Legal affairs

Last changed: 19 August 2021

The Legal Affairs Unit provides support and advice to the university management, the university administration as well as teachers and researchers.

This advice primarily covers administrative law, the Higher Education Act as well as contract and copyright law. When necessary, the unit brings proceedings on behalf of the university.

Examples of matters managed by the Legal Affairs Unit:

Contract management

Legal Affairs have established an easy guide (in Swedish) to contracts. This document helps staff members who need to enter into various agreements. You can also find SLU’s policy for establishing collaboration agreements with foreign higher education institutions as well as examples of agreement templates.

Lathund avtal’ (a quick guide to agreements – only available in Swedish) helps you to establish and review an agreement. It tells you what is normally included in agreements between universities and other parties, for example regarding research collaboration.

A research agreement must be signed and registered together with the agreement in such cases where the agreement states that the researcher relinquishes their right to the results, for example if it states that the opposite party owns the results of the collaboration/task, or if, according to the agreement, SLU owns the final result. The latter is standard when entering into agreements within the framework of an EU-funded project.

The research agreement is an internal SLU document; the opposite party does not need a copy of it.

There are English templates for commonly occurring agreements. You will find the templates under the Links heading below. The text in the comments tells you what to write under each heading.

Using e-signatures for agreements

An e-signature is a way of securing, by using technical tools, that a certain person has “signed” a document. It is not the same thing as a manual signature that has been scanned and saved as a file.

If the counterpart is Swedish, no e-signature is needed. Signing an agreement and scanning it is usually sufficient proof that an agreement has been concluded.

If the counterpart is not Swedish, in most cases no e-signature is needed: a signed and scanned agreement is usually enough. There are, however, cases when an e-signature is required (primarily if legislation in the counterpart’s country requires it). Your counterpart will usually inform you of this. In case of doubt, contact the Legal Affairs Unit.

If you want to use e-signatures, follow these instructions:

The document to be signed must be in the format PDF/A-2u. To save a file in this format, select Save as in Acrobat, select PDF/A and click Settings.  In the dialogue box that opens, select PDF/A-2u.

Agreements with higher education institutions abroad

If you enter into an agreement with a foreign higher education institution, the agreement must be registered in the MoveOn database. The Division of Educational Affairs registers the agreement. You must also send a copy to samarbetsavtal@slu.se.

Disciplinary matters

Staff

The SLU Board has established a staff disciplinary board to decide on matters regarding giving notice for personal reasons, taking legal action, suspension or medical examinations. The staff disciplinary board consists of the vice-chancellor and staff representatives as well as three members appointed by the board.

According to the Public Employment Act, an employee working in public service who intentionally or with carelessness neglects their duties in employment may be imposed a disciplinary sanction for neglect of duty, if the neglect is not minor. The sanction takes the form of a warning or a salary deduction for 30 days. The salary deduction for each day may be, at most, 25 percent of the daily salary.

Students

According to the Higher Education Ordinance, disciplinary measures may be invoked against students who:

1.      use prohibited aids or other methods to attempt to deceive during examinations or other forms of assessment of study performance

2.      disrupt or obstruct teaching, tests or other activities within the framework of courses and study programmes at the higher education institution

3.      disrupt activities in the library of the higher education institution or other separate establishments at the institution, or

4.      subject another student or member of the staff of the higher education institution to harassment or sexual harassment of the kind laid down in the Discrimination Act (2008:944).

All reports must be sent to the vice-chancellor and the matters are handled by the university’s disciplinary board. The board consists of the vice-chancellor, a legally qualified member who shall hold or have held tenure as a judge, a teacher representative and two student representatives. Possible disciplinary measures are warnings or suspension from participating in teaching and examinations for up to six months.

Legal Counsel Anna Jarmar is secretary of the Disciplinary Board.

Disqualification

Disqualification is described in Sections 11-12 of the Administrative Procedure Act.

When is someone disqualified?

The following are clear cases of disqualification:

  • You or someone closely related to you has applied for the post that the matter concerns.
  • The outcome of the matter concerned can be expected to involve extraordinary advantage or detriment to you or someone closely related to you.
  • A matter is to be settled by a higher authority, and you have taken part in handling the matter at a subordinate authority.

Disqualification may also apply if there are other circumstances likely to make others believe that you are not entirely impartial.

  • You are friends with, or in conflict with, someone who is party to the matter or has an interest in it.
  • You depend financially on someone who is party to or has na interest in the matter.
  • You are involved in the matter in such a way that you could be suspected of not being impartial.

Grey areas

If something does not"feel right" when a decision is to be made, it is  important to raise this for discussion as soon as possible. If time does not allow for a more in-depth analysis of whether you should be disqualified, you should refrain from handling the matter.

What if I am disqualified?

If you are disqualified, you are not allowed to take part in any aspect of handling the matter.

As soon as you become aware of any circumstance that may mean that you are disqualified, you must disclose this to your manager or the chair, as applicable.

If you are not certain that you should be disqualified, you need to raise the issue anyway as it is important to clarify this as soon as possible. If you have any questions, contact the Legal Affairs Unit.

If someone should have been disqualified but was not?

If someone has handled a matter even though they should have been disqualified, this can cause delays. If a decision has already been made, disqualification is a ground for appeal. It will then be necessary to recommit the matter.

