Frequently Asked Questions


Q) How can I check if my salary has fulfilled the criteria of KI?

There is a special salary ladder for doctoral students at KI. Check the document provided by HR below. For the latest salary information and if you have further questions, consult your labour union representative (in case you are a member of one) or contact your local HR officer in your department.

Employment as a doctoral student at KI –

Q) Am I still guaranteed salary after four years of doctoral education?

Doctoral studies last for 4 full years and therefore the employment lasts the same. However, an extension can be granted in the following circumstances: sick leave, parental leave, military service, and labour or student union work. Outside of these, it is up to your department and your supervisor to prolong your contract depending on the local financial situation.

Unfortunately, there is no clear understanding and unified rule for employment after 4 years of doctoral studies at KI. In case of a conflict about this topic, the suggestion is to talk to the head of the department. One important point here is that you don’t need to be employed in order to defend your thesis. You can remain registered as a doctoral student even if your employment runs out. But it is, of course, convenient if the department keeps on supporting you financially while you keep working towards your thesis defence.

Q) I am approaching the end of my PhD. What is going to happen with regards to my employment, right to unemployment benefit etc?

First, your department should notify you at least one month before in a written form that your employment will not be extended. Also, it is the employer’s responsibility to notify Trygghetsstiftelsen (A public service for state employees) that you will become unemployed and therefore are in need of their services. For more information on this please visit Trygghetsstiftelsen webpage or talk to your local HR officer.

As soon as your thesis is sent to print, if there is no other job waiting for you after your PhD, you can officially declare yourself unemployed. In order to be eligible for the unemployment benefit you first need to visit the office/website of Arbetsförmedlingen (Swedish Public Employment Service) and register as unemployed. It is important that you register on your first day of unemployment. After that, you need to notify your unemployment benefit office (“a-kassa” – AEA in the case of academics) that you want to claim benefit from them.
You can read more in detail on Arbetsförmedlingen’s website and on AEA’s website.

Q) My contract is ending prior to the summer holidays. What happens to my vacation days?

As you work you earn vacation days. If your employment ends before you take all your vacation days remaining in Primula, you will be paid the vacation days, including the additional holiday pay based on your last salary (called “semestertillägg” in Swedish). You can find the relevant information in the KI personnel handbook, page 10, section 3.7. For more questions please contact your local HR officer in your department.

Support functions

Q) What kind of support could I get from KI if I feel stressed and depressed during my PhD education?

There are many different support functions at KI depending on your need.

As a first step you should contact your supervisor or manager to discuss your work environment.

For health issues, the student health centre, and the occupational health care (Avonova) are the main places you can turn to. Also, the doctoral students’ ombudsperson, who is employed by the student union could be a good option to consult. It is good to remember that the student health centre and the DO work under strict confidentiality, which means your supervisor or department will not get informed unless you want to. Whereas with the occupational health service provider Avonova, after the third consultation they need to notify the employer according to their agreement.

Another good source is the “around the clock” phone number that employees at KI can call for both private and work-related matters. The number is 0200-21 63 00.

The Student Health Center offers a series of health tests available on its website.

Furthermore, the Student Health Center offers 60 minutes of psychotherapy consultations. The service is free for doctoral students.

Q) What is the difference between the student union and the labour (workers) union?

Doctoral students are in a unique position as they, at the same time, are both students and employees. As employees, their salaries and benefits are negotiated through the local labour union representatives at KI. If you are a member of a labour union they can represent you in a case against KI and also provide legal support when necessary.

Common labour unions for doctoral students at KI are:
SULF (The Swedish Association for University Teachers and Researchers)
Naturvetarna (Swedish Association of Professional Scientists)
Läkarförbundet (The Swedish Medical Association)

As a doctoral student at KI, you can choose to become a member of the students’ union Medicinska föreningen (MF). MF represents all study programs at undergraduate and graduate level apart from the undergraduate programs at the department of dentistry. Currently, the Doctoral Student’s Association (DSA) represents the biggest section of MF.
For more information on the current DSA board and activities check out our website or contact us at [email protected]

MF also has an appointed a Doctoral students’ Ombudsperson (DO) whom doctoral students can turn to,

  • for questions about KI’s rules
  • as a support in conflicts with supervisor(s) and/or departments
  • for consultations regarding other situations that can arise during your time at KI.

Matters are treated confidentially, it’s always free of charge and is available for ALL doctoral students, regardless of membership at MF.

Click on the links for more information about support for doctoral students and your employment as a doctoral student

Work and Study Environment

Q) Do I have to work on holidays (“röda dagar”) as a doctoral student?

No. During public holidays (Easter, Midsummer, Christmas etc.) you are not expected to work.  However, in contrast to administrative and technical staff, doctoral students don’t have the right to reduced working hours days before e.g. Christmas and Easter. For more detailed information see KI Personnel handbook (section 2.2, page 6) and/or consult your department’s HR officer.

