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Sweden, Academic Career Structure



Introduction to the system

Sweden is part of the relatively open Scandinavian university system. Positions are advertised by universities on their website and immediately visible to external competitors. There are also some centres of excellence.

Despite a certain degree of attention to merit and accessibility to international scholars, in order to access the system it is advisable to make contacts with the people already in the university in which you want to enter, and who work in the discipline and on the subject in which you are interested.

Language can also be a barrier, and foreign researchers may be requested to learn the Swedish.


Higher Education in Sweden  

All Swedish institutions of higher education fall under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Education and Research (except for the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences).

Sweden has 14 universities and 22 higher education institutions whose principal is the state. In addition there are about ten private education providers.

Sweden has a long academic tradition; the oldest university, in Uppsala, was founded in 1477.


Career Curriculum

1. PhD Candidate
2. Forskarassistent /Postdoctoral Fellow
3. Adjunkt /Junior Lecturer
4. Lecturer (Senior)
5. Professor

The average age when finishing the PhD is 35 (41 for students in humanities and social sciences).


Requirements for Positions

A PhD is not required for appointment as Adjunkt (Junior Lecturer).

A PhD degree is required for postdoctoral research and normally for appointment as Senior Lecturer and Professor.

There is a single career track from Adjunkt to Senior Lecturer and from Senior Lecturer to Professor. A PhD graduate or Postdoctoral Fellow can also be appointed to a position as Senior Lecturer, without having been Adjunkt first (although this is relatively rare). In 1999 Sweden introduced a competence promotion system as academic career structure.

This means that once appointed to a permanent position (Adjunkt or Lecturer) one is eligible to apply for promotion to Senior Lecturer or Professor on the basis of individual research competence and teaching skills irrespective of vacant positions. (This also applies for Junior Lecturers who do not hold a PhD degree, and in theory it is possible to be appointed Senior Lecturer and Professor without the PhD degree; but in practice this rarely occurs).

Promotion is based on peer judgements about the competence of the individual. It is necessary to document academic research and teaching skills to apply for promotion. Promotion can only be granted within the same academic discipline. The promotion is locally managed; each institution is responsible for the assessment of applications from their own staff. Of course promotion can also be granted when applying for a position in open competition at another institution.

There are also temporary lecturer positions and these are not eligible for the same competence based promotion rules. When holding a temporary position the only way to be promoted is to apply for a permanent position in open competition with other applicants.


Research Career

Please contact us if you can provide relevant information.


Barriers to Career Advancement

The postdoctoral phase is a bottleneck in the system. The number of academic positions available (temporary and permanent) do not meet the demand by the increasing number of PhD candidates. And many get stuck in a series of temporary research or teaching positions, waiting for a permanent solution.

Once appointed a permanent position there is a tendency in Swedish academia to low mobility between the institutions. The  competence promotion system has made it possible to be promoted within one’s own institution, regardless of open positions.

One step towards a permanent position is the Adjunkt position, but in practice it is difficult for Adjunkts/Junior Lecturers to advance because they have been hired in posts that are mainly teaching positions (the junior lecturers constitute one-third of the teachers at the undergraduate level (Askling 2001). They do not have much time to do research and thus to meet the academic requirements for promotion.

The number of women decreases within the academic hierarchy; The lowest proportion of women are among Professors with 17%, and the highest among Junior Lecturers with 54% being female in 2005.


Job Security

Almost all Adjunkts, Professors and Senior Lecturers have permanent posts. Postdoctoral Fellows have temporary contracts and so do part-time teachers, visiting teachers and researchers (forskare).


Contracts and Duties

Both research and teaching is expected in all academic positions. The recommended teaching time is 9 hours per week for academic teachers, but many do more. It is expected that both Professors and Lecturers teach at all levels. It has been noted that academic faculty do not feel they have enough time for research.

Financial cuts have reduced personnel at universities and at the same time the administrative duties for faculty has increased. On an average faculty work 49 hours per week. Cuts also mean that institutions are dependent on their successful researchers, who are able to attract research grants. The institutions themselves also rely on external funding from private companies. It should be noted that there are no tuition fees in Swedish Universities and all education is free.


Sabbatical Opportunities

There is no longer any central regulation on sabbatical leave. These are decided locally when plans of competences are agreed upon between each teacher and the head of the department. Such plans should be made with a 3-year perspective.


Gross Salaries

Gross monthly salaries (September 2006)


PhD Candidate

2.180            €/month

2.365 €/month

2.740 €/month

Postdoc/Research Assistant

3.086 €/month

3.317 €/month

3.795 €/month

University Adjunkt/Junior Lecturer

2.819 €/month

3.142 €/month

3.653 €/month

Senior Lecturer

3.413 €/month

3.800 €/month

4.580 €/month


4.470 €/month

5.145 €/month

6.488 €/month

Source: SULF - Swedish Association of University Teachers
Note: Taxes are approximately 45% depending on personal finances.


Number of Existing Positions


--Social SciencesHumanitiesLawTotal numbers

Research Assistant





Adjunkt/Junior Lecturer





Senior Lecturer










Source: 'Swedish Universities and University Colleges. Annual Report 2006' 

Note: Numbers show the amount of academics holding the positions in 2005.


Internal Recruitment

There seems to be low mobility in Swedish academia. Of students, 85% continue their postgraduate training at the same institution where they had their basic degree. Two-thirds of Professors at an institution received their PhD degree from the same institution.


Accessibility for Non-Nationals

Swedish is the language used in all national universities but an increasing number of courses are offered in English, both to meet the demand of international students but also to internationalise national education. English is thus widely used both written and orally and should not in itself be a barrier for access to Swedish academia.

Compared to many other countries the recruitment process is open for foreign candidates; the promotion reform has, however, reduced the number of open recruitments somewhat. The academic faculty with a foreign background comprise 18% in the university sector.


National Universities

Sweden has both universities and university colleges. The universities all offer graduate and postgraduate training. The colleges do not all offer doctoral studies; they do research but the main operation is teaching, in general the training is more specialised (by disciplines) in the colleges.

The main universities are:


Research Institutions

There are few separate research institutes in Sweden. Most research institutions are subdivisions of the universities. Have a look at the individual universities websites for further information.


Academic Unions

SULF - Swedish Association of University Teachers 


Useful Websites


Info for History

Please contact us if you can provide relevant information.


Info for Economics

Please contact us if you can provide relevant information.


Info for Law

Please contact us if you can provide relevant information.


Info for Social and Political Science

Swedish Political Science Organisation


Postdoctoral Information

National Research Council 

The National Research Council provides support for research in all academic disciplines (e.g. Postdocs, projects, visiting scholars etc.).

For more information on Postdoc options and funding possibilities contact also the Swedish Association of University Teachers 


Websites for Job Postings

Please contact us if you can provide relevant information.



See the 'Higher Education Ordinance' for all rules and regulations relating to institutions of higher education in Sweden"

Huisman, Jeroen & Bartelse, Jeroen 2001, 'Academic Careers: a Comparative Perspective', Report prepared for the Dutch Advisory Council for Science and Technology Policy on Academic Careers, Enschede.

Huisman, Jeroen, Egbert De Weert & Jeroen Bartelse 2002, 'Academic Careers from a European Perspective', The Journal of Higher Education, Vol. 73 (1).

Askling, Berit 2001, 'Higher Education and Academic Staff in a Period of Policy and System Change', Higher Education , Vol. 41.

Swedish Universities and University Colleges, Annual Report 2006


Special thanks to:

Björn Birath, SULF

Magnus Jedenheim, Visiting Fellow EUI 

Page last updated on 28 August 2018

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