Employment and salary

Salary as PhD/Postdoc at NTNU

PhDs are paid according to the Norwegian governmental wage level 50. This is currently equal to a gross salary of NOK 430 500. Postdocs are paid according to wage level 57, which is NOK 483 700. There is a 2 % added deposit to pension.

This is the normal start wage, however in some cases it might be possible to agree on a higher salary during the employment process.

Contracts

When you start working as PhD candidate, two contracts need to be signed. These are the first places to look when you are uncertain about your rights. Additional information can be found in NTNU “PhD Handbook”

  1. Your application for PhD studies states your working duties and other academic affairs. When the application is approved, this becomes your agreement with the department, your supervisor, and NTNU, unless you have made other contracts in addition.
  2. The contract of employment states who your employer is (i.e. NTNU or a research institution), and the economical details of the contract, including duty work.

Your enrolment into a PhD programme is independent of your employment contract. This means that the employment can end before you actually finish your PhD.

Employer

The financing could be done in many different ways. Some receive their money directly from the department, the faculty, or NTNU. If you receive money from NTNU, the faculty is your responsible employer. If someone else is paying you, he is your employer. Regarding health and safety issues, NTNU is responsible regardless of your financing source as long as you are working in a building owned by NTNU.

What is the maximum time?

Six (6) years is the maximum allowed time you can spend on your PhD.. This time is calculated from you when you are accepted into the PhD programme until you deliver your thesis. You should have received a letter informing you that you were accepted as a PhD candidate, check the date of this letter. Legal absence of leave, long periods of illness, duty work, and approved part-time studies are not counted as part of these six years.

Student or employee?

PhDs are temporary employees at NTNU. You can vote as a temporary employee, and you usually represent this group if you are elected to a board or a committee.
After the last revision of the regulations for “Studentsamskipnader” (organizations for student welfare), PhD candidates are not considered as members, and should not pay the student registration fees. However, if you are taking courses in addition to your PhD, you can get the student status and therefore need to pay the semester fees.

What is “overhead”?

“Overhead” is money meant to cover administrative costs like your office space, telephone, PC, and other office supplies. The money is shared between NTNU, the department, and the faculty.

What is working capital?

Your working capital is money used to facilitate your research and your education. In practice, this should cover travel costs to conferences, books, technical equipments, etc.. The amount of money in your working capital fund depends on your project. International quota students have usually no working capital, but can apply to the international section for coverage of certain expenses. Some doctoral candidates can use this money quite freely, while others have to consult with the leader of the project or their supervisor before they spend money. Usually, equipment and books is paid with working capital should be given to the department or your research group when you finish your PhD, unless you have an agreement that states something else. If you have no working capital, your supervisor or teaching professor should assist you to find money to cover your normal activities. A personal computer should not be paid for by working capital.

Can my supervisor refuse to supervise me?

Your PhD contract is valid until your defense or until you quit. It is the supervisor’s duty to assist you, and NTNU must provide you with a working space. If this is not respected, look through your contract and written agreements with the faculty/department. You may also take contact with your union or contact a legal professional if there has been a breach of contract. Note, however, that there usually is a limit on the agreed number of counseling hours. If you reach this limit, your supervisor may then refuse to provide supervision.

What if I want to change supervisor?

General information

“The PhD candidate and academic supervisor may ask the Faculty to appoint another supervisor for the candidate. The supervisor may not withdraw before a new supervisor has been appointed. Any disputes regarding the academic rights and obligations of the supervisor and of the candidate are to be referred by these parties to the Faculty for review and a final decision.”

Also, https://innsida.ntnu.no/c/wiki/get_page_attachment?p_l_id=22780&nodeId=24646&title=PhD+Handbook&fileName=phd_haandbok_eng_web.pdf, 2. IMPLEMENTATION

“The faculty (or department) is responsible for arranging a change of supervisor where necessary.”

This underlines that this matter is generally dealt with on a faculty level, but it is still often your department people who know your situation best.

“It is possible to make adjustments to the supervisory team throughout the doctoral period. This includes adjusting the supervisory resources, changing supervisors and including new co-supervisors. Changes must be cleared with the existing supervisors and any request should be addressed to the faculty and sent via the department.”

