According to Chapter 7, Section 36 of the Higher Education Ordinance, a higher education institution (HEI) may only admit an applicant who has financing that can be considered to be guaranteed for the entire period of study. Doctoral students must primarily be employed on doctoral studentships or receive doctoral grants that are later converted to a doctoral studentship.
Applicants with other forms of funding may be admitted if the HEI assesses that their funding is guaranteed for the entire programme, and that the applicant can dedicate enough time to the programme that it can be completed within four years (licentiate degree) or eight years (doctoral degree).
It is not unusual for doctoral grants, doctoral studentships and stipends to be funded by a body external to the HEI. The rules for doctoral students with external funding are the same as for those who are funded by the HEI.
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. For example, 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.
Pay is on an individual basis for people employed on doctoral studentships. There are pay scales for doctoral students, which many HEIs follow. However, a doctoral grant is the same for everyone.
There can be great practical and financial differences, even within the same department. For example, doctoral students in medicine and engineering often have higher pay than those in the natural sciences. This is due to competition on the labour market – engineering and medicine are in demand, so pay for doctoral studentships is driven up to attract students to these courses.
In engineering, around 14 per cent of newly admitted doctoral students are financed through external employment, which often means a good salary. In other subject areas, it's less common for doctoral students to be employed externally.
The HEI’s responsibility
Some HEIs believe that they are entirely responsible for funding. In other words, if the source of funding disappears, the HEI must provide for the doctoral student from its own financing. Others’ interpretation is that the HEI has no unconditional liability, or at the responsibility is shared between the HEI and the doctoral student.
According to the former Swedish National Agency for Higher Education's report on funding, Studiefinansiering för doktorander – rättssäkerhetsaspekter från 2003, HEIs are very hesitant about admitting doctoral students with other forms of funding, particularly those who claim independent means or support from relatives.
Studiefinansiering för doktorander – rättssäkerhetsaspekter (pdf, 418 kB – in Swedish)
In order to avoid problems, some HEIs require a written guarantee from the financier. A employer’s guarantee as financier appears to be more easily accepted, as are stipends and grants. There are examples of students who have been admitted with a parent or partner as financial guarantor. This has received a great deal of criticism, because it means that private finances can influence students’ chances of being admitted to third-cycle education.
The Committee on Education stated in a proposal (bet. 1997/98: UbU7) that the HEI is responsible for ensuring the demands for student funding can be fulfilled. In the budget bill for 2000, the government makes the following addition:
“If the applicant cannot be employed on a doctoral studentship or awarded a doctoral grant, it is the task of the faculty board to perform a careful examination of the applicant’s financial situation to the extent this is possible at the time of admission.”
Exceptions for independent HEIs
The Higher Education Ordinance does not apply to independent HEIs, such as the Stockholm School of Economics, Jönköping University and Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg. They may therefore have different terms and conditions for funding.