INFORMATION FOR PHD STUDENTS
As a doctoral student there is much information that is useful for you to know. On this page we have collected many helpful facts concerning different areas of being a PhD, like supervision, departmental duties, individual study plan, etc., with links to each topic if you want to know more.
Doctoral students are entitled to supervision and are meant to have at least two supervisors, one of whom should be the principal supervisor, according to The Higher education ordinance. The supervisors’ task is to guide the PhD through the period of doctoral studies, from the initial choice of courses to the final public defense as well as help the PhD student to develop into an autonomous researcher. The supervisor should also review the manuscript and other material, recommend courses and relevant literature, teach research ethics to the doctoral student, help to establish contacts with other universities in Sweden and abroad, help the doctoral student to participate in international conferences, as well as recommend funds from which to apply for grants.
At Karlstad University a PhD is entitled to supervision at least 160 hours per year at full time studies and correspondingly less if not full time. This includes meetings, reading of texts, etc. It's good to clarify the demands and expectations that the doctoral student and supervisor have of each other at an early stage. The individual study plan should include obligations and guidelines for the cooperation between the supervisors and PhD, like number of agreed hours or meetings.
The frequency of meetings between the doctoral student and the supervisor can change during different stages of the PhD. Contacts are often most frequent at the beginning, when the subject is being chosen and studies planned, and at the end of the study period when the thesis is being completed.
In laboratory-based faculties it is common for doctoral students to be offered a place in an ongoing research project, and then to have the researcher who is leading the project as supervisor. In these cases, supervision is often practical and well-defined. In the humanities and social sciences, the supervisor is more of a discussion partner, someone with whom to discuss ideas, texts, issues and limitations.
Change of supervisor
The relationship with your supervisors is an important one that requires good communication. If discord and a non-functional relationship should develop it’s important to deal with it promptly and professionally. PhDs have a legal right to change supervisor upon request. The right to change supervisor is unconditional and it is the university’s obligation to respond to such a request. This is regulated in The Higher education ordinance. The request should be put forward to the head of department or to the faculty office. The head of the department is responsible for work environment and personal conflicts. You can also contact the PhD ombud who has confidentiality and can provide support and assistance. The PhD don’t have the right to choose the new supervisor themselves. The form to change supervisor can be found on Inslaget and under Survey & Documents.
More information on supervision:
Individual study plan (ISP)
Every doctoral student should have an Individual study plan (ISP) according to the Higher education ordinance. The ISP should contain the university’s and student’s undertaking and a timetable for the study. The study plan should be reviewed regularly and changes made if needed. It’s made in a web based formula and is to be revised once every year. A reminder is sent through e-mail when it is time to update.
You can find more information as well as advice about writing your ISP here:
Each doctoral discipline is regulated by a general syllabus. It should contain a description of the discipline, the learning outcomes for the doctoral studies, entry requirements, the extent of the thesis project and the number of credits for courses, as well as which mandatory courses you have to take as a part of your PhD studies.
PhD courses in Karlstad University
Karlstad University has a web portal where all of the current doctoral courses at the university is collected.
You can find it here: Doctoral courser
Employed doctoral students are able to do a limited time of work with education, administration or research. This type of work is called departmental duties and can be a way for you as a PhD do get valuable experience for continued work at university. As a doctoral student you should therefore be offered the possibility of department work. Though you have no obligation to do departmental duties and work with other tasks than the doctoral education if you don’t want to. Departmental duties cannot encompass more than 20 % of full time before the doctoral degree is finished. The guideline of 20 % entails all of the employment time, though the extent of department duty work can vary between years, but should be 30 % of full time at most during a year. During the last semester there shouldn’t be any department work.
Time of doctoral studies
The employment of a doctoral student should be full time, but can be part time if requested by the doctoral student with a minimum of 50 % of full time. The time of doctoral studies is four years at full time. An employment at full time can also be extended to five years by having 20 % department duty. With part time employment, and perhaps a combination of department duty, the total time of employment can be up to eight years in total. Eight years is the maximum permitted period of total study. Study leave due to parental leave, sickness or similar are also reasons for an extended maximum period of study.
Each doctoral student has an appointed examiner. The PhD needs to submit a certificate on completed exams for completed doctoral courses to the examiner who will sign these.
Financing/Funding of PhD
There are two main options of financing a PhD. The most common is that the PhD is employed on a doctoral studentship or receives a doctoral grant. Other forms of financing are stipends, student grants or paid leave from another workplace. Other forms of financing is only admitted if the funding is guaranteed for the entire study period and if the PhD student is able to dedicate enough time to doctoral studies to complete them within four years (Licentiate degree) or eight years (doctoral degree).
Doctoral grants, studentships and stipends can be funded by an external part. The rules for doctoral students with external funding are the same as for those who are funded by the University. How studies are funded has an impact on how much time can be spent on them and thus the length of the period of study. Pay and social security are also affected by the form of funding. Stipends are rarely taxed and thus provide no social security benefits. The financial conditions for doctoral students vary depending on the faculty to which they belong. There may also be considerable differences within a faculty, even within the same department.
