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Faculty of Social Sciences

Programme description for the PhD programme

The programme description for the PhD program at the Faculty of Social Sciences, in addition to the regulations, describes the current rules and procedures for candidates admitted to the PhD programme. The programme description was approved by the Faculty Board on December 11, 2018 and came into force on April 12, 2019.

The PhD programme at the Faculty of Social Sciences is authorised by the Regulations for the degree of philosophiae doctor (PhD) at the University of Bergen.

Programme name, objectives, scope and qualification

Name

The PhD programme at the Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Bergen

Objectives

The objective of the PhD programme is to qualify graduates for research of an internationally recognised standard and for other work in society requiring high standards of scientific insight and analytical thinking. Candidates who have completed the degree should be able to conduct research in accordance with good academic practice and standards on research ethics. 

The programme will provide the PhD candidate with knowledge, skills and competence in line with the Norwegian Qualifications Framework.

Scope

The PhD programme at the Faculty of Social Sciences has a nominal length of study of three years of full-time work. The programme includes production of an independent academic work in the form of a thesis that the candidate must defend in a public defence. In addition, candidates must complete an approved trial lecture on an assigned topic and a training component with a scope of at least 30 ECTS credits to be awarded a PhD degree.

Qualification

Philosophiae doctor (PhD)

Learning outcome

On successful completion of a PhD degree at the Faculty of Social Sciences, candidates will have the following learning outcomes:

KNOWLEDGE

The candidate ... 

  • can deliver scientific analyses of an internationally recognised standard within their subject area  
  • can evaluate the appropriateness and usefulness of various methods and processes in research and/or in academic development projects 
  • can contribute to the development of new knowledge, new theories, methods, interpretations and forms of documentation within their subject area 
  • master the scientific theory of their subject area and can place their own research in a broader academic and research context 

SKILLS

The candidate ... 

  • can formulate questions for, plan and conduct research, and in some cases also research that includes scientific or artistic development work 
  • can conduct research, and as applicable scientific or artistic development work, at a high international level 
  • can handle complex academic questions, and challenge established knowledge and practice within their subject area 
  • can provide feedback on others’ work within their subject area
  • masters advanced methodological tools within their subject area
  • can relate their own work to a broader academic debate on scientific theory
  • can analyse data independently and in an original manner

GENERAL COMPETENCE

The candidate ... 

  • can identify new relevant ethical issues and carry out their research with academic integrity 
  • can lead complex academic work tasks and projects 
  • can disseminate research and/or scientific or artistic development work through highly ranked national and international channels 
  • can participate in debates within their subject area in national and international forums 
  • has research-based academic approaches that can promote creativity and innovation

Admission

Educational background

PhD candidates must normally have an educational background corresponding to a master’s degree with a scope of 120 ECTS credits, which builds on a bachelor’s degree with a scope of 180 ECTS credits (normally 2 + 3 years), or an integrated master’s degree with a scope of 300 ECTS credits (5 years). Master’s degrees must normally include an independent work of a minimum of 30 ECTS credits. 

It is a requirement that the master’s degree has a theoretical-empirical focus. A practice-focused or “experience-based” master’s degree that does not meet the requirements regarding preparation for research that form the basis for admission cannot be approved. The

Faculty adheres to NOKUT’s guidelines in the GSU list for the approval of foreign education. 

The Faculty of Social Sciences also approves one-year master’s degrees as a basis for admission to the PhD programme if the relevant degree

  1. is part of an overall higher education that is equivalent to a total of at least four years of university education in Norway,  
  2. has a level equivalent to the requirements for Norwegian master’s degrees
  3. includes adequate and relevant training in methods, and 
  4. includes an independent work that has a scope of at least 30 credits.

If the applicant can document relevant supplementary courses at the master’s level and/or other clearly research-relevant activities (scientific work or output), this may be included in the assessment of items 2, 3 and 4 above. 

The master’s degree should normally be in the subject area to which admission is being applied for. If the academic group finds that the applicant lacks the necessary knowledge in the field of study, the Faculty can, on the recommendation of the academic group, impose additional requirements in addition to the compulsory training component in the PhD programme.

Grade requirements

The minimum requirement for applicants is usually a B, both for the independent work and the master’s degree as a whole. Particular importance is attached to the grade for the independent work.

