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Doctoral programme

It is possible to take doctoral studies at the School of Humanities in those subjects for which the relevant faculty and the School of Humanities deem the necessary facilities and specialist knowledge to be available, on the condition that the School board has approved the programme. The objective of a doctoral programme is to provide doctoral students with extensive and solid training in research, enable them to conduct independent academic work, acquire new knowledge and communicate it.

Doctoral programmes in the Faculty of History and Philosophy, Faculty of Languages and Culture and the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies are 180 ECTS (three years) and 240 ECTS (four years) in the Faculty of Icelandic and Comparative Cultural Studies.

Application for doctoral studies

The application deadline for doctoral programmes at the School of Humanities, for students wishing to enrol in the autumn semester, is 15 April or 1 February for students outside the Nordic countries. The application deadline for enrolment in the spring semester is 15 October. Applications for admission to doctoral study may be accepted at other times in exceptional circumstances. 

Applications must be submitted to the University of Iceland Student Registration using a special electronic form available on the University website. Applications that are submitted without necessary supporting documents and/or do not follow other guidelines are rejected. Please note that the study and research plan must be submitted using a special form. The following information must be included along with your application:  

  • CV
  • Certified transcripts of degree certificates and previous academic records, if you studied somewhere other than the University of Iceland. Certified transcripts of degree certificates should be submitted to Student Registration. 
  • Overview of your goals and expectations (maximum 1 page). 
  • Study and research plan in four sections on a special form: I. General description of the research project, its goals and research questions, as well as the student’s academic reasons for undertaking the project (maximum 5 pages).  II. Draft study plan (maximum 2 pages). III. Financial plan. IV. Bibliography (maximum 5 pages). It is important to take particular care over this part of the application. See information and form for study and research plan.
  •  Written confirmation from supervisor. The confirmation (½ to 1 page) should state that 1) she or he has accepted to supervise the project, 2) has read and approved the study and research plan and 3) how the research falls within the research field of the supervisor, who is recognised as an active specialist in the relevant field of scholarship and has published writings related to the prospective doctoral students project in an area with stringent academic requirements. The supervisor should submit the confirmation directly to the office of the School of Humanities. Note: The School of Humanities has adopted the requirements of the University of Iceland on a maximum number of 4 PhD students for each supervisor. Supervisors can therefore only accept new PhD students if they have 3 or fewer PhD students already.
  • Declaration of end of MA studies. If the applicant plans to start the doctoral programme immediately after the end of a MA programme it is possible to apply before the degree has been approved. In this case a declaration from the relevant faculty must be attached, declaring that the applicant is likely to finish the MA programme with sufficient grade to enter the doctoral programme within the current semester.  

If the supervisor is not a member of academic staff at the faculty the applicant must, in consultation with the supervisor, find an academic member of staff at the faculty who has completed a doctorate or equivalent to act as tutor and a member of the doctoral committee. The tutor’s confirmation must be included in the application. 

The department may require samples of your essays. 

If the application meets formal requirements, it will be sent to the faculty or department to be discussed in detail. Finally it is sent to the doctoral studies committee for processing. Responses will be sent to the applicant by email. 

See Articles 4 and 5 of the Regulation on doctoral study at the School of Humanities

Study and research plan

A well-written study and research plan is an essential part of a good application for doctoral studies. The applicant should complete it in collaboration with her or his prospective supervisor. 

There are four sections to a study and research plan: 

  1. The first section is a research plan, a maximum of 5 pages long (Times New Roman or similar, font size 12, 1.15 line spacing). It must explain the objectives of the proposed doctoral research and the research questions, the current status of knowledge in the field and the student’s academic reasons for undertaking the project (the bibliography is not included in this section). 
  2. The second section shall present the proposed organisation of study (1-2 pages). 
  3. Financial plan (maximum 1 page). Short description of how the studies will be financed – own financing, loans or grants. If by grants please indicate through which fund. 
  4. Bibliography (maximum 5 pages). 

It is important to write a clear and detailed application. The application must be realistic, but at the same time demonstrate ambition and the applicant’s passion for the subject. 

A form for the study and research plan: study_and_research_plan_-_template_for_application.docx


Upon completion of an Master’s degree with a first class grade (7.25), or an equivalent qualification, a student may apply for admission to a doctoral programme in the subject in which the Master’s degree was taken.  

A student who has completed a Master’s degree or other equivalent qualification in a different subject than the one applied to, from another University of Iceland faculty or another university with the equivalent of a first class grade, may also apply for admission to a doctoral programme. In such cases, the doctoral studies committee, in consultation with the department/faculty and prospective supervisor, shall assess information on the applicant’s previous studies and research. Students may be required to take further studies (courses or individual projects) as deemed necessary. Such additional or preliminary requirements must be recorded in the University student IT system. The supervisor shall determine when the doctoral candidate has satisfied these preliminary requirements and ensure this information is recorded in the student IT system.  

Students wishing to commence a doctoral programme directly after completing a Master’s degree may apply before they obtain their degrees if the faculty in question can confirm that they are likely to complete their programmes with a satisfactory grade by the end of the current semester. If an application is accepted on this condition, the student may commence doctoral studies. However, if the condition has not been met after one semester of the doctoral programme the student shall not be permitted to continue. The student’s academic record is then closed in the University student IT system with no credits registered, and the student must apply again if he or she wishes to pursue the programme.  

Before an application can be accepted, the proposed supervisor must have agreed to fulfil the role. Applicants may, when preparing their applications, directly contact academic staff at the School of Humanities and ask them to take on the role of supervisor. A student may also contact the head of department or head of subject for assistance in finding a supervisor.  

See Article 3 of the Regulation on doctoral study at the School of Humanities

Rules and standards

Doctoral Studies Committee

The School of Humanities doctoral studies committee shall oversee doctoral studies within the School and ensure consistency in work procedures and criteria, requirements and responsibilities that make up programmes and their frameworks. Following an academic discussion within the faculty/department in question, the committee shall discuss and process applications in accordance with Article 5 of the Regulation on doctoral study and doctoral degrees at the School of Humanities. The committee shall confirm study plans and research proposals and changes thereof, confirm choices of supervisor and others on doctoral committees and also choices of special tutors where appropriate, cf. Article 9 of the Regulation. Having received nominations from the faculty in question and confirmation from the Graduate School, the doctoral studies committee shall appoint opponents, receive their verdicts and follow up requirements for improvement, should there be any. The committee shall also perform any other tasks regarding doctoral studies the School dean or School board may assign it.

See article 2 of the Regulation on doctoral study and doctoral degrees at the School of Humanities.

Representatives 2019-2020:

  • Guðmundur Hálfdanarson, dean of the School of Humanities (chair)
  • Ragnheiður Kristjánsdóttir, Faculty of History and Philosophy
  • Jón Ólafsson, Faculty of Icelandic and Comparative Cultural Studies
  • Þórhallur Eyþórsson, Faculty of Languages and Culture
  • Gunnlaugur A Jónsson, Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies
  • Stefanie Bade, doctoral student representative
  • Eiríkur Smári Sigurðarson, director of research

María Gestsdóttir, the coordinator for doctoral studies, is secretary for the committee.

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