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Doctoral candidate/doctoral studies

Employed as a doctoral candidate

The Higher Education Ordinance stipulates people undertaking doctoral studies should primarily be employed as doctoral candidates. Employment always means greater security for you as an individual in comparison with other forms of financing.


In accordance with the Higher Education Ordinance, universities may arrange special, fixed-term employment for doctoral candidates in order for them to complete their postgraduate education. The regulation stipulates that these employees must work full time.

Positions or employment

In daily speech, the term “doctoral candidate position” is often used. However, in the Higher Education Ordinance and other regulations/collective agreements, the term “position” is now replaced by the term “employment”.

Working tasks

Anyone who is employed as a doctoral candidate must primarily devote her/himself to her/his postgraduate education.

However, the university may decide that departmental duties are included in the employment in the form of, for example, teaching, research or administration. Such work may not cover more than 20 per cent of full-time working hours before the doctorate has been awarded. If you undertake departmental duties, it is important that this is stated in your individual study plan and that you receive a study extension to a corresponding degree.


Only those who are accepted or have already been admitted to a postgraduate education at a university may be employed as doctoral candidates. Selection for employment as a doctoral candidate must be made with regard to the individual ability to take advantage of postgraduate education.

It is not possible to appeal a doctoral candidate employment selection, unlike other government employment appointments.

Form of employment

Employment as a doctoral candidate is fixed-term, based on the stipulations in the Higher Education Ordinance.

Fixed-term employment can be formulated either as from a certain date to another date or as the employment applies until further notice, but at the longest for a certain period. In the latter case, it is possible for the employee to resign and it is also possible for the employer to, under certain conditions, terminate employment before the end of the period and it is this form that the university must use for employment as a doctoral candidate.

The student’s first appointment as a doctoral candidate may be for a maximum of one year, and the employment can then be renewed for a maximum of two years at a time. However, the university may not use the time limit for longer than one year after a 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 postgraduate education for four years upon admission for a doctorate, and two years upon admission for the licentiate degree. From these times, deductions must be made for the period of study when the doctoral candidate has not been employed as such.

However, it is possible to make exceptions to the maximum employment time rule and allow a longer employment period. For this to be possible, there must be special reasons.

Special reasons include leave as a result of illness, parental leave, posting within the armed forces or elected positions within unions/student organizations.

Extension of doctoral candidate employment

You may be granted an extension of your doctoral candidate position due to illness, posting within the defence system or elected positions within unions or student organizations or parental leave.

If you are on leave for other reasons, you cannot be sure of being permitted to extend your doctoral candidate period.

In addition to this, extensions may be granted if there are special circumstances. These may be defined in various ways, for example supervisor problems that have negatively affected your thesis work should be regarded as a special circumstance.

Termination of employment

It is possible to be dismissed or to resign from doctoral candidate employment.

The university may, in rare cases, terminate your employment as a doctoral candidate before you have completed your four full-time study years. It is extremely uncommon for this to happen, but it may occur with reference to lack of funding or gross negligence on your part.

However, most universities take great responsibility for ensuring doctoral candidates continue until the end of four full-time years of study.

Period of notice

As a government employee doctoral candidate, you are subject to the same rules as other government employees in terms of notice period. This means that you have at least one month’s notice period (both if you wish to resign yourself or if the employer terminates you). The notice period is regulated in the collective agreement Villkorsavtal-T and is based on how long you have been employed.

You may be eligible for support from the Job Security Foundation, (Trygghetsstiftelsen), upon termination or if your appointment is not renewed.

Collective agreement

As a government employee doctoral candidate, you are covered by Villkorsavtal-T, PA16 and other collective agreements. Villkorsavtal-T gives you the right, among other things, to longer holidays, daily allowances (per diems)when travelling on business, reimbursement for health care costs, parental benefits supplement and more. PA16 entitles you to an occupational pension.

Salary and salary level

In the state sector, individual salary levels are applied. In order to ensure that doctoral candidate salaries are not set too low SULF has, through Saco-S at most universities, concluded local collective agreements on doctoral candidate salaries. These collective agreements, often referred to as doctoral candidate ladders, should provide protection against low salaries but do not constitute an obstacle to higher salaries.

Salaries vary between higher education institutions and also between subject areas. However, it can generally be said that starting salary is in a range between SEK 25 000 and SEK 30 000/month or more. You can also find current doctoral candidate ladders on the SULF website.

Industrial doctoral candidates

In certain subject areas, what is termed industrial doctoral candidates are common. Being an industrial doctoral candidate means that, within the framework of your employment at a private company or organisation, you are given the opportunity to undertake postgraduate education at a university.

As an industrial doctoral candidate, you are covered by the terms of employment at your employer in all aspects of your employment, but by the regulations of the Higher Education Ordinance in all parts relating to your postgraduate education.

Leave in cases of illness

If you need to be off work for illness or the care of a sick child, you are subject to the same rules as other government employees.

The time you are at home will generate an extension of your doctoral candidate employment. This is regardless of whether you have a few days here and there or a longer consecutive period. The same applies to illness, provided you report in. It is therefore of great importance that you report in on every illness or care of sick children occasion.

Sometimes these rules are applied in an unclear or incorrect manner by the universities in terms of extensions, so if you have trouble getting the correct extension of your employment, contact your local Saco-S association or SULF Membership Helpline as soon as possible.

Part-time doctoral candidate employment

Employment as a doctoral candidate is full-time unless the doctoral candidate her/himself requests to be employed part-time. However, doctoral candidate employment must be at least half-time.

In addition to part-time doctoral candidate employment, you may apply for leave of absence, but then you must ensure that your employment period is extended accordingly.

Side jobs and doctoral candidate employment

As a doctoral candidate, there are opportunities for you to undertake side jobs alongside your doctoral candidate employment.

You are obliged to report this to your employer and should also inform your supervisor on the direction and scope of your employment. Also be careful not to delay your studies due to your side job. In some cases, your employer may ban certain side jobs.


Before teaching more than regular working hours allow, explore the opportunities of pay from other employment or overtime pay. Please note that only overtime that is explicitly ordered by the employer provides the right to overtime pay.

Previously, there was a limit stated in the central working hours agreement which meant that the university was not entitled to order doctoral candidates to work overtime. This regulation has now been removed from the central working hours agreement but may have been included in the local working hours agreement at your university. For more information about what applies at your university, contact your local Saco-S association.

Funding conference travel

The most common situation is that your supervisor helps to raise funds for conference trips. The supervisor may have access to various research grants and there are many scholarship funds etc. where you can apply for financing. The department should also be able to contribute to your funding.

Conference travel is considered business travel. This means that you are entitled to a daily allowance (per diem) provided that you are employed.

Doctoral candidates at non-state universities

Stockholm School of Economics, Sofiahemmet University, Red Cross University and Marie Cederschiöld University are not covered by state collective agreements. Employment conditions at these universities may therefore differ.

Contact each educational institution for more information.