What is an individual study plan?

An individual study plan (ISP) shall be drawn up for each doctoral student. This plan shall contain the undertakings made by the doctoral student and the higher education institution and a timetable for the doctoral student’s doctoral education. The plan shall be adopted after consultation with the doctoral student and his or her supervisors. The individual study plan shall be reviewed regularly and amended by the higher education institution to the extent required.

(Higher Education Ordinance, Chap. 6 section 29)


An ISP describes how the student is to achieve the objectives of doctoral education within his or her research field and the bounds of his or her specific project. It also describes the student’s supervision, scientific project, timetable, financing plan and planned courses and learning activities. The plan is updated regularly during the student’s course of studies to reflect his or her progression. 

When drafting the plan, familiarity is required with the doctoral (or licentiate) degree outcomes. Helpful examples of how the outcomes can be formulated and achieved are available. Familiarity is also required with the contents of the general syllabus


An educational instrument

Since each doctoral student receives a personal education, individual study plans are needed in order to clearly set out what he or she is to do and learn and, not least, how and why he or she is to do so. In being kept relevant and updated by means of annual reflection and adjustment, the plan can serve as a roadmap for the student’s education and as a tool for his or her supervision. 

A properly worded ISP provides clarity of expectations and thus a solid ground for effective supervision. It also makes it easier for everyone to stay on schedule and for any problems to be exposed in good time.  

A contract

An established ISP is effectively a contract by which KI undertakes to provide the doctoral student with the education as described within. In approving the ISP, the supervisors undertake to provide appropriate supervision to the extent described within. The doctoral student undertakes to conduct the research in accordance with the specified timetable and to attend the courses and other learning activities described within. If the student pursues his or her doctoral education under an employer other than KI, representatives of that employer must also commit to its undertakings by signing the financing plan. 

The contents of an ISP must always correspond to four (PhD) or two (Licentiate) years of full-time study. The student may apply to have previous education accredited, but may not anticipate any such decision by writing an ISP shorter than four (two) years. An ISP may also not plan for a period of doctoral education longer than the prescribed number of years. If everyone involved is in agreement and there are good reasons to do so, a period of doctoral education can be extended, but this may not be included in the ISP from the outset.

If it transpires that the ISP is impracticable, it must be revised. If the supervisors fail to honour their commitments, it falls to the head of department to rectify matters. A student who significantly fails to honour his or her commitments might risk forfeiting his or her resources.

Drawing up an ISP

A completed ISP is to be submitted to the departmental director of doctoral studies no later than a month from commencement of study. It is to be approved and established by no later than three months from commencement of study. 

KI has decided to implement a digital ISP system. At first, the system will only be available for newly admitted doctoral students, but eventually all doctoral students will be able to transfer their ISPs to it.

Details about the ISP system and the implementation project 

Until full implementation, ISPs will remain paper-based at the departments that have yet to install the system. Current templates can be found on the forms and documents page (form 3). 

ISP seminar

Before an ISP can be approved and established, a seminar is to be held at the department in order not only to welcome the student but also to provide an opportunity for him or her to present the research project and gain feedback on it. The seminar is solely for the purposes of development and learning and has no examinatory function. Apart from the requirement that it be held in English, it is up to the department to decide what form the seminar is to take. 

See also:

Rules and general syllabus for doctoral education