Hungary is a member of the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) and follows the three-cycle format set up by the Bologna Process. Hungarian doctorates are third-cycle qualifications, designed for students who have already completed existing degrees at undergraduate Bachelors and postgraduate Masters level.
Universities in Hungary award two types of doctorate: the PhD (Doctor of Philosophy) and the DLA (Doctor of Liberal Arts).
Aside from their names (and associated subjects) the two qualifications are functionally similar. Both are academic research qualifications awarded based on the completion of a substantial original thesis.
Doctoral schools and doctoral programmes
a PhD (or DLA) student in Hungary, you’ll normally study within a dedicated doctoral programme run by a doctoral school. This is a specialised centre within your university that provides the relevant training, expertise and facilities you’ll need to succeed on a PhD.
Programmes may also involve contributions from experts based outside your university, including other academics, research professionals or business leaders.
The Hungarian PhD process
Unlike some other PhD systems (which focus purely on independent research) Hungarian doctoral programmes are divided into two phases:
- The first phase lasts for 1-2 years and includes a curriculum of taught units, laboratory sessions, seminars and other training worth 120 ECTS credits. This is designed to provide detailed academic subject knowledge as a foundation for your independent research.
- The second phase lasts for 2-3 years, during which you will be recognised as a full doctoral candidate, researching an original project. Most programmes also allow an optional additional year to write up your thesis.
Taken together, these two sections mean that the length of a full-time Hungarian PhD is usually 3-6 years. This is longer than the standard doctorate awarded in some other countries.
However, the additional time you’ll spend on a Hungarian doctoral programme can add significant value to your degree. The initial phase of taught study will provide you with additional expertise – and make the transition to independent research easier than it might otherwise be.
Most programmes also offer the opportunity to undertake practical training during the first phase of your programme. This can include professional academic experience (such as teaching and demonstrating) or external work placements and internships.
If you’d prefer a shorter PhD experience – and think you’re suitably prepared – you may be able to ‘skip’ straight to the second phase of a Hungarian PhD. To do so you’ll need to demonstrate that you’re sufficiently qualified to begin independent research, ideally with a suitable Masters and some existing experience in the techniques and methodologies you plan to use.
The Hungarian academic year runs from September to July and is divided into two teaching semesters interspersed with holidays and followed by examination periods. Universities specify their own timetable, but the following is a good general guide:
- Autumn semester – September-December
- Autumn examination period – December-February
- Spring semester – February-May
- Spring examination period – May-July
Remember that this academic calendar matters more to PhD students in Hungary than it might elsewhere; during the first part of your programme you’ll be completing taught units and undertaking exams according to the timetable set by your university.
You’ll normally be assigned a single supervisor from within your doctoral school (or a relevant faculty at your university). This will be someone with relevant expertise in your field and the necessary professional experience to guide you through the PhD process.
Hungarian universities don’t normally formalise this arrangement: it will be up to you and your supervisor to establish a good working relationship.
Hungarian PhDs involve more frequent assessment than some other doctorates, with different examinations at each stage of your doctorate.
During the first phase you’ll complete examinations at the end of each semester, designed to test the subject knowledge you’ve acquired. These may be oral exams (during which you’ll answer questions about course content) or traditional written assessments.
At the end of this phase (usually after two years) you will complete a comprehensive examination. This is an oral exam, designed to test your general subject knowledge, your awareness of methodological principles and your familiarity with current scholarship in your field. It won’t relate directly to the contents of your intended research project.
Your performance will normally be graded as unsatisfactory, satisfactory or exceptional (some universities use a more detailed scale). The minimum requirement for progression to the next phase of your programme will be a satisfactory / pass mark. Higher attainment may improve the honours your doctorate is eventually awarded with.
Once you enter the second phase of your programme you will have demonstrated that you have the necessary academic skills and expertise to work as a full PhD candidate, carrying out independent research.
To qualify for submission your thesis must be approved by your supervisor and other members of your university’s doctoral council. If they are satisfied it can be presented for examination.
This involves a public defence of your thesis, during which you will be questioned on the content and value of your research. The process is similar to the viva voce used in the UK and other countries, but takes place before an audience.
Once you have completed both phases if your programme you can be awarded with your PhD (or DLA)!
Hungarian PhD grades
As well as earning your doctorate (and the title ‘Dr’) you will also be presented with honours reflecting the quality of your thesis (and the grades you earned during the first phase of your programme).
The standard honours for a Hungarian doctorate are:
- Rite (‘pass’) – confirming that your degree has been conferred
- Cum laude (‘with honours’) – affirming that your work has exceeded the minimum standard for a doctorate
- Summa cum laude – (‘with highest honours’) – affirming that your work was of exceptional quality, originality and impact
These honours provide additional recognition for the demanding – but impressive – assessment process you’ll have gone through during a Hungarian PhD programme.