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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

The research environment of the student's supervisors must embrace academic breadth and must be at international level.   

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 responsibilities

The main supervisor

Pursuant to s. 8(1) of the PhD Order, the main supervisor is responsible for the overall education of the PhD student. The main supervisor must plan, together with the PhD student, the course of the education process with a view to ensuring that the PhD degree programme will be completed in due time.

The responsibilities of the main supervisor are directed towards both the graduate school and the PhD student. The main supervisor is responsible for ensuring that the PhD education proceeds in accordance with the rules and regulations stipulated in the PhD Order, the guidelines of the graduate school and the PhD plan. These responsibilities include:

  • 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 - please see below. 
  • Ensuring that all mandatory elements of the PhD education are completed prior to submitting the dissertation:
  • Submitting proposals for assessment committees

In addition, the Head of the Graduate School may stipulate other requirements to the supervisors, including mandatory education of supervisors.  

The 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

In addition, the Head of the Graduate School may stipulate other requirements to the supervisors, including mandatory education of supervisors.    

Changes to your supervisor group

Regular updates of a PhD project are considered a natural part of a PhD education, including (substantiated) change of supervisors. Change of main supervisor may be allowed upon application.

To get changes to the supervisor group approved, the PhD student needs to send an application to graduateschoolhealth@au.dk 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.

Problems in your supervisor group

If you are experiencing cooperation problems with your main- or co-supervisor(s), you are welcome to contact the graduate school. You can also reach out to the Heads of the Graduate Programmes or contact our student counsellor.