My mother always highlighted the importance of my education, she wished to ensure that I would have stability in life and a sustainable professional life. Ironically, by pursuing a PhD some might argue that I have taken it a step too far.
As many other doctoral students I work more than I should, I have struggled with stress and find it hard to take vacation out this Christmas, my future career is uncertain, and it might not have been a financial wise choice to do a PhD – Don’t get me wrong I didn’t choose to pursue a PhD because of salary or career ambitions, fundamentally I did so because I like knowledge, so I do feel that I have many privileges as an academic – but it is not all sunshine.
If I went back in time with all the knowledge I have now of what it entails to be a doctoral student, I would still do it. But I am a EU citizen and that gives me one very important privilege. When I graduate I might struggle to find a permanent job afterwards, but I still have the most fundamental stability I can think of – I will not have to uproot my life here in Sweden if I do not wish to – because I have permanent residency.
”Doctoral students from outside of the EU/EEA feel the effect of the new Swedish migration legislation.”
Doctoral students from outside of the EU/EEA feel the effect of the new Swedish migration legislation, the Aliens Act, as it was changed this summer. Now to obtain permanent residency one has to, besides having had a temporary one for four years, also have employment for 18 months into the future from the day the migration agency makes their decision about your application.
In many other professions this is not a problem, if you have been employed for 4 years – you are almost guaranteed to have permanent employment – but not in academia. Doctoral students and other early career researchers have very precarious job situations with contracts lasting only short term into the future.
It is not an abstract problem, this new legislation has real consequences for our colleagues. I know several who are personally affected. Some are close to graduating and had their lives flipped upside down this summer, they had ongoing applications for permanent residencies and now they are no longer eligible. One did his masters here, and chose to go for a PhD rather than one of the options he had in industry, this now means that he doesn’t get permanent residency.
”They did not choose to pursue a PhD because of the promise of a permanent residency – but they did it assuming that it wouldn’t be an obstacle either.”
They, like me, are unsure about their future career paths, but unlike me they also have to worry about whether they can stay in Sweden. They did not choose to pursue a PhD because of the promise of a permanent residency – but they did it assuming that it wouldn’t be an obstacle either.
If any of you ask me what I wish for this Christmas, it is for doctoral students and other early career research to have the same basic level of stability as if we had chosen a career outside of academia – not just for our sake, but also because it is really a question about what makes academia sustainable. If we have to settle for significantly worse conditions in our professional life than we would be offered elsewhere, then it will damage the future of academia. Migration legislation is one example, there are others. What makes academia sustainable is a big and open question – I don’t have an answer alone – but I would like that it was a question that received more attention – and very timely we could begin by focusing on the consequences of the new Aliens Act.
Pil Maria Saugmann
Doctoral student, Stockholm University
and Chairperson for the doctoral student committee in the Swedish National Union of Students (SFS)