The yearly tax forms are due in few days (7.5, 14.5 or 21.5.). If you haven’t yet done your taxes, it’s about time.
If you work in a “normal” salaried position, you often don’t need to do much for tax declaration. If you work on a grant, however, you will need to fill your tax form. With my first grant I didn’t bother and have regretted it since.
A recording of a webinar on tax information for freelancers, artists and grant workers has useful information for PhD students working on a grant. The part on grants starts at 1:20:00. Below is an English summary of the webinar.
Your grants won’t appear automatically on the prefilled tax form, so you will have to know yourself all grants you have received. Hopefully next year the grant information will be prefilled.
Some grants are exempted from taxation. Unfortunately this does not concern most grant workers, since grants received from universities and private foundations are under taxation.
Firstly, even taxable grants are taxed only for parts exceeding 20 461,72€ for the year 2018. The amount exceeding this sum are taxed with the same rules as a salary would. So, if the sum of your grants are below 20 461,72€, it is always tax free (you still need to declare it though). Note that University of Helsinki sometimes pays travel subsidy in the form of a grant. You can ask for this information from your campus’ HR-team, if you’re unsure.
The grants are divided into two categories: working grant (e.g. research grant) and expense grant (e.g. travel grant). One grant might contain both in parts. Grants that are awarded to a group, are split between the group members. Each member declares only their share of the grant.
The expense grants are simple: the expenses are directly deduced from the grant. You declare the amount of the grant and expenses in the same place “Other trade income->Grants” (“Muut tulot->Apurahat” or paper form 10). The expenses are deducted directly from the grant. If the expenses were greater that the grant, you declare the amount covered by the grant and transfer the excess to deductions from income (working grant and/or salary). Receipts of purchase etc. are not attached to the form. Vero will ask for them, if they are needed. You are required to keep the receipts for six years (I know, the ink in most receipts won’t survive that long).
The working grant is also declared in “Other trade income->Grants” (“Muut tulot->Apurahat” or form 10). The expenses, however, are declared as “Expenses for the production of income” (“Tulonhankkimismenot” or paper form 50A). The expenses you can deduct are mainly the same as in salaried employment:
Any expenses, for which grant was awarded, but it didn’t cover all expenses. You can deduct the excess not covered by grant.
Travel expenses (eg. conference) that are not covered by an expense grant
Including per diem (inside Finland 28€/day and 15€/half day, list of daily allowance per country here )
Office deduction. Either realized expenses for rented office space or nominal value for home office:
880€/year, full time use
440€/year, part time use (2-3 days/week)
220€/year, occasional use
Computer that is primarily used for the supported work (50% if it’s partially used for work)
Phone expenses (when used for work)
Thesis printing costs
Doctoral defense costs (excluding clothes, coffee and cake, karonkka and promootio)
Trade union membership fees (I include HyVäT here – Grant workers don’t really have an union, and this comes closest one gets to trade union for us)
MYEL insurance is deducted separately (the fees should appear in the prefilled form automatically). The YEL/MYEL appearing in the “Other deductions” is directed for entrepreneurs and you don’t need to fill it (for grants).
HYVÄT participated in the National Doctoral Education day in Lappeenranta 9th October 2018. The main theme for the day was working life skills and competencies of PhDs, but many other themes were touched upon as well. This post is a try to sum up some of the interesting discussions we participated in. Because of the many parallel sessions we were forced to pick and choose some themes, but the entire programme can be seen here.
One informative talk was by Outi Suorsa who presented the national PhD career survey from 2017. Her good news were that eduction still defiitely pays off, because the percentage of unemployed PhDs was small, only between 1-7% depending on the discipline. The number is larger for those with a master or bachelor degree. Furthermore, most respondents had perceived the doctotal degree as a benefit for their career: 60% responded that it had given them more demanding tasks at work and 50% responded that they had got a higher salary thanks to their degree. However, only 40 % of the respondents worked with research, which indicates that universities need to focus more on supporting also other than purely academic career choices of doctoral students.
The question then is: how should career advice and mentoring for doctoral students be organised to best serve their needs?
At the University of Turku, career advice has been integrated into the supervison: the doctoral students have the option of having a discussion of future career options with their supervisor. As support for the supervisors, the university has provided them with material on career councelling. This is a brave try to integrate career coaching into doctoral studies, but are the supervisors, who themselves have a university career, the right persons to give advice also on career options outside the university? Would it be possible to find other solutions? Would career courses tailored for dischiplinary needs and led by university career services be the best alternative?
Another solution that was presented by Essi Huttu was the PoDoCo programme that helps to match academically trained PhDs with companies that need their brain power. It is a joint initiative of Finnish universities, industry and foundations that you can read more about here.
Timo Korkeamäki presented a European survey on doctoral education made by the EUA Council for Doctoral Education. One interesting finding was that the majority of universities who responded couldn’t provide clear answers about the careers of PhDs, which indicates that more attention should be given to how and where PhDs get jobs after completing their degree. A great many suggestions on how to improve things on this point were put forward: career survey’s and follow-ups of graduated PhDs working life, career guidance for those still studying, mentoring networks, contacts to alumni, etc. Over all, there seems to be an agreement among everyone working with doctoral education that academic as well as other career options should be presented as equally good, and that more training on how to build a career should be incorporated in doctoral studies.
