A PhD student is entitled to supervision, and the graduate school considers good supervision essential to a successful PhD. Please find information on:

  • Choice of supervisors: The graduate school’s requirements when the PhD student chooses a main supervisor and co-supervisors.
  • Collaboration between the PhD student and the supervisor(s): Roles and responsibilities when entering a collaboration.
  • A supervisor’s responsibilities: The responsibilities of the main – and the co-supervisors.
  • Changes to the supervisor group: What the PhD student and the supervisors should do in case of changes to the supervisor group.
  • Intended PhD Training Objective (IPTO): About the IPTO-tool and how to use it in regard to project management, decision making, supervision assistance, expectations management and proving acquired new skills.

Choice of supervisors

Main supervisor

The main supervisor must be employed at Health and be on the level of at least an Associate Professor. The main supervisor is responsible for the entire PhD study.


The PhD student must find at least one co-supervisor with supplementary professional/academic knowledge, which is considered necessary for the completion of the project. 

There is no requirement for the co-supervisor to be employed at Health. But all co-supervisors should be on the level of a PhD or equivalent.

If the PhD project is conducted outside the university, one of the co-supervisors should be employed by the institution at which the project is conducted.

For industrial PhD students, one of the co-supervisors has to be affiliated with the company where the PhD student is employed.

Number of supervisors

A PhD student can have a total of four supervisors (incl. main supervisor).

If the PhD student wishes to have more than a total of four supervisors affiliated with the project, he/she needs to submit an argumentation.

How the PhD student can find a supervisor

The PhD student can establish contact to potential supervisors through the Head of the Graduate Programme. Alternatively, contact details of all researchers at AU can be found in the AU researcher database “Find a Researcher”.

Appointment of supervisors

It is the Head of the Graduate School who appoints PhD supervisors.

In the appointment process, emphasis is placed on the supervisors’ ability to cover all professional/academic aspects of the project.

In addition, it is emphasised that supervisors are active researchers within the given field of study.

Collaboration between the PhD student and the supervisor(s)

PhD student

It is the personal responsibility of the PhD student to initiate collaboration with the supervisor(s) and to complete the PhD programme. However, the supervisor(s) is responsible for providing support throughout this process in the form of qualified feedback.


The supervisors have obligations to both the PhD student and the graduate school. They define the project together with the PhD student. The supervisor’s responsibilities are listed below.
The supervisor(s) need(s) to have:

  • Relevant academic knowledge
  • Networks cutting across faculty borders
  • A history of solid research production
  • Good communication skills
  • The ability to create a good environment

What to do before entering a collaboration

It is important that the PhD student and the supervisor(s) discuss expectations and roles before agreeing to collaborate.

You should, among other things, talk about:

  • Financing
  • Teaching obligations
  • Graduate Programme (GP) activities
  • The responsibilities of the parties
  • Meeting activity
  • Study periods abroad

A supervisor’s responsibility

Main supervisor

The main supervisor is responsible for:

  • Establishing a schedule for meetings with the PhD student, where all aspects of the student’s work can be discussed.
  • Ensuring that the PhD student is informed about the necessary safety precautions to be taken in laboratories and/or departments, about AU’s regulations regarding IT security and the necessary legal requirements and research ethics relating to the project.
  • Discussing the work done and, if necessary, reviewing the purpose of the work in the light of progress made and external factors – e.g. financing of the project or the publication of new findings that make it necessary to reassess the project.
  • Telling the PhD student to stop if the results achieved indicate interesting, but uncertain and time-consuming sub-projects.
  • Ensuring that the PhD student has the opportunity to present his or her own work both internally and externally and the opportunity to join a journal club and similar activity.
  • Ensuring that the PhD degree programme is completed on time.
  • Contacting the other supervisors if problems arise affecting the completion of the PhD degree programme.
  • Submitting the required evaluations
  • Submitting proposals for assessment committees

Main supervisor and/or co-supervisor(s)

The main supervisor and/or co-supervisor(s) are responsible for:

  • Providing day-to-day supervision including the planning of protocols, discussion of practical problems, if relevant, and discussion and compilation of results.
  • Ensuring that the PhD student acquires a general understanding of the relevant literature, and that he/she keeps up to date with the latest relevant articles.
  • Providing constructive criticism and feedback regarding submitted manuscripts/publications and the dissertation within a time frame which ensures that the dissertation is submitted on time.
  • Being informed at all times about the progress of the PhD student’s work

Changes to your supervisor group

To get changes to the supervisor group approved, the PhD student needs to send an application to clearly stating the reasons behind the wish for changes.

All supervisors (incl. the new and/or old supervisors) have to either sign the application or be cc. on the application e-mail.

This is to verify that changes to the group of supervisors has been discussed and approved by all supervisors.

Intended PhD Training Objectives (IPTO)

When doing a PhD, the student will need to excel on many levels such as project management, acquiring new skills and collaborating. A dynamic tool for this is the “IPTO” (Intended PhD Training Objective). The IPTO covers:

  • Project management and overview
  • Decision making
  • Supervision assistance
  • Expectations management
  • Proving acquired new skills

Project management and overview

The IPTO is an extended tool of the PhD planner to assist in project planning and overview in respect to a more detailed appreciation of milestones embedded in the project.

Decision making

It is a decision making tool when facing unforeseen problems with the project progression, which can then assist change of plans, including additional external expert into the project, and reallocation of funds and time etc.

Supervision assistance and expectation management

The IPTO is not intended to be a fixed check list, rather it is an interactive tool to assist supervision. It can also be considered as a collaboration contract of essential tasks and deliverables to be carried out during the study. Allowing alignment of expectations between the supervisor and the supervised. If necessary the IPTO should be adjusted during each supervision meeting in order to reflect the development of the project.

Proving acquired new skills

When the PhD study is finalised the outcome of the IPTO is essentially also a list of skills developed during the PhD study as well as a documentation of the work done.

Find an IPTO example

Each project and educational process has its own requirements. Hence a “one size fits all” IPTO does not exist.

Below you find an example of an IPTO from each of the three Graduate Programmes.

They are only to be seen as examples, and they can easily be modified for your own project.