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Doctoral candidate/doctoral studies

Doctoral candidate employment

In accordance with the Higher Education Ordinance (in Swedish), higher education institutions may offer special, fixed-term employment for doctoral candidates in order for them to be able to complete their doctoral studies. Employment always provides greater security compared with other forms of funding. The Ordinance stipulates that these employees must work full time.

The higher education institution is to advertise or otherwise publicise the vacant position so that those interested in the position can apply.

Work tasks

A person employed as a doctoral candidate is to focus primarily on their own doctoral studies. However, the higher education institution may decide that departmental duties are included, for example teaching, research or administration. Such work may not comprise more than 20 per cent of full-time working hours before the doctorate has been awarded. If you are given departmental duties, it is important that this is stated in your individual study plan and that your doctoral candidate employment is extended to a corresponding degree.


The Higher Education Ordinance states that only people admitted to a third cycle programme at a higher education institution may be employed as doctoral candidates. Selection for employment of doctoral candidates is to be based on the individual’s capacity to complete the doctoral studies.

Unlike other state sector appointments, the Ordinance states that it is not possible to appeal against a doctoral candidate employment decision.

Scope of employment

The Higher Education Ordinance (in Swedish) stipulates that doctoral candidate employment is to be full-time unless the doctoral candidate specifically requests to be employed part-time. Part-time employment, however, may never be for less than 50 per cent, and any request for pert-time employment is to be submitted to the supervisor before the start of the programme and confirmed in the individual study plan.

While employed as a doctoral candidate, you are of course entitled to parental leave, other forms of leave of absence and sick leave. In such cases, you have the right to have your employment period extended accordingly. This must also be noted in your individual study plan.

Form of employment

The Higher Education Ordinance states that doctoral candidate employment is to be fixed-term employment.

Fixed-term employment is defined either as employment beginning on a certain date and ending on a certain date or as permanent but no longer than until a fixed date. In the latter case, which is the form that higher education institutions are to use for employment of doctoral candidates, the employee has the right to resign from their position and, under certain conditions, the employer has the right to terminate employment before the end of the period.

A doctoral candidate’s first employment period may be for a maximum of one year, and the employment may then be extended for a maximum of two years at a time. However, the higher education institution may not use the time limit for longer than one year after the doctorate has been awarded.

Length of employment

You may be employed as a doctoral candidate for a maximum of eight years. However, the total employment period may not exceed the equivalent of full-time third cycle education for four years upon admission for doctoral studies, and two years upon admission to a licentiate programme. Deductions from these periods are to be made for any period of study when the doctoral candidate is not employed as a doctoral candidate.

Extension of doctoral candidate employment

You may be granted an extension of your doctoral candidate position under certain circumstances. These include periods of sick leave, parental leave, posting within the armed forces or working as an elected trade union or student organization representative. If you are on leave for other reasons, you may not be entitled to extend your doctoral candidate employment.

In some cases, extensions have been granted due to supervisor issues that have negatively affected a candidate's thesis work or matters related to the Covid-19 pandemic.

These rules are not always applied clearly or correctly at some higher education institutions, so if you have problems getting your doctoral candidate employment extended, contact your local Saco-S association or the SULF member support team as soon as possible.

Termination of employment

Doctoral candidate employment can be terminated due to dismissal or resignation.

Although it happens extremely rarely, a higher education institution can terminate a person’s employment as a doctoral candidate before they have completed their four full-time study years. Reasons for this may be a lack of funding or gross negligence on the part of the doctoral candidate. However, most higher education institutions strive to ensure doctoral candidates continue until the end of their full study period.

It is important to note that even if your doctoral candidate employment is terminated, you are still registered as a third cycle student until you choose to end your studies.

Period of notice

As a state employed doctoral candidate, you are subject to the same rules as other state sector employees with regard to notice period. This means that you have at least one month’s notice period, both if you wish to resign or if the employer needs to terminate your employment. The notice period is regulated in the Villkorsavtal-T collective agreement and is based on how long you have been employed.

You may be eligible for support from the Job Security Foundation, (Trygghetsstiftelsen), if your employment is terminated or if your doctoral candidate employment is not extended. Please see here for more information.

Collective agreements

As a state employed doctoral candidate, you are covered by Villkorsavtal-T, PA16 and other collective agreements. The Villkorsavtal-T agreement gives you the right to longer holidays, daily allowances when travelling for work, reimbursement for health care costs, supplementary parental benefit and more. The PA16 agreement entitles you to an occupational pension.

Salary and salary development

In order to ensure that doctoral candidate salaries are not set too low, SULF, (through Saco-S at most higher education institutions), has signed local collective agreements on doctoral candidate salaries. These collective agreements, often referred to as doctoral candidate ladders, offer protection against unacceptably low salaries but do not constitute an obstacle to higher salaries. You can find more information about doctoral candidate salaries here.

Externally employed doctoral candidates

In certain subject areas, external employment of doctoral candidates is common. If you are an externally employed doctoral candidate, you are entitled to participate in a third cycle education programme at a higher education institution within the framework of your employment at a private company or organisation.

Externally employed doctoral candidates are covered by the terms of employment at their employer regarding all aspects of their employment, but by the provisions in the Higher Education Ordinance regarding all aspects of their doctoral programme.

Leave due to illness

If you need to take time off work due illness or to care for a sick child, you are covered by the same rules as other state sector employees.

Any time you are absent from work to care for a sick child triggers an extension of your doctoral candidate employment, whether you take a few days here and there or a longer consecutive period. The same applies if you are ill yourself, provided you have registered for sick leave. It is therefore essential that you report every period of illness or care of a sick child.

These rules are sometimes applied in an unclear or incorrect manner by higher education institutions when it comes to extensions, so if you have trouble getting your employment extended correctly, contact your local Saco-S association as soon as possible.

Secondary employment and doctoral candidate employment

As a doctoral candidate, you are able to take secondary employment alongside your doctoral candidate employment.

You are obliged to report any secondary employment to your employer and should also inform your supervisor on the content and scope of your employment. You should also be careful not to delay your studies due to your secondary employment. In some cases, your employer may forbid certain types of secondary employment. You can find more information about secondary employment here.


Before you agree to teach more than your regular working hours allow, you should investigate whether you can be paid through other employment or receive overtime pay. Please note that only overtime that is explicitly ordered by your employer entitles you to overtime pay.

Previously, there was a limit stated in the central working time agreement which meant that higher education institutes were not allowed to order doctoral candidates to work overtime. This regulation has now been removed from the central working time agreement, but may have been included in the local working time agreement at your workplace. For more information about what rules apply at your higher education institution, please contact your local Saco-S association.

Funding for conference attendance

The most common solution is that your supervisor helps you to acquire funding for conference trips. The supervisor may have access to various research grants and there are many scholarship funds and similar to which you can apply for financial support. Your department should also be able to contribute towards your expenses.

Conference travel is regarded as work-related travel. This means that you are entitled to a daily allowance while travelling if you are employed.

Doctoral candidates at non-state universities

The Stockholm School of Economics, Sophiahemmet University, Red Cross University and Marie Cederschiöld University are not covered by state sector collective agreements. Employment conditions at these institutions may therefore differ from those in the state sector. Please contact the relevant higher education institution for more information.