If watching Wallander and The Bridge has opened your eyes to both the beauty of this Northern European nation and its socio-political system, if you study a subject with a strong Swedish angle, or if you are simply branching out in your search for a fully-funded PhD, Sweden is worth a second look.
There are a number of key differences in PhD study in Sweden. Taught PhDs are not available—these are “old school” research-and-dissertation-based programmes, with a length of four to eight years. There are no fees, and PhD candidates receive a reasonable monthly salary.
Applying to study.
Swedish PhDs are funded by either the university itself or an outside body, such as a government department or company. There is a shortage of places, so the application process is quite competitive. Perhaps 10 percent of applicants land a spot.
You will need to have at least a Bachelors degree; most programmes require an MA or MSc. You must be fluent in English. Only some programmes require proficiency in Swedish, although learning will certainly be helpful for everyday life and socialising, as 80 to 90 percent of your fellow students will be Swedes.
You’ll find open positions listed on each university’s Web site: there is no central registry. It’s usually possible to contact the academic team for more information before applying.
EU students don't need a student visa, but do have to register quickly with the Swedish Migration Board. Your chosen university will be able to advise you on this, and can help non-EU students with visa matters.
Funding is via either PhD studentships, or a doctoral grant (which usually is later turned into a studentship). Unfunded students are not admitted.
There is a published pay scale, but different programmes pay at different levels—for example, medical students earn more. Slightly over 10 percent of engineering students doing a PhD are paid by an employer whilst on the course (and usually at a good salary, too). The grant, however, is always the same. The minimum monthly income is linked to the cost of living, and is currently about 20,000 Swedish kroner (equivalent to about €2100 euros) per month.
You may be expected to assist with teaching or lab work in return for funding—indeed, you will be treated like part of the faculty.
The PhD experience.
You will work regularly and directly with your tutor, so locating a scholar you want as a colleague is extremely important. You are expected to study full-time to gain a Doctoral degree.
It is possible to stop part-way through with a Licentiate degree, which is comprised of fewer credits and s shorter thesis.
The thesis itself can be a single book-length document, or a series of related monographs completed during the course of your work. Your study process is capped with a public defense of your thesis in front of a panel of judges and your peers, with an opponent who will ask tough questions.
Fine arts study at PhD level is new in Sweden, and is currently offered by only three Swedish universities. For these programmes, the dissertation includes artistic work (paintings, sculptures, music, and so on) as well as a written thesis.
Study in Sweden - official site for prospective students: https://studyinsweden.se/study-information/degree-programmes/phd-studies/
Guide to PhD studies in Sweden from Swedish Council for Higher Education: http://studera.nu/doctoralstudies
This site is especially helpful for clueing prospective students up on the process and some the jargon you will encounter.
Swedish Migration Board: http://www.migrationsverket.se/4.123a9453141c5ece6112e.html