FAQ


A list of some common questions provided for PhD students:

What does DS do?

DS is the coordinating mechanism between PhD students at all Chalmers departments. It represents the PhD students’ interests in several key boards and committés at Chalmers (including the University Board, the Faculty Council, the Research Education Council, and the Equality and Work Environment Council etc.) and outside of Chalmers (including Swedish National Union of Students Doctoral Committee). Find out more of what we do by reading our plan of operations (Link).

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Do you see the importance of the Individual Study Plan?

The individual study plan is our safety net. It is a fundamental document for any PhD student, unfortunately most of us do not realize its importance until later in the PhD program. Let’s change that!

All PhD students must have a documented study plan during the PhD program and keep it up to date. The Swedish Government made this mandatory for all the students as a means of monitoring the development of the individual PhD study.

The study plan is more than an agreement on the future work; it is our tool to prove that we are on the right track towards our PhD degree, and if not, we should use this to detect problems early on. Also from this document we can claim to get better/more supervision if it is not done according to the study plan. This document is really what we fall back on, if something would go wrong.

The study plan, done properly, is also a good tool to assess your progress in the development of the different competences that you ought to have at the day of your PhD defense. A way to assess these competences can be found in the Professional and personal development tool developed by Julie Gold and Patric Wallin at Applied Physics. It has been made available on our homepage. We encourage you to convince your supervisor to use this to assess your competences, which we believe will lead you to excel even more in your future career.

It is crucial that you, the main supervisor and the examiner agree upon the content of the study plan and sign it. If issues rise in this phase or later they should be taken up to the directors of the graduate school.

Keep in mind that the study plan is a document taken in consideration during the resolution of any issue inherent to the PhD studies. Taking care of the study plan is the best way to ensure you a smooth journey throughout your PhD program, and we suggest you to have regular meetings with your supervisors to check that everything is in order and up to date. Every department follows their own process for Study Plan follow up, but the result should be the same: Regular check-ups, changes and SIGNED.

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Should PhD students pay the student union fee?

It is compulsory to pay the student union fee as a PhD student at Chalmers. If this is not paid every semester, the PhD student will have to pay the total sum at the end of the PhD. There is no extra fee for paying late and there is no interest rate. However, by paying it early at the beginning of each semester, you get a Mecenat card which gives you student discounts internally at Chalmers (reduced lunch prices etc.) as well as externally (including train trips with SJ).

Make sure that your fee is paid to the right union. For PhD students this is the Doctoral Student Guild, so you should have a (DS) on your bill and Mecenat card. The fee is lower than the ones of the other unions and it means that your money goes to the right purpose.

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What if one does not have the SJ rebate on the Mecanat card?

The Doctoral Student Guild has previously been getting reports that many PhD students does not get the SJ logo on their Mecenat student union card as they are entitled to. PhD students are entitled to the SJ logo if their activity level (without teaching) is above 75%. It seems like the issue has been occurring if the student union fee was paid earlier than the activity level data was updated. For industrial PhD students the activity level is lower than 75% if the Chalmers part of the employment is less than 93.75%. This origins from the way the activity level is being calculated as 80% of the Chalmers employment.

DS has been pushing Chalmers for quite some time to come up with a solution addressing that the data is updated in time for the Mecenat card. It seems like the issue now has been solved. If you would encounter any issues going forward please contact DS. If you are missing the Mecenat logo and are entitled to it, then you can use the following temporary quick-fixes:

  1. Use the mecenat app to show you are entitled to the SJ logo.
  2. Send a text to mecenat and they send a picture of the SJ logo back.
  3. You can ask for a new mecenat card.

Read more about all three solutions at: http://www.mecenat.se/kundtjanst/reserabatter

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How much vacation does one “have” to take out and how many can one save?

You cannot have more than 35 vacation days saved at any given moment. If you have vacation left when you end your employment you should, by law, be compensated by Chalmers paying you 4.6% of your monthly salary for each saved vacation day. Worth remembering is that you have to use at least 20 of your given vacation days every year, only the rest can potentially be saved for another year. For more information and details, see the “Collective agreement” below.

