Recognition of prior learning to a doctoral degree

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Students can apply for the recognition of prior studies or other learning for their doctoral degree. The level and content of such studies or learning must correspond to the learning outcomes set in the curriculum of your doctoral programme. The relevant application forms can be found at the bottom of this page. However, you should first carefully read the instructions and make sure your prior studies or other learning are suitable for recognition.

NB: If you have yet to transfer to the new, doctoral programme -specific degree structures, the principles of recognition of prior learning can differ from those presented on this page. Please be in touch with the doctoral student services of your faculty for further information.

Forms of recognition

Recognition can be divided into the recognition of formal education and non-formal and informal education. Learning acquired through formal education refers to completed studies.

In postgraduate degrees, prior learning can mostly be used for substituting studies defined in the degree requirements. The content of your prior learning must correspond to the learning outcomes set for the course or module to be substituted.

Further information on the recognition of learning acquired through non-formal and informal education can be found below.

Principles of recognition

The studies to be recognised must fit into your degree. You can exceed the scope of your degree by no more than 10%, which means a doctoral degree can have a scope of up to 44 credits. Recognition applications exceeding the maximum scope of the degree will not be considered.

When calculating the maximum amount of studies that can be recognised for your degree, the studies to be taken into account include all of your completed studies that have been registered by the time of inspection and that can be used for your degree (including studies you have not planned to use for your degree) as well as any missing compulsory studies.

Please note that studies completed at a university of applied sciences cannot be recognised as a part of your doctoral degree. Moreover, studies included in a prior bachelor’s or master’s degree cannot be recognised for a doctoral degree. An earlier doctoral dissertation or licentiate thesis can never be recognised.

The recognition of prior studies is subject to the same regulations on expiry as the studies you have completed at the University of Helsinki: studies completed more than 10 years previously cannot be included in a degree. However, learning acquired through non-formal or informal education can be recognised despite the expiry regulations. Click here for more on the expiry of studies.

Recognition of learning acquired in non-formal and informal education

Learning acquired in non-formal education means learning acquired, for instance, through continuing education, workplace training or liberal adult education. Learning acquired in informal education refers to, for example, work experience, elected positions or hobbies.

When applying for the recognition of learning acquired in non-formal and informal education for your doctoral degree, you must prove and document your learning as agreed with your supervisor, or demonstrate that your learning meets the learning outcomes set for recognised studies. In some cases, you may also have to complete an examination, compile a portfolio, write an essay or report, or participate in an interview. You may also be required to complete separate learning assignments or similar work.

Applying for recognition

You must apply for the recognition of studies and demonstrate your learning. Doctoral students in Kumpula and the City Centre campus use the campus-specific application form (below). Doctoral students in Meilahti and Viikki can be in touch with their doctoral programme's planning officer for further information on how to proceed.

The recognition application must be made in writing and be accompanied by a transcript of the studies completed outside the University of Helsinki, information on the module for which you wish to recognise the studies, a description of the content of the studies, and any necessary certificates and other documents. If you apply for recognition based on learning acquired in non-formal and informal education, your application must also be accompanied by a description of how your learning corresponds to the learning outcomes set for the studies.

You need not submit original certificates, but can attach them to your application electronically. However, be prepared to present the original certificates for inspection, if requested.

When submitting electronic attachments, bear in mind that the information you send us by email is not encrypted. If you want to send a secure, encrypted email, please see further instructions from the University of Helsinki Helpdesk website.

Grades of recognised studies

You will receive a grade for the recognised studies only if they were originally graded on the same scales as those used at the University of Helsinki: the scales of 0–5 and pass/fail.

Processing of applications and information on decisions

After you have submitted an application for the recognition of studies together with the required enclosures, you will receive a decision within one month. This timetable applies to the recognition of prior learning acquired in formal education. If you submit your application between 1 June and 31 August, a decision may take more than a month.

If your application is rejected, you will receive the decision in writing, accompanied by a rationale. If you are dissatisfied with the decision, you can submit a written or oral appeal against it to the person who made the decision. The appeal must be submitted within 14 days of when you were informed about the decision. If you are dissatisfied with the decision on your appeal, you can lodge an appeal with the University’s Academic Appeals Board within 14 days of when you were informed about the decision.

Any questions?

The recognition of studies is a complex issue, and your supervisor and responsible teacher do not always know all the provisions involved. If you or your supervisor have questions about the recognition of studies, you can always contact the education planning officer of your doctoral programme or your faculty’s doctoral student services.