Department of Philosophy

PhD programme in Philosophy

The Department of Philosophy in Bergen seeks to offer a PhD programme at a high international standard that attracts promising students and provides them with the tools they need to become good philosophers in the course of their training. The quality of PhD training provided at the Department is also critical in helping our doctoral students obtain relevant employment after completing the programme. To realize these ends, the PhD programme in Bergen consists of several shared, obligatory activities in addition to the individual’s task of completing of her dissertation.

PhD diplom liggende ved en bunke eldre bøker


The PhD programme comprises several requirements. Some of these result in academic credit (SP: study points) required for completion of the programme, while other obligatory activities are part of the training that do not result in academic credit. There are further activities that, though strongly recommended, are not required for completion of the programme.

Credit-earning requirements:

  • PhD Courses: 3 credits per course. Students must complete at least 2 courses to satisfy this requirement. External courses must be approved beforehand by the advisor and department. (details below)
  • Comprehensive Essays: 3 credits per essay. To satisfy the requirement, the student must complete at least 2 essays in subject areas lying outside the main subject area of the dissertation.  (details below)

Every PhD student shall complete a total of 5 credit-earning requirements, where each of these consists either of an approved PhD course or a Comprehensive Essay. The student may choose a particular field of philosophy for the Comprehensive Essays only once.

Non Credit-earning requirements:

  • PhD seminar: 2 meetings per semester. Obligatory attendance at a minimum of 7 seminars in the course of the PhD period, including at least 2 presentations and 2 prepared commentaries on the work of other PhD students. The primary focus for these seminars is the work of the department’s doctoral students. (details below)
  • Status meetings including the mid-term evaluation: 1 mandatory meeting per year with a select committee and advisor. For each status meeting the PhD student presents a brief summary of the progression in her or his work in relation to a progress plan agreed on at the previous meeting (if relevant). The student also hands in an updated progress plan for further work on the dissertation up to and including its completion. (details below)
  • Mentoring (for teaching) (details below)

Activities that are strongly recommended but not formally required:

  • External Presentations (details below)
  • Research Stay at an external institution (1-2 semesters) (details below)

Detailed Description of Requirements and other Activities in the Philosophy PhD Programme

PhD Courses

PhD courses generally have a scope corresponding to 10 double-hours of lecture/seminar with course syllabus and a written essay. Courses offered will normally consist of (1) advanced studies in various subject areas useful for several doctoral students. Courses may be local or organized in collaboration with other institutions.

In addition to covering subject areas in philosophy, approved courses may also include such areas as career training concerning (2) various aspects of the publishing process (this last topic may also fall under the rubric of PhD Seminars if appropriate); (3) information about the job market, the application process, interview training, and writing project applications (learning about positions both in and outside of academia falls under this rubric).

Comprehensive Essays

In order to develop each PhD student’s appreciation of the intellectual resources provided by different fields and traditions in philosophy, to make sure that each doctoral student who finishes the programme has competence in areas of philosophy outside the focus of the dissertation, and to foster greater social cohesion between our PhD students who work in widely diverse areas, the department requires that each PhD student write a minimum of 2 essays on topics outside that of the dissertation. The department has assembled reading lists which students are expected to familiarize themselves with in their preparations for writing the essays.  

The PhD student chooses an area-specific list for each essay and reserves enough time to go through the list before the essay topic is handed out by the PhD coordinator in consultation with members of the faculty with expertise in the relevant area. On the basis of her or his reading, the PhD student writes an essay to be evaluated on a pass/not pass basis by members of the faculty with expertise in the area. The PhD student will be given 1 week to finish the essay. Students whose essays receive a mark of “not pass” will be required to revise their work according to a time frame determined by the PhD coordinator until the work is found to be acceptable.

PhD Seminars

The Department will arrange seminars at least twice per semester for its PhD students. These meetings, which are intended to serve both an educational and social function, will include training in giving and receiving constructive criticism in a forum that will also ensure that the Department’s PhD students are familiar with each other’s projects. As far as the discipline goes, the main goal is to provide practice in skills such as clarification, defining and presenting problems, and arguing for claims. 

The primary vehicle for developing and maintaining a rich and open disciplinary environment will be a 10-40 page essay distributed by one of the participants 1 week in advance of each seminar. All participants read the text in advance of the meeting. At the seminar, the student will not present her or his text but merely give a brief summary of its intended function and context (e.g. as a chapter in the dissertation or as a free-standing publication). One of the other PhD students will then have approximately 10 minutes to provide constructive commentary, after which other participants are expected to offer their comments as well.

The aim of the comments is to provide the PhD student with constructive help in improving the text. Accordingly, the author should not devote much time during the seminar to “defending her position”.

Yearly Status Meetings

The Department will follow up on the progression of the dissertation project by holding a yearly status meeting with the PhD student and the advisor(s). These meetings are intended to assist in providing clear and predictable guidance and to address possible problems as early as possible. The structure and content of these meetings are based on the Humanities Faculty’s mid-term evaluations format. At the same time, it is important to take into account that each student’s progression will differ to some extent. This is done by taking account of plans that the student and advisor have made beforehand. 

Each yearly meeting will focus on what has been done, which (if any) changes in conditions may have arisen, and where the student’s work on the dissertation stands in relation to completing the dissertation under reasonable conditions and in the time allotted by the PhD stipend. As part of this evaluation, there will be a discussion of the student’s writing and activities during the relevant period. The Department will also offer to arrange a meeting the year after the stipend has expired in order to assist and follow up on those PhD students who do not deliver their dissertations by the formal due date.

As part of an effort to create a shared understanding and culture with regard to questions concerning PhD students’ conditions, the yearly status meetings will not be directed by any one person on a permanent basis, but rather will be led by mini-committees consisting of two faculty members from the Department. The report from the meeting should be concrete enough to explain clearly whether the student’s situation is satisfactory and to serve as a basis for evaluation and discussion for the following year. Unresolved challenges that emerge during the status meeting will be referred to the PhD coordinator, who will then consult with the PhD student, the advisor, and the committee to find an adequate solution.

Mentoring and Student Teaching

In order that the PhD student receives the greatest benefit from her or his time in the Philosophy programme, a faculty member will serve as mentor for the PhD student’s teaching component. The core of this cooperation are discussions between the PhD student and the mentor (appointed by the PhD coordinator), where the PhD student, before and after the teaching assignment, describes plans, structure and completion and can receive comments and tips from the mentor. Possible further measures, such as the presence of the mentor during the student’s teaching, can be carried out on the basis of an agreement between the student and mentor.

External Presentations

Presentations at national and international philosophy conferences and similar venues are considered to be a natural part of the student’s activity during his or her time in the programme. The student is expected to finance participation in such activities primarily with the yearly personal discretionary funds available in connection with the PhD grant. Any financing by the department of travel, conference fees, and research stays requires prior approval.

Exchange with other Institutions

An extended research stay at a different institution, usually abroad, should be the norm for the department’s PhD students and is strongly encouraged. In order that the research stay benefit the PhD student, both with regard to progress with the dissertation project and with regard to future contacts in the field, the choice of host institution and planning of the stay should be done early on.