Guidelines for the Doctoral Programme in Architecture (Doctor of Philosophy)

These guidelines are in accordance with the Universities Act 2002, the “Study Law Regulations” section of the Universities Statutes and have been devised as a supplement to the curriculum for the PhD Programme in Architecture in order to define further measures for quality assurance and performance assessment. The guidelines are aimed at students as well as supervisors.

The “Doctor of Philosophy” Programme in Architecture is designed for a standard duration of three years and includes compulsory and elective modules covering 30 ECTS-Credits, the writing of a Dissertation covering 150 ECTS-Credits and the Dissertation Defence (Rigorosum).

The Dissertation is an independently carried out scientific work. Regular meetings between supervisors and PhD-students are expected to encourage the PhD students to deal with the respective topic continuously and intensively. At the same time, as specified under point 3, participation in internal and external reviews and presentations is expected periodically.

1. Formalities

The following steps are at the beginning of the “Doctor of Philosophy” Programme in Architecture:

  1. Formulating a Dissertation topic and naming a supervisor or a supervisory team. The topic is to be chosen from the research area of the supervisor
  2. Registration for the PhD study programme at LFU:online   
  3. Registration of the topic and the supervisor by submitting a synopsis and the registration forms to the exams office. The forms can be found at the study programme’s profile page  . Both documents must be approved by the supervisor and the Dean of Studies. The synopsis contains a written description of the proposed Dissertation topic, the identification of a need for research, the formulation of a clear research question including suitable methodology, as well as goals, literature references and a work plan and schedule.
  4. Registration of a Dissertation Agreement at LFU:online  . This is only possible after successful registration – the agreements are released for the student/supervisor by the University/Faculty Service Center. The Dissertation Agreement is an agreement between the student and the supervisor of the Dissertation. As part of this agreement, the subject, scope, type and format of the Dissertation (see point 3), planned compulsory and elective modules as well as regulations to ensure the disciplinary quality standards, work processes, the course of studies and a corresponding time frame are to be agreed. The agreement serves as a guideline for working on the Dissertation, but can change or develop further in the course of the work.
  5. Optional: Application for funding

2. Curriculum

Full Text (de): 

PhD Doktoratsstudium Architektur (2021w)     

The Faculty of Architecture maintains an open and future-oriented research culture and, with its “Doctor of Philosophy” Programme in Architecture, promotes various, innovative research fields and methods within the discipline of architecture. In addition to the established scientific formats, this also includes approaches that aim at developing creative and artistic processes or architectural practice, such as design-oriented research (Research by Design), practice-based research or arts-based research. The future-oriented research also includes gender-sensitive teaching and didactics, a socio-cultural awareness, as well as topics of integration and universal design.

Within the scope of the Dissertation Agreement, the type of PhD and the format of the Dissertation must be specified in consultation with the supervisor. Below, you can find the minimum standards for the different types and formats as well as for the recognition of elective modules.

3. Types of the PhD – Research about, through, for architecture:

Different approaches are possible, either individually or in combination:

A. PhD by Theory/Thesis

Within the scope of the “PhD by Theory/Thesis”, the traditional form of a Dissertation, an independent, in-depth, theoretical-scientific or philosophical, historic, experimental work based on field studies is written. It generates new knowledge by proposing new theses within a disciplinary or interdisciplinary field of knowledge. The working hypothesis must be scientifically verified and methodically reflected upon. The presentation of a context of existing knowledge on the basis of detailed literature on the current state of research and the development of specific questions and aims is part of the work and forms its solid, theoretical foundation. The Dissertation is written as a thesis and can be in the form of a monograph or a cumulative dissertation (see Dissertation formats).

B. PhD by Design

PhD students operate at the interface between design knowledge, academic/university work and at disciplinary interfaces.
The Dissertation consists of a reflective text part and a part illustrating the design or creative-hypothetical work in the form of drafts, speculative projects, film works, drawings, models, installations, etc. The gain in knowledge of this approach lies in the provision of previously unknown, interdisciplinary knowledge about new, possible methods and the reflection of new design methods that refer to specifically current issues.

C. PhD by Practice

Professional Practice

PhD students operate mainly in professional practice and can produce a peer-reviewed and award-winning independent oeuvre. In the Dissertation, PhD students reflect on the nature of their work within a critical context (framework writing), define the work’s structure and methodology, their underlying field of knowledge, the relations to possible, new forms of research-led practice and speculate about the possibilities of their future practice.
The Dissertation consists of a reflective text part and a part illustrating the practical or creative-hypothetical work in the form of drafts, buildings, film works, drawings, models, installations, etc. The gain in knowledge in this approach lies in the intelligence of the creation of a spiritual space as a basis for practical work.

