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Doctoral candidate/doctoral studies

How to become a doctoral candidate

There are two parts to being a doctoral candidate. As a doctoral candidate, you are enrolled on a doctorate level programme, but you are also employed as a doctoral candidate or receive a scholarship to complete your studies. Doctoral candidate employment and admission to doctoral programmes are regulated by the Higher Education Ordinance (in Swedish).

The SULF Doctoral Candidate Association has compiled a Starter Kit for Doctoral Candidates which you can download here. This is primarily aimed at international doctoral candidates and is in English.

General and specific entry requirements

In order to be admitted to a doctoral programme you are required to fulfil both general entry requirements and the specific entry requirements each higher education institution prescribes.

The general entry requirement is a completed degree at second cycle level or completed course requirements of at least 240 higher education credits, of which at least 60 higher education credits are at second cycle level, or equivalent foreign education or equivalent qualifications.

Specific entry requirements are determined for each subject by the faculty board. They state, for example, how many higher education credits the applicant must have in the subject in question. The requirements must be absolutely necessary for the candidate to be able to follow the programme. Usually, the requirements relate to knowledge acquired through higher education, but requirements involving specific professional experience also exist.


Formally, it is the higher education institution that makes decisions on admission to doctoral programmes. Usually, but not always, decisions on admission of doctoral candidates are made in practice by each faculty board. We recommend that you contact the higher education institution offering the programme for more information about their admission procedures.

Funding of doctoral studies

Doctoral studies can be funded in two ways. The Higher Education Ordinance (in Swedish) stipulates that higher education institutions can employ doctoral candidates so that they can participate in the programme. You can read more about your rights as an employed doctoral candidate here.

Higher education institutions can also admit applicants who have some other form of financing, such as scholarships. Doctoral candidates who have scholarship funding are not employed by the higher education institution. You can read more about studying for a doctorate with scholarship or study grant funding here.

The Higher Education Ordinance stipulates that funding through scholarships is to be the equivalent amount to the salary for an employed doctoral candidate. Additionally, the funding must be available throughout the study programme and guarantee that the applicant is able to devote sufficient time to studies that they can complete the programme within four years if admitted to a doctorate, or within two years if admitted to a licentiate programme. When considering admission to a doctoral programme, funding through means other than employment must usually be assessed individually for each case.

Is your higher education institution covered by the Higher Education Ordinance?

Higher Education Ordinance rules do not apply to non-state institutions such as the Stockholm School of Economics, Sophiahemmet University, Swedish Red Cross University, Marie Cederschiöld University or Chalmers University of Technology. Regulations and conditions may therefore differ at these institutions.

The Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) and the Swedish Defence University also apply specific regulations. Please contact these organisations for more information.

Licentiate degree - an alternative to doctoral studies

The licentiate degree was introduced as a third cycle qualification in 2002. Admission to a licentiate programme means that you are guaranteed funding for just two years of full-time study. When it was introduced, the intention was not to formalise an intermediate qualification before the full doctorate, but to enable admission to a two-year third cycle programme. The hope was that this would enable people already in work to further their education. However, one problem with licentiate degrees is that supervisors who cannot ensure the four years of funding required for admission to a doctoral programme sometimes suggest to applicants to their doctoral programme that a two-step admission is possible, where the licentiate qualification would constitute the first step. There are no guarantees that a person admitted to a licentiate programme will be allowed to continue to a doctoral programme. If your goal is to complete a doctorate, it is important that you are admitted to the doctorate programme directly.

Funding of licentiate studies follows the same rules as funding of other third cycle education, and the higher education institution is responsible for ensuring that funding exists before granting admission.