Note: DS has been informed of cases in the past when divisions refused to pay for remaining vacation days. Contacts with the labour union (Saco) made it clear that the refusal was unlawful in these cases. All PhD candidates should know that if you, when your contract ends, have remaining vacation days, you are entitled to compensation. If your boss refuse, you may refer to the collective agreement. You may also contact your local union representative.

References:

– (in Swedish): Kollektivavtal, Chalmers document id 2013-1363.

Tillgänglig online 2015-01-08 via

https://document.chalmers.se/download?docid=2105083313.

– (in English): Insidan translation of collective agreement, available online 2015-01-08 via

http://www.chalmers.se/insidan/EN/employment/working-conditions

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What support can one get if being unemployed after the PhD? (“Job security agreement”, in Swedish: Omställningsavtalet)

Omställningsavtalet is a national agreement which offer support for employees (including PhD candidates at Chalmers) who, for different reasons, become unemployed. The agreement is valid from 2015-01-01, replacing the previous agreement with the Job security foundation which ended 2014-12-31. The new agreement is, in multiple ways, not as good for us PhD candidates as the old agreement. It is not clear exactly why our support levels had to be decreased, although there are articles discussing possible reasons, see e.g. references below. In this message, we do not discuss the old agreement or speculate about the negotiations. Instead we try to summarise what support you can get from the current agreement. Chalmers is, according to the agreement, obliged to inform you about the available support at least one month before the end of your contract, but it may be useful to know about this earlier.

The Job Security Foundation (in Swedish: Trygghetsstiftelsen) is financed by the employers (e.g. Chalmers) paying 0.3% of each employees salary to the foundation, and the money may be used to help individuals who become unemployed. The main focus is to provide assistance to find a new job. Below we summarise the support offered. A link to the full agreement (in Swedish) is given at the end.

Support summary:

If you have been employed by Chalmers for at least two years you are entitled to

  • Two meetings with specialized staff from Job Security Foundation in order to receive coaching before looking for jobs,
  • Limited individual support from the Job Security Foundation,
  • Be on leave from Chalmers with full salary during your last month of employment to participate in activities offered by the Job Security Foundation,
  • Finish ongoing occupational health services already paid for by Chalmers.

If you have been employed by Chalmers for at least three years you may also get:

  • Increased individual support from the Job Security Foundation
  • A-Kassa top-up: Difference of the maximum amount paid out by the A-Kassa and 80% of your salary during 44 working days.

Important note if your employment ends in 2015 or 2016:

In the agreement there is a third level of support which is not offered to PhD candidates. However, since the agreement was recently changed there are currently transition rules in place for PhD candidates who end their employment before 2016-12-31. In this case you are, in addition to the above, also entitled to the third level of the current agreement, which means:

  • Increased A-kassa top-up: Up to 200 days (instead of 44).
  • 440 days of income-top-up in case you find a job with a lower salary.
  • 100 additional days to use for either of the two above.
  • In addition, if you reach 300 days of A-kassa top-up and have children below 18 years of age, you can apply for 150 more days.

References:

– (in Swedish): Avtal om omställning, samt förhandlingsprotokoll 2014-06-25. Tillgänglig online 2015-01-08 via http://www.arbetsgivarverket.se/avtal-skrifter/centrala-avtal/avtal-om-omstallning/

– (in Swedish): Article about reasons for why PhD candidates got less support in the new agreement http://www.sulf.se/Universitetslararen/Arkiv/2014/Nummer-9-14/Doktorander-offrades-till-forman-for-soldater/

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How does one make sure that one is on track developing different competences during the PhD education?

The graduate studies group at Applied Physics (special mention to Patric Wallin and Julie Gold) has developed an easy and powerful tool for PhD students and supervisors to improve the discussion around the professional and personal development of the student. We are more than happy to share it with you and suggest you to propose it to your supervisor. Let us know what you think about it!

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How does one get access to the LADOK transcript of records?

PhD students have now an own student portal, called “Doctoral Portal”. You can find your transcript of records after logging in on Doctoral portal under /Create transcript of records, postgraduate studies/ .
Because of the new portal this service is no longer available for PhD students under the student portal for undergraduates.
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