Study and project plan

Purpose of the study and project plan, contents, approval and changes
As part of the PhD study programme, the student must prepare a study and project plan in consultation with the principal supervisor. 
The study and project plan is a good management tool. Use it to manage your project. It will give you the opportunity to follow up on whether goals are achieved or whether the project has changed direction or progress has stalled. The plan may be regarded as a mutual statement of intent between supervisor and PhD student and should continuously be revised and sent in for approval, when significant changes are made.
The study and project plan should be used to ensure coherence between the PhD thesis, dissemination work, and course work.
The study and project plan has several purposes, including:

  • To ensure that the principal supervisor and the PhD students carefully consider and formulate the purpose of the studies, contents and time schedule of the study.
  • To serve as a foundation for the PhD committee’s assessment of whether the planned study programme is of a sufficiently high quality.
  • To form the basis for the half-yearly assessments which for the remaining part of the study period are decisive for the continuation of the studies.
  • To provide a basis for the PhD committee (at the completion of the studies) to assess whether the achieved results are in accordance with the planned course of study.  

Contents of the study and project plan
The plan must contain the following:
1) Factual information
PhD programme, DTU department/PhD school, PhD student, principal supervisor(s) and study period.
2) Agreement on the form of supervision
Among other things, it is to be agreed how often supervision will take place in the form of meetings or by written report.
3) The nature and contents of the scientific project
It must be noted that as a rule, at least half of the study period must be spent at DTU.
Efforts should be made to present a clear description of the contents, the original contribution, and the expected result of the project (1 to 2 pages). If the thesis is article based, it is recommended to state how many articles the thesis work is expected to produce.
4) The external research stay(s) 
PhD students are required to enter into active research environments outside DTU as part of the programme, either through stays at other research institutions or private research companies etc. - primarily foreign ones. This also applies to industrial PhD students and other students employed externally.

DTU recommends that an external research stay lasts for 3-6 months. Research stays down to one month can be approved and these may even consist of e.g. four visits of one week to the same organisation. It is important to consider the options already at an early stage of your PhD project.

By visiting another research environment, the PhD student can expand his/her network, participate in PhD courses, author articles and/or carry out research and thereby collect additional contributions to the research project.

In order to ensure that the PhD students at DTU enter into active research environments outside the university, the following new rules apply to all PhD students enrolled as of 1 January 2018: 

  • The PhD committee will reject study plans that do not contain a plan for external stay
  • Information about research stay must be entered in the half-year reports
    - either planned, not planned or a dispensation
  • Fourth half-year report must contain information on completed stay, planned stay or a dispensation
  • A dispensation may be granted in cases of personal or family related obstacles. The PhD school leader based on a recommendation from the main supervisor and the PhD student grants the dispensation. 

For PhD students enrolled before 31 December 2017, the following rule applies: due to special circumstances, some PhD students may not be able to complete an external research stay. In these cases, the PhD student must state in the half-year reports which alternative active local research environments he/she takes part in.

Read about planning the research stay, tax liability, work and residence permit when posted abroad on DTU Inside (access only for employees and PhD students at DTU).

PhD students financed by Marie Curie (Innovative Training Networks) and PhD students enrolled as double or joint degree students are exempt from the requirement of an external research stay.

Corona guidelines: Please see the information on DTU Inside.
5) Course requirements
According to the ministerial order, the PhD student must follow courses to an extent corresponding to about 30 ECTS-points (1 ECTS-point corresponds to about 28 working hours).
It is recommended that course participation takes place within the first eighteen months of study in order to ensure a broad basis for the research work. At DTU, the courses may fall within the following main categories:  

  • PhD courses (DTU's or those of other educational institutions) concluded by an examination assessed in the usual way. PhD students are entitled to a re-examination. Completed courses must be documented by tests passed.
    For PhD students enrolled as of 1 April 2019, the following course is compulsory: 42750/42751 “Sustainability evaluation and communication", 2.5 ECTS.

  • Specialised PhD courses. If a study plan includes specialised courses exceeding 10 ECTS, their relevance to the project must be accounted for. Specialised courses are approved by the PhD committee in connection with the approval of the study plan.  It is expected that the content of a specialised course does not appear as something which should have been included in the thesisAssessment is made in the form of a report or an examination. DTU's guideline on conducting/assessing a specialised course is that the member of faculty who is giving the course is also responsible for assessing the student's work. However if there is an oral exam, DTU recommends that an external examiner be brought in. If external examiners are used, these are paid by the department’s part of the study and project funds.

  • Courses of up to 15 points at master’s (advanced) level.
    Courses below PhD level exceeding 15 points require special reasons in order to be approved as part of the study plan.

