Welcome to the Tallinn University School of Humanities' PhD Programme

Congratulations on starting your PhD in the School of Humanities!
These first few months can be overwhelming, but we're here to guide you through the essential steps. Give yourself some time to get acquainted with everything. Don't worry if you don't have all the answers just yet. The first year is the year of confusion – things will become clearer as you progress. Resist the urge to take on too much too soon.

1. First Steps

There's quite a lot that needs to be done at first, but don't worry, the university offers resources to help you get settled in. The university will hold a general informational briefing for all first-year junior research fellows and doctoral students. Information about this will be sent to your university email, so keep an eye out. The university also organises casual coffee mornings for new staff members, aimed at helping you blend into the community. When you receive the email invitation, make sure to register. These events aren't mandatory, but they can make it much easier to settle in.

Some of the things that need to be done during your first weeks:

1. Create your user account and register for lectures and seminars
You can access the lecture schedule via the university's lecture plan application ASIO, and course registration is managed through the Study Information System (ÕIS). Here is the link with a tutorial for ÕIS

2. Make sure that you have your university email set up. Check that it functions properly and that it has been added to all the relevant mailing lists.

3. Pick up your key card from A-435.

4. Send an official signed confirmation verifying your thesis topic and supervisor.

5. Register yourself in the Estonian Research Information System ETIS. In order to make your CV public, you need to make sure you have selected all the necessary information you wish to publish, or choose “publish all”. If you skip this step, others won’t be able to see your CV.

6. Provide your profile texts and photo for the PhD student page. For further details and examples how others have done it.

7. Get acquainted with the Doctoral Studies Workspace (currently in the development phase): https://docs.google.com/document/d/1B6Y8XUnfzw7UnNFohlBmEBo69tp0bCa6/ed…

8. Submit your first year individual study and research plan and start thinking about your four year individual study and research plan, which you need to submit at the end of the first semester.

Important mailing lists:

Faculty of the School of Humanities (tyhistaff@tlu.ee)
PhD Students of the School of Humanities (ht-doktorant@tlu.ee)
Faculty and PhD students of Cultural Theory Study Area (kultuur@tlu.ee)
Doctoral School for Cultural Theory and Arts (ktkdk)
History faculty (tuhiajalugu@tlu.ee)

Tips for the beginning

Connect with the PhD mentor that is assigned for your study program. Your mentor is your first contact. She or he is a more experienced PhD student who will provide you with insights, advice, and support during your first months.

Tour the campus. Familiarise yourself with key locations such as the library, cafeterias, break room (A-435), kitchen (S-513), and doctoral workrooms (S-541 and S-545). Consider visiting all of the six buildings: Nova, Mare, Astra, Terra, Vita and Ursa. Knowing your surroundings will make your life easier.

Visit the PhD workrooms (S-541 and S-545). Make yourself acquainted with the workspace that has been set aside for doctoral students. This is a space for writing, reading, communicating, and resting.

Read through the contracts you get, tour around the university's web page and get an initial understanding of the study systems ÕIS (incl the new Doctoral Studies Workspace which is currently in the development phase), ASIO & Moodle.

Keep an eye on the kinds of workshops and trainings the university offers to its staff – you might find some of these to be quite useful: http://personaliarendus.tlu.ee/ee/personal

Have a first meeting with your supervisor. You should discuss mutual expectations, research goals and methods, general timeline, and other important details that will lay the groundwork for your research. Remember to take notes and make an agreement with your supervisor(s) how to keep track of the things you discuss (whether you fill in the supervision diary on paper, or in the Doctoral Workspace, or another agreed-upon solution). Keep in mind that you need to have at least two meetings per semester with your supervisor.

If you struggle with writing your individual study plan, seek help. Don't hesitate to reach out to fellow students for assistance. Many are willing to share their own plans to help you draft yours more easily. You can get yourself acquainted with the progress review criteria from this link.

If you have time and energy, take part in social activities, such as the beginning of a year get-together, PhD Café, open seminars, PhD meetings and workshops.

Last but not least: resist the temptation to work from home. Coming to the campus and working in the PhD workrooms or your project’s office helps to create a good work routine and makes it easier to adapt to the academic environment.


A very general checklist for a great beginning

1. Sign the contracts that you receive.

2. Plan a meeting with your supervisor.

3. Start working on your four-year study plan that has to be submitted after the first 4 months.

4. Register for courses.

5. Register yourself in the Estonian Research Information System (ETIS): create an account, fill in the data and make it public.

6. Take a campus tour.

7. Obtain your door card – check if it works with the coffee machine and the printer (printing is free for junior researchers and faculty staff).

