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The research year: we have listened to the environments

The graduate school of Health has listened to the criticism of the decisions regarding admission to the research year, and the criteria will now be adjusted for 2017. This means that, among other things, the research environment will be more heavily weighted, and the principal supervisor will only be awarded one student per round.

The faculty management team has now pointed to one of the two proposed models for how Health can in future accommodate the students' wishes to be admitted to a research year – and the supervisors' desire to have a research year student affiliated with a research project. The chosen model ensures that Health can admit 100 research year students in 2017. It also means that the research environment will be given more weight in connection with admissions.

Admitting one hundred students every year for the past few rounds has not been sufficient to meet everyone's wishes. It has therefore been necessary to formulate a range of criteria for how the applications will be assessed.

"We are now adjusting the criteria for the research year again, because we continuously receive feedback from both the academic environments and the students, while at the same time having to ensure that the research year students are spread among the environments," says Vice-dean for Talent Development at Health, Lise Wogensen Bach.

"I am of course sorry for the uncertainty that making adjustments again has meant for students and supervisors, but having limited admission to the research year is an unfamiliar situation that is also contingent on many interests, meaning that it has taken time to formulate nuanced and appropriate criteria. At the same time, it is impossible to satisfy everyone under the framework provided by the study progress reform.”

The academic environments given more weight

In the revised criteria, the weighting of the research environment is higher than the previous twenty per cent, because in future the ranking of the applicant’s qualifications and the research environment will be weighted equally (50/50).

The chosen model also ensures that Health can admit 100 research year students in 2017, while also in future limiting the possibility of the principal supervisor getting more than one research year student affiliated to his or her project per round of applications.

"We have listened to the environments and studied their criticism and concerns, as well as their wish to see the research environment weighted more heavily, and we have now taken this into account," says Lise Wogensen Bach.

"But it is important to emphasise that we still find it important for the research year to be a learning process for the students, while the students at the same time are a resource in a research group".

Three issues behind the adjustments

Three issues in particular have been the focal point of the adjustments:  

One of the issues is the presumption that PhD students (who have pre-assessed projects until now) are not able to assess the projects better than the supervisors and any funders who may have themselves assessed the projects prior to the application being made.

The objection has now been taken into account, so a project will therefore no longer be assessed by PhD students or ranked in general. The research programme directors will be the only ones to assess whether the scope of the project is appropriate for a research year in terms of workload and academic level (yes/no).

Another issue has been that the research environments cannot necessarily be certain that a research year student will be admitted, even though the funding of the research year from foundations or other external sources has already been secured. This is still the case, but the ability to secure external funding will be incorporated in the assessment of the principal supervisor's qualifications.

A third discussion has centred around weighting of the applicant, project and the environment in the admission procedure. Previously, the applicant has been weighted 40 per cent and the environment 20 per cent. There has therefore been a discussion of whether the academic environment – that is to say the principal supervisor's qualifications together with the composition of the research group – should be given greater weight in connection with admissions. This is the case with the new model, in which the applicant’s qualifications and the research environment are weighted equally (50/50).

Two models to choose between

To be able to make its decision on the coming model for the research year, the faculty management team was presented with two proposals:

Model 1 would maintain one hundred admissions this year, but give the departments the opportunity of managing a number of leave of absence places (80 in total) for students who wished to conduct research, and would mean that they themselves undertook the prioritisation and decisions on funding. At the same time, the graduate school wished to retain the opportunity of awarding scholar fellowships from Aarhus University Research Foundation (AUFF) to 20 research year students and to be responsible for enrolment and the requirements for content – a i.e. a research year as we know it today.

Model 2 would maintain the existing scheme with one hundred this year. Responsibility for admissions and content remains in the faculty, though with changes including the weighting of the research environment being increased and each principal supervisor only being able to have two research year students per year and only being assigned one per round.

The faculty management team have now chosen to support model 2, which will therefore apply to the two application rounds in 2017.

You can find more information about the research year, including criteria and deadlines for applications on the graduate school's website.


  • Only medicine and dentistry students can become research year students.
  • The research year consists of a total of 12 months' full-time research under the supervision of one of the departments at Health. Students must apply for a minimum of six months leave of absence from their degree programme during the research year.
  • AU loses its completion bonus if the Master’s degree programme is interrupted while students take their research year, because they must complete their studies within the prescribed time plus three months to trigger a completion bonus to AU.
  • As part of the study progress reform, AU must improve the completion time for its degree programmes. If this does not happen, AU will be subject to a study progress fine.
  • The success of the scheme is documented in the report "The Research Year as a Career Platform" from the Centre for Health Sciences Education (CESU) at Health.  


Vice-dean for Talent Development Lise Wogensen Bach
Aarhus University, Health
Mobile: (+45) 2548 8522