  • Courses at undergraduate (fundamental) level may under special circumstances be approved by up to 5 points. Such courses must be strictly necessary to the study programme and must be on topics on which the PhD student does not have any previous knowledge.

The study and project plan can be approved if it contains information about courses corresponding to more than 20 ECTS points, and if it describes the intention for completion of the remaining ECTS points. However, this approval will be given on the condition that a revised study and project plan is later on submitted with an account of the required approximately 30 ECTS points.
Courses in the study and project plan must be approved by the principal supervisor and the PhD committee. As a minimum, approval requires that an official description of the scientific content and the number of ECTS-points of each course is enclosed as well as a specification of the expected working hours for the courses.

In order to get a course concession for ECTS-points obtained for external courses, you must ensure that an official course description is sent in for approval with the study and project plan and that a copy of the course certificate is sent to the Office for PhD Education via the department's PhD secretary.
Courses planned in individual ITN-projects must also be approved at DTU in connection with approval of the student's study and project plan. The number of ECTS points is estimated and finally approved by DTU.

Please make sure that your study and project plan is up to date before the conclusion of the PhD programme in order to ensure, among other things, that the diploma supplement has a correct listing of completed courses.

DTU's list of approved PhD courses can be found in DTU's Course base. You can also follow courses at other universities. All PhD courses in Denmark can be found in the national Danish course base, all PhD courses within the Nordic Five Tech collaboration can be found in the joint Nordic Five Tech course base and all PhD courses within the EuroTech collaboration can be found in the EuroTech course base.
Courses taken prior to beginning the PhD, which are not part of another degree and for which you would like to obtain a credit transfer, must be listed in the appropriate place in the study and project plan.

Corona guidelines: Please see the information on DTU Inside.

6) Teaching and dissemination requirement
According to the collective agreement for academics employed in the state (Cirkulære om overenskomst for Akademikere i staten), PhD students employed at DTU can be required by their departments to complete work for up to six months (840 hours) in addition to his/her ordinary PhD studies. The department work is included in the salary of the PhD student. In practice, however, the department can only require the PhD student to complete department work for a maximum of three months, since the scientific dissemination requirement of three months (420 hours) already represents half of the 840 hours. The department work may consist of various academic tasks. Examples are teaching and assistance in connection with regular courses, supervision of BSc students and co-supervision of MSc students, organization of workshops, assistance in connection with lab activities, participation in PhD committee work, or other academic tasks which may relieve some of the other scientific staff.

If the department work exceeds 840 hours, the PhD student must receive payment based on the fixed annual salary, cf. section 7 of appendix 5 of the circular on the collective agreement for academics employed in the state (Cirkulære om overenskomst for Akademikere i staten).


The PhD student must gain experience in communicating knowledge, either by teaching within his/her academic subject or through dissemination of research results, e.g. articles, presentation at conferences, etc. This dissemination duty is considered to be fulfilled by at least three months of documented dissemination work.
The study and project plan must specify which activities the student wishes to have approved as department work and dissemination activities, as well as an estimate of the time needed to carry out the activities.

Corona guidelines: Please see the information on DTU Inside.

7) Time schedule for the three-year study programme
The study and project plan must contain a time schedule which forms the basis for the half-year reports on whether the studies are progressing satisfactorily. The duration of the PhD studies is three years. The time schedule can include any granted leave of absence that results in the final date being postponed.
8) Any contract on patents/inventions (intellectual property rights)
If the PhD studies are financed either entirely or in part by a company or similar entity, a contract must be made. The contract is to be approved by the legal advisers in the Office for Research, Advice and Innovation. A copy of the signed contract must be enclosed with the study plan. All departments have a person responsible for contracts, and the existing standard contracts can be obtained from this person.
Approval of and changes to the study and project plan
The study and project plan must be submitted through PhDigital, no later than two months after the date of commencement. The approved study and project plan must be available three months after the commencement of the studies, at the latest. The study and project plan must be approved by the PhD committee, however the individual PhD school/DTU department may also have special requirements for the plan.
If any essential changes are made to the study and project plan, a revised plan must be prepared and submitted through PhDigital. The revised plan must be approved by the PhD committee.

Phd students enrolled prior to 1 November 2016 may submit their revised study and project plan using the relevant form on DTU Inside. Once completed, the form is to be submitted to the PhD secretary at the department.
If the study and project plan includes stays abroad of more than twelve months, this must be approved by the Dean of Graduate Studies. Such approval implies that an agreement has been made with a local supervisor at the foreign institution and that it is rendered probable that a close contact to the principal supervisor at DTU can be maintained during the stay abroad.