MPs reject bid to improve foreign doctoral students' rights

An attempt to ease restrictions on foreign doctoral students from outside Europe remaining in Sweden after graduation, and to allow students the right to work during their PhD studies, was rejected by parliament last week.

The proposal was developed by the independent parliamentary committee for circular migration and development, which was established to make it easier for migrants to move between Sweden and their countries.

Liberal Party MP Ulf Nilsson told The Local that although there was “widespread” support in parliament to make it easier for foreign PhD candidates to gain permanent residency in Sweden, the motion was defeated.

This was mainly because the government currently is working on a broader piece of legislation on labour-related issues. It might be “at least until next year” before the issue returns to parliament.

Masoud Fadaei Oshyani, who is studying for a PhD in transport systems at the Royal Institute of Technology-KTH in Stockholm and is a member of a group of doctoral students that secured 3,000 signatures for the motion, told University World News that the students will continue to fight for changing the law.

Jayesh Pandya, a PhD student and board member of the doctoral students association at Karolinska Institutet in Stockhom, told University World News: “While the Swedish government seems to be working towards improved employment and social security aspects of doctoral candidates, I am really hopeful that immediate steps will also be taken to ensure equal treatment and retention of foreign doctoral candidates.

“It is in Sweden’s best interest to retain these well trained research professionals and to treat them better.”

He said current regulations governing foreign doctoral candidates were discriminatory and there were discrepancies at many levels, leading to difficult conditions during and after doctoral studies.

Currently, international doctoral candidates’ temporary residence permits do not lead to a permanent residence permit after graduation. The restrictions can also create problems when students travel outside Sweden during their doctoral studies.