                                  However, please remember that TLU is a green university and we promote a paper-free approach whenever possible 😊

8. Plan where to work (library, project’s office, PhD workroom, home).

9. Learn how to use the library's resources, including databases, journal access, and how to request books.

10. Get acquainted with a few peers and colleagues.

11. Contact your peer PhD mentor.

12. Make sure you have access to all the necessary software, databases, and that your university email is functioning.

13. Understand the requirement for the yearly assessment – in what state your writing has to be, and ensure that your planned coursework is going to fulfil the credit requirements.

14. Finally: take it easy and always voice your concerns, worries, and questions. Your mentor and your peers are always there to provide support and guidance.

2. PhD Workroom Guidelines

The two available workrooms are S-541 and S-545. Obtain the key from the break room (A-435).

If you intend to work full-time on university premises, you are eligible to request a desk for your personal use (contact Sara Arumetsa: sara.arumetsa@tlu.ee). A certain number of the desks remain open for everyone to use. These shared workspaces will be clearly marked - every desk has a number and the info which desk is available, is on the wall by the door.

Personal Belongings & Storage
If you wish to leave items like books or notes, please select a drawer or a cupboard and label it with your name.

Informal meetings and discussions are encouraged but should not disrupt others. For personal or loud phone calls, please step out of the room.

Workspace Maintenance
Keep your workspace clean. Report any maintenance issues or broken equipment to Liina Taalberg: liina.taalberg@tlu.ee or Sara Arumetsa: sara.arumentsa@tlu.ee.

End-of-Day Protocol
If you have completed your work and are leaving the university, return the key to the break room (A-435). 
IMPORTANT! Ensure all shared resources are in their proper places before leaving. Turn off the lights and close the windows. If you’re the last to leave, lock the door behind you. Make sure to wash your coffee cup and place it back on the shelf.

If you have any questions, suggestions, or issues concerning the workspaces, please reach out to Sara Arumetsa: sara.arumetsa@tlu.ee. Sara is a fellow PhD student. If needed, she will communicate your questions and requests to the faculty.

You can also contact Liina Taalberg: liina.taalberg@tlu.ee

3. Library Resources

TLU Academic Library has two buildings - the main research library (Rävala pst 10) and a cosy Study Center located on the 2nd floor of the Astra building (Narva mnt 29). Both of them offer a quiet and comfortable space for doing your research. We recommend taking some time to explore both libraries and locate the floors and sections relevant for your research. Be sure to register as a reader to access the various resources they offer. Below are some of the resources available at the Study Center in the Astra building.

Booking private workrooms
If you need a quiet space, free from distractions, you can reserve an individual study room (or a group study room) in the university’s library. These rooms are great for focused writing or making Zoom calls. More info: https://reserveerimine.tlulib.ee/english.php.

Working in the library’s Study hall
This is a quiet room at the back of the Study Center’s first floor. The study hall is open every day from 7-23 and is meant for research and study. The hall seats 31 people and has 4 public computers.

Ordering Literature
If a book that is crucial to your research is missing from the library's databases, you can request the library to order it for you. Use this form to do it: https://www.tlulib.ee/en/research/ordering-literature/

Study Consultants
If you require guidance or recommendations related to literature, feel free to reach out to the library study consultant assigned to your academic field. They are equipped to address your questions, provide you with relevant books and resources, and offer training on database navigation and information literacy. Contacts: https://www.tlulib.ee/en/research/subject-librarians-2/

4. TLU Web services

This is the primary university-wide documentation service, used to see, create, and sign documents.

This is a more user-friendly portal for providing an overview of your career, as well as notifications related to your institute and the university. It also serves as a resource for information on the university, including sports opportunities, vacation policies, research funding, and IT support.

This is a Virosoft portal that is used to provide an overview of your career in the university. Junior research fellows can use it to send applications for vacation, tax incentives, etc. These tasks used to be operated within WebDesktop.

5. Funding Opportunities

If you want to undertake a research trip to an archive or to a library, or if you come across a conference you wish to attend, getting funding is crucial. If you're navigating this process for the first time, it can seem daunting. Turn to your peers and ask them about their experiences. There are also dedicated staff members within the university who can guide you through the paperwork, as well as assist in locating accommodations and travel arrangements. This is especially important to those who are not part of any project.

IMPORTANT! When planning your business trips and conferences, make sure you plan enough time for seeking external funding opportunities. If you're unable to secure external funding or you don’t meet their criteria, you can turn to the internal funding options provided by the institution.

External Funding
Apply to external sources of funding before anything else. Make sure that you understand their mission and focus areas, and that you have an idea of the past projects they've supported. This will give you a comprehensive view of what they are looking for in a funding application and gives you confidence that your application meets the funder's priorities and objectives.

