Consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic on KI’s doctoral education

[Updated 2021-10-21]

Swedish general pandemic restrictions will be removed from 29 September. This means that during the autumn semester there will be a gradual transition from a pandemic situation to a “new normal”. The “new normal” is to work and study on campus but keeping the benefits of the digitalization developed during the pandemic. 

Below is information regarding different aspects of doctoral education at KI and how they are affected by the pandemic and by the transition to the “new normal”. 

If the pandemic leads to changes of the doctoral education

Many doctoral students have been affected, and will continuously be affected, by the COVID-19 pandemic. We recommend that affected doctoral students together with their supervisors review their individual study plan and discuss alternative ways to reach the degree outcomes without prolonging the education.  This applies to the research plan as well as to planned participation in courses, seminars and travels.   


    The Swedish Agency for Government Employers (Arbetsgivarverket) have announced that if a doctoral student, as a consequence of COVID-19, has been prohibited from performing his/her tasks as a doctoral student, it should be possible to prolong the employment beyond the stated four years. It is the KI department where the doctoral student is registered that decides if a prolongation should be considered. The assessment of the individual case is done on a case-by-case basis. 

    Criteria for a possible prolongation (at the bottom of the page)

    Doctoral students who perceive that the pandemic has affected their doctoral education must make sure to document this. Such documentation is required if at a later stage an assessment will be made to judge if the delay was caused by COVID-19, and hence without the control of the student.

    Courses and other educational activities

    During the autumn semester, doctoral courses will either be held entirely on campus, or an entirely remotely held course or as a combination of both. For information about each course, see the course catalogue or information given by the course provider before the start of the course.

    Information about education regarding COVID-19 for course providers

    Half-time review

    With national restrictions removed there are no longer any reason for avoiding half-time seminars on campus. It is also permitted to conduct the seminar as a digital meeting or a webinar, or as a hybrid form with some digital participation. 

    The decision how to set up the seminar should be based on how the doctoral student in the best way gets a relevant and useful learning situation. 

    The purpose of the half-time review 

    Public defences

    When the national restrictions are removed the public defences at KI will transition from today’s focus on digital participation to the “new normal”, where the starting point is that everyone should be on site on campus but at the same time keeping the benefits of the digital tools. 

    From October 2021, the following options are available for a thesis defence at KI:

    1. Everyone is physically present in the room 
    2. One or more members of the examination board and/or the opponent participate remotely using digital solutions 
    3. An audience is present in the room, but another audience is also taking part through digital solutions
    4. A combination of 2 and 3.   

    All information regarding public defences and licentiate seminars are found on the newly updated web pages: Time to defend your thesis

    Note that defences taking place during the autumn semester 2021 can be carried out according to the original plan, regardless of any new post-pandemic routines. It is of course also allowed to re-plan, for example if someone earlier prohibited from travel now can come to KI. 

    It was mandatory during the pandemic to web cast the public defence, but when the restrictions now are lifted this is not mandatory anymore, but an option. However, those who already have communicated an online defence must go through with this according to the original plan. 

    Supervision at a distance

    When the national restrictions are removed there are not longer a need for remote supervision. If someone during the transition period needs to continue to supervise their doctoral student at a distance here are some tips and support:

    1. Effective Practices in Supervising Doctoral Candidates at a Distance, a webinar from the UK Council for Graduate Education from the 1 May now available on YouTube.
    2. A Guide to Online Supervision – Guide for Supervisors 

    Admission of new doctoral students

    If the doctoral student, at the time of admission, hasn’t arrived at KI or for any other reason cannot begin their doctoral studies immediately, a study start date has to be decided. No research or educational activities are performed before the starting date. Under present circumstances, the period between admission and study start might be longer than otherwise, but the admission process is the same as usual.

    Travel, research visits and international conferences

    Doctoral students are to observe the same guidelines on travel, research visits and international conferences as all other members of staff.  

    Personal presentations at international conferences are obligatory for KI’s doctoral students. If the COVID-19 pandemic implies that a student cannot fulfil this requirement, the doctoral student should approach the departmental director of doctoral studies to discuss how this could be solved.

    KI’s travel grant for research visits for doctoral research

    Owing to the limited opportunities for doctoral students to conduct planned research visits, the travelling/utilisation time for KI’s travel grants for research visits for doctoral students has been extended to December 2021. This applies for travel grants for research visits for doctoral students advertised, applied for and granted during 2019 and 2020.

    If you have applied for a grant for a trip that has to be cancelled, we ask you to repay the money, although the sum granted can be used to cover any costs you may have incurred in cancelling.

    Information for international doctoral students

    If you need to stay longer in Sweden than originally planned or need to leave Sweden earlier: