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Frequently asked questions, a doctoral student’s rights and obligations

Being employed on a doctoral studentship means that you are both an employee and a student, which may give rise to questions. Both roles entail rights and obligations, so it is important that you understand what they are. Never hesitate to ask questions or talk to someone when you are unsure of something!

We have collected common questions (and their answers) that relate to your doctoral studies and employment on doctoral studentship.

What are my rights and obligations, both as an employee and as a doctoral student?

Read more about both your roles at: A doctoral student’s rights and obligations.

Why is the subject’s general syllabus so important?

The general syllabus is important because it describes the entire format of your studies. It includes the courses you must study to get your degree, the degree outcomes that are listed in the Higher Education Ordinance and any other outcomes specific to your subject. The syllabus is often abbreviated to “ASP” (in Swedish: allmän studieplan). You can read more at: General syllabus.

Why is your individual study plan important?

The individual study plan is often abbreviated as “ISP”. It regulates your rights and obligations and those of the university. If problems should arise in your studies, then the ISP will be the primary means of putting measures into place. It is also a document that provides a legal guarantee, as it should prove that you have had the opportunity to achieve the outcomes of doctoral-level education under the Higher Education Ordinance. More information is available at: Qualitative targets for licentiate and doctoral degrees.

The outcomes in the Higher Education Ordinance and any additional ones for your subject that are in the general syllabus are broken down and concretised in your individual study plan. Discussing how these outcomes should be achieved with your principal supervisor, and any reasons why they have not been, may provide a clearer picture of what is expected of you as a doctoral student. The study plan is extremely important for the best way of planning your studies, so they can be completed within the employment period of four years (full-time) for a doctorate or two years for a licentiate. It is also a basis for planning how to use the expenses funding that is necessary for you to be able to write your thesis.

More information is available at: Individual study plan. There is an example of an ISP, along with comments and instructions for filling it in.

What are the supervisor’s tasks and responsibilities?

Supervision can take many different forms, so it is important to clarify the expectations and demands that you and your supervisor have of each other for your cooperation to work well. Your obligations and the number of supervision hours must be included in your individual study plan. Read more at: Supervision and Individual study plan.

Can I change supervisor?

A doctoral student who asks to change supervisor has the right to do so under the Higher Education Ordinance. If you experience problems with supervision or want to change supervisor, read the Supervision page for advice about the best way to deal with this.

Where can I ask questions about my studies?

All research areas for doctoral studies have one or more directors of studies. They are responsible for doctoral-level education in your area and can answer general questions that relate to your studies and for which your supervisor is not responsible. You can also talk to the administrative officer for doctoral studies at your academic school, if your questions are of a more administrative nature.

Who is my line manager?

Your line manager is the head of the department responsible for your subject. You can turn to them with questions that relate to your employment and working environment. The head of department must offer you an annual meeting that focuses on these issues. The directors of studies are also always available. However, there are no salary negotiations, as all doctoral students have the same salary scale – more information is available at: Funding and employment. However, for questions that are more purely study-related, you should primarily talk to your supervisor and director of studies, for example if you have questions about seminars, your thesis, courses, ISP and public defence of thesis.

What are Primula, Agresso and Ladok?

Primula is a staffing and payroll system that manages administrative routines and salary payments. You register absences in it, such as when you are sick or on parental leave, and it also has your payslips.

Agresso is the university’s electronic invoicing and purchasing system. You use it to purchase books and other procured items, as well as to approve invoices for ordered goods and services.

Ladok is a national system for study documentation. Information about doctoral studies is registered in it, e.g. your courses and your thesis. You can access your certificates for registration and results by logging in via External link, opens in new window..

How much do I get paid on a doctoral studentship?

Your pay is regulated in a local collective agreement, the salary scale for doctoral students, and is decided by the university after negotiations with the unions. The salary scale has four levels and is based upon how long you have been employed. You move up from one level to another after 12, 24 and 36 months of full-time employment on a doctoral studentship.