Financing

Applicants not employed in a PhD fellowship position must provide documentation of satisfactory financing, for both their living expenses and the costs relating to research for the entire agreement period. The normal agreement period corresponds to three years set aside for work on the thesis and training component. The programme does not admit applicants who want to finance their own PhD education.

If the applicant has funding from a foreign institution, documentation must be provided of the financial arrangements in the event of illness.

The applicant must document satisfactory research funds for execution of the PhD project.

Project description

Applicants must submit a project description of 5–10 pages. The project description must describe the topic, set of issues being addressed and the choice of theory and method, as well as any ethical issues. The project description must indicate the schedule for the various parts of the research project. It must also include a budget for the costs of carrying out the PhD project. The Faculty has prepared a guide for writing project descriptions.

When assessing applications, decisive weight will be given to the quality of the project and the feasibility of the project being executed within the nominal length of study for a PhD of three years.

English language requirements

Good proficiency in English is required for participants in the PhD programme. Applicants may be asked to document their proficiency in English using the following tests with the results stipulated or better:

  • TOEFL – Test of English as a Foreign Language with a minimum score of 575 on the PaperBased Test (PBT), or 90 on the Internet-Based Test (IBT). Minimum 4.5 in the written test
  • IELTS-International English Language Testing Service with an overall score of at least 6.5 and a minimum score of 5.5 in all four components

Language of the thesis

If the applicant wishes to write the thesis in a language other than English, Norwegian, Swedish or Danish, an application to do so must be submitted along with the study plan.

Application for admission to the PhD programme

Admission as an employee in a PhD fellowship position at the Faculty of Social Sciences

The Faculty has a separate guide for applicants for PhD fellowships at the Faculty. The assessment criteria are described in the Faculty’s guidelines for assessing applicants for PhD fellowships. Applicants who are offered employment in a PhD fellowship position at the Faculty of Social Sciences will be granted admission when they are appointed. Within one month of the admission decision, the PhD fellow must formalise the admission by signing an agreement on admission to the PhD programme at the Faculty of Social Sciences.

Admission for employees with an external employer

Applicants with an employer other than the Faculty of Social Sciences must apply for admission via a department. If the head of department finds that the application is of a sufficiently high academic standard, meets the formal requirements for admission, and that the project is feasible within the time limits of the programme, the department will forward the application with the head of department’s recommendation to the Faculty. Admission decisions are issued by the Dean of the Faculty. An application for admission to a PhD education must normally be submitted within three (3) months after the start of the research project that will lead to the PhD degree. If there is less than one (1) year’s full-time work left on the research project at the time of application, the application will normally be rejected.

Applications that are not filled in correctly and that do not contain all the required attachments may be rejected. The application form includes a list of required attachments and a guide on filling in the form.

Applications for admission must include the following attachments:

  • diplomas (for applicants with foreign education, the diplomas for both their bachelor’s and master’s degrees must be provided)
  • CV
  • a summary of the applicant’s master’s thesis
  • a project description of 5–10 pages, including a budget and schedule
  • assessment by the academic supervisor
  • documentation of financing and rights in the event of illness (copy of the appointment letter, employment contract, grant letter)
  • declaration from the employer on the financing of the operating expenses

Applications for admission are processed as they are received. 

Contract period

The normal length of the PhD programme is three years of full-time study. If the position includes a year of required duties, the contract period may be extended to four years.

In some cases, the contract period may be extended to a total period of maximum six years, including required duties. During the agreement period, it is assumed that the candidate can use at least 50% of their working hours on the PhD education.

Extension

The agreement period can be extended by means of a leave of absence arising from the candidate’s rights as an employee or through rights granted through other sources of funding. 

In the event of statutory interruptions, the agreement period is extended correspondingly. 

On application, the agreement period may also be extended on other grounds. The application must include an explanation of what has been accomplished and/or published and what remains of the work towards the PhD degree. The application for an extension may be granted if the Faculty, after an overall assessment, finds that the project can be completed during the extension period. Confirmation from the supervisor and the basic academic unit about academic supervision during the period of extension must be submitted. 

The maximum length of the PhD programme is normally eight years from the start date, not including any periods of statutory leave and required duties.

