Frequently Asked Questions

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Frequently Asked Questions
1. What does the PhD in Law programme consist of?

The programme is a study cycle that leads to the Doctor of Law degree. It corresponds to a total of 240 ECTS divided between the subjects or taught units that are part of the PhD (98 ECTS) and the PhD dissertation/thesis (142 ECTS).

The programme involves two phases:

The first phase, which is three months long, focusses on advanced training in legal sciences, legal research methodology and contextual sciences of law. During the first two taught semesters, the PhD student should complete a set of subjects, passing all of them with an average of 16 (minimum of 68 ECTS). In the third and final semester of the first phase, students should find a supervisor; approval for their PhD specialisation and individual research programme; give a talk at a SPEED (permanent seminar on the state and study of law) (10 ECTS) and present and publicly discuss their dissertation project (20 ECTS).

The second phase, which lasts for five semesters, focusses on research and writing a dissertation (142 ECTS).

For more information, consult the Regulation of the 3rd cycle of Studies Leading to PhD in Law degree.

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2. How can I apply for this programme?

Those interested in applying should wait for a public notice like this to be posted on the Faculty website page. Deadlines and other rules applicable to all phases will be contained in the said public notice, although it is important to carefully read the Regulation of the 3rd cycle of Studies Leading to PhD in Law.

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3. I can only travel to Portugal in the middle of the academic year. Can I start the programme in the spring semester?

Yes. If selected, you should apply in time to enrol within the respective time frame, making it clear upon enrolment that your intention is to start the programme only in the second semester of the first academic year, i.e. in February of the calendar year after the year of application.

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4. I have been selected. How do I enrol onto the programme?

Please read the instructions here.

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5. Is attending the seminars of the taught part of the programme compulsory?

Yes. PhD students should attend at least 75% of the seminars of each subject they are enrolled on and the SPEEDs (permanent seminars on the state and study of law) that take place during attendance of the first phase of the programme.

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6. I completed a subject very similar to one in the taught part of the programme on a previous study cycle. Can I request accreditation for it?

Students who have successfully completed the legal research methodology subject in the 2nd study cycle at this faculty receive automatic accreditation. In any other case, PhD students may request accreditation according to the Accreditation Regulation.
Considering the frequent doubts regarding the calculation of average grades in the taught part of the 3rd cycle, we recommend potential/actual students read the answer to question 9.

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7. What language are the seminars of the taught part of the programme given in?

Subjects are offered in Portuguese or in English, according to the make-up of the teaching staff and linguistic ability. If the teacher and PhD students speak Portuguese, that will be the language used. If the teacher and/or some of the PhD students do not speak Portuguese, the seminars will be given entirely in English. Whatever the case, students are expected to master the English language. If the teacher is a Portuguese speaker, any written work undertaken as part of their subject, with the exception of oral presentations, can be presented in Portuguese, although the language used in the seminars is English.

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8. What are the dates for the submission of written work undertaken during the taught part of the programme?

Consult the dates here.

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9. How is the grade average for the taught part of the programme calculated?

Confronted with frequent doubts regarding the calculation of average grades in the taught part of the 3rd cycle, in December, 2014, the Scientific Council gave clarification on this point. The average only includes the subjects completed at the FDUNL, not at other higher education institutions.
When accredited, these subjects maintain the grades obtained at the Portuguese higher education establishments where they were studied, or a grade will be given resulting from the Portuguese grade classification scale, when the foreign higher education institution uses a different scale to this one. However, they do not count towards this average.
At the same meeting, the Scientific Council also decided that, in the future, the grade obtained in the subject of legal research methodology (LRM) will no longer count towards the average, regardless of whether it has been accredited or completed at the FDUNL. The position of PhD students that have already attended or are currently attending (2014/2015 academic year) the LRM subject is safeguarded, as its classification will only be taken into account if beneficial to the individual student.

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10. I have completed two taught semesters with insufficient grades to pass to the second phase of the programme. Can I improve my grades?