For information about the current salary at each level, see: Doktorandstege.

What should I do if I am sick?

If you are off sick, you must report this to your head of department. At the same time, register your first sick day in Primula. When you are well, end your sick leave in Primula.

If you are sick for more than seven calendar days in a row, you must provide the employer with a certificate from your doctor from the eighth day. If you are sick for more than 14 days, you or your employer must send the doctor’s certificate to Försäkringskassan. Read more on the page Sjukdom och arbetsskada - Företagshälsovård.

How many holiday days do I have and how do I take them?

Up to and including the year you turn 29, you have 28 days of holiday (annual leave) every year. You have 31 days from the year you turn 30, and you have 35 days from the year you turn 40.

During your first year of employment, you must apply for holiday days if your employment starts after 1 August, but after this your holiday days are automatically registered as a standard holiday [schablonsemester] in Primula, starting on the Monday of the week leading up to Midsummer. Before your employment ends, i.e. during your final year of employment on a doctoral studentship, you must once again apply for holiday days if your employment ends before the standard holiday starts at the end of June.

You can choose to take your holiday at other times of the year, just remember to tell your head of department before 30 April, as well as your supervisor, if you take your holiday on dates other than the standard holiday. If you need to save holiday days for the following year, you must apply for this in Primula. There is more information about holidays at: Funding and employment and Semester och andra ledigheter.

What do I do if I have to apply to work part time?

If there are exceptional circumstances that mean you cannot work full time, doctoral students may be employed on a part-time basis, but at no less than 50 % of a full-time position. You should discuss your request to work part time with your principal supervisor. It is very important that you contact your local HR officer as soon as possible if you want to work part time.
Here is a form to apply to work part time External link.

Can my doctoral studentship be extended?

If you are employed on a doctoral studentship your period of employment can be equivalent to a maximum of four years of full-time study, or two years for a licentiate degree. There are some grounds for extension that can allow your period of employment to be extended. You can read more about these at: Funding and employment. During the fourth year, your HR officer adds up how many activities that allow an extension have been registered to you in Primula and Agresso while you have been employed. An extension will then be granted, provided that you have not already finished your studies. The calculation of the extension is made according to a specific template used by the university – contact your local HR officer if you want to know more about how it is done.

What are expenses and how do I apply for them?

Expenses are funds that doctoral students can use for necessary expenses in their studies, such as travel, conference participation, summer schools/courses, literature and software. The activities that the expenses are used for must be stated in your individual study plan. Make your own budget and note how much of the funds you have used. If you need to know more precisely how much of your funds are left, you can contact Finance & Auditing. There is more information about the ceiling for your expenses, what you should do if your money runs out and contact details at: Expenses.

How do I order travel and books, and why do I need both a reference code and activity number?

To be able to order goods and services using invoicing, you must state a personal reference code that consists of your subject’s organisation number and your own code for logging into your computer (user ID). Contact your HR officer to get your personal reference code, which will follow this template: Org4xxxxshxxxxxx. Always provide your reference code when you order something!

Doctoral students also have personal activity numbers that ensure that all income and costs are registered to the right person in Agresso. The activity number is used in both Agresso and Primula. Always state your personal activity number when you approve invoices in Agresso that relate to your expenses or other costs associated with your studies.

It is important that you do this correctly when you order books and travel due to the procurement rules that the university must follow because it is a public agency. There is more information at: Purchasing, ordering books and travel.

Departmental duties – what should I consider?

Departmental duties consist of work at the university that can be conducted alongside your studies, e.g. conference administration or teaching at Bachelor’s level. It is not included in your doctoral studies or your doctoral studentship. The work provides a basis for extending your period of employment, so you will not receive pay for the work you do immediately afterwards. Instead, your doctoral studentship will be extended with the equivalent time in your last year of studies. It is important to remember that departmental duties must not have a negative impact on your studies. Your studies must always be of primary importance and you must always have enough time for writing your thesis. Read more at: Departmental duties and activity reporting. The section Individual study plan also has examples of how to plan your time, which may be useful to look at be you accept departmental duties. Talk to your supervisor if you are interested in working with departmental duties.

