“…good working conditions and more secure employment positions must be offered.”
The Research Career Report will shortly be presented. The Government Commission aims to answer questions such as:
How is the regrowth of outstanding young researchers in Sweden?
How can working conditions improve for women and men who are doctoral candidates?
How can qualifying appointments as regulated in the Higher Education Ordinance be altered to create an attractive research career?
How should the use of successive fixed-term contracts over a longer period at universities be counteracted?
And how can the mobility of students, teachers and researchers at universities and university colleges be improved?
SULF’s point of departure is that permanent employment must be the norm. However, in the academic world, a fixed-period qualifying appointment to earn the right to apply for permanent employment is motivated. If career paths are to be clear, it is important that it is not possible to combine different forms of fixed-term employment for this purpose.
Many SULF members are awarded such general fixed-term or substitute positions in accordance with the Security of Employment Act before or after the specific qualifying positions available according to the Higher Education Ordinance or collective agreement. This sometimes produces long chains of fixed-term employment with the same employer.
In order to enable more clearly-defined career paths and stable employment, it is essential that basic government grants to the universities increase. If this is not possible through additional investments in funding for education and research, there must be a redistribution of funds from government research councils to the universities instead.
Such changes will increase opportunities for higher education institutions to act in the long term and to take greater responsibility for their staff. This is also a more efficient way to conduct research as scientists do not need to spend so much time applying for funds instead of actually doing their research.
It is also self-evident that doctoral candidates are properly employed throughout their doctoral studies, either as doctoral candidates or in some other employment category. Therefore, the Educational Grant Ordinance should be abolished as soon as is possible including an appropriate transition phase.
In order to ensure clearly-defined career paths, it is necessary not to limit this to all doctoral candidates being employed. Today we see that scholarships are used extensively as funding for this group. This creates even more uncertainty than the use of fixed-term contracts. Scholarships must be prohibited as payment for work!
Furthermore, mobility in the Swedish academic world must be improved as concerns educational institutions in other countries and as concerns other employers. The point of departure here must be that working in the academic world must be so attractive that well-qualified candidates actively apply to enter. So good working conditions and stable employment positions must be offered. This is particularly important in order to attract more women.
Mobility should not be based on individuals being forced to move away because security of employment has failed. For increased mobility it is also necessary that all vacant positions are advertised openly and not tailored to certain candidates.
A clearly-defined university teaching career from doctoral candidate admissions onwards, where competence is more important than the ability to cling onto a place in a project or in a department, is a win/win situation.
Håkan Lindkvist 1st Deputy Chair SULF
Leader in Universitetsläraren 2/2016