PhD students can repeat subjects in the academic year following their intial enrolment or the subsequent appeal/improvement period, in the case of legal research methodology.

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11. I have completed two taught semesters with grades of a standard to pass to the second phase of the programme. What will I do during the third semester of the first phase and in what order?

At the beginning of the third semester (i.e., ideally, as soon as the PhD student has successfully completed all the subjects of the taught part with grades that allow them to pass to the second phase), students should submit an application to the Academic Division, addressed to the President of the Scientific Council, copied to the Coordinator of the 3rd cycle, proposing the theme of their dissertation and choice of supervisor, indicating in which specialist area they intend to present a public examination and individual research programme timeframe, including the list of universities or institutes where it will be undertaken. According to the relevant regulations, PhD students should be accompanied by a supervisor from the third semester onwards.
The submission of this application should be preceded by contact with the supervisor, who the student has asked to oversee their research and who approves the choice of theme and individual research programme. Each PhD student is responsible for choosing their supervisor, although supervisors are free to accept or not. The student’s choice must be approved by the Scientific Council. The supervisor can be chosen from professors at the Faculty  or anyone else that the PhD student believes to be particularly suited to the task, provided they have a PhD.
This application should be made before the development and submission of the dissertation project, considering that this project should be overseen by the supervisor designated by the Scientific Council. In other words, only at  a second stage, after the project is written with the support of the supervisor and revised by them should it be submitted, without further formalities, to the Academic Division.
Finally, during this semester, PhD students must give a talk at the SPEED (permanent seminar on the state and study of law). This is also unconnected with the abovementioned application, although it would also be advisable that this takes place after a supervisor has been designated. This talk does not require an application, simply an enrolment at the SPEED (and the scheduling of the talk, which may take some time, considering the high level of demand).

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12. I have completed two taught semesters; however, in the third semester, I didn’t do everything I should have to pass to the second phase. Will I be able to do it in the 4th semester? How much will I have to pay in tuition fees?

In terms of the regulations, supervision of PhD students by a supervisor is compulsory from the third semester onwards. Those PhD students who have yet to submit an application proposing the dissertation theme and the supervisor, indicating the specialised subject they want to present in public examinations and the individual research programme time frame, including the selection of universities or institutes where it will be undertaken.
Similarly, those PhD students who have not signed up to give a talk at the SPEED and have yet to present their dissertation project by the end of the third semester can do so in the fourth semester.
Sometimes, the talk at the SPEED is subject to delay and it is only possible to give it in the fourth semester. The same occurs with the scheduling of the public discussion of the dissertation project.

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13. I have chosen my supervisor and the theme of my dissertation but I have not completed my individual research schedule. Can I submit my application without it, leaving it for the dissertation project?

No. The indication of the individual research schedule in this application is quite straightforward, simply a timeline. From a methodological perspective, it is essential that the PhD student outlines a plan that includes the conclusion of this programme. It plays an important role, not because of its binding nature (which is tenuous), but rather because it makes the student put their available time into perspective, allowing them to later realise when their work rate slows or accelerates. At this early stage of their research, the aim is to know when students intend to complete their dissertation, v.g. if they intend to undertake full-time or part-time study, while working, how they plan to divide the main research tasks, time-wise, and which foreign research centre or centres they intend to visit, and for how long. The information does not restrict them, in the sense that PhD students are not prevented from visiting other centres, not initially foreseen, nor will they be obliged to visit all those they indicated.

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14. Registering the dissertation theme: when, how and where?

Registering the theme of the dissertation is a legal requirement. At the Faculdade de Direito, it is the responsibility of the Academic Division to send the respective information to the Registo Nacional de Teses de Doutoramento  em Curso (National Ongoing PhD Theses Register), which was established by Decree-Law No. 52/2002, 2nd March, and maintained by the Direção-Geral de Estatísticas da Educação e Ciência (Directorate-Genral of Education and Science Statistcs). The Academic Division collects the information necessary for this task from the application that the PhD student submits, addressed to the President of the Scientific Council, c/c to the Coordinator of the 3rd cycle, proposing the theme of the dissertation and the choice of supervisor, indicating the specialisation chosen for public examinations and the individual research programme. The PhD student is not required to do anything else.
N.B. The inclusion of themes on the Registo Nacional de Teses de Doutoramento em Curso (National Ongoing PhD Theses Register) database by the Direção-Geral de Estatísticas da Educação e Ciência (Directorate-General of Education and Science Statistics) is not automatic and it is common for there to be a delay between the Academic Division sending the information and it appearing on the Registo Nacional de Teses de Doutoramento em Curso.

