Quality Manual of the Department of Computer Science
Goals and leadership of postgraduate studies
The goals for postgraduate courses in computer science are to specialise in-depth in one of the sub-disciplines of computer science and attain the ability to formulate new scientific knowledge. Usually, postgraduates build on the basis of a MSc degree and on the topic of their Master’s thesis. A majority of postgraduates attend one of the graduate schools.
The department’s PhD studies committee coordinates postgraduate work. The content of postgraduate work is devised by the sub-programmes and the graduate schools; most postgraduate courses are shared with the advanced module. Other administration of education has been described in the chapter Basic education.
The PhD studies committee decides on the approval of plans for postgraduates, monitors the progress of postgraduates and the quality of their supervision, and considers special cases. It is also in charge of organising the postgraduate seminar at the department.
Three members are appointed to the committee. The department’s research coordinator acts as the secretary of the committee. The members of the PhD studies committee are appointed for three years at a time, the same period as the department’s steering committee.
A supervisor in charge is appointed for each postgraduate student, for collaboration on the research plan and committed supervision during the postgraduate work. It is also the custom at the department to appoint two mentors for each postgraduate, for added support.
Typically, a professor or an adjunct professor closely tied to the department are appointed the supervisors of a Doctoral thesis. In addition, persons in post-doc positions may work closely with the Doctoral student. The main criteria for successful thesis work is that the supervisors are competent, constant, and committed to the duty of supervising.
Applications and admissions for postgraduate degrees
The faculty makes the decisions about admittance for postgraduates. The application to postgraduate programmes should first be presented to the PhD studies committee at the department, which decides about approving the postgraduate schedule at the department (not individual professors). One of the professors who are members of the committee will sign the application once the committee has approved it.
In accordance with the faculty’s decision, the criteria for accepting postgraduate students are based on successes in completing the basic degree, how realistic the research plan and postgraduate schedule is, and the availability of supervision. The PhD studies committee evaluates these factors at the department before approving postgraduate schedules. The committee may also return the plan to students and supervisors for complementation. A schedule will not be approved until all above-mentioned factors are in order, and the plan as a whole is credible for the completion of a postgraduate degree. Students who are only interested in taking courses are steered towards taking courses as separate credits.
Students who want to continue after their basic degree should primarily contact their potential supervisor(s) to discuss their topic and the supervision, as well as to plan their postgraduate schedule. Students who are not sure who at the department would be most suitable as their supervisor may contact the PhD studies committee, which will recommend a supervisor with whom to prepare the application. If the supervisor is prepared to commit to supervise the postgraduate work, he or she and the student will prepare the postgraduate schedule together. The applicants will then deliver the postgraduate plan compiled in cooperation with the supervisor to the research coordinator at the department, both on paper and electronically. The committee will process the application and send it on to the faculty for final approval.
Postgraduates may start their work at the department at any time; there are no application deadlines. The PhD studies committee convenes when necessary and tries to process all applications within a week of receiving them.
The department has expanded on the faculty rules on two points (mentors, research plan). They are described below. The department’s presentation of postgraduate studies gives practical guidelines for applying to postgraduate studies and the work itself.
It is recommended that the names of two suggested mentors are included in the application form. It is the responsibility of the mentors to support the postgraduates by meeting with them at least twice a year, e.g. at a poster demonstration, and by offering a diversified view of the contents, direction and significance of the thesis work. The role of the mentors is to encourage and support postgraduates, not criticise them. The mentors may be members of research groups at the department, or they may work at other universities. Postgraduates who are working under the auspices of a graduate school where they have mentors or some equivalent, do not need other mentors. If a student has many supervisors, fewer mentors will be appointed accordingly.
The department recommends that the research plan be 4-5 pages long. It must include at least the following points:
- The current state of the research field
- The research as planned, including methods
- Expected results and schedule, including estimated dissertation date
- As detailed goals as possible for the first two years
- Funding plan
There are examples of research plans on the postgraduate pages of the department.
Rights and responsibilities of students and supervisors
The faculty stipulates the following rights and responsibilities for postgraduates and supervisors (please see ).
Rights and responsibilities of postgraduates:
- the right to regular supervision
- the responsibility to update their postgraduate schedule at least once a year and have it approved
- the responsibility to report on the research and their own progress regularly
- the responsibility to inform their supervisor in charge if their studies will be delayed significantly
the responsibility to participate in work at the department (teaching or administration) for postgraduates with a work station at the department, as long as it does not delay the postgraduate work.
