The Higher Education Ordinance states that third level students must primarily be employed as doctoral candidates. Appointment to a position always provides greater security for the individual than do other forms of financing.
Universities may, under the Higher Education Ordinance, establish special fixed-term positions for doctoral candidates to implement their research. For non-public Universities the same rules usually apply through collective agreement.
Positions and employment
In everyday speech, the term ”Doctoral candidate position” is often used. In the Higher Education Ordinance and other regulations/collective agreement the term ”position” has now been replaced by the term ”employment”.
Anyone who is employed as a doctoral candidate will primarily concentrate on their own research studies. However the university may decided that departmental duties are included in the position in the form of, for example, teaching, research or administration. Such work, however, before the doctorate has been awarded, may not comprise more than 20 percent of full time. If a doctoral candidate has departmental duties it is important that this is clearly stated in the individual study plan and that the candidate receives an extension for thesis work to the corresponding degree.
Only those who have been accepted, or are already admitted to, doctoral degrees at a university may be employed as doctoral candidates. Selection for employment as a doctoral candidate must be made taking into consideration the ability to assimilate research.
There is no appeal procedure concerning the appointment of doctoral candidates, unlike in other government employment processes.
Form of employment
Employment as a doctoral candidate is a temporary, fixed-term employment based on the stipulations in the Higher Education Ordinance. Temporary positions can be formulated either as to apply from a certain date to another date or as employment for an indefinite period, although to a certain date at the longest.
In the latter case it is possible for both employers and employees, under certain conditions, to terminate employment before the final date and this is the form that the university should use when employing doctoral candidates. The first appointment as a doctoral candidate may be for a maximum of one year and employment may then be renewed for a maximum of two years at a time. The university may not use the fixed-term employment system for longer than one year at post-doctoral level.
Duration of employment
Doctoral candidates may be employed for a maximum of five years. The total employment period must not be longer than the equivalent of four full-time years for doctorates and two full time years for licentiate degrees. Deduction will be made from this period for the time the doctoral candidate was undertaking doctoral studies but not as an employee.
There is, however, an opportunity to make an exception from the rule of total employment period and allow a longer period of employment. Special circumstances must apply which include sick leave, parental leave, military service or elected positions in trade unions/student organisations.
Leave for other reasons does not guarantee an extension of doctoral candidate employment. In addition, other special circumstances may provide eligibility for an extension of doctoral candidate employment. Special circumstances vary but, for example, problems with supervisors that negatively affected thesis work could be regarded as special circumstances.
Termination of employment
It is possible to be dismissed or to resign from doctoral candidate employment. The university may, in rare cases, terminate employment as a doctoral candidate before the four years of full-time study has been completed. This is extremely rare but it does occur due to lack of funding or serious misconduct. Most universities, however, take their responsibilities for doctoral candidates seriously and ensure that candidates are able to continue to the end of their four years of full-time study.
Period of notice
As public sector employees, doctoral candidates are covered by the same rules as other such employees concerning period of notice if the contract would be terminated before it runs out. Consequently, the shortest notice period is one month, (both for the employer and the employee). The notice period is regulated in the Villkorsavtal-T (General Salary and Benefits) collective agreement and is based on the length of the employment period. Candidates may be eligible for assistance from the Job Security Foundation on termination of employment or if a new appointment is not prolonged.
Your collective agreements
As public sector employees, doctoral candidates are covered by Villkorsavtal-T, PA 03 and other collective agreements. Villkorsavtal-T includes the right to additional holiday days, daily allowances/per diems, reimbursement for medical care costs, additional parental benefit and more. PA03 secures the right to a pension.
Salaries and salary levels
Within the public sector, salaries are set individually. In order to ensure that doctoral candidate salaries are not set too low SULF has concluded local collective agreements through Saco-S for doctoral candidate salaries at most universities. These collective agreements are often referred to as doctoral candidate ladders and are intended to safeguard against excessively low salaries but not provide barriers to higher levels of pay. Salaries vary between institutions, but also across disciplines. In general, it can be said that monthly salaries range between SEK 22 000 and 30 000 per month or more. Current doctoral candidate ladders can be found on the SULF website.
Industrial doctoral candidates
In some disciplines, industrial doctoral candidates are common. This means that, within the framework of a job at a private company or organisation, individuals are given the opportunity to undertake doctoral studies at a university.
Industrial doctoral candidates are subject to the conditions of employment stipulated by their employers in all aspects related to their work, however the Higher Education Ordinance applies to all components related to doctoral studies.
If it is necessary to take time off for illness or care of sick children, the regulations are the same as for other public sector employees. However the time spent at home will generate an extension of the doctoral candidate employment period irrespective of whether this concerns a few days here and there, or a longer consecutive period. The same applies in case of illness as long as there is a medical certificate as proof. Consequently it is of great importance that all doctoral candidates report every occurrence of sick leave or care of sick children days.
Sometimes these rules are applied incorrectly by universities when calculating prolongation so it is best to immediately contact the relevant local Saco-S association or SULF’s Membership Helpline if problems in obtaining the proper extension of your employment are experienced.
Part time employment as a doctoral candidate
Employment as a doctoral candidate is full time unless the doctoral candidates themselves request to be employed part-time.
A doctoral candidate position must, however, be at least half-time. In addition to a doctoral candidate part time position, it is of course possible to request time off, but make sure that the employment period is extended in a corresponding manner.
Other work and doctoral candidate employment
As a doctoral candidate it is possible to work in non-competing fields in addition to employment as a doctoral candidate. Candidates are required to notify their employers about the situation and supervisors must be informed about the focus and scope of the additional activities. Please be careful not to delay your doctoral studies due to these other activities.
Before teaching more hours than stated for normal working hours, consider opportunities to earn by taking other work or overtime pay. Please note that only overtime specifically ordered by the employer generates overtime pay.
Previously, there was a limit stated in the central working hours agreement which meant that universities were not permitted to direct doctoral candidates to undertake overtime. This regulation has been removed from the central working hours agreement but may have been introduced into your local working hours agreement. For more information regarding what applies at your university, please contact the local Saco-S association.
Financing for conferences
Usually candidates’ supervisors help to raise funds for travel and participation in conferences. Supervisors may have different research grants or access to scholarship funds etc. The relevant university may also contribute to such financing.
Conference travel is to be regarded as business travel, consequently candidates are entitled to daily allowances (per diems) provided they are employed. Candidates with study grants that include a job element may also be entitled to claim daily allowances when travelling.
Doctoral candidates at non-public sector universities (Stockholm School of Economics, Sofiahemmet University College, the Red Cross University College or Ersta Sköndal University College) are not covered by these collective agreements. Consequently working conditions may differ at these universities/colleges. Please contact each university for more information.