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15. Can, or should, the talk at the SPEED (permanent seminar on the state and study of law) focus on a part of my PhD thesis?

If so desired, the theme of this talk can be directly related to the theme of your dissertation. PhD students who wish to do so are encouraged to present part of their research they want some feedback on from the public in general and from the commentator in particular. However, the theme of the talk should not be identical to that of the dissertation, at the risk of being redundant.

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16. What guidelines should I follow when writing my thesis outline?

The most important part of a thesis outline is the identification of the PROBLEM to be analysed, how this will be discussed and how the student will attempt to resolve the issue. During this phase, it is also essential to clearly present the methodological issues underlying the research that you have already begun and which will be successfully completed within the stipulated time frame. The main goal of this stage is to allow the designated person to assess the viability of the project, identifying any problems of the theme chosen or issues regarding the practical achievement of objectives set out at an early stage, thus, permitting timely correction of such problems, while overcoming difficulties and making necessary adjustments, focussing on the ultimate goal of producing a dissertation that meets the standards required for the PhD in law within the stipulated time frame.
In addition to essential elements, like any written document, a thesis outline should contain the name of the author and the date it is submitted. In relation to the problem, it should indicate the reason for such a choice, justifying its originality, outline the «state of the art», with the main bibliographical references and other sources to be used, as well as a kind of «initial research». It should include an outline index, i.e. the thesis plan; and the hypothetical conclusions that may be drawn and that are expected to arise in an obviously interrogative fashion.
As the PhD students have already had the opportunity to present their individual research strategy in the application previously submitted to the Scientific Council, they should demonstrate the development of that strategy, making the necessary adjustments; and they should make reference to their current situation or the necessary conditions to proceed with the project: are they in a position to work on the project full-time? If not, how do they intend to complete the project? Leaves of absence? The need to find funding? How are they going to solve such problems?
This should cover between 20-25 pages, font size 12, lines separated by a line and a half, excluding bibliography or any other attachments.
Do not forget the non-plagiarism statement including in the Regulation. Important reference documents:
-    How to prepare a dissertation. A five-point guide;
-    Style guide for theses and dissertations and other work submitted to the FDUNL.
Finally, students must take into account their supervisor’s advice when preparing their thesis outline. As explained above, PhD students should already have a supervisor.

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17. What guidelines should I follow when writing my dissertation?

In addition to the supervisor’s contribution, PhD students should take the content of the following documents into account:
- How to prepare a dissertation. A five-point guide;
- Style guide for theses and dissertations and other work submitted to the FDUNL.
PhD students should also take the information made available in the legal research methodology subject into account.

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18. Can I write my dissertation in English?

Yes. The dissertation, as well as any other aspects of assessment, can be written in Portuguese or English. Writing the dissertation in any other language, requires the previous authorisation of the Scientific Council.

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19. What is a «non-plagiarism statement»? Should I submit it separately or include it in the dissertation?

For all assessed written work, including the dissertation, students should declare that the text submitted is their work alone and any other material or text is duly referenced. This statement is called a “non-plagiarism statement”. This should be part of the dissertation and not submitted separately.

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20. What is the limit of characters for the dissertation?