Generative Practice

PhD students operate at the interface between practical and academic/university work and at disciplinary interfaces. Within this approach, new fields of practice are opened up in response to current questions or challenges of a changing world. Younger PhD students or those coming from their first or middle years of their own practice generate new, in-depth agendas for an established practice or open up new fields of practice.
The Dissertation consists of a reflective text part (frame writing) and a part illustrating the practical or creative-hypothetical work in the form of drafts, buildings, film works, drawings, models, installations, etc. The gain in knowledge in this approach lies in the provision of previously not yet known knowledge of this kind about new, possible fields of practice that refer to specific current issues.

D. Applied Practice / Design

In this approach, new techniques, technologies and skills are developed through e.g. research projects or specific research questions that benefit one’s own or the creative practice of others.
In a reflective text part, the Dissertation contextualises the specific question within the state-of-the-art of existing techniques, technologies or skills and describes the underlying methods and techniques, possible applications and the knowledge gained from the resulting work.
Evidence of the independence and authorship of one's own, practical or creative-hypothetical work must be provided, for example, in the form of web pages / links / websites, exhibitions and published projects, as well as evidence of a substantial portfolio that includes the work in text, images, models , plan representations, video or sound recordings.

4. Dissertation Formats

The work can take place in project teams and requires already existing, specific fundamental knowledge as a basis, which is advanced and further developed through the Dissertation and made available within the discipline (s) and practice. Each PhD candidate has to write an independent Dissertation.

A. Monograph

The Monograph is a written piece of work written entirely by the PhD candidate. The student has to prove the coherence of the topic within the framework of the introduction and the conclusion and explain the methods used on the basis of which the results were generated. These chapters, which correspond to the framework text of the other formats, are intended to explain the status and relevance of the work in the subject-specific discourse and provide an outlook on the further scientific and methodological development of the topic being dealt with.

B. Cumulative Dissertation

The Cumulative Dissertation consists of at least three articles that are related in terms of content or method, whereby the student must be named as the main author in at least two publications. If contributions are written by more than one author, the personal contribution must be clearly stated. In addition, the student has to write a detailed framework document (summary), which shows the coherence of the topic, the methods used and the results he/she has worked out. The framework paper should explain the status and relevance of the work in the subject-specific discourse and contain an outlook on the further scientific and methodological development of the topic dealt with.

In the case of a Dissertation that follows design or practice-oriented or creative-hypothetical working methods (see “3. Types of the PhD), the Dissertation consists in addition to a written, reflective text part, of works of own authorship (drafts, buildings, other completed works, drawings, models, exhibitions, installations etc.) or a reflection of work processes within the framework paper (summary). Here, too, a distinction is made between the basic formats of the Monograph and the Cumulative Dissertation, depending on the structure and c  ontent.

5. Good Scientific Practiceüre_Web_2019.pdf   

Scientific research is work committed to the standards of good scientific practice with the aim of gaining knowledge. All persons who work in research are committed to scientific integrity. Scientific integrity includes, in particular, transparent and honest communication with other scientists as well as between scientists and clients of research projects, a high level of reliability when carrying out joint research projects, impartial judgment and internal independence, the willingness to face professional criticism and to respond to it with arguments, as well as dealing responsibly and fairly with young scientists. Scientific integrity also includes honest, understandable and transparent communication with the general public that does justice to the complexity of scientific research.

The standards of good scientific practice include:

  • The exact logging and documentation of the scientific procedure and the results.
  • The transparent and comprehensible handling of ideas, texts, data and other sources that come from others, in particular by observing meaningful citation rules that avoid misunderstandings.
  • Refraining to republish a publication or part of the text authored by the student without reference to the earlier publication.
  • The observing of strict honesty with regard to the research contributions of others, in particular in the case of funding applications or the publication of research results, the naming of persons who have made their own scientific or other significant contribution as co-authors and, as far as possible, the identification of their contribution.
  • Compliance with the joint responsibility of co-authors for publications.
  • The disclosure of possible conflicts of interest, e.g. during selection procedures or when reviewing research projects and publications.
  • Transparency with regard to the financing of research projects, in particular by naming persons and/or institutions who have supported the projects with monetary or material donations, or by referring to economic interests associated with the research project.