Q) What happens if I fall ill while I am doing my PhD?

If you are an employed doctoral student and have a temporary/permanent residence permit you will be paid a “sick pay” (called “sjuklön” in Swedish), roughly 80% of your ordinary salary for the first 14 days of your sick leave period. Please be aware that you need to provide your employer (usually HR) a sick leave certificate from a doctor after seven days of sick leave. From day 15 it is the Social Insurance Agency (Försäkringskassan) who pays you sick leave benefit (called “sjukpenning” in Swedish). However, KI tops up the sick leave benefit with 10% of your ordinary salary. If you have been sick your department can grant you a prolongation of your education/ employment for the corresponding time you have been absent.

If you are a doctoral student with a temporary/permanent residence permit but financed with external scholarship/stipends, the system above does not apply to you. Instead, you will be covered by external insurance provided by Kammarkollegiet. For more information check out the Kamarkollegiet website in English here, or ask the HR officer in your department.

Q) Can I take a leave of absence from my doctoral education for my internship (AT in Swedish) or residency (ST in Swedish)?

In general, yes! Don’t forget to apply for a leave of absence from your employment (tjänstledighet in Swedish) and also studies (studieuppehåll in Swedish). The earlier you announce the leave of absence the better it is for all involved. While you are on leave, you are still admitted to doctoral education and employed by KI but you appear as inactive in the system and receive a salary from the clinic where you do your internship/residency. The local administrators (HR and doctoral education) at your department can help you with this.

Q) What happens if I become pregnant while I am doing my PhD?

According to the Swedish Parental Leave Act individuals have the right to be on full parental leave until the child is 18 months, either paid or unpaid, and part-time paid parental leave until the child is 8 years old. However, it is important to remember that the employee must notify the employer not later than two months before parental leave in order to be sure he/she will be granted a leave.
Pregnant women also have a right to sick leave and/or pregnancy benefit (graviditetspenning) in case they are not able to work while being pregnant. The conditions for this are either the pregnancy itself prevents the woman from working or the work itself is hazardous for the foetus/mother.

So, if you are an employed doctoral student, you will be able to receive parental leave money (föräldrapenning) from the Social Insurance Agency (Försäkringskassan) while on parental leave or temporary parental leave (VAB). However, in most cases, KI tops up the parental leave money with 10% of your ordinary salary[*, see below].

If you are a doctoral student with a temporary/permanent residence permit, but financed with external scholarship/stipends, you are not entitled to the scheme described above. Instead, you will be covered by external insurance provided by Kammarkollegiet. For more information, visit the Kamarkollegiet website.

Note that, your education/ employment can be prolonged by your department for the corresponding time you have been on parental leave. 

[*] In order for an employee to receive parental leave pay, he or she must have worked at KI for at least 90 days before asking for leave. Parental leave pay is paid a maximum of 360 times and a maximum length up to the child turning 36 months of age.

Q) Can I go on paid leave if I have to care for my sick children?

If you need to care for your sick child(ren), you have the right to be on temporary parental leave (in Swedish abbreviated as VAB). This right is active until the child is 12 years old. This applies only if you are employed as a doctoral student and not for those with external scholarships. If this is your case, similar to the parental leave, refer to the Kamarkollegiet insurance.

Q) Why should I apply for sick-leave when I’m ill? None of my colleagues does that.

The short answer is because it is better both for you and the others working in the same environment.  The collective behaviour of not reporting the sickness is not a healthy practice and should not be a habit of a good working environment.

If it is an option, discuss with your supervisor if you can work from home instead.

If you are employed, you are entitled to sick-leave pay. So, you will not lose all your income by calling in sick. If you are financed with a stipend or scholarship you can instead claim money from Kammarkollegiet.

Q) My supervisor expects me to work during evenings, weekends and holidays, what should I do?

As a doctoral student, you do not have to clock your time but are expected to work 8 hours/day, Monday to Friday. Before or after normal working hours (06-19 o clock)[*, see below], weekends and public holidays should be considered off-work. However, if you do laboratory research, it might be required to attend some time-sensitive or model organism experiments. Likewise, if there is a deadline to be met (for a publication, grant and such), the urgency might require additional working time. Given that there is an understanding between you and your supervisor, and you can be flexible at other times, it is okay to work off-hours for these purposes.  

Very important! In case you are working outside normal working hours, make sure you don’t work alone and let someone in your group know when you will be working in the laboratory. For more information refer to the KI guideline for this.

[*] “The core hours of work from Monday to Thursday are 09.00–15.30 hours. On Friday they are 09.00–15.00 hours. Flexitime is 06.00–09.00 hours for the start of the working day and 15.30–19.00 hours for the end of the working day (Fridays 06.00–09.00 and 15.00–19.00 hours). The flexible period for lunch (lunchflex) is 11.00–13.00 hours. The lunch break must last at least 30 minutes.” (KI Personnel handbook page 6).

Q) My supervisor wants me to help out with tasks at the department / in the research group. What should I consider if I take on additional work tasks?

You are expected to work full time for your PhD project, but within this frame, you can devote up to 20% of your time to other tasks, such as teaching, project management and departmental tasks. If you are offered to help out consider the amount of time you need to dedicate to these tasks, and if this slows down your PhD project significantly. Also, if this task is recurring, make sure it is mentioned in your individual study plan.

Q) What happens if I get injured during my PhD?

As a student studying at a state university in Sweden, if you are injured during your work, you are covered by state-financed insurance provided by Kammarkollegiet.

Kamarkollegiet insurance also covers the injury cases and is valid during the whole study/work time, as well as during the transportation between home and the university. (If Kamarkollegiet link is out of date, go to start page and search for “insurance for foreign visitors”. If you get injured, it is very important that you report the incident to your nearest superior, e.g. supervisor, lab manager etc. Moreover, KI also urges their staff and students to report incidents through the internal incident report system in order to prevent similar things from happening in the future.


Q) What can I expect from my supervisor in terms of amount and quality of supervision?

The answer to this varies from one doctoral student to another. Some people want close monitoring while others prefer a more hands-off approach.

A good place to start is to identify your needs and align the expectations with your supervisor. The sooner expectations are made clear the better. You can always expect a good manner, helpful attitude and scientific discussions to guide your project. Remember to be mindful that your supervisor also expects good manner, effort and interest to drive your research project.

One approach to structure the amount of supervision is to have weekly or bi-weekly meetings where you first go through the results of the recent period and then plan the upcoming period. Take notes and e-mail the points discussed and the decisions made after the meeting, to make sure everyone is on the same page.

In order to facilitate the communication between you and your supervisor(s), there are many different dialogue instruments you can turn to.
Check these out:

Q) What can I do if I can´t get along with my supervisor? – Can I change my supervisor?

In case of a conflict between you and your supervisor(s), it is important that you try to solve the issues together with them directly. If this is not possible, it is a good idea to consult the local director of doctoral studies at your department and/or the doctoral students’ ombudsperson (DO). If the conflict still remains unresolved even after involving the study director and DO, naturally the next step is to change your supervisor. The right of changing supervisors is stated in the Higher Ordinance Act in Sweden and this can be done in different ways. The most common approaches are:

  • The main supervisor and co-supervisor change place
  • The (main)supervisor is replaced by a new supervisor
  • Adding an additional supervisor to the already existing group of supervisors

Note that each case is unique and remember to consult the DO if you are going through such a change. It is important to know that even though it is the right of the doctoral student to change supervisor, it is the responsible department who appoints the new supervisor. Nevertheless, it is preferred that both the doctoral student and new supervisor(s) are on board with the new set up.

As soon as the new supervisory group has been decided upon the form 15 has to be signed by the doctoral student, new and old supervisors, head of the department and the director of doctoral studies. Due to the sensitivity of the process, it is sometimes possible to let HR officers manage the process. In this way, the involved parties can avoid face to face interaction with each other.

Sometimes a change of supervisor also means a change of group and/or department. In this case, form 14 has to be filled in by the new and old study directors and head of the departments.

As soon as the change has taken place the responsibilities of the current department for the doctoral student will be shifted to the new department. During this process, the financial aspect of how this change is solved varies between cases and departments. If by any chance questions concerning finances (or other areas for that matter) occurs you shouldn’t hesitate to consult your department, e.g. HR officer, study director, education officer.  

Finally, don’t forget to update the individual plan as soon as the change of supervisor has been completed.

Forms and documents for doctoral education  

Residence permit

Q) Can I get a permanent residence permit if I have a visiting researcher visa?

Doctoral students should have a residence permit for doctoral studies, not a residence permit for visiting researchers. Cases, where doctoral students have had the wrong permit during doctoral studies and apply for a permanent residence permit, are handled individually, some of them getting rejection to start with.

Q) Do I have to state in my application when I intend to leave Sweden?

The short answer is no. However, the previous applications and answers can play a role many years later when applying for citizenship. The way that Migrationsverket interprets the law can change over time. This has been the case over the years, so the best advice on this issue would be to always refer to the latest Migrationsverket information available on the issue.

Q) How do I obtain a permanent residence permit? Is it enough to be a doctoral student for four years?

In order to apply for a residence permit for doctoral studies, see here and for extension of the permit, see here. If you cannot apply online, you can find the forms here. For more information regarding Migrationsverket’s rules for doctoral students, see Migrationsverket’s website or visit this webpage from KI’s International Staff Services.

A new EU directive regarding students and researchers was implemented 1 January 2020. Furthermore, the outcome of this case in the Migration Court of Appeal affects all doctoral students. (Links unfortunately only in Swedish.)