Kristjan Jaak Scholarships


Foreign Scholarships

Internal Funding
Research Fund of the Tallinn University School of Humanities

The Student Union of Tallinn University

The Student Council of the Institute of Humanities

If you have any questions regarding different funding options, contact Kerstin Liiva or Eva Kruuse. If you have questions related to processes about business trips (research trips or a trip to an archive or to a library), contact Liina Mai: liina.mai@tlu.ee. All questions related to Erasmus mobility should be directed to the Study Counsellor Maris Peters: maris.peters@tlu.ee

6. Yearly Assessments (progress review)

Progress review assesses the doctoral student's progress in doctoral studies. The information below will be sent to you in a more detailed form before the reviewing process.

The timing of your progress review is determined by your starting date, usually taking place after every two semesters. If you began in autumn, your review would take place in June. If your studies started in winter, the review would take place in January.

Assessment Criteria
Go through the criteria of what is being evaluated. Although the criteria might seem complex at first, investing time in understanding them is crucial for writing your individual research plan and the progress review report later.

If you’re having difficulties and are unsure how to structure the components and assemble the necessary credits, don’t hesitate to ask for advice from your peers or mentor. Additionally, the Study Counsellor is also there to help and explain whenever needed.

7. Communicating with your supervisor(s)

Communicating with your supervisor(s) is key to a successful PhD thesis.
Keep your supervisor(s) regularly updated on your progress – even if it feels like you're at a standstill, transparency is crucial. Set deadlines for yourself and strive to meet them.

Be open to constructive criticism
Although it never feels like it, criticism is usually beneficial. It is a tool for you to improve and grow. Numerous comments and suggestions from your supervisor(s) don’t necessarily indicate that you are off track; it often signifies that your supervisor is deeply invested in your research and is committed to helping you produce the best work possible.

Consider scheduling recurring meetings, whether they're weekly or monthly, to discuss your progress, share your findings, and address any concerns or challenges you're facing. A minimum of two meetings each semester is necessary to meet the assessment requirements.

If you encounter any kind of challenges with your supervisor and are unsure how to address them, consult your Study Counsellor for guidance. She will help you find a solution. There is also going to be a course titled “PhD Toolkit” that will cover in more depth everything you need to know about collaborating with your supervisor.

It should be noted that the responsibility for effective communication with a supervisor is not solely on the student. Supervisors can differ in their level of involvement and availability. Here are some guidelines on what you should reasonably expect from your supervisor(s).
You should expect to:
- receive feedback on submitted documents/drafts in a reasonable time (it is important to mutually agree what is a reasonable time-frame for the student to submit documents and to expect feedback from the supervisor(s). It helps if you can clarify what type of feedback you expect;
- share insecurities and worries about the progress of your PhD, about particular issues with your research, as well as times when there is too much required (home tasks, university courses, etc.). You don't need to become best friends with your supervisor(s), but you also should not get the feeling you have to pretend to be on top of everything all the time;
- receive updates on conferences, mailing lists, call for papers or abstracts that are topic-specific. Supervisors often have already an established network and they should share resources or ideas on where to find info on conferences, special issues, etc.;
- have regular meetings to discuss practical questions, the progress as well as the content of your research. While not every meeting needs to involve an in-depth academic discussion, you should expect your supervisor(s) to regularly set aside time for you, whether it be in-person or through alternative communication channels like email threads or online meetings, to discuss issues that you encounter either in administrative or research issues.

Study Counsellor: Maris Peters

8. Community and Networking: Getting Involved

Becoming a part of the academic community is more than just attending lectures and doing your research. Here's how you can get involved and start building your own network for future:

  • Attend the events that your department organises: different seminars, workshops, conferences and summer schools. Get to know your peers and faculty members.
  • PhD Café: Informal monthly gathering with coffee and snacks that provides a platform for PhD students to openly discuss their research-related questions, doubts, ideas, and challenges. It will also include discussions about academic careers and other relevant concerns.
  • Connect with your assigned mentor. They can offer invaluable insights into academic life.
  • Tallinn University has a Trade Union that represents and protects the interests of the employees of Tallinn University. Consider joining.
  • Professional associations: join academic societies related to your field. These organisations offer different networking events, publishing opportunities, and career services.
  • Social media: follow relevant hashtags, groups, or forums in your area of study. This can be a way to keep up with the latest news, calls for papers, and networking opportunities.
  • Cross-disciplinary opportunities: look out for events, lectures, or workshops in related fields. Interdisciplinary conversations can offer new angles to your research. For instance, you might find it interesting to keep an eye on what is being done by fellow researchers at the University of Tartu or the Estonian Academy of Arts. You can ask your colleagues in the department or supervisor(s) on where to find this information. In some cases, there are active Facebook groups or mailing lists where national or international researchers share various activities.
  • You can also take courses from other Estonian universities and transfer these into credits in your own institution. The process of transferring them is simple and quick, facilitated through the VÕTA application.
  • Keep your profile updated. Information on the contact list comes from the intraweb and should be maintained and updated by employees individually. For any contact information that you are unable to edit yourself, please reach out to the Study Counsellor Maris Peters for assistance or further inquiries.
  • Volunteer: consider offering your time to help organise departmental events, student conferences, study and reading groups, or guest lectures.

