Employed, grant-funded or self-funded?
At the University of Helsinki, a doctoral degree may be completed through either full- or part-time study. Doctoral students may receive funding from the University of Helsinki or one of its departments, institutes or faculties, a research project, foundation, association or some other external funder. They may also fund their own studies or pursue their degree in tandem with work. About a third of all doctoral students are in an employment relationship with the University and are thus members of University staff.
The source of funding does not necessarily influence the content of the research, but it does affect the doctoral student’s position at the University and also other practical matters such as immigration, health care, housing options etc.
Employment entails a commitment to complete the duties agreed upon in the work plan, but it also secures the employee all the rights arising from an employment relationship. Besides a salary and related social security, such rights include access to occupational health care, working facilities and necessary equipment and services.
University personnel enter into an employment relationship when an employment contract is signed by the University and the employee. The contract must always be in writing. The employment contract will be signed by the employee, the person entitled to recruit staff on behalf of the University and the person in charge of personnel matters in the unit.
The status of grant-funded doctoral students at the University varies by their field of study. Grant-funded research is less common in the natural sciences than in the arts or social sciences. In the natural sciences, work is more frequently conducted in research groups where facilities, equipment and other resources are readily available for all group members.
Grants as such do not constitute any particular relationship with the University, even if the grant recipient has previously worked or studied there. All commitments and possible rights of grant-funded researchers at the University must be agreed upon separately. An agreement between a University unit and an individual grant-funded doctoral student outlines the rights and responsibilities concerning working space, laboratory facilities, keys to premises etc.
Grants never constitute an employment relationship, and a grant cannot be considered a salary substitute or even a salary constituent.
Self funding a doctoral degree is expensive and you must consider very carefully the time commitment involved and the impact on your work/life balance. For some who have already embarked on a career, a self-funded doctoral degree may be part of their professional development and supported by their employer, others may take this option as part of a career change. Self-funding as such does not constitute any particular relationship with the University.