PhD Salary scale
Salaries of employees who are employed as doctoral students are exempted from individual salaries and governed by a local agreement on wages in doctoral student positions. The pay for doctoral students is regulated by a salary scale at Karlstad University wherein the salary is increased in four steps when 25 %, 50 % and 80 % of the requirements for the doctoral degree have been met. The new salary is valid from the month after the applicable requirements have been met and is paid when a written certificate has been given to the HR Office.
Some doctoral students have individual pay setting with a higher monthly salary than indicated by the salary scale. This may be decided if there is competition for skills in the labour market and when it is a condition for employing an applicant as well as if employees who are appointed as doctoral students have a supply of skills that is necessary for the university.
Public defense of doctoral thesis
To formally be required for a doctoral degree you do a public defense of the doctoral thesis. The thesis has to be ensured by the supervisor to be of a high enough standard to pass before recommending that the doctoral student undertakes a public defense. The date, time and place of the public defense of doctoral thesis must be decided well in advance. The thesis should be made available at least three weeks in advance of the date. This is often done through a ceremony that is the official notification of the date of the public defense, called “spikning.” At the defense there must be a reviewer that has examined the doctoral thesis present as well as an examining committee.
Rules and recommendations for Co-authorship.
As a PhD you might be asked to add another researcher as author for a research paper. Regarding co-authorship of articles and papers, the Swedish Universities follows the Vancouver rules. There you can find four criterias for who can be considered as an author:
- Substantial contributions to the conception or design of the work; or the acquisition, analysis, or interpretation of data for the work; AND
- Drafting the work or revising it critically for important intellectual content; AND
- Final approval of the version to be published; AND
- Agreement to be accountable for all aspects of the work in ensuring that questions related to the accuracy or integrity of any part of the work are appropriately investigated and resolved.
Info on illness, vacation and parental leave
The time frames of your doctoral employment can be extended for special reasons such as leave of absence for illness, parental leave, care of sick child, or an elected position in trade union or student organization. The degree should be finished in the time frame of eight years.
As a doctoral student you have the right to paid vacation leave. The number of days a year is dependent on your age. There is a local agreement for the vacation placement that begins Monday after midsummer. You can’t save vacation days from previous years. Remember that vacation is your statutory right and a necessary break for your health and your research.
New in Sweden/Karlstad
If you are an international PhD coming from abroad or new in town, Karlstad University has collected information and documents for new staff in the link below. There you will find a guide for visiting staff, quick facts on what to do when you are newly employed here as well as landlords in Karlstad.
The Swedish Association of University Teachers and Researchers (SULF).
SULF is the only union that represents doctoral candidates, teachers and researchers at universities, colleges and research institutes and no other categories of employees. They can deal with local issues and has active SULF associations at every university and university college. Income insurance is included in membership fee. They are experts on university regulations and, consequently, doctoral candidates’ rights.
Are doctoral candidates entitled to unemployment insurance benefits?
As a doctoral candidate you are considered a student by AEA as long as you are enrolled in the doctoral programme. On the completion of your studies you can be considered as unemployed and receive benefits from AEA. Sometimes, unfortunately, doctoral candidates’ employment positions end before their theses are completed and sent to the printers. When this happens, the doctoral candidate is normally not entitled to benefits from AEA. Only when studies have been completed or permanently interrupted can you be considered unemployed and eligible for benefits from AEA.
Grants and innovation office (GIO) at Karlstad University
Grants and Innovation Office (GIO) has the task of supporting research co-operation between the university and companies, organisations, and authorities. As well as providing strategic support to the university and faculty managements, GIO staff offer expert advice to researchers in connection with research applications, and with the process of utilising and commercialising products or ideas. GIO works actively to build relationships with funding bodies, and provides expert support to research staff on every aspect of the funding application process. Its main aim is to encourage researchers to develop more of their ideas into full research projects, and to support researchers to apply for external funding.
GIO also offers competence development for doctoral students; the program CTRIVE® (Competence-development Tool for Research: Intellectual Value Enhancement) is a program run by GIO with ten components in workshop form, which provides researchers with a holistic and strategic view of their research. The course covers a wide range of topics, including communications and media strategies, embedding research impact, networking skills, and understanding the priorities of funders. GIO also offers doctoral students a course which develop the students’ ability to carry out and communicate their projects and ideas.
Also, on the intranet (Inslaget) for Karlstad University there are some useful information:
- Research Professional (RP) which is an online-database where you find information about funding opportunities and project calls from around the world: https://inslaget.kau.se/forskning/sok-forskningsmedel/om-research-professional
- Kau Research Handbook, an online tool where you find policies, routines, instructions and tips regarding research-applications and research-projects: https://inslaget.kau.se/forskning/forskningsstod/research-handbook
- A film regarding funding of travel and research-related activities for doctoral students, film no 9 on: https://inslaget.kau.se/forskning/forskarutbildning/introduktion-doktorander
You have the possibility to go to a doctor and dentist on paid working hours. You also have the opportunity to receive compensation for medical care, physical therapy, hospital care and prescription drugs. All employees, including doctoral students, are covered by occupational health care for work-related problems. You have access to medical, technical and psychosocial occupational healthcare. Each employee can contact the occupational health service, Clara Health (ClaraHälsan) regarding injuries or mental health issues that may be associated with the work environment. PhDs also get three free consultations with ClaraHälsan without the need to contact the employers.
Handbook for students and supervisor: How to get a PhD