The organisation of doctoral-level studies


Universities and institutions accredited by the Higher Education Training Awards Council (HETAC) offer doctoral level programmes. Doctoral candidates are affiliated to research units, laboratories, research teams, doctoral departments, faculties / institutes and graduate schools.

There are three main forms of doctoral programmes:

The PhD (Doctor of Philosophy):

The core of the PhD, which is the main type of doctoral programmes, is the thesis, which makes a significant contribution to knowledge through original research and includes the development of a body of work, some of which merits publication in national or international refereed journals.

Structured PhD programmes:

Structured programmes preserve the PhD's traditional strengths and include activities that support the acquisition of a range of relevant specialist and generic skills.

Professional doctorates:

Professional doctorates, which are relatively rare, are doctoral-level awards in a professional discipline. They are distinguished from the PhD by a title that refers to the profession. The degree is generally characterised by a shorter research thesis and the research normally has a professional environment context.

Universities award higher doctorates to those who have demonstrated an exceptional contribution to their field and new knowledge through published work. There is no formal coursework or programme of study. Those awarded higher doctorates are typically very experienced and senior researchers.

The average length of a doctoral programme is four years.

Doctoral candidates are systematically assigned a supervisor. Every student has a primary supervisor, who is a member of staff of the institution and an active and successful scholar in the relevant area. The supervisor takes full responsibility for the overall management and supervision of the student's training and research project, for the monitoring of progress and for administrative matters.

Doctoral candidates on structured PhD programmes have to follow compulsory courses.

For further information:

Irish Universities Association

Fourth Level Ireland

Euraxess Ireland


Implemented by:
CampusFrance DAAD European Community
Nuffic British Council Eurodoc IIE