NB! Make sure to attend the final defences of your peers to gather experience and support your fellow PhDs!

Who’s Who

Maris Peters: maris.peters@tlu.ee
She handles the day-to-day issues related to your studies within the PhD programmes. You are always welcome to pop in when you see her office door (S-408) open!

Tanya Escudero: escudero@tlu.ee
She is the one to turn to if you feel that you need specialised training on some subject, have suggestions for a workshop, or have any kind of ideas for a PhD-related activity or event.

Daniele Monticelli: daniele.monticelli@tlu.ee
He is the Head of the Studies of Cultures PhD programme.

Karsten Brüggemann: karsten.bruggemann@tlu.ee
He is the Head of the History PhD programme.

Anna Verschik: anna.verschik@tlu.ee
She is the Head of the Linguistics PhD programme.

Riina Uudemets: riina.uudemets@tlu.ee
She assists the teaching staff and can help you with room bookings, keys to the workrooms and kitchen, Zoom links, printing issues and many more things. You can find her in the break room A435.

Liina Taalberg: liina.taalberg@tlu.ee
She is the Administrative Assistant and can answer questions related to vacations, PhD room, etc.

Kerstin Liiva: kerstin.liiva@tlu.ee
Eva Kruuse: eva.kruuse@tlu.ee
Kerstin is the Research Coordinator, and Eva is the Research Assistant. They are your primary contacts for any questions regarding research funding and projects.

Uku Lember: uku.lember@tlu.ee
Terje Kalamees: terje.kalamees@tlu.ee
Uku is the Director of the School of Humanities and Terje is the Administrative Head. They are the ones (especially Terje) to consult for inquiries related to your employment contract or general job-related concerns.
Student representatives

Teisi Ligi: teisi.ligi@tlu.ee
PhD student representative in the Council of the School of Humanities; PhD student representative in the Research Council of the School of Humanities.

A list of other faculty contacts:

9. Mental & Physical Health Resources

Doing a PhD is not just an academic challenge; it's an emotional and mental one too. While the experience can be isolating, particularly if you're not part of a larger research project, the challenges can also manifest in other ways. You might face anxiety about public speaking at conferences, seminars, or workshops, grapple with imposter syndrome, or find yourself stuck in your research, thinking everyone else has it all figured out. You might have family obligations that make it difficult to plan your time. We're all navigating these challenges in one form or another. Even if these issues don't resonate with you right now, they can arise at any stage during your PhD progression. The resources provided in this section aim to equip you with the support you might at one point need.

  • The university periodically organises workshops for PhD students focused on mental health. For instance, the faculty has offered workshops that address stress management, insecurities, and solitude. If you feel the need for a particular training/workshop/group therapy, contact Tanya Escudero: escudero@tlu.ee
  • As a student, you can also use the Student Support Center’s Psychological Counselling services free of charge. Read more about the service and book an appointment.
  • Additionally, the university provides ways for maintaining your physical well-being as well. A gym facility is available for students and staff, accessible at a nominal fee. Staff members are also eligible for discounts at our partner gym, Reval Sport and Kalev Spa. You need to contact Reilika Muuli, the Occupational Health and Safety Specialist (reilika.muuli@tlu.ee) and ask her to add you to the list of TLÜ clients.
  • Regular health assessments are also offered to university staff (by HeBA clinic), providing an opportunity to address concerns and receive advice (for instance if you have back problems, or need new glasses, also problems with stress and overworking). You will receive information regarding these assessments in your email. For more information: https://siseveeb.tlu.ee/cms/viewpage/?menu_id=55427677&key=human%20reso…

10. Managing work and family

Balancing the responsibilities of PhD studies with family life can also be a challenge, but you're not left alone in this quest. The university has a support system to make this a bit easier for you. The PhD program offers flexibility to work from home when needed, so you can plan your work schedule around your family's needs. Also, bringing your child occasionally to a lecture or seminar is most of the time acceptable, provided you've arranged activities to keep them occupied. The university also offers free children's daycare for children over two years old. You can find more information following this link.

However, should you at any point find yourself struggling with managing both roles, don't hesitate to reach out for support. Your peers can offer valuable advice and help. It is also good to keep your academic advisors informed about your commitments and to have realistic expectations on both ends.