginning of December and June (time and place are advertised on the website).


Structure of the Aarhus BSS Graduate School

The Aarhus BSS Graduate School offers seven PhD field programmes and one of them is the field programme for Psychology and Behavioural Sciences. The head of the graduate school is Vice-Dean for Research and Talent Development Per Baltzer Overgaard, and Randi Groslier Bjælde is PhD-partner. At the present time, the PhD field committee at PSY consists of Klaus Nielsen, Sarah van Mastrigt, Dorthe Berntsen, Thomas Jønsson, Esben Hougaard, and Peter Krøjgaard (head of PhD field programme at PSY). Department secretary Gitte Arildsen is PhD secretary at PSY. Formal letters from PhD students to the Graduate School of BSS are normally sent through the head of PhD field programme at PSY/the department secretary. Research secretary Anette Christensen is responsible for the announcement and administration of PhD courses.

The PhD field committee is responsible for the PhD degree programme at PSY, including the assessment of applications for PhD scholarship.

Furthermore, there is a PhD committee at BSS. According to the Danish University Act, the PhD committee has some authority (however, until now its actual influence has been rather limited). The PhD committee is equally represented by elected members of academic staff and PhD students, one of each from each programme. The academic staff representative is head of their respective PhD field programme.


PhD courses and conferences

The Ministerial Order on the PhD Degree Programme says that PhD students must attend courses equivalent to about 30 ECTS credits (a half year of full-time work). In most cases 1 ECTS credit corresponds to a one-day course incl. preparation. According to the Rules and Regulations, 15 out of the 30 ECTS credits must be obtained from courses that form part of the study programme at the department where the PhD student is enrolled, or from courses offered by the graduate school.

It is recommended that all PhD students attend the course, ‘Introduction to quantitative research methodology (Methods III)’ on research design (5 ECTS) in the first year of the study.

Additional ECTS credits up to the required 15 out of 30 can be obtained by attending courses at BSS, or (according to an agreement of 2010) approved courses within the ‘Cooperation between the Danish PhD study programmes in Psychology’ (replacement for the prior Danish Graduate School of Psychology) comprising the University of Copenhagen, Aalborg University, Roskilde University and the University of Southern Denmark.

The remaining 15 ECTS credits can be obtained by attending external courses (outside the Graduate School at BSS or the above ‘Cooperation’) approved by the principal supervisor. Conference participation may be included in obtaining ECTS credits provided that the PhD student makes an oral presentation or presents a poster. The day of the presentation counts 1 ECTS credit while the other days count ½ ECTS credit per day ? so, if you have made one presentation on a 3-day conference, you will obtain 1 ECTS credit (presentation) + 2 x ½ ECTS credit (participation) = 2 ECTS credits in total.

Conference participation without making a presentation or participation in academic fora or the like does not count in order to obtain ECTS credits.


Project presentation

According to the Rules and Regulations, a PhD student must at least twice in the course of the study present his/her project and its results in the presence of a group of senior researchers under guidance of the principal supervisor. The first presentation should be given within the first year of the study. Project presentation may take place in the relevant research group, for instance in connection with the annual assessment by the board of supervisors (‘vejlederkollegiet’ in Danish) or at Academic Forum meetings (‘Fagligt Forum’ in Danish) at PSY (please see below). Oral presentations at research conferences are also regarded as project presentation.



Each semester, the principal supervisor is expected to give 15 hours of supervision, and the co-supervisor 5 hours. Of course, the supervisor is supposed to offer sufficient and qualified supervision which may, however, be supported by the PhD student explicitly expressing his/her wishes and demands. According to the Rules and Regulations, the PhD student plan must comprise a description of mutual demands and expectations regarding supervision, including its form and frequency. Further, in the biannual assessments, both the principal supervisor and the PhD student are to confirm that supervision has taken place satisfactorily.

In case of difficulties regarding supervision that cannot be dealt with through dialogue with the supervisor, the head of PhD field programme at PSY or another member of the PhD field committee can be contacted for a confidential dialogue (see below). Also, it is possible to replace the supervisor (according to the Rules and Regulations change of supervisor is not unusual).


Teaching and knowledge dissemination

According to the Rules and Regulations, PhD students are obliged to teach “up to a reasonable level and not more than 840 hours” (p. 13). The university is bound to offer teaching courses, and these are offered by the Centre for Teaching and Learning (CTL) at BSS (

PSY has decided that the teaching obligation is 420 hours, provided that the number of teaching lessons is calculated according to the norms for members of academic staff (VIP) - . The lower number of hours is motivated by the fact that PhD students are expected to spend more time for preparation of teaching assignments.

