Higher education in Sweden – 2015 status report

The 2015 status report summarises some indicators for Swedish higher education from an international perspective, provides a basic description of the structure of Swedish higher education and outlines developments prior to and including the fiscal year of 2014 for public-sector and independent higher education institutions (HEIs).

The cost of tertiary education

In terms of the numbers it employs higher education is the largest public sector service provider in Sweden. In 2014 overall expenditure in this area (including student aid and the central agencies) amounted to just under SEK 75 billion, which means that the higher education sector accounts for 1,9 per cent of Sweden's GDP.

The expenditure of the higher education institutions on their operations in 2014 amounted to SEK 64,4 billion, which corresponds to 1,7 per cent of Sweden's GDP, the same level as in the previous year.

The economic investments of the OECD countries in tertiary education are measured both in terms of expenditure per student and as proportions of the GDP. Irrespective of which measure is used, the USA and Canada invest by far the largest amounts, although the Nordic countries are also among those that invest most.

Sweden is one of the countries with the highest expenditure per student and a relatively high educational level. The largest proportion of funding comes from public sources. In addition education is free of charge for all students except those that come from countries outside the EU/EEA and Switzerland.

Sweden's investment in tertiary education is therefore large by international standards.

Expenditure per student divided by activity.

Expenditure per student divided by activity. The expenditure of education providers on tertiary education and research in higher education in 2011 in countries for which data are available divided by different activities expressed as USD adjusted for purchasing power. The countries have been ranked according to the total expenditure per student. Source: Table B1.2 EAG 2014.

The students

In total there were 344,100 (registered students) taking first or second-cycle courses and programmes at some time during the autumn semester of 2014.

During the most recent autumn semesters the total numbers of students have declined from a maximum of 365,000 in the autumn of 2010 to 344,100 in the autumn of 2014, a drop of just under six per cent.

In the autumn of 2014 the number of incoming students rose for the first time since the introduction of tuition fees and amounted to 25,400 students, which corresponds to seven per cent of the entire student population.

There are more women than men in the student population. Since the early 2000s the gender ratio among Swedish students has hovered around 40-45 per cent men and 55-60 per cent women.

Number of students registered in first and second-cycle courses and programmes each autumn semester 1977-2014.

Number of students registered in first and second-cycle courses and programmes each autumn semester 1977-2014.

Future balance supply and demand in the labour market

We publish regular reports on the future balance of supply and demand in the labour market from a long-term perspective for just under 30 different first and second-cycle graduation areas. The calculations indicate what the balance between supply and demand is expected to be when those beginning their studies in the academic year of 2015/16 enter the labour market.

The results show a calculated future shortage of various categories of teachers such as vocational teachers, teachers in extended education, special needs teachers and pre-school teachers. Shortages of graduates from health sciences programmes are also expected to arise. These shortages are either due to a lack of interest in these programmes among students or the failure by the HEIs for various reason to admit adequate numbers to the programmes.

Given the current offerings of places in programmes in the fine, applied and performing arts, journalism, the humanities, human resources and behavioural sciences, as well as the natural sciences, there is a great risk that there will be a surplus of graduates in these areas.

Future balances of supply and demand in the labour market

Future balances of supply and demand in the labour market. The diagram shows the balance between the number of graduates and recruitment needs (expressed as percentages) for various disciplinary areas if no changes occur in the numbers of HE entrants for the academic year of 2015/16.

Finance and research funding

The state funds 80 per cent of the activities undertaken by HEIs in Sweden. For several years state funding for research and thirdcycle courses and programmes has risen substantially and this development also continued during 2014. State investment in research has been matched relatively well by the rise in research revenues from private funding sources.

The total expenditure of the HEIs on their operations in 2014 amounted to SEK 64.4 billion, which corresponds to 1.7 per cent of Sweden’s gross domestic product (GDP), the same level as in the previous year.

Expenditure in the higher education sector also includes expenditure on student aid (SEK 9.9 billion) and the central agencies (SEK 0.6 billion).

The total expenditure in the higher education sector in 2014 was SEK 74.9 billion, which corresponds to just over 1.9 per cent of Sweden’s GDP.

Allocation of expenditure in higher education sector 2014.

Allocation of expenditure in higher education sector 2014.

Increasing revenues for research

From a longer perspective the HEIs’ revenues for both courses and programmes and research have increased, but this rise has been considerably larger for research and thirdcycle courses and programmes than for first and second-cycle courses and programmes.

During the period 1997-2006 the relative rate of increase was at more or less the same level for both, but since 2007 revenues for research and third-cycle courses and programmes have increased considerably more than for first and second-cycle courses and programmes.

During the last eight years revenues for research and third-cycle courses and programmes have risen by just over SEK 9 billion (32 per cent) while revenues for first and second-cycle courses and programmes have risen by SEK 1 billion (4 per cent). This means that the proportion of the revenues used for the HEIs’ research and third-cycle courses and programmes has risen from 53 per cent in 1997 to 58 per cent in 2014. The major increase is mainly due to the two most recent research policy bills in 2008 and 2012, which led to considerable increases in the resources provided by the state for research at the HEIs.

Funding for research from sources outside the public sector has also risen during this period, although somewhat less than state funding.

HEIs’ revenues for first and second-cycle courses and programmes and for research and third-cycle courses and programmes

HEIs’ revenues for first and second-cycle courses and programmes and for research and third-cycle courses and programmes 1998–2014, SEK billions at 2014 prices, as well as the ratio of research revenues to total revenues (right axis).

Most higher education funding comes from the state

By far the largest portion of the funding for higher education is provided in the form of state grants, either direct government funding or external funding from government agencies. In 2014 state funding amounted to SEK 52.4 billion and accounted for 80 per cent of the total finance available to the HEIs.

In 2014 state funding rose by SEK 1.3 billion in fixed prices, of which just over SEK 900 million took the form of direct government funding. The increase in this funding corresponded to two per cent. Three-quarters of the rise in direct government funding was for research and third-cycle courses and programmes.

Revenues from non-governmental funding agencies rose by five per cent compared to 2013, in other words more than the rise in direct government funding, which was three per cent. The largest relative increase in non-governmental funding came from nonprofit organisations (+10 per cent) and the EU (+ 9 per cent) and this was for both courses and programmes and for research.

As described above, the rise in revenues during the last few years has almost only been for research and third-cