The individual study plan is the documentation of doctoral studies that the candidate and supervisor establish jointly. It is the framework against which performance is measured. It commits all parties but also protect the rights of the doctoral candidate.
According to the Higher Education Ordinance, the university has an obligation to ensure that an individual study plan is established for each doctoral candidate. This is then confirmed by the university after consultations with the doctoral candidate and supervisor.
The individual study plan is both a schedule of research studies and a description of the commitments made by the candidate and the university for the study period. It must also include information on other requirements for studies to be conducted effectively.
The schedule should specify the courses the doctoral candidates are to undertake and preliminary dates for planned manuscripts of articles and the thesis topic. It is natural that the schedule is more detailed for the immediate future than for the later years. As concerns the undertakings of the university, routines for supervision should be documented i.e. that candidate and supervisor meet every other week.
Commitments otherwise might involve attending seminars or conferences relevant to the subject or participation in a research project. It is reasonable that the university agrees to provide doctoral candidates with a workplace and reasonable studying conditions in other respects.
The individual study plan should be followed up. If the situation changes, for example a candidate teaches more than planned, is ill or goes on parental leave or other circumstances occur, this must be documented and the individual study plan adjusted. If this is not done, the university will be unable to see reasons for, say, the delay of thesis work, and it may then suspect negligence.
The university will follow up the individual study plan on a regular basis which in many departments means annually. During follow-up the doctoral candidate and supervisor will provide information on how the doctoral studies are progressing. The university can then, when required, make the necessary changes in individual study plan. Before changes are made, the doctoral candidate and supervisor are given the opportunity to be heard.
Universities vary as to who makes decisions on the individual study plan. For more information on how this takes place at your university, please contact your supervisor or our local representatives..
Doctoral candidates and supervisors should certify in writing that they have read and agreed the individual study plan and any changes made to it.
Circumstances that affect doctoral studies
There are many circumstances that could affect candidates’ ability to complete their studies to plan. Too much teaching, ancillary activities, positive or negative events in the private sphere as well as setbacks in the thesis, working environment problems and supervision issues are just some of the circumstances that may have a negative impact on educational progress.
It is important to be mindful and deal with problems early if studies are affected. Contact your supervisor, department head or SULF early on for advice and support.
Not all circumstances that occur provide entitlement to extension
of research time. The Higher Education Ordinance allows for the possibility of extended studies in special circumstances. Examples
of these special circumstances include sick and parental leave, military service or election to a position in unions or student organisations. There are also other circumstances that may be included in this group but there are no guarantees.
The individual study plan – your protection
If doctoral candidates neglect their agreed undertakings to, as set out in the Ordinance, a “significant” degree the department may decide that they are no longer entitled to supervision and other resources. Consequently, it is essential that the individual study plan is kept accurate and up-to-date.