Doctoral education differs from education at first and second level. Doctoral studies last for several years and include courses, supervision and training as well as spending time on research projects. Sometimes you will teach students at Bachelor’s or Master’s level, or have other duties at your department. SLU has an online introductory course for doctoral education, created with the purpose of giving new doctoral students a short overview of how the education works - click on the green button below to visit the course in Canvas. Also, do not miss the links at the bottom of this page, you will find some interesting and informative links there.
Doctoral education - content and duration
Doctoral studies in Sweden last 4 years (for the Degree of Doctor) or 2 years (for the Degree of Licentiate). However, your period of study will be extended if, for example, you teach or take parental leave.
Doctoral studies at SLU teach students scientific approaches and subject knowledge. They also provide training in teaching and education and leadership. Whilst you will participate in courses and other education activities, your doctoral studies will mainly comprise a thesis project and most of your time will be spent conducting research. A doctoral student pursues a project – their thesis – with help from two or more supervisors. In the beginning, doctoral students are dependent on their supervisors. Then as their projects progress, the doctoral student becomes the driving force behind the work and the supervisors take on an advisory role.
You are a student
It is important to remind yourself that doctoral education is an education. It can be easy to forget sometimes, as most PhD students are also employed. But you have been admitted to an education, and you are here at SLU to learn how to do research. It can be said that a PhD is a "driving license for research", i.e. your degree is not the end but the beginning of your further career. You are in training, and will make mistakes (from which you can learn things), experiments will fail (it happens to everyone) and it is quite natural that you will not know how everything works from the first moment. Dare to ask your colleagues or your supervisors if there is something you are wondering about! And remember that you are not alone, many (all?) PhD students sometimes feel doubts and insecurities.
University life - how does it work?
Some PhD students who start their doctoral studies have a good grasp of how a Swedish university works, but most probably think that a lot of things feel foreign. Perhaps you come from another country and are unsure of how the culture at a Swedish department works, or you come from a background where university studies are unusual. It can be good to talk to a more senior doctoral colleague at the department if there is something in particular you are wondering about. Each department also has a director of studies or a person in charge of doctoral education to whom you can ask questions. Remember to check some of the links at the bottom of this page for more information on academic life in Sweden.
- A beginner's guide to Swedish Academia: To make things easier, Young Academy of Sweden has developed a guide for international researchers, to help navigate Swedish academia and remove time-consuming obstacles.
Each faculty has a mailing list for doctoral students
Each faculty has an email list for the faculty's doctoral students. Make sure to get on the list as soon as possible. Contact your faculty's director of studies or the administrator at the faculty office to join. Are you for example an industrial doctoral student, or sandwich doctoral student? It is as important for you to join the mailing lists as for the doctoral students that are employed at the department. Otherwise you might loose information on courses and other important things related to your education. Information on social activities will also be distributed via these mailings lists.
Tips for discussion topics with your supervisor group:
Doctoral education at SLU - who decides what?
At SLU, the vice-chancellor has overall responsibility for doctoral studies. However in practice, the faculties have been assigned responsibility via a delegation of authority. Decisions such as admission of a new doctoral student, change of supervisor, and defence of doctoral thesis are made at departmental level.
All doctoral students belong to a department, even those who are not employed by SLU. The head of department is responsible for all courses and programmes given to the department’s doctoral students. The head of department is also responsible for the work environment for the doctoral student, unless the student is employed by another employer than SLU.
Information for foreign doctoral students
The SLU Division of Human Resources has published information about living in Sweden and working at SLU. You can find useful information for before and after your move to Sweden here: https://internt.slu.se/en/my-employment/living-and-working-in-sweden/
International channels of information:
- International Citizien Hub Lund (For Southern Sweden)
- Uppsala International Hub (Uppsala region)
- High Coast International Hub (for Northern Sweden)
If you would like to read more about Sweden and the Swedes, the Swedish Institute has an official website with a lot of interesting (and surprising?) information:
Below, you will also find a link to a publication full of tips and advice for doctoral students and visiting researchers from abroad (please observe that the last part of the pdf is only applicable to those working at the dept of Ecology):
The Swedish National Union of Students (SFS) has put together a useful PhD Student Handbookwith a lot of general information about life as a PhD student.
Mailing lists. Each faculty has an email list for the faculty's doctoral students. Make sure to get on the list as soon as possible. Contact your faculty's director of studies or the administrator at the faculty office to join. Are you for example an industrial doctoral student, or sandwich doctoral student? It is as important for you to join the mailing lists as for the doctoral students that are employed at the department. Otherwise you might loose information on courses and other important things related to your education. Information on social activities will also be distributed via these mailings lists.
What kind of introduction can I expect?
As a newly admitted doctoral student, you must receive an introduction to the education and to SLU. Here you can read about how your introduction can go about.
SLU also has a digital introductory course for doctoral students.
Find out who is your department's director of studies or contact person for doctoral education - it's good to know!
SLU Staff web pages on doctoral education
On SLU's Staff Web you will find a lot of information about rules and routines that apply to your doctoral education.
The starting point is Doctoral education, where you will find information about:
- Recruitment and admission - how does the admission process work?
- Doctoral education content – courses, planning and follow-up.
- Thesis and public defense - what is required to be able to defend? What is required of a thesis?
- Degrees - which degree will I get?
- Regulations and forms - here are the rules, guidelines, forms and checklists used in doctoral education.
- Contact - contains contact information for various decision-making bodies and people who can answer your questions about doctoral education at SLU.
Take the opportunity to look around the Staff website when you have a few minutes to spare, there is a lot of interesting reading there.
Industrial doctoral students
Some doctoral students' education is funded by a private company, and the doctoral education is a collaboration between the company and SLU. Such PhD students are called business PhD students, industrial PhD students or collaborative PhD students – all these terms mean the same thing. Being an industrial PhD student often means that you, as an employee of a company, get the chance for doctoral training within the framework of your employment.
It is important that you, as an industrial doctoral student, receive the same introduction to the education as other doctoral students at the department. Also make sure that you join the faculty's email list for doctoral students as soon as possible so that you receive information about courses and other activities. Contact your faculty's director of studies for doctoral education if you are not on the email list.
There are two different degrees at doctoral level, the doctoral degree (corresponding to 4 years of full-time study) and the licentiate degree (corresponding to 2 years of full-time study). The licentiate degree can either be used as a partial step towards a doctoral degree or be an independent degree. A licentiate degree can be a good compromise if for some reason you do not want to attend a (at least) 4-year education.
The oral defense of a licentiate thesis is called a licentiate seminar and corresponds to the public defense of the doctoral thesis. At a licentiate seminar there is no external reviewer (opponent), but an examining committee assesses the thesis and the oral defense.
- SLU's online introductory course for doctoral students
- A beginner's guide to Swedish Academia: As new to the Swedish research system, one is faced with a series of questions, about what applies to qualifications, what the networks look like, but also practical issues. To make things easier, Young Academy of Sweden has developed a guide for international researchers, to help navigate Swedish academia and remove time-consuming obstacles.
- PhD Handbook - a comprehensive guide for doctoral studies in Sweden - This is a guide for those pursuing a doctoral or a licentiate degree in Sweden. Here you can find information about admission to doctoral education, a handbook for doctoral students and an overview of the most relevant legislation.
- Contact information within SLU's doctoral education.
- SLU around Sweden - find information about your campus
- Faculties and departments at SLU