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 recognition application must be submitted in Sisu.

Forms of recognition

Substitution

Recognition of prior learning means that you can substitute studies in your degree programme with prior learning. When you wish to do so, the content of your prior learning must correspond to the learning outcomes of the course or study module you are hoping to have substituted. The recognition of doctoral studies usually involves substitution because doctoral degrees generally include no other studies than a doctoral thesis and two compulsory study modules.

Inclusion

Inclusion means that your prior learning is incorporated as such into your degree. In this case, the content of prior learning does not need to correspond with courses or study modules. However, the learning acquired must correspond to the level and learning outcomes of your degree programme. You can only include in your degree studies that you have completed in a university in either Finland (universities, the National Defence University) or abroad. In other words, you cannot include in your degree studies that you have completed at a university of applied sciences.

NB: if the course completion methods state that the course can be completed, for example, through a conference, a research visit, a scholarly publication or equivalent method, this is not considered recognition, but rather regular completion of studies. You do not need to apply separately for the recognition of learning. Once you have completed the above activity, you must ensure that your supervisor or your coordinating academic sends the information to be registered.

General principles of recognition

  • Studies you wish to have recognised must fit into your degree. The minimum scope of a degree cannot be exceeded by more than 10%. In other words, a doctoral degree cannot exceed 45 credits. Recognition applications that exceed the maximum scope of the applicant’s degree will not be processed, with the exception of students who began their studies before 31 August 2017. The calculation of the maximum number of recognised credits that would fit in your degree takes into account all of your credits that count towards your degree and have been registered by the date of review (including any credits earned that you do not intend to incorporate into your degree) as well as any compulsory courses you have not completed yet.
  • You cannot include in your degree studies that you have completed at a university of applied sciences. Similarly, studies included in a previous first- or second-cycle degree cannot be recognised for a doctoral degree. Prior learning cannot be recognised for a doctoral or licentiate thesis.
  • Principles for the expiry of recognition
    • You cannot include studies completed more than 10 years ago in your degree.
    • Learning acquired in non-formal and informal education can be recognised despite the provision on the expiry of completed studies.
  • Principles for the expiry of recognition
    • You cannot include studies completed more than 10 years ago in your degree, counted from the date on which the studies were completed. For study modules, this is counted from the date on which the last course in the module was completed. Courses and modules are valid until the end of the term on which the expiry date falls. Degree programmes may also implement their own rules limiting the validity of old credits to a period shorter than 10 years. Read more about the expiry of studies.
    • Learning acquired in non-formal and informal education can be recognised despite the provision on the expiry of completed studies.

Recognition of learning acquired in non-formal and informal education

Prior learning acquired in contexts other than formal education refers to non-formal or informal learning. Non-formal learning may be acquired in, for example, continuing education, in-house training and adult education. Informal learning can be acquired in everyday situations such as work, hobbies and elected positions.

When applying for the recognition of non-formal or informal learning for your doctoral degree, you must evidence and document the learning in the manner agreed with the supervisor and demonstrate that you satisfy the learning outcomes specified for the studies to be recognised. It is possible that you must also take an examination, create a portfolio, write an essay or report, attend an interview or complete other work. Furthermore, you may be expected to complete separate learning assignments or other equivalent tasks.

Applying for recognition in Sisu

If you wish to have prior learning recognised for a degree, you must submit an application and evidence your learning. You must apply for the recognition of learning in accordance with the Sisu user instructions by submitting the relevant application in the system. Your application must be accompanied by a transcript of the studies completed outside the University of Helsinki. Also attach to your application a description of the completed course if you are applying for substitution or wish to include the course in question in the optional studies for your degree.

If you are applying for the recognition of non-formal or informal learning, your application must also be accompanied by a description of how the learning corresponds to the learning outcomes of the studies.

You need not submit original certificates, but rather can attach them to your application digitally. However, be prepared to make the original certificates available for viewing if requested.

Grading of recognised studies

Studies to be recognised are assigned a grade only if they were evaluated using the same grading scales as the ones used at the University of Helsinki. The grading scales include 0–5 and pass–fail.

Advice and the processing of applications

Recognition issues are often fairly complicated, and your supervisor or coordinating academic may not necessarily know all the provisions involved. If you or your supervisor have questions, you can always contact the doctoral programme planning officer or your faculty’s doctoral student services. Applications are usually processed within roughly four weeks. Decisions on applications submitted between 1 June and 31 August may be made within a period longer than that.

Recognition decision and registration of credits

Information on recognition decisions is recorded in Sisu. After a decision to accept a recognition application, the relevant credits will be registered. A decision to reject a recognition application will include the reasons for the decision and instructions for appeal. Appeals can be made in accordance with the Regulations on Degrees and the Protection of Students’ Rights at the University of Helsinki.