According to the Rules and Regulations, PhD students are to conduct at least one independent teaching course with substantial and/or methodological relation to his/her own research project, typically in the form of a one-semester course.

In addition to the required course, PhD students are requested to participate in various teaching activities, to give lectures, to mark examination papers, give feedback etc.

PhD students commencing their 4-year study programme after 1 January 2013 are obliged to teach 180 hours during the A-Part (the first two years) of their programme (corresponding to, e.g., a student teacher course), while in the last two years of the B-Part the teaching obligation is 240 hours. Students who teach for more than 180 hours at the A-Part can ‘save up’ for the B-Part, however, the independent course related to own research project is obligatory. During the A-Part of the study programme, PhD students are not allowed independently to be in charge of teaching courses or examinations.


The 4-year dual MA/PhD students (4+4) study programme

At the beginning of the 4-year study programme, PhD scholars have obtained a minimum of 60 ECTS credits in the Master’s degree programme (if more than 60 ECTS credits are obtained at the start of the PhD study, these are deducted from the time of the A-Part scholarship). The A-Part consists partly of ordinary teaching courses in the Master’s degree programme corresponding to 60 ECTS credits, including the MSc thesis, and partly of PhD courses and research in relation to the PhD project corresponding to the remaining 60 ECTS credits.

The MSc thesis is elaborated in a special way taking the PhD degree programme into consideration (please see the below Appendix). The thesis is examined after two years, just before termination of the A-Part (i.e. normally in August or January) so that salary settlement on the B-Part can be made prior to commencement. Although the form of the thesis differs from that of an ordinary MSc thesis (cf. Appendix), it is the final examination at the MSc study resulting in a licensed Danish Cand. Psych. degree. The requirements for an MSc thesis are described in the academic regulations.

The first two parts of the thesis (A-Part & B-Part) should be submitted electronically to the BSS studies administration according to the ordinary deadlines for submission of written exam papers, i.e. at the beginning of January or June. The two parts are included in their submitted form in the final Master’s thesis exam. It is important that the Master’s thesis exam is completed exactly in the month before the transition to the B-Part of the scholarship (on account of salary payment). In order to observe the above deadline, the final synopsis (C-Part of the thesis) must be submitted about 1½ month before commencement of the B-Part. In the application for a co-examiner, the supervisor must state when the censoring will take place.


Co-operation among colleagues

The PhD students arrange welcome meetings for new PhD students, and each new student will get a mentor (a senior student) for assistance regarding practical issues. Each month, informal lunch meetings among students (called SMASK – not an acronym) are arranged. Every once in a while the students arrange various interest groups (e.g. writing groups or statistics groups).

Regular meetings with the department head and the head of PhD field programme at PSY take place 2-3 times per semester. Furthermore, PhD students have the right to participate in the monthly staff meeting at PSY.

As from 2014, an Academic Forum meeting will be held once a month providing the opportunity for PhD students to present their research projects for members of academic staff and fellow PhD students.


Study abroad

According to the Rules and Regulations, a long-term stay (preferably of at least 3 months) at another internationally esteemed research institution, preferably abroad, forms part of the PhD study. As to 4-year scholarships, the stay can only take place in the B-Part of the study, after acquisition of the Master’s degree (in order to avoid delay of the degree).

Upon application, PSY may grant DKK 35,000 as a contribution to the study abroad provided that it has duration of at least 3 months. Smaller amounts may be granted for studies of shorter-terms abroad (upon application).


Staff development dialogue, etc.

As from 2013, PhD a Staff Development Dialogues (SDD; MUS in Danish) will be conducted once a year. The task of conducting SDDs for PhD students at PSY is assigned to the head of PhD field programme at PSY as well as to heads of research units or centres. The first, or the first two, SDDs in the course of the study are usually conducted by the head of PhD field programme, while the final SDD(s) are conducted by the head of research group. A suitable timing of the dialogue is after the annual assessment of the board of supervisors.

PhD students are welcome at any time to approach the head of programme at PSY or any other member of the PhD field committee for a one-to-one, confidential talk about matters of dispute or problems.

Questions regarding terms and conditions of employment should be addressed to the local employee representative (Mimi Mehlsen). In cases of general public importance, or in cases where the local employee representative is incompetent, PhD students may contact the convener at BSS (Vibeke Lehmann Nielsen, Department of Political Science).


