Registration, resources, financing

In order to do a PhD in Sweden, you need to be registered (sometimes called enrolled) at a higher education institution as a doctoral student. For this, you must be admitted and you must confirm your registration.

Admission to research education is not centralized. This means that universities are in charge of their own admission processes and these may differ slightly. However, Swedish law regulates that universities can in general only admit doctoral students if the resources for the doctoral students to pursue and complete the programme are in place, if financing is secured for the entire duration of the programme (four years of full time study for obtaining the doctoral degree and two years of full time study for obtaining the licentiate degree), and if it seems possible that the doctoral student will complete the education within eight years of real time for the doctorate and four years for the licentiate.

Resources refers to  what is necessary for carrying out doctoral studies. This covers supervision, access to courses, a sufficient workspace, computers or lab equipment when needed, resources for necessary travel, resources for organizing the defence etc. 

Financing refers to how you are compensated as a doctoral student. There are several ways one can be financed as a doctoral student. You can be employed or you can be the beneficiary of a scholarship or grant. The most common types of financing are listed below, the conditions associated with each of them are described here. There are some differences in conditions depending  on the type of financing. However, it is important to remember that, regardless of the type of financing you have, when you were admitted as a doctoral student the financing must have been secured for the entire duration of the programme, so you cannot run out of financing before the equivalent of two years (licentiate degree) or four years (doctoral degree) of full time study has passed. It is also important to understand that running out of financing does not mean that you lose access to resources such as supervision, or that you stop being registered as a doctoral student. 

The most common form of financing is being employed as a doctoral student by the university where you are enrolled. This is called being appointed to a doctoral studentship (doktorandanställning in Swedish). As part of this type of employment you may have departmental duties (institutionstjänstgöring), such as teaching for example. The time allocated to these duties is not taken out of your years of full time employment – you get your doctoral studentship prolonged for such duties. 

You may be financed through a different type of employment. You may be employed by a university in another position, such as a lecturer position. In this case, some of your time is allocated to doctoral studies. 

You may be employed in the private sector, on an industrial doctoral studentship, or by the healthcare sector, on a clinical doctoral studentship, or by another institution or organisation, on what is known as another external doctoral studentship. In all cases in which you are employed by someone other than the university, an agreement between your employer and the university should exist, regulating the terms of your employment and studies. (HEO, ch 7, P36).

Some of these external doctoral studentships involve you studying full time, some involve a division of time between studies and other duties to your employer. The pace of study, however, should not be lower than 50%, since for all doctoral positions the expectation is that you should graduate within eight years with a doctoral degree and four years with a licentiate. 

In all such cases, in order for the university to have admitted you for a doctoral position, it must have assessed that financing is secured for the duration of your studies and it must have assessed that you will be able to devote enough time to your studies to get your degree within eight years. 

If you are not employed, you may be admitted to a doctoral position while financed through a scholarship (stipendium) or a doctoral grant (utbildningsbidrag). Doctoral grants are very rare these days. If you have one, you should ask your HR department, your Ombudperson for doctoral students, and your trade union about your conditions.

You may be financed through a scholarship. In most cases, you should only be financed through a scholarship for one year. After one year of study on a scholarship (or the equivalent of one year of full time study), you can ask the university for employment and they should offer it for the remaining three years of full time study. There are exceptions to this, where scholarships may be used for more than a year, such as in foreign aid programmes and capacity building programmes (HEO, 4a2).

Just like in the case of employment, for the HEI to have admitted you to a doctoral position the financing must have been secured for the full duration of the programme, and the resources for you must be available, with an expectation that you should be able to graduate with a doctorate within eight years, or a licentiate within four years.