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Course syllabi for doctoral courses

All doctoral courses at Karolinska Institutet must have an established syllabus. Once a syllabus is established, a course code is also created in Ladok, our study administration system, so that participants can register and the course results can be reported after completion of the course.

Course syllabus

All doctoral courses at Karolinska Institutet must have a syllabus, established by the Committe for Doctoral Education.

The syllabus covers the content, purpose, intended learning outcomes, learning activities and examination for the course. See other current syllabi in the syllabus database.

Would you like to improve your skills in course design?

Sign up for the course Designing doctoral courses if you are planning a course or if you already are a course director of doctoral courses.

The syllabus must be entered into the KIWAS course database and may be reviewed at any time during the year, however not later than before the deadline for next semester. The new or revised syllabus is reviewed and established by the Course and Programme Committee. For the course to be included in the catalogue, the syllabus must be submitted through KIWAS and a course occasion created in the system before the deadline.

Remember to write the syllabus in the language that the course will be taught in.

Keep in mind that only course content can be revised. If you want to change the title, the number of credits or the responsible KI department for the course, you must create a new syllabus.

The final syllabus is linked to a course occasion which means that the course will be published in the next course catalogue.

Deadline for submitting the syllabus prior to publication of next course catalogue.

Here are some of the syllabus components:

Specific entry requirements

Specific entry requirements are prior knowledge required of the applicant in order to be considered for admission to the course.

This should not be confused with selection criteria.

Purpose of the course

The purpose of the course gives an overarching description of why the course is offered. By reading the purpose of the course, a potential participant should be able to quickly understand what the course aims at. Instead of detailing the knowledge and skills that will be developed and assessed during the course, as done in the intended learning outcomes, the purpose of the course should be general enough to cover all competencies the course helps a participant to develop, even those that may not be fully achieved during the course nor summatively assessed.

A purpose of the course statement should be fairly brief and inspiring!

Some examples of how purpose of the course statements might be written:

  • “The purpose of the course is to give doctoral students a basic understanding of statistical methods and the fundamental principles of statistical inference and to develop their skills of using statistical software for data analysis.”
  • “The course aims to provide participants with a fresh perspective on the cell cycle and advanced approaches that researchers are taking to study this fascinating topic, to stimulate your curiosity and to inspire your own research. The purpose is also to help you practice key academic skills that you will need throughout your career, such as learning from scientific presentations, proposing experiments, and providing constructive criticism.”
  • “This course is given to show students how to get inspiration from several different disciplines and techniques and apply it to their own infection biology research. Through examples of cutting edge technologies and their applications across a broad range of infection biology fields, students are encouraged to think about how such techniques can be translated into new applications. The course will also teach participants to critically appraise presentations, to ask and answer questions in orally.”

The above examples are modified from actual syllabi and intended only as examples.

For further guidance, see Purpose vs Intended Learning Outcomes.

Intended learning outcomes

Intended learning outcomes are to be written from a doctoral student’s point of view. A useful method is to introduce the intended learning outcomes with: “After the course, a doctoral student shall...”, followed by bullet points specifying the knowledge, skills, evaluation abilities and approach that a student is to possess after completing the course.

You can learn more about how the intended learning outcomes for doctoral course syllabi may be worded in accordance with Bologna, as well as how examinations and assessments are affected by performance-oriented instruction, through an online workshop (takes approximately 30 minutes).

Learning outcomes, learning activities and examination must be related and coherent. This is called "constructive alignment" (Biggs, 2003). You can read more about constructive alignment in:

  • Biggs, J. (2003). Teaching for Quality Learning at University. (2nd Ed.) Buckingham: Society for Research into Higher Education and Open University Press.

Compulsory elements

If there are requirements for attendance during certain parts of the course (eg seminars, laboratory work) in order to get approved, this must be stated under compulsory elements. It should also be clear if, and in that case how, absence can be compensated. Compulsory attendance should not be stated as a percentage.


The examination must be coherent with the learning outcomes and learning activities. An individual assessment of the course participants must be feasible with the examination form chosen.

See also Examination of doctoral courses.



Anna Gustafsson

Administrative officer

Erika Franzén

Chair of the Course and Programme Committee

Emilie Agardh

Vice chair of the Course and Programme Committee

Ingeborg Van Der Ploeg

Central director of studies