Even if the agreement period has ended, the PhD candidate may apply to submit the thesis for assessment for the PhD degree. This requires that the training component has been completed. 

Semester registration is compulsory for candidates during the agreement period.

Structure and content of the programme

The rules regarding the structure and content of the PhD programmes at the University of Bergen are stipulated in the Regulation for the degree of doctor philosophiae (PhD) at the University of Bergen.

Training component

The training component consists of the following compulsory components: 

  • Scientific theory and ethics
  • Methods 
  • Academic theory 
  • Academic dissemination 

The training component must contain activities corresponding to at least 30 credits. The training component for candidates affiliated with the Department of Economics is at least 60 credits. 

The Faculty’s programme description for the training component contains more detailed information on the general requirements and guidelines for approval of the training component

Academic supervision

Agreements and distribution of responsibilities among supervisors

The duties of the supervisor and the candidate are regulated by the Agreement on admission to the PhD programme at the Faculty of Social Sciences. The distribution of responsibilities between the main supervisor and the co-supervisor(s) and any financial compensation to external supervisors are set out in separate agreements at the relevant departments.

Main supervisor

The main supervisor is the main person the candidate will relate to during their PhD period. The main supervisor is the candidate’s contact person at the department and is responsible for ensuring that the candidate is integrated into research groups and communities. The supervisor must be updated about the candidate’s project and progress. The main supervisor is appointed when the candidate is admitted to the PhD programme.

Co-supervisor(s)

PhD candidates should normally have at least one co-supervisor. Co-supervisors are other scientific experts who provide academic supervision and who share responsibility for the PhD candidate’s academic progress with the main supervisor. Co-supervisor(s) ought to be appointed at the latest at the signing of the Agreement on admission to the PhD programme at the Faculty of Social Sciences. 

Start-up meeting 

Shortly after appointment / admission, all PhD candidates will be called in for a start-up meeting. This meeting ought to be attended by the candidate’s main supervisor and any co-supervisor(s), the head of department, the PhD coordinator and the head of PhD administration in the department. The purpose of this meeting is to clarify the candidate’s and supervisors’ expectations and the frequency of academic supervision. In addition, a date ought to be set for the midway evaluation, and the plan for any required duties should be discussed.

Research community 

All PhD candidates shall have access to an active research community. If the department does not have established research groups, the supervisor(s), together with the head of department, are responsible for establishing a research community around the candidate. This community can consist of both other PhD fellows and other members of staff. Active participation in the research community is an important part of the PhD work. This should consist of: 

  1. Presentations: All PhD candidates shall have the opportunity to present their research in a research community. 
  2. PhD seminars: The departments shall arrange regular PhD seminars.

Supervisor relations

Each department shall have a PhD coordinator who is also responsible for following up any problems in the supervisor–candidate relationship. In cases where the PhD coordinator is the candidate’s supervisor, the head of department is responsible for this follow-up. 

Matters related to the academic supervision that cannot be handled at the department can be forwarded to the Vice-Dean at the Faculty.

Termination of academic supervision

Both the PhD candidate and the supervisor can ask the Faculty to appoint a new supervisor for the PhD candidate. The supervisor may not withdraw until a new supervisor has been appointed. The procedure for terminating academic supervision is stipulated in the Agreement on admission to the PhD programme at the Faculty of Social Sciences.

Performance assessment interview

Performance assessment interviews are a statutory and contractual arrangement that must be offered to all employed PhD fellows each year. PhD candidates employed elsewhere are not entitled to a performance assessment interview with the head of the relevant department; however, for the purposes of integration into the department’s academic community, these individuals ought to be offered a similar opportunity to talk each year. The person who conducts the performance assessment interview should also perform the midway evaluation with the candidate to ensure continuity, good academic follow-up and career planning.

Midway evaluation

The midway evaluation is held at the latest when one year remains of the candidate’s course of study. 

The department’s management (head of department, PhD coordinator or head of research) has the main responsibility for the midway evaluation. The person who performs the midway evaluation ought to be the person who conducts the performance assessment interviews with the PhD fellows to ensure continuity and good follow-up of both academic and career-linked aspects.  

Midway evaluations are conducted in the form of a presentation by the candidate. Ahead of the midway evaluation, the candidate must submit a written report to a committee that has been appointed by the person responsible for the midway evaluation. There must be a minimum of three persons on the committee; for example, the PhD coordinator, the main supervisor and the cosupervisor. This report should provide an account of the candidate’s status in respect of both work on the thesis and the training component. In addition, the report must provide an explicit account of any methodological and/or ethical challenges in the work. 

A report must be written summarising the midway evaluation, with a plan for how the candidate will be able to submit an academically good thesis within the prescribed time.  

Should the midway evaluation indicate that the candidate is not making satisfactory progress, a more detailed follow-up plan should be drawn up that includes a follow-up meeting to be held within six months. At the follow-up meeting, the midway evaluation committee must assess whether the follow-up plan is being followed. If the committee concludes that it is highly unlikely that the project will be completed, the head of department will contact the chair of the programme board for the PhD programme. Any information provided can be included in a discussion about terminating the course of study. 

Progress reporting

During the agreement period, the PhD candidate and the main supervisor must both each year submit separate written reports on the progress of the PhD education. The deadline for submitting these reports is 1 November each year. The reports are followed up by the individual department and by the Faculty.

Thesis

The thesis must be an independent, academic work of an internationally recognised standard and at a high academic level in respect of the formulation of the research questions, conceptual clarifications and methodological, theoretical and empirical approaches, as well as in respect of the documentation of sources and formal presentation. 

The thesis must contribute to the development of new academic knowledge. It can be submitted as one large document (monograph) or as a collection of several smaller academic works (article-based thesis).

The thesis must be of an academic standard that qualifies it for publication as part of the academic literature in the field. Articles must be of an academic standard required for publication in recognised channels with peer review. The results presented in the monograph must be of a quality that qualifies them for publication in a reworked form.  

Monograph

A monograph should aim to have a distinct focus and be clearly delimited. It should provide a clear description of the research question, theory use, methods, and procedures for data collection and analysis. It must be evident how the thesis relates to and contributes to other research in the field of study. It must be stated if parts of the monograph have already been published as part of another work. A monograph should not normally exceed 300 pages.

Article-based thesis

Several works may be approved as parts of a thesis if their content constitutes a whole. In addition to the individual parts, the thesis must have a framing introduction that documents the cohesiveness of the thesis as a whole. 

In addition to the framing introduction, the thesis must consist of at least three standard-length scholarly articles where the candidate is the sole or first author. If this condition is not met, the number of articles must be increased. The number of articles indicated here is a general guideline, and the overall scope of the articles part of the thesis must be assessed in the light of the empirical and theoretical complexity. The committee will assess the academic quality of the articles, regardless of whether they have already been accepted for publication.

Framing introduction in article-based theses

The candidate must be the sole author of the framing introduction in an article-based thesis. The framing introduction shall collate the research questions and conclusions presented in the articles in a way that documents the cohesiveness of the thesis.  The framing introduction should demonstrate how the thesis relates to the existing research in the field, indicate its contribution to the field, outline the broader theoretical framework of the study, and provide an in-depth methodological discussion. It should normally be between 20 and 80 pages long. 

Guidelines on co-authorship

The first author is normally regarded as an author who contributed at least 50% of an article. To be counted as the first author, the candidate must have contributed substantially to the development of the idea and research design, data collection, and the analysis and interpretation of the data.

Exceptions from this norm can be made, in line with traditions in the disciplines to which the thesis belongs. 

The candidate’s specific contribution to co-authored work must be described in the framing introduction of an article-based thesis or in the introduction to a monograph. In addition, a signed declaration of co-authorship must be submitted using the Faculty’s template. 

The evaluation committee determines whether a PhD candidate’s independent work is sufficient and of high enough quality to allow the thesis to be defended at a public defence.

Completion

Assessment

Application for assessment of a PhD thesi

Requirements and procedures for the assessment of PhD theses are laid out on the Faculty’s website under Submitting, evaluation and public defence.

On submission of the thesis, the PhD candidate must fill in the Application for assessment of PhD theses at the Faculty of Social Sciences.

