The Swedish Institute Fellowships
"I realized for the first time in two years that sustainability was real and achievable. Absence of dichotomy between what they practice and preach drew me towards Sweden," says Praveen Kushwaha, a short term fellow at Lund University. Praveen is one of the 400 odd students, who arrived in Sweden, thanks to the Swedish Institute (SI) Fellowships.
Swedish Institute has a very large fellowship programme with approximately 400 scholarships on offer. In addition to this, the institute also sponsors four to five short term training programmes, each with about 70-120 fellowship places. Olle Wastberg, Director General SI has this to say: "Our objective is to connect and share Sweden with the world, and fellowships are a crucial component to realizing the same."
The Fellowships are on offer at master's, doctoral and post-doctoral levels. There is also a special fellowship programme for Swedish language and culture. Priya Jain, one of the early entrants to Sweden through a master's fellowship, recounts her experience studying molecular genetics at Linkoping University: "The best thing about Sweden is the faculty. They are accessible, friendly and the best in the world. Moreover, language is never a problem, since 90% of them speak good English." A senior researcher with CSIR, India, Priya credits her skills in problem solving to the practice-oriented teaching at Lincoping. Ramanathan Kumar, who pursed Development Studies at Uppsala University, agrees that the course is always about asking the right questions. With long standing involvement in development through the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA), Sweden has quite a lot to offer. The class is predominantly European. So, Kumar feels that perspective does get a trifle coloured. "But on the whole, the open questioning system does prepare one for the real life challenges much better," he feels.
This is the largest component of the SI programme. Each year, nearly 200 masters from leading universities are listed as eligible for SI fellowship. "It is very important to keep a tab on the courses. For example engineering biology, a good programme at Linkoping, was added recently," says Priya.
The application process is in two stages. Applications for admission have to be made through the online application service for Swedish Master's degree programmes at www.studera.nu/english. Each year, the application window is open between December 1st and January 15th. Application for SI scholarships can only be made after having been accepted on a Swedish master's programme and must be followed by an admission confirmation. The result of the application procedure is announced in the beginning of June. The academic session begins from September and runs through to June.
What do you get?
The scholarship is for SEK 8,000 per month and is only awarded for programmes commencing in the autumn semester. Scholarships are usually granted for one academic year, and is extended subject to satisfactory performance. Devrim, who did her doctoral studies at Lund, comments that the fellowship is sufficient for an individual, provided one is not studying in an expensive city like Stockholm. Housing costs are the highest expenses for a student. So remember to look for your preferred courses in universities located in smaller cities like Gotland, Lund etc.
PhD/ Post-doctoral Fellowships
The PhD fellowships provide students/researchers with opportunity to conduct research at Swedish universities within all fields of study and are offered in two categories. The first category comprises students/candidates applying for a consecutive visit as part of their PhD studies at the home university. The second category comprises students/candidates applying for a scholarship according to the sandwich model (several shorter visits). In either case, the guest scholarships do not offer you fellowship for a complete PhD programme. Applicants applying for a post-doctoral research visit to a Swedish university, through the scholarship programme, must have a PhD degree not earlier than 2004.
What do you get?
The scholarship amounts to SEK 12,000 per month for PhD students and SEK 15,000 for post-doctoral studies. Scholarship periods are fixed for 6, 12 or 18 months. The scholarship period for candidates on a sandwich set-up is a maximum of 12 months stretching over three years and divided into a maximum of three research visits per year. Mohamad Zakaria, a post doctoral fellow at LUCUS, is a veteran in the Swedish fellowship application process. He has spent more than seven years in Sweden under three different fellowships pursuing both his masters and PhD. Identifying the right research group which has interest in your area of research is the key, according to Mohamad. He would always advise candidates to opt for the sandwich model as spending shorter spans of time in Sweden at different points in one's PhD research would add more value.
Scholarship-holders from developing countries like India receive a one-time travel assistance of SEK 10,000. Scholars opting for the sandwich model of PhD travel grants are restricted to one per year.
Scholarship-holders are insured by the Swedish State Group Insurance against illness and accident during the scholarship period. And being a Nordic model country, the insurance is unlimited when it comes to medical expenses.
The scholarship is designed to cover the living costs of the scholarship-holder. There are no grants for family members. Scholarship-holders following a two-year master's programme are permitted to go abroad for at the most one semester within their studies, if scholarship is to be retained. The scholarship period granted cannot be altered or extended.
Prof. Charles Edquist, Professor at CIRCLE, Lund, comments "Sweden has to do much more to emerge as a leading player." But that is changing. In the recent special window opened for India by the EU, Lund University, Sweden is acting as a lead coordinating university. But the silver lining as Hemant Kumar, another short term fellowship holder from JNU, says is: "It is easier to get a fellowship at Sweden vis-Ã -vis from some other country like UK. The only important thing is to have solid research proposal." So if you have an exciting problem to research on, Sweden is the place to go.