“It is not uncommon to encounter challenges in the supervisory relationship along the way. Some possible problems are considered in the Ethics Portal. The most important thing you do when encountering problems is to bring it up as soon as possible, preferably with the supervisor in question. However, if for some reason, it is difficult to discuss it with the supervisor or if bringing it up with the supervisor has no effect, you should contact the department or the faculty. Who you should get in touch with will depend on the type of problem and who you feel comfortable discussing the issue with. The main thing is that you get in touch with someone and then you can jointly look at the matter and agree on how to proceed.

There are a variety of measures that may be activated depending on the problem, but you are responsible for informing someone yourself. The earlier in the process the problem is addressed, the higher the likelihood that necessary adjustments can be made to ensure your progress and a good outcome for all parties.

If you or your supervisor feel that the other party is not fulfilling their obligations in accordance with the doctoral agreement and the regulations, you must attempt to work together to find a solution. If you are unable to resolve the matter together, both you and the supervisor may request a termination of the supervisory relationship. According to the doctoral agreement such a request should be addressed to the faculty and sent via the department. The faculty makes the final decision in such a matter and your supervisor may not terminate their supervision until a new supervisor has been appointed. Any disputes of you or your supervisor’s rights and obligations can be brought up with the faculty for assessment and decision.”

“If a personal relationship develops, one party feels subjected to unwanted sexual attention, or one party finds the supervisory relationship so difficult that cooperation seems impossible, the Head of Department is to ensure that a new supervisor is appointed.”

“The candidate or supervisor forwards an application of change of supervisor (s) directly to the Department that administers the PhD Programme. The application must be substantiated. An application of change of supervisor (s) is determined by the Faculty on recommendation from the Department. The recommendation from the Department must enclose documentation that the candidate, previous and possible remaining and recommended supervisor (s), are informed and have been given the opportunity of making a statement about the change.”

Experiences from our side:

  • It is most useful to talk to the person at your faculty and department that is responsible for the PhD program you are formally admitted to (PhD programme coordinator), or alternatively the head of department having formal employer responsibility. If this proves difficult, or you are afraid that your request might starts rumors (note: these people have confidentiality in personnel matters), it may be ok to contact faculty first, or NTNU centrally or your union. However, this should not usually be required.
  • We have seen a number of cases, and it has proven to be quite difficult to change supervisors in some cases. It depends a bit on how benevolent the Institute and former supervisor is. It is not necessarily straightforward to find another good person (which can and will take over responsibility) within the same field. It is often friends / acquaintances / colleagues of the former supervisor, and the supervisor often remains linked to the umbrella project of your PhD (if you have one).
  • It is very difficult to foresee how the department / faculty handles such a request. It is easiest, if you have a common understanding that it is best that you change supervisor. Ideally, you have already established contact with someone who is willing and qualified to take over the responsibility. A joint decision also avoids a huffy ex-supervisor who may show up on a thesis defense…
  • Faculty / department will often question what scenario provides the best chance for the candidate to finish his/her PhD, so you might want to have some arguments here.

Who can help me when I have problems?

DION have no legal practitioners. We are interested in hearing about your problems, and could discuss general cases (that affect many people) with NTNU, national organizations, or the government. DION recommends that you apply for a membership in one of the labour unions, who have resources to assist their members. Three such labour unions are listed on this page: links to organizations. More information about labour unions in Norway is provided in this FAQ.

Who should I consult when I have questions or problems?

Someone should have told you how to manage practical things like working hours, payment, applications for advance payments, how to write and send travel invoices, illness, and medical certificates. At most faculties there are people working specifically on issues related to doctoral candidates. These are the natural people to contact when you have questions regarding the administration of your doctoral studies or employment contract.

For more general issues, you should consult with your representative in the department or faculty board. We encourage you to contact him or her so that they know about your problems and can put them on their agenda. If you are in doubt about something, DION can answer questions and discuss your case. Dion can also assist you in find the adequate resource in dealing with your case.
Try to do your best, and talk to people when (or if) you have any problems. Most of the people around you will be interested in helping you out, if they are notified.