If you defend your thesis and completely finish your studies before the end of your final year of employment, your employment will not be extended due to departmental duties or other exceptional reasons for extension. Remember to consult your local HR officer before accepting departmental duties in your final year of employment.

How should I prepare for the time after I finish studying?

It is important that you have time to think about and prepare for the time straight after you finish your doctoral degree. Read more about the opportunities available to you after graduating at: After you graduate.

Rights and benefits

As an employee at the university, employed by the state, in addition to being paid for your studies you have other rights and benefits that you can read about at: Min anställning (My job) on compensation for medical fees, screen glasses and public holidays. Preventive healthcare is a prioritised area and you are entitled to time and funding for preventive healthcare activities.

If your doctoral studies are funded by employment elsewhere, such as a company, organisation or other public body, your employer has full responsibility for your employment. This applies even if you are admitted to Södertörn University but are employed at another higher education institution. What applies to you more specifically is regulated through an agreement between Södertörn University and your employer.

The right to student influence means that doctoral students are represented on every important body at the university and can influence activities. Last but not least, you can participate in interesting research environments and have expense funding that you can use for travel to conferences, etc.

Doctoral students are entitled to a Mecenat card, which provides student discounts, e.g. on Stockholm’s public transport (if you study at least 75% of full time) and SJ. Read more about how to get one on Mecenat’s website External link, opens in new window..


You are expected to participate actively in seminars, etc., as part of your doctoral education (refer to your general syllabus) but remember that your presence at the university is also important in other contexts. Knowledge exchange between colleagues often contributes to more clarity and better study results. You should thus participate in the meetings to which your subject coordinator, head of department, director of studies or head of school invites you, e.g. staff meetings and departmental days, to get information about what’s going on at the university and in your department. Your presence also contributes to a good work environment – many interesting and creative ideas can arise from meeting each other in the lunch room and by the coffee machine.


As part of your doctoral studies, you must not only complete your courses according to your general syllabus and the commitments you make in your individual study plan (ISP), as well as deliver a finished doctoral or licentiate thesis, but you also have the following obligations as an employee and doctoral student:

  • reporting absences and any secondary employment in Primula
  • using your sh email and reading the news articles on the employee web
    filling in your staff card so you can be contacted using the information on the university website
  • along with your principal supervisor, ensuring that your individual study plan (ISP) is filled in and updated every year
  • fulfilling the commitments made in your ISP and noting the reason for any deviations.

Can supervision and other resources be withdrawn?

Under Chapter 6, Section 30 of the Higher Education Ordinance, a doctoral student who “substantially neglects” their commitments in their individual study plan may have their supervision and other resources withdrawn. This decision may only be made by the vice-chancellor. It is possible for the doctoral student and supervisor to make statements and an assessment must be made on the basis of their statements and other available investigations.

The assessment must also consider whether the university has fulfilled its commitments listed in the individual study plan. The decision must be in writing and motivated, and resources may not be withdrawn for the time stated in the valid employment decision. A decision to withdraw resources may be appealed to the Higher Education Appeals Board External link, opens in new window..

Important documents

The following documents are important, so should be organised and saved:

  • the general syllabus for third cycle studies in your subject
  • your individual study plan
  • your admission certificate, which you get on admission
  • your employment decision
  • certificate of registration and transcript of records: you can collect these from Ladok: External link, opens in new window.
  • copies of documentation for departmental duties, so you know which hours you have reported.

Ask questions!

Despite all the advantages of being an employed doctoral student, you may sometimes find it confusing to be a student and an employee with all the rights and obligations this involves. In some contexts, you may feel that your role and your position are unclear. Never hesitate to ask for help, from your supervisor, director of studies, line manager (i.e. head of department), or the administrators!


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2024-03-20 by Dejana Burazor