According to no. 3, art. 16 of 3rd study cycle Regulations, PhD dissertations should not exceed a maximum of 800,000 characters. This limit, which includes spaces and notes, is not a recommendation but rather a requirement for the admissibility of PhD dissertations submitted to our Faculty.
The limit was already included in previous versions of this Regulation, first introduced in the revision approved on 8th July, 2009, and published in Diário de República on 7th April, 2010 (no. 2, art. 13).
From 1st January, 2015, in line with the Scientific Council’s decision of 18th June, 2014, the Faculty will only accept dissertations that respect the 800,000- character limit, regardless of when the student started the programme.

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21. Is it possible to attend part of the programme on a part-time basis?

Yes. Both phases of the programme can be attended on a full-time or part-time basis, with students permitted to change the way they attend the respective courses. Consult the Part-time Student Study Regulation.
If the student works, experience indicates that, although such work does not prevent successful completion of the taught part of the programme, they will find it difficult to complete it within the usual time frame, which means that, probably, the best option is to enrol as a part-time student, at least for the non- taught part of the programme.
In terms of the respective regulations, whenever the supervisor believes that the student’s activity indicates a strong probability that they will be unable to conclude the PhD within the allotted time or will be very late in their submission, the supervisor should propose to the Scientific Council: (i) that the student studies on a part-time basis; or (ii) that they be excluded from the programme.

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22. Is it possible to extend the period I have to complete the second phase of the programme (completion of dissertation)?

PhD students can request an extension at the end of the time period given to submit the respective dissertation, making a request to the Academic Division, addressed to the President of the Scientific Council, c/c to the coordinator of the 3rd cycle, justifying the request with an indication of the situation of the respective research and individual schedule up to the point of conclusion. The request must be accompanied by a declaration by the student’s supervisor.
In terms of the respective regulations, whenever the supervisor believes the student’s activity indicates a strong probability that they will be unable to conclude the PhD within the allotted time or will be very late in their submission, the supervisor should propose to the Scientific Council: (i) that the student studies on a part-time basis; or (ii) that they be excluded from the programme.

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23. If I successfully complete the programme, will I have the right to use the title European Doctorate?

Yes, provided the person interested fulfils all the requirements of the legislation in force and remaining regulations, as well as the conditions stipulated in the respective Regulation.

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24. What is the NOVA Escola Doutoral? How can I get information about the courses it offers? Where can I enrol on one of these courses?

Part of Universidade NOVA de Lisboa’s Strategic Plan for 2012-2016, the main aim of the NOVA Escola Doutoral is to promote quality, interdisciplinarity and the internationalisation of all the university’s PhD programmes. The NOVA Escola Doutoral provides, amongst other things, complementary training to PhD students and supervisors, consolidating personal and professional development, and the organisation of scientific and academic activities that avoid the compartmentalisation of scientific areas and promote interdisciplinarity, creating an open forum for debate and creativity.
Attending the courses offered by the NOVA Escola Doutoral is voluntary and free. Additional credit will be given on a diploma supplement for Faculty PhD students who successfully complete one or more subjects offered by the NOVA Escola Doutoral.

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25. Where can I find the Universidade Nova de Lisboa Code of Good Practice?

The Faculty adheres to the guidelines found in the document entitled Good Practice in PhD Education at Universidade Nova de Lisboa, approved by the Escola Doutoral da Universidade Nova de Lisboa. You can find it here.

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26. How much are the tuition fees?

The tuition fee table is published annually on the Faculty webpage, on the 3rd cycle in law site.
If the student completes the course in the normal period (8 semesters), the total cost of the course, at present, will be €9,600
If they take longer in some of the phases, the current costs are:
- €1800 per taught semester;
- €1000 per non-taught semester.

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27. I missed the debit card reference deadline to pay the tuition fees. How can I make the payment?

You can pay using the same reference, even if the deadline has expired. The Faculty reserves the right to charge interest on the outstanding amount at a later date.

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28. My 1st and/or 2nd cycle background is not in law. Can I apply for the programme?

Yes. The programme is open to graduates from any knowledge field. The selection criteria do not include any preference for previous training in law or similar sciences. In relation to our current PhD students, as well as our PhD holders, we have (good) examples of researchers with reasonably diverse backgrounds.  However,  candidates  with  no  foundation  in  law  should  be prepared for the inherent difficulties of attending a 3rd cycle higher education law course.

