Survey on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on doctoral studies

HYVÄT is conducting a survey on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on doctoral studies. The purpose of the survey is to identify problems and issues affecting doctoral studies that may have arisen due to the emergency situation, and communicate them to the University administration.

The survey can be found here: We would greatly appreciate it if you could take the time to complete the survey by 19 April (the end of next week). Completing the survey should take about 10 minutes and the questionnaire is available in both English and Finnish. Naturally, the survey is anonymous and the results will be analyzed by the HYVÄT board and officers.

If you have any other concerns about the situation and it’s effect on your studies, please don’t hesitate to reach out to the HYVÄT board through the contact form on this site, or the PhD representatives in your doctoral programme and school (

Grants and taxes

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)
  • Internet expenses
  • Phone expenses (when used for work)
  • Professional literature
  • 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).

HUART’s survey for early career researchers – results published

The Helsinki University Researchers’ and Teachers’ Association, HUART made a survey directed to early career researchers, meaning researchers who are doing the PhD or have graduated only a few year’s ago. Young does in other words not refer to the age of the researcher, but to the early career stage they are in. The now published results are interesting because the main themes are largely the same as the ones that came up in HYVÄT’s earlier survey for PhD researchers.  The main difficulties early stage researchers face according to HUART’s survey are: 1) unstable funding, 2) uncertain career prospects, 3) bureacracy and uncertainty of support in case of unemployment, and, 4) the experience of not being included into the academic community.

1. Unstable funding
Almost 40 % of the respondents were working on a salary, and 24 % were working on a grant, while some were working partly on a salary and partly on a grant. Around 6 % were unemployed. Although this is a small percentage, up to 30 % of the respondents had been unemployed at some point during the dissertation project.

The difficulty of gettimg secure long-term funding was the greatest concern of the respondent. 73 % reported that they had more than one source of funding, 38 % had 4 or 5 different sources of funding.
The salary or grant is not always enough to make a living: 18 % of the grantees and 14 % of the employed reported that they had difficulties in making ends meet.

In addition, the salary system of the university was seen as non-transparent. A fifth of the Finnish respondents and 56 % of international respondents did not know according to which level (vaati-taso) their salary was calculated. This is a serious problem, and a sign of unequality between Finnish and international staff.

2. Uncertain career prospects

A few years after graduation only around 40 % doctors work in academia. However, 49 % of the respodents hoped to have an academic career within research. They saw themselves as researchers, and wished to continue doing reserach and teaching, but saw many obstacles on this path. Working hard to get an academic career, but with no assurance that the hard work will pay off, does little to motivate people. Many described an academic career as a dream that was likely not to come true. Hopelessness, cynicism, and disappointment was evident in the open answers about career prospects.

3. Bureacracy and uncertainty of support in case of unemployment

The unemployed reported that unemployment meant increased uncertainty and often the need to really fight for their rights. Especially those working on a grant described arbitrary descisions that sometimes interpreted them as entrepreneurs or students, which has meant that they did not get any unemployment support, while others in the same situation did.

4. Experiences of not being included into the academic community

A little more than 40 % of the respondents reported that they do not feel included in the academic community. (In HYVÄT’s survey 47 % reported the same). The employed ones reportd being a little bit better integrated, but but still 38 % of them too did not feel integrated. The open answers said that regular staff belittle the position of young researchers, and that the early career researchers were excluded from many activities and infrastructures such as teaching opportunities, pedagogy courses, e-mail lists, workspaces, and laboratories. Some grant researchers even did teaching and other kinds of work for free in order to gain experience to put on the CV.

This was seen as unfair because the university nevertheless profits from all articles and completed degrees that the affiliated young researchers produce.

The entire report can be read here (in Finnish only).

Survey on sexual harassment in universities

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.”

The inquiry can be found here.

Please answer at the latest 12th March.

Information about the Helsinki Association of Women Researchers:

Podcast media!

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 ( if you are interested.