23 February, 2016

Newbie scientists in Sweden: contract or stipendium?


Following on from the previous post, Sweden is a fantastic place to do research. However, before you get the lab coat and the goggles and start contributing to shape the future, there are some boring administrative issues to be solved.

Whether you are already performing research as a newbie in a Swedish university or you are planning/negotiating moving to Sweden to perform a PhD or a postdoc stage, it is important that you understand the conditions of your relationship with your host.

Here we offer very broad guidelines about the differences between stipendium and contracts. Each University should have a human resources department that can answer more specific questions.

First of all, imagine that your type of employment is like an airline:

  1. A stipendium is the low-cost airline option, it is useful but it’s not super-comfortable and the customer service is very limited.
  2. A time-limited contract (tidbegränsad) is like flying economy class on a regular airline. A bit more comfortable and you might get a snack
  3. Permanent contract: Like being upgraded to first class on a long-haul flight! Something to dream of!

A stipendium is always connected to educational purposes and therefore does not pay tax. This also means that the health care and social security benefits are limited. As an example, parental leave is not covered, and the same goes for pension contributions and unemployment benefits.

However, you will be able to get health care provided you have the personnummer. Scientifically, a stipendium is an entrance gate to understand the research system in Sweden and to learn the environment, new techniques and methodologies. It also gives the stipendiat the flexibility to perform research without the burdens of administrative work and provides a safety net to start looking for personal funding if that is the mid-term intention.

A temporary contract tidsbegränsad anställning is the preferred form of relationship for doktorander (PhD student) and postdoctoral researchers with administrative responsibilities. It provides full social coverage, including parental leave, pension, unemployment benefits, etc. It is usually the natural evolvement of postdoctoral ‘stipendiums’ that decide to stay in Sweden but now have more project and/or personnel management roles.

If you’re lucky enough to land in Sweden as a newbie researcher with a permanent contract (permanent anställning) well, congratulations!

It is worth mentioning that permanent means ‘as long as the funding permits’, since most of the faculty positions are not fully covered by internal


Happy pippeting!

university funding and external top-up funding is normally required from external sources. Of course, this will vary from case to case and it should negotiated individually with the respective department or administrative organization.

As said, the HR department should provide more detailed information about these issues. And then, when all of this is solved, happy pipetting!

Rona Strawbridge and Francisco Vilaplana

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The Newbie Team
The Newbie Team posts news, tips and general goodness that can be useful for all Newbies. We always try to find Newbie related information that will help all Newbies on their new life in Sweden.
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One Comment on “Newbie scientists in Sweden: contract or stipendium?

25 February, 2016 at 13:20

Hello , this is good information .
but when you are performing research as a masters student in any of the swedish universities , the students from Non European regions will not be provided any Stipendium or contract . Instead you have to pay the tuition fee for working on research for them . I dont understand sweden in this case , where it is known for its equality in education , and they show racial discrimination on noneuropean students by not providing any financial encouragement or support for them and they instead take money for allowing them to work for them . The same master student from within europe will be paid or registered under a stipendiat / contract .

so Noneuropean newbies please keep in mind that research is good in sweden only at the expense of your money .


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