If it is discovered later in the process, the minutes, decision or other relevant document must clearly state the measures taken to ensure that the process was not affected in a negative manner.

Ethical review

It is forbidden by law (Ethical Review Act, SFS 2003:460) to initiate and conduct research covered by the Ethical Review Act without prior approval by the Swedish Ethical Review Authority.

Ethical reviews are compulsory for research carried out in Sweden which involves a physical intervention on a living or deceased person, or research carried out on biological matter from a living or deceased person, if the biological matter can be linked to that person.

If sensitive personal data (see the data protection pages), or data about crimes, will be processed as part of the research, a prior approval by the Ethical Review Authority is required. Research conducted using methods that involve a manifest risk of the research subject being harmed must be reviewed. This can apply to, for example, surveys and interviews.

More information about the Swedish Ethical Review Authority, as well as a digital application form, is available at www.etikprovning.se (in Swedish only).

Scientific publications will sometimes require that researchers provide an ethical permit before their manuscript is published. For research not covered by the Ethical Review Act, SLU’s Legal Affairs Unit can provide a certificate confirming that no legal permit is necessary.

Force majeure - corona

As a result of the coronavirus, SLU may find it difficult to fulfil contractual obligations. This could be conducting research according to a research plan, submit costs to a funding body or give external training.

If the spread of the coronavirus prevents us from doing this, for example because a researcher has become infected, we may need to inform our contractual partner that we are affected by force majeure. If we do not inform them, this may result in legal penalties.

When SLU is paying for something we cannot use because of the virus, such as a conference, it may be possible to request a reduced price due to hardship, a legal concept.

The Legal Affairs Unit can assist with bigger cases.

Act as soon as possible – if not, there is a risk that we will not be able to invoke force majeure or hardship.

Overview of what applies in case of force majeure or hardship

Liability and damages

According to the Tort Liability Act, all employers are responsible for damages caused by their employees. If the damage concerns another person or is material, this responsibility extends to all actions by employees in service. If the damage concerns economic loss, the loss can only be compensated when it is caused by a criminal act by the employee.

In addition to this vicarious liability, the state and municipalities have a special responsibility for damages caused by a wrongful decision or neglect in connection with the exercise of authority.

Claims for compensation are handled by the Office of the Chancellor of Justice if the claim is based on an alleged wrongful decision or neglect to inform about a decision.

Claims for compensation on any other ground should be directed to the central government agency within whose area of activity the damage has occured.

Normally, the vicarious liability will cover any damage caused by employees or students. Only in exceptional cases will an employee or student be liable to damages.

Official records, public access and secrecy

The principle of public access means anyone is entitled to read the documents held by public authorities.

What is an official record?

An official record is a record that has been received or drawn up by a public authority such as SLU.

A record becomes official as soon as it is held by an authority, whether it has been registered or not is irrelevant.

Restricted or unrestricted access?

Access to official records is either restricted or unrestricted. For access to be restricted for reasons of secrecy, there must be a legal basis for this in the Public Access to Information and Secrecy Act. If there is no applicable reason to restrict access, access to the record is unrestricted.

Read more about the Public Access to Information and Secrecy Act in a folder from the Government Offices.

Research misconduct

SLU has guidelines in the event of alleged research misconduct, adopted by the vice-chancellor. In addition to these guidelines, there is an administrative procedure to follow if SLU researchers are plagiarised.

Administrative procedure when SLU researchers are plagiarised

These guidelines are meant to be used as a guidance on how researchers/departments should proceed when researchers at SLU are plagiarised. Publications are increasingly spread and internationalised, which makes it easier to plagiarise, as well as to discover plagiarism. SLU needs an action plan for how these matters should be handled.

When plagiarism is suspected, the researcher who owns the copyright and who consider themselves plagiarised, raise the issue.

The researcher informs their head of department and the dean at the faculty of the suspected plagiarism.

At this stage, the researcher can also contact the library for support regarding simpler copyright issues and publication.

The faculty reviews the case in question – a legal officer should be present during this time. The library ensures that the documents relating to the investigation are available to the investigating parties at SLU. If the result of the review is that the SLU researcher has been plagiarised and that the matter should proceed, the vice-chancellor must be informed. The matter is then continued by the faculty with the support of the Legal Affairs Unit.

The researcher should, following the faculty review, notify their publisher of the suspected plagiarism of their work. The publisher has, in conjunction with publication, usually agreed on parts of the author's copyright, which means that they want to safeguard their and the author's right to the work. The publisher may have procedures for this since they want to protect their exclusive right to the published work.

The individual researcher is supported by their faculty (dean), department (head of department) and the Legal Affairs unit. The legal officers at SLU should also support the representatives from the publisher in question (the publisher who published the work that has been plagiarised).


Contact

The Legal Affairs Unit can be reached at juridik@slu.se or by phone.

Lennart Jonsson, Head of Legal Affairs, 018-67 22 71

Sebastian Bromander, Legal Counsel, special responsibility for Nagoya Protocol issues, 018 – 67 17 60

Anna Jarmar, Legal Counsel, 018-67 22 75

Henrik Leffler, Legal Counsel, 018-67 20 75

Simon Åkerblom, Legal Counsel, special responsibility for digitalisation and data protection issues, 018 – 67 20 42