Academic rank in Sweden
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- 1 Background
- 2 Academic ranks
- 3 Proposed changes
- 4 Administrative ranks
- 5 References
In Sweden, academic ranks and their corresponding required skills in teaching and research are defined in the University Law (SFS 1993:100) and the University Ordinance (SFS 1992:1434). The hiring of and promotion to the rank of professor is assessed in committee before being decided upon by the appropriate university official, usually the head of the department (prefekt), dean (dekan) or head of the university (rektor). The assessment is based on the views of two or more external reviewers. Decisions are frequently appealed to the Appeals Board for Swedish Universities and Colleges (Överklagandenämnden för Högskolan). A similar procedure, albeit with different requirements, is used before the title of docent, which can be awarded, or the employment of a lektor.
In general, the Swedish system of academic ranks contains two intertwined career ladders; one based on teaching merits, the other based on research merits. The teaching ladder starts with adjunct instructor (adjunkt), continues with lecturer (lektor), and ends with professor. The research ladder starts with PhD student (doktorand), continues with PhD (doktor), assistant professor (forskarassistent), associate professor (docent), and ends with professor. All titles, except for the PhD degree (doktor) and the associate professor title (docent), are tied to a given employment position.
There are also official translations of the names of these positions.
The Swedish Government Official Report (SOU 2007:98) on Academic Career Pathways published in December 2007 proposed several changes to the here described structure.
Previously, only holders of a chair of an academic department had the title professor, but, since the 1990s, a second career path has been opened, allowing qualified lecturers to apply for promotion. A successful evaluation automatically confers the title of professor. Regardless of the hiring mechanism, to qualify as a professor, the applicant must have a PhD degree, a strong publication record, proven teaching skills, and have served as the main supervisor for PhD students who have successfully obtained their PhD. The title of professor in Sweden is similar to a senior, full professor in the USA. Professors promoted to their title enjoy most of the advantages of a directly appointed professor. However, the institution receives no extra funding for research work. Both unions and universities agree that this must change over time, but progress has been slow. While the professorship once was for life, it is now merely an employment. A professor who resigns or is let go loses the title.
Since 1 January 2011 the individual right to be promoted to professor is removed from the general university legislation. It is instead delegated to the respective university and the local rules governing employment positions. Usually there is still a possibility for promotion, but the right to be promoted, as the previous legislation was, is removed.
Tillförordnad professor / Adjungerad professor / Gästprofessor
Acting professor, adjunct professor and visiting professor are all temporary professor positions used to solve the need for a certain competence or a managerial resource, often in collaboration with commercial industry, or the public health care system. An adjunct professor usually works on a part-time basis (typically less than 50%) and has their main employment elsewhere. As the positions are limited in duration, individuals are usually directly recruited without any competitive selection process. Despite the lack of competition, the formal requirements typical coincide with the requirements necessary to be appointed as professor.
A docent is an academic qualification and title that is broadly equivalent to the level at which someone would be employed as an associate professor in the USA. A docent requires a PhD and typically must have documented scientific independence in the form of additional publications beyond those required for a PhD, as well as teaching experience, and training in both teaching and scientific mentorship. The title docent is not an employment position, but rather a competency level required to be the main supervisor of a PhD student, or to serve as a member of the committee that assesses the defense of a PhD thesis. Through research and teaching experience, the docent earns venia docendi, the right to teach. Accordingly, a docent may teach at all levels and be appointed by the faculty as opponent at a PhD Thesis defence. Typically, a docent manages a group of PhD students or a subdivision of a research group. While once a formal position obtainable through an excellent grade on the PhD dissertation, today PhDs apply to be an unpaid docent, meaning that they keep their current employment but are awarded the title docent in recognition of their level of academic competency. Individuals retain the docent title for life.
