According to the Swedish Discrimination Act, higher education institutions (HEIs) are obliged to carry out an investigation if a doctoral student feels that he or she has been the victim of discrimination or harassment in association with the HEI’s activities.

Harassment is defined in the Discrimination Act as conduct that violates a person’s dignity and that is associated with one of the grounds of discrimination: sex, transgender identity or expression, ethnicity, religion or other belief, disability, sexual orientations or age.

Sexual harassment

Sexual harassment is defined as conduct of a sexual nature that violates someone’s dignity. Examples of sexual harassment may include comments, innuendo, touching (groping) and suggestions or demands for sexual services. It does happen that doctoral students feel that they are sexually harassed by their supervisor or someone else at the department; those affected are often women in a position of dependency on a male superior.

Obligation to investigate

A person who experiences harassment should primarily talk to their line manager or the HEI’s equality officer or the equivalent. Student health services, the students’ union, the trades’ union or Equality Ombudsman (DO) can also provide help and support.

The Equality Ombudsman (DO)

According to the Higher Education Ordinance, a doctoral student is a student who has been admitted to and is undertaking third-cycle education. If a student feels that he or she has been the subject of harassment as part of the HEI’s activities and the HEI becomes aware of this, the HEI is obliged to investigate the incident in compliance with the Discrimination Act. The HEI may take action against students who subject others at the HEI to harassment, as well as other actions that may reasonably be required to prevent future harassment.

Read more about discrimination in the Higher Education Ordinance, Chapter 10 Section 1 Paragraph 4.

Page last updated 2015-07-02