External grants

The following is valid for all kinds of external grants, including grants from The Danish Council for Independent Research Humanities (FKK) and scholarships:

1)      All applications must be approved by the head of administrative staff (Carsten Dalsager).

2)      Always forward one copy of the application to the secretariat at AU Finance (

3)      All grants and scholarships associated with employment at the Department of Psychology and Behavioural Sciences should be administered by PSY, and all sorts of equipment paid for by the grant or scholarship belong to Aarhus University. It is a rule of thumb that if the names ‘Aarhus University’ or ‘Department of Psychology and Behavioural Sciences’ appear from the grant letter, the means should be administered by PSY/the university. The university’s/the state’s rules of purchase apply to all grants administered by the university.  Please find the official regulations (in Danish) here:


Financial matters

Salary is according to regulations and notices posted on the graduate school website. As a general rule, 3-year PhD students (5+3) carry a salary corresponding to the salary of psychologists with a Master’s degree in another job, while 4-year dual MA/PhD students (4+4) are paid two extra monthly portions of SU education grant on the A-part, to which must furthermore be added a student teacher salary corresponding to 280 teaching lessons (even though, as mentioned, the actual number of teaching lessons is somewhat lower).

Apart from the above-mentioned study abroad grant, PSY places a sum of about DKK 29,000 at the student’s disposal for trips, study material etc. in connection with the PhD project (please check with the department secretary). In addition, a special bonus of DKK 15,000 is allocated PhDs who submit their dissertation punctually (with no subsequent demands of alteration). The punctual submission bonus is allocated automatically; application is not necessary.

A publication bonus of DKK 5,000 is paid for each of up to 3 articles published in a peer-reviewed journal, or in cases of documented permission for resubmission. Monographs published by a peer review publishing house may be paid DKK 15,000. The application for publication bonus should be forwarded to the head of graduate school via the head of PhD programme at PSY no later than 12 months after the oral defence. The above deadline applies to oral defences held after September 1, 2015 (for oral defences held before September 1, 2015, the deadline is 6 months).  


Submission of thesis

As from 2015, the thesis may be submitted electronically to Gitte Arildsen. PSY is responsible for printing 40 copies for use at the public PhD defence. After the introduction of PhD Planner, it is no longer necessary to submit documentation for courses or teaching, but the PhD Planner must be updated and closed at the time of submission.


Holidays, maternity/paternity leave, illness etc.

As for 3-year PhD students (5+3) and 4-year dual MA/PhD students (4+4) on the B-Part, holidays are in accordance with the collective agreement (Holidays with Pay Act). Holiday periods must be reported to the department secretary who takes care of holiday registration. In case you have no previous employment (no holiday allowance) you are not required to take a holiday in the first year of employment.

 As for 4-year dual MA/PhD students (4+4) on the A-part, holidays are according to agreement with the principal supervisor.

If absent due to illness, please tell your supervisor and the department secretary (via email). In case of prolonged illness or absence the graduate school should also be informed.

If you are going on maternity/paternity leave, please contact the department secretary who will provide the necessary completion forms. Read more about maternity/paternity leave regulations on the graduate school website.   


The MSc thesis for 4-year dual MSc/PhD students (4+4) at the Department of Psychology and Behavioural Sciences (approved on 1 April 2008)

Thesis part and TIME schedule




A-Part: A review

9th semester

A review of relevant literature is prepared (cf. guidelines in APA Publication Manual). Note! The review must undergo substantial alteration in order to form part of the dissertation (the paper has already been given merit as part of the Master degree). It is recommended that the review is written in English, but this is not a requirement.

20-30 standard pages

At first, the review has to pass the assessment of the principal supervisor; however, it will be regarded as background material to the oral examination (C-Part of MSc thesis) in its unedited form. The result appears from the biannual assessment.   

B-Part: Project description

10th semester

A thoroughly prepared project description.

5-10 standard pages


As in the A-Part.

C-Part: Oral synopsis examination

12th semester

Oral examination, 12th semester. A synopsis of 5 pages must be submitted no later than 5 weeks before the examination. The background material (A+B Parts) forms part of the assessment.

1 hour: 20 minutes of introductory presentation  followed by 40 minutes of examination

External examiner present. The assessment is primarily based on the oral synopsis examination (C-Part).

An audience may be present at the examination.

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Revised 10.02.2017