The EUACDE survey’s data on Finland revealed that people here graduate way slower than in many other European countries. Of those who started in 2009, only 40% had graduated within 5 years. During the discussion that followed many possible reasons for this were suggested: the difficult situation with funding, the amount/accessibility of supervision, the bureaucratically long process of graduation that can take months and months in Finland, etc. Things like bureaucracy should be possible to change if there is will, but securing enough funding for research unfortunately seems harder to accomplish in these days.
Integration into the research community is a major challenge for doctoral eduction at UH: 47 % of the respondents do not feel they are integrated into the research community. This result correlated strongly with access to working spaces at the university – those with an office are better integrated into the community than those who work from home or somewhere else.
Doctoral students over all think that the quality of supervision is good, but the frequency of how often they meet their supervisor is not always enough. There are too many people who meet with their supervisor only once or twice a year, which is alarming.
Unsurprisingly, the lack of funding continues to be a major issue that affects doctoral students’ possibilities to do research.
Doctoral students who have funding from different resources (employed/grantee/unfunded) have very different possibilities to do their doctoral studies. Currently only the employed are full members of the research community (access to work space, health care, daily meetings with colleagues, etc.). The position of grantees varies greately: some have working spaces and some do not, some have more support from their community and some have less. The unfunded are more or less left without any support of the community. There are many ways to improve this, for example by offering working spaces, more frequent supervision, more peer-support activities, etc.
Improving things like supervision, equality between doctoral students, community-belonging, and funding – the structures doctoral researchers work in – might well be part of the solution to make doctoral students graduate faster in Finland.
Supervision was a key theme also in a presentation by Tanja Johansson who talked about supervision as twofold, consisting of 1) seeing that the PhD student aquires the necessary research skills, competencies, and finishes the thesis; 2) mentoring and supporting the doctoral student in the process. She suggested courses and training for both present and future supervisors as something to look into. Could training as supervisor even be part of the doctoral training? Mentoring and coaching skills could be wortwhile also in working life outside of academia.
Terhi Nokkala talked about peer mentoring for doctoral students that had been piloted in Jyväskylä University. The mentoring groups were interdisciplinary and consisted of two senior academics who acted as coordinators for a small group of doctoral students. The groups met a few times per term and discussed themes that the doctoral students brought up, such as career paths, various research skills, and worries/anxieties concerning these. Both the coordinators’ and the doctoral students’ experiences of the groups were positive. Coordinators felt reminded of the challenges their doctoral students face and the importance to check how their supervisees were doing. The doctoral students felt they got valuable peer-support from both the peers and the more senior academics in the group, knowlegde of how academia works, and that the non-hierarchical group was benefical for confidential discusssions. Maybe also other forms of mentoring for doctoral students could be developed?
To sum things up, many good suggestions on how to improve doctoral education were made during the day. There are many people around the country who keep working with the benefit of universities and doctoral student in mind. However, it is not an easy task to improve and develop higher education in the current political climate that has been characterised by cuts in university funding.
Consequently, this big question was asked: is the doctoral student to be seen more as a “client” with his/her individual plans and hopes for the future, or as a “product” that the ministry of education has ordered from the university? The answer might be different depending on who you ask. From an academic point of view, the idea that the university’s task is to simply produce what the ministry of eduction has ordered, is higly problematic. I believe that the most reliable knowledge of how the university best can serve the society is to be found at the university.
The Helsinki Association of Women Researchers has made a survey on sexual harassment in universities. Quoting them:
“The conversation concerning sexual harassment affect also practices and working environments in universities. However, not much information is available about the present situation. This is why the Helsinki Association of Women Researchers decided to make an inquiry. We ask you to tell us about your experiences of sexual harassment in academia.
The #MeToo campaign has sparked debate and increased awareness of sexual harassment and the forms it can take. At the same time, concern has been expressed about how a member of the university community can, perhaps unintended or by mistake, behave in a way that can be experienced or interpreted as sexual harassment. Even if sexual harassment has been defined in legislation, many are unaware of what constitutes harassment. This is why we would like to ask your thoughts on and experiences of sexual harassment, your views on the definition of harassment and your thoughts on what special features of the academic context should be taken into account.
You may report your experiences anonymously; the answers cannot be connected to you. The answers will be used by the board of the Helsinki Association of Women Researchers in order to combat sexual harassment. The recommended research ethics guidelines will be followed.
The results of the inquiry will be used as background information for the Minna Canth event for Equality, on 19th March, held at the University of Helsinki. The aim is to continue the discussion and to find out what should and could be done in academia.
If you consent (tick the last box in the query), your answers may be used for research purposes.The guidelines prepared by the National Advisory Board on Research Ethics will be complied with.”
HYVÄT aims to share information and discuss issues related to doctoral studies at University of Helsinki through podcasts. Up to now, we have broadcasted three podcasts with these topics: getting to know HYVÄT, academic writing and academic publishing. HYVÄT is looking for members who are willing to contribute in preparing them. The contributions can be of many kinds. You can send ideas on what you would like to listen to, participate in the making of the podcast itself (the interviews, panels or editing), or just make suggestions of how we can improve the podcasts. Please contact our board member Oulia Makkonen (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you are interested.
We all know doing a PhD is tough. As a doctoral student, we might face anxiety, stress and depression that need support. MeWe is a group created by a doctoral student in 2015 that aims to provide an opportunity for doctoral students of University of Helsinki to meet weekly and monthly and share their struggles and problems. It started out as a Facebook group with over 200 members.
MeWe needs someone or a group of people who are interested in managing the meetings. No counseling or leadership skills needed. If you want to help please contact our board member Giovanni Canarecci (email@example.com).