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Timeline of the proceedings for awarding of the doctoral degree

    The procedure to obtain a PhD is a timely one. If you plan your academic career, it is good to know when to submit your thesis in order to get a degree and be able to go for a post-doc.

    In Poland, obtaining a doctoral degree is a very formalized administrative procedure. It is jointly regulated by the Polish National Law (Act on Higher Education and Science) and the procedures that were adopted by universities, research institutes and other entities of higher education in science. In this article we present the PhD procedure step-by-step and help you estimate how much it can take.

    1st step – preparing the dissertation

    Before you start any formal procedure, you need to have your dissertation ready. The law does not contain the exhaustive catalogue of what forms a doctoral dissertation can take. This means that the doctoral candidate – and his/her supervisor – have a great degree of autonomy when it comes to the forms a doctoral dissertation can take. 

    The most popular ones are a written dissertation (a book), or a collection of published and thematically related scientific articles. But your dissertation can also take a form of design, construction, technological, implementation or artistic work, as well as an independent and separate part of a collective work. 

    The dissertation can also take some other form have it been accepted by the doctorate-awarding entity, where you plan to defend your thesis. A lot of formal requirements is somehow dictated by the academic customs or traditions. Thus, it is highly recommended to consult your academic supervisor what forms of dissertation are welcomed in your scientific discipline.

    Remember, that a sheer matter of the form in which you prepared your dissertation, should not determine the outcome of the procedure (whether you receive the doctoral degree).

    One important information for those who prepare their dissertations in doctoral schools is that the title of your dissertation need not to be 1:1 what you declared in your individual research plan (“IRP”). The IRP is a document that you submit at the very beginning of your doctoral training. A very natural element in the lifetime of any scientific project is that they evolve and are subject to change. But also – in your IRP you declared a scientific project to be performed. What is the outcome of that project is a completely different story.

    2nd step – completing the doctoral training

    Prior to opening your proceedings for awarding of the doctoral degree, you should complete training in the doctoral school. Why? The law guarantees free of charge procedure only for the graduates of doctoral schools. 

    To complete your training, you need to submit your dissertation with the positive opinion of the supervisor. If you have more than one supervisor – an opinion of each of them is required. You need not, however, provide an opinion of your auxiliary supervisor.

    To graduate from doctoral school, one is not required to finish the whole school’s curriculum. The law clearly states that the only formal requirement is that of submitting your dissertation. Such submission does not, automatically, open proceedings for awarding of the doctoral degree. 

    3rd step – opening the proceedings 

    The proceedings for awarding of the doctoral degree are opened open upon the request of the doctoral candidate. The request to open the proceedings should indicate i.e., the field of science and scientific discipline in which the degree is to be awarded. Additionally, you need to attach your dissertation with the positive opinion of your supervisor(s).

    This does not mean that you have to submit your dissertation twice. If you have not previously submitted a dissertation for the purposes of completing your doctoral training – a dissertation attached to your request for opening of the proceeding will also satisfy the requirement to complete your doctoral training.

    Additionally, to open the proceedings you need to meet the following conditions:

    1. hold a degree of Master of Science, Master of Engineering or equivalent, or holds a foreign diploma which is a base for applying for the awarding of a doctoral degree in the country where it was issued.
    2. achieving learning outcomes for a qualification at level 8 of the Polish Qualifications Framework, where the learning outcomes for the knowledge of a modern foreign language are confirmed by a certificate or university diploma certifying knowledge of that language at a proficiency level of at least B2.
    3. have a track record of at least one publication or artistic work.

    When you do not meet that criteria the authority appropriate for the proceedings shall refuse to open your proceedings. 

    4th step – Reviews

    When your request is complete, the proper body for awarding of the doctorate shall appoint three reviewers. This could take few weeks, as the application is subject to analysis from the formal point of view. If your application contains some formal deficiencies, you will be asked to complete them. This could add few additional weeks to the proceedings.

    The reviewers have two months since receiving the dissertation to complete and present the review. Truth be told, drafting reviews is the timeliest element of the process. Quite often the reviewers fail to comply with the deadline, specified by the law. Unfortunately, the law does not provide for any preventive measures.

    At least two reviews should be positive in order to go to another stages of the proceedings. If the reviews do not have clear conclusion (positive/negative) – the reviewer will be called upon to complete the reviews. This may extend the proceedings for another days.

    Some doctorate-awarding entities allow for “conditionally positive” reviews. When two other reviews are positive – then the dissertation should be allowed to pass to another stages of the proceedings. If that is not the case – then the doctoral candidate should make amendments to the dissertation which could take some time. The amended dissertation passes through the proves of reviews once again.

    5th step – other requirements

    The doctorate-awarding entity may impose additional requirements to be fulfilled by the doctoral candidate prior to the defence. The most often imposed one is to pass doctoral examination. 

    Before conducting the examinations, it is necessary to give the candidate adequate time to prepare. Hence, the examination requirement extends the procedure by approximately 1.5 months (assuming the candidate passes the examinations on the first attempt).

    6th step – defence

    When doctoral candidates received at least two positive reviews and fulfilled all other requirements the appropriate body of the doctorate-awarding entity should admit her/him to defend the dissertation. As this is another resolution to be adopted – it takes additional few weeks for the appropriate council to meet.

    Doctoral dissertation needs to be published in the Public Information Bulletin 30 days prior to the public defence. 10 days prior to the defence an information shall be published, regarding the date and place of the defence.

    7th step – awarding the degree

    When the defence went well, the appropriate body of the doctorate-awarding entity shall award the doctoral degree. This happens on the official meeting of the body, thus it may take up to few weeks. Please bear in mind that the university authorities tend not to have official sitting throughout the summer holidays. Hence if you are particularly unlucky – then you may wait for the official awarding of the doctorate degrees even two to three weeks.


    The proceedings for the awarding of the doctoral degree is a very timely procedure. In standard case it takes approximately four – five months. When your university or other doctorate-awarding entity imposes additional requirement – it extends the proceedings by one and a half to two months. This shows, how important it is to plan your post-doc or other post-defence steps well ahead.

    Przemysław Mroczkowski, MA

    Local Ambassador of Doctoral Rights

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