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29. Is there any way of getting funding to study on the programme?

The 3rd cycle in Law at NOVA Direito (FDUNL) was distinguished with the PhD Programme status from the Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia – FCT (Science and Technology Foundation). We have eight introductory research grants for the best candidates, and PhD grants for the five candidates that achieve the best results in the first phase of the PhD. This funding applies to the next four 3rd  cycle courses (PhD students who started their studies at our Faculty between 2014 and 2017).
The process for the attribution of grants will begin immediately after the selection of candidates for each course. During this academic year (2014/2015), the Faculty is currently awaiting the conclusion of the administrative process to receive the respective funding from FCT.

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30. I have a study grant but have not yet received proof of my status. What should I do?

You should inform the Academic Division and, as soon as you receive the statement, send it to Academic Division. If your grant is withdrawn or the application for it rejected, you have ten working days to communicate the fact and pay any outstanding debt to the Faculty.

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31. I am worried about not being able to pay the tuition fees. What can I do?

If a PhD student is unable to pay their own tuition fees, they should submit an application to the Academic Division, addressed to the Faculty Board, requesting a change to the payment schedule, proposing a payment plan that is compatible with their financial situation.

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32. Can I study more subjects than I am required to? For example, two optional annual subjects instead of one?

Yes, if your timetable allows. You should enrol normally on the regular subjects, and you may enrol on any other subject, from any study cycle, as an isolated subject. That enrolment involves the payment of additional tuition fees. The grade achieved will not count towards your PhD, except if you  request  a change of annual subject. However, students must take care not to take on too much in terms of work and time needed: the annual subject should correspond to the main focus of interest and probable area for the theme of a student’s dissertation.

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33. Can I ask another person to deal with a matter for the Academic Division?

Yes. Any person with the power of attorney can represent you in dealings with the Academic Division, providing that they are expressly authorised to do so, supported by a duly dated and signed document. Attach a copy of your identity card, citizen’s card or other personal ID card to the individual request.

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34. Is it possible to suspend enrolment?

The suspension of enrolment is not provided for in the legislation regarding higher education nor in the regulations of the FDUNL. You should request the cancellation of enrolment. At a later date, if so desired, you can request reintegration in January or August of each year, and ask for accreditation for subject already studied. Reintegration is not automatically accepted and depends on the board’s decision. In order for such a request to be accepted, you should have the payment of all fees up to the date the request for re- admittance is submitted.

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35. If I withdraw after enrolling for the 1st or 2nd semester, do I have to pay for the whole year’s tuition fees?

If you withdraw during the first semester, you may request exemption from payment of the second semester’s fees. Fees are annual, with the total being due on the first day of the day of the academic year. The FDUNL allows for payment in phases; however, withdrawing from the programme does not imply non-payment – except in the case of withdrawal within the first 15 days, according to the right of “regret”.

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36. I would like to have a declaration of the payment made to the FDUNL, for my tax declaration or any other purpose. Where should I request it?

Every year, declarations for income tax purposes are made available during February on the personal page of the individual student on SIGA. These relate to the previous calendar year.
The tuition fees receipt is automatically issued and can be collected at the FDUNL Financial Services office.
If you wish the receipt to be issued to another person/entity, before paying with the debit card reference found in the student area, you should ask the Academic Division to issue an invoice in name of that entity, indicating the respective name, address and individual or collective tax number.
Any other declarations can be requested from the Academic Division.

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37. I have a question which is not answered in these FAQ. Who should I ask?

You can contact the Coordinator of the 3rd cycle in Law, Professor Teresa Pizarro Beleza (tpb@fd.unl.pt), or the assistant coordinator, Professor Margarida Lima Rego (margarida.rego@fd.unl.pt). If you are not sure whether the question is for coordinators or the Academic Division, send it to doutoramento@fd.unl.pt, copied to Dr.ª Maria Manuela Guerreiro (mmg@fd.unl.pt).

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