Rights and responsibilities of the supervisor in charge:
- the responsibility to give supervision regularly, both for research and courses
- the responsibility to monitor the research and course progress of their postgraduates
- the responsibility to ensure the continuity of the supervision if the supervisor in charge takes a leave of absence or cannot continue supervising for some other reason
- the right to end the supervision of students who do not fulfil the obligations they have stated in their postgraduate plan.
In addition, it is the responsibility of the supervisors and the department to support the integration of postgraduates into the research community.
Implementation of advanced education
Postgraduate work is divided into course work and implemented scientific work that is reported in a PhD thesis (and/or Licentiate thesis). Postgraduate work includes advanced courses in the postgraduates own discipline, minor-subject courses, and possibly courses that support the students’ research career, such as pedagogy courses at the university level. The courses of the department are organised as described in Basic education, and the graduate schools arrange their own courses.
PhD student seminar
The PhD studies committee is in charge of arranging the PhD student seminar for postgraduates at the department. The seminar is compulsory for all postgraduates who have started their work after the 1st August 2008.
One of the primary features of the seminar is the presentations given by the students. Each postgraduate gives a presentation of their own research after two years of work. The presentation should describe research results and a schedule for finishing the PhD thesis. The seminars will also discuss scientific work, including research, scientific writing and presentations, and the seminar participants will assess and give feedback on each other’s work.
Please see the seminar’s web page for more information.
The graduate schools complement the selection of advanced courses at the department with their own courses aimed especially for postgraduates. In addition, the graduate schools fund postgraduates and organise postgraduate supervision complementing the department’s supervision.
The department participates in four graduate schools:
- Hecse - Helsinki Graduate School in Computer Science and Engineering. Hecse is part of the national network Network of Finnish Graduate Schools in Information Technology (Figsit)
- ComBi - Graduate School in Computational Biology, Bioinformatics and Biometry
- KIT (Kieliteknologiaverkoston tutkijakoulu) – the graduate school of the language technology network
- Sose - Graduate School on Software Systems and Engineering
Furthermore, HIIT participates in the following graduate schools:
- UCIT - Graduate School in User-Centered Information Technology
- GEBSI - Graduate School for Electronic Business and Software Industry
Please see the web pages of the graduate schools for more information on admissions and applications. You can also read about starting your postgraduate work, supervision and monitoring, the layout of a thesis, and graduation.
Supervision of postgraduates
Postgraduates should deliver a report on their progress to the PhD studies committee annually. The report should include an updated schedule and research plan. The progress report should be delivered electronically to the secretary of the PhD studies committee.
The updated research plan should contain a brief overview of the results to date and as detailed a plan as possible of the next steps in the research. When postgraduates have worked for two years on their postgraduate degree, the research plan must include a detailed thesis plan with a schedule on how and in what time the thesis will be finished.
Postgraduates will have talks with their supervisors and mentors annually. The supervisor talks may be combined with the normal annual evaluation talks.
The progress report maybe made so that the same report may be used to report both to the department and the graduate school.
Formal monitoring of the progress of postgraduates is stipulated by the faculty: postgraduates who have been registered as such for a long time have to renew their postgraduate schedule (apply for the approval of the PhD studies committee) before re-registering as postgraduate.
The research coordinator will maintain a list of postgraduates, supervisors, topics and schedules.
During the transition period 2008-10, the department may employ postgraduates at the final stages of their thesis work, on the basis of well-argued applications, for a short term of employment in order to finish their thesis. This requires that the department has sufficient funds and convincing proof that the thesis will be finished in the time stipulated. This period of employment is established to ensure full-time concentration on the thesis work without other commitments (such as teaching, project work). When postgraduates apply for the finishing period, their thesis layout must be complete; i.e. the finishing period does not fund new research but merely the finishing work on the thesis itself. With theses consisting of a compilation of articles, the publications must primarily be accepted, but the application for the finishing period may also include manuscripts that have been sent for approval, as long as they do not form a significant part of the thesis. The funding for finishing a thesis will not be renewed.
The application for a finishing period should be delivered to the research coordinator by e-mail. The PhD studies committee will consider each application individually. More information on the PhD studies pages of the department.
The faculty maintains its own guidelines on postgraduate studies. The department has its own set of pages on guidelines for applying to postgraduate programmes, carrying out the work and research, on graduation, publishing your PhD thesis, and how to arrange the defense and festivities.