This teaching position typically requires a PhD, and is similar to a lecturer in the USA. A position as lektor requires proven pedagogical and scientific skills, usually being understood as teaching experience during his PhD studies and successful defence of a PhD thesis. Although lecturers are typically promised a 50/50 partition between research and teaching, for those lecturers unable to find external funding it is largely a teaching position. Coursework includes all levels, but lecturers do not necessarily act as examiners at the PhD level. As with professors, a promotion procedure can be applied for junior staff that qualify. Administrative or pedagogical skills can substitute for a lack in research work, if combined with long service. Today, almost all lecturer positions require a PhD degree. Depending on the university, qualification as lektor may be the required level of employment to participate in academic elections, as well as to stand for the offices of dean (dekan) or head of the university (rektor). The term lektor is a position of employment.
Postdoktor / Forskare / Forskarassistent
The titles of postdoktor (post-doctoral researcher), forskare (researcher) or forskarassistent (research associate) are time-limited positions allowing the PhDs to continue their research, often to work towards qualifying as a docent. Teaching responsibilities of these junior researchers may be limited.
The title of forskarassistent (research associate) should not be confused with the title of forskningsassistent (research assistant) which is a much more junior position that is common before the enrollment in the PhD education.
This is an academic title that entails a research education, typically involving publication of scientific articles and successful defense of a doctoral thesis. It is equivalent of a PhD degree.
Adjunkt is a teaching position, often part-time, that requires at least a Bachelors Degree, may require a Masters Degree, and does not require a PhD degree. It is similar to an adjunct instructor in the USA. The adjunkt may have teaching responsibilities at the undergraduate and masters levels. While the adjunkt is common at both universities and colleges, some universities are striving to upgrade adjunkts to lektors. This can be done by allowing the adjunkt time to perform or complete PhD studies, or by systematically replacing adjunkts who have quit or retired with positions as lektors.
An individual working to obtain a PhD degree; a PhD student. The Faculty Board may not accept PhD students unless they can prove that the relevant finances are available to support the student. While employment as doktorand is unpopular with faculty for economical reasons, it is widely demanded by student organizations and acknowledge in law. The position as doktorand does not per se distinguish between those students who are employed and those benefiting from public or private grants. It is common to prolong the doktorand employment or scholarship period by teaching as adjunkt or doing other work for the department. Such work cannot exceed 20% of a full-time position, bringing the four year PhD programme to a total of five years.
The emeritus rank is most commonly used for retired professors, although there is no particular regulation prohibiting a lektor to add the letters em after their title.
There is also a structure that the ranks of administrative positions follow.
Most universities and colleges being state institutions, the rector is appointed by Government. The appointment is for six years, renewable for two times three years. However, while directors general of all other departments and authorities are parachuted from above, no rector is appointed without the board of the university's recommendation. This, in turn, is based on the opinion of lektors, professors and students. A formal account of the hearing process, including aspects of equal opportunity, is part of the recommendation sent to the Government. Rektors hold the rank of lektor or higher. The private colleges follow a very similar procedure, but with appointment being made either by Government or by the board itself.
The board of the university appoints a prorektor for the university, who serves as acting rector during the rector's vacation, travels and other absences. The position is proscribed in law; prorektors usually hold the rank of lektor or higher.
Several of the large universities have adopted an organization where vice-rektors hold a specific office as the rector's chargé d'affaires in a particular domain. The office of vice-rektor is not proscribed in law. Procedures and requirements for election as well as missions have therefore varied widely between institutions. Responsibilities include, but are not limited to, Student's Welfare, Education Quality, Off-Campus Programmes, Corporate Affairs, Information Technology and Internationalisation. Vice-rektors usually hold the rank of lektor or higher, but again, this may vary between institutions.
While the internal organization of the higher education institutions are not regulated by law, most have opted to divide into faculties or areas headed by a board and a dekan or dekanus, the dean. Deans are commonly appointed by the rector after hearing the opinion of the lektors and professors. The usually serve with a time limited mandate. Deans hold the rank of lektor or higher.
Most universities and colleges are subdivided into departments, headed by the prefekt and the department board or, sometimes, by the prefekt alone. Prefekts may be appointed by and report directly to the department board, the faculty board or the rector. There are no formal requirements for a prefekt, but adjunkts who have been a prefekt usually hold a position as lektor or higher.