The following attachments must be submitted along with an application for assessment of a PhD thesis:

  • An electronic version of the thesis. The electronic version must be in PDF format and identical to the printed version
  • Summary of the thesis (abstract). The abstract should be one to three pages long and written in English. The abstract must also be included in the thesis itself
  • Co-authorship declaration(s), if the thesis includes joint work. Co-authorship declarations must identify the PhD candidate’s input in joint work. The declaration(s) must be signed by the co-authors. The declaration(s) shall be written in the same language as the thesis
  • Documentation of any necessary licences, permits, etc., such as ethical clarifications  

The thesis cannot be submitted for assessment at another institution. A submitted thesis cannot be withdrawn. The thesis will be evaluated as submitted.

Errata

After submission, the candidate can apply to the Faculty once for permission to correct formal errors in the thesis that is to be made public. The application must include an errata list showing the corrections the candidate wishes to make in the dissertation. Neither the corrected version of the thesis nor the errata list shall be submitted to the assessment committee. The deadline for applying for correction of formal errors is one week after the candidate has received the recommendation. The errata list is added as an insert to the thesis that is available during the public defence.

Assessment committee

The committee’s recommendation must be ready no later than three months after the committee received the thesis and no later than five weeks before any planned date for the public defence. The requirements for the assessment committee’s recommendation are laid down in the applicable guidelines and instructions for assessment committees at the Faculty of Social Sciences.

Abstract and press release

An abstract must be prepared in English (1–3 pages), summarising the thesis with the aim of making the thesis and its results known to national and international researchers. The abstract must be attached to the thesis. 

Three weeks prior to the public defence, the candidate must write a press release in Norwegian and submit it to the Faculty for approval. The press release must be based on the current template. 

The Faculty is responsible for informing the PhD candidates about the procedures in connection with publishing the thesis. Guidelines and examples of press releases will be sent to the PhD candidate once the dissertation has been approved.

Submission after rejection

Rejection of a thesis means the thesis cannot be defended publicly at a public defence. A thesis that is not approved for public defence can be resubmitted after reworking. The committee should only recommend submission of a new version if it is considered that reworking will be able to yield satisfactory results within a time frame of approximately six months’ work. A new assessment can only be made once.

In the event of resubmission, the PhD candidate must clearly state that the work has been assessed previously and not found worthy of public defence.

Trial lecture

After the thesis has been submitted, but before the public defence, the candidate must give a trial lecture on a given topic. The purpose is to test the candidate’s ability to acquire knowledge beyond the topic of the thesis, and the ability to communicate it in a lecture setting (cf. section 13-1 of the Regulations). The committee or Dean’s proxy starts by giving a brief explanation of the choice of the topic of the lecture before the lecture itself. The PhD candidate then holds his/her trial lecture with a duration of 45 minutes.

Public defence

Once the trial lecture has been approved, the PhD candidate shall publicly defend the scientific work in the thesis. The public defence takes the form of an academic discussion between opponents and the PhD candidate regarding the formulation of the research topic, methodological and theoretical approaches, documentation of sources, and formal presentation. 

First, the PhD candidate provides an account of the purpose and results of his/her scientific work (approximately 15 minutes).

The first opponent positions the thesis in the field of research. Next the opponent raises various specific topics and questions to discuss with the PhD candidate, in such a way that there is a dialogue between the opponent and the candidate. 

The second opponent initiates a discussion and dialogue with the candidate on special topics and issues relating to the content and design of the thesis. 

Other people present who wish to oppose ex-auditorio must notify the chair of the public defence within the time limit set by the chair. 

The guidelines and instructions for assessment committees describe the procedure of the public defence in more detail.

Language of the trial lecture and public defence

The trial lecture and public defence should normally be held in the language in which the thesis was written. If a PhD candidate wishes to use a language other than the language of the thesis, advance approval must be obtained from the Faculty.

Quality assurance

Evaluation system for the PhD programme

The University of Bergen has developed a quality assurance system to help ensure that PhD candidates complete theses of high academic quality and ensure that the education is carried out within the prescribed time limit as far as is possible. The quality assurance system shall also help ensure that theses from the University of Bergen adhere to accepted standards of good research practice and applicable regulations.

This system is coordinated with the Faculty’s general quality assurance system, through clarification of responsibilities and continuous feedback and follow-up routines aimed at improving the University’s PhD education in general. Key elements in quality development are regular evaluations of courses and programmes, the annual report on the PhD education, and progress reports from PhD candidates and main supervisors, surveys among PhD candidate, and surveys on drop-out aimed at former candidates.