6. Recognition of Elective Modules

The following criteria apply for the quality assurance and evaluation for recognition of elective modules (10 ECTS-Credits)

Research Reflection

Participation in conferences with own contribution

  • Minimum of 2-3 conferences at internationally renowned and subject-specific institutions with connection to arts and science
  • Proof of the participation by conference proceedings and paper
  • Positive evaluation by the supervisor and the Dean of Studies 


  • Min. 2-3 thematically defined, public lectures at renowned, public subject-relevant institutions with a connection to art and science
  • Submission of a manuscript or video (recording)
  • Positive evaluation by the supervisor and the Dean of Studies

Exhibition or Installation

  • Solo exhibition or curatorship at internationally recognised institutions related to art and science or in public space
  • Evidence of the exhibition/installation through internet presentation/exhibition catalogue or equivalent publication
  • In the case of exhibition contributions, proof of at least 3 cumulative, thematically related contributions to group exhibitions the independent contribution must be documented and traceable.
  • Positive evaluation by the supervisor and the Dean of Studies

  • Workload of at least 250 hours in a well-known office/archive/museum, research in a well-known institution related to art and science
  • Once own contribution must be presented and confirmed by the respective institution
  • In the case of one’s own practice, evidence must be presented in the form of an internet presence, a website or equivalent (project) publications.
  • Positive evaluation by the supervisor and the Dean of Studies

7. Milestones of the Procedure

  • Year 1: One year after having been admitted to the PhD study programme, the work can be reviewed in a colloquium. An updated synopsis will be presented for this purpose. The student presents the topic and the current status of the work to a jury consisting of the supervisor, another faculty member and / or an external jury member from the specific research community.

  • Year 2/3: During the second and third year of study, the students present their work - depending on the type and format of the dissertation - in various external forums (conferences, symposia, etc.) and send a report to their respective supervisors.

  • Conclusion: Submission/Doctoral Exam (Rigorosum)

8. PhD Candidate Colloquium

The "Independent Architecture Research Colloquia" – IARC    – is an informal, self-organised, accompanying network that all PhD students can join. The colloquium enables the exchange between the students and is actively involved in shaping the content of the curricular Elective Module 2: "Discourses and Methods". The organisation and implementation of other, more advanced events are the responsibility of those involved in the colloquium.

9. Submission of the Dissertation and Expert Opinion

The time of submission is at the discretion of the student in consultation with the supervisor. After submitting the Dissertation, it is presented to two independent, national and / or international reviewers or a team of reviewers for assessment. Only one of the supervisors may be used as assessor.

Submission of the electronic version

The pdf file of the Dissertation has to be sent to If it exceeds the max. size, it can be transmitted via a file hosting service like  or

Required documents for submitting the dissertation

The reviewers can be proposed by the supervisor and the students, but must be signed off by the Dean of Studies.

Legal basis

According to § 86 par. 1 and 2 of the Universities Act 2002, one copy of the Dissertation must be sent to the University Library and to the Austrian National Library respectively. The Dissertation is to be assessed as soon as possible, but at the latest within three months of submission. The two assessments / reports must be received by the examination office at least one month before the Rigorosum. The reviewers assess the Dissertation with a grade. If the grades differ by more than 2 degrees, a third assessor must be appointed. Otherwise, the Exam Office determines the grade from the received reviewers’ assessments.

10. Doctoral Exam (Rigorosum)

The “Rigorosum” (dissertation defence) is a publicly accessible, overall exam before a committee in the form of a presentation/possibly an exhibition in front of the faculty. The “Rigorosum” must be registered at least four weeks before the exam date using the registration form in the Exam Office.

The presentation includes a lecture by the candidate as well as a discussion and questioning about the content and results of the dissertation and the related environment of the discipline.

Preconditions for being admitted to the Doctoral Exam are the positive completion of all compulsory and elective modules and the positive evaluation of the Dissertation.

The Examination Board for the Doctoral Exam consists of at least three members. The supervisor or the team of supervisors is part of the Examination Board. At least one member of the Examination Board for the Doctoral Exam must not have already acted as a supervisor of assessor of the Dissertation.

The grade of the Doctoral Exam is determined by the Examination Board and is to be communicated to the PhD candidate immediately. The chairperson must return the examination protocol, signed by all members of the examination board, to the Exams Office at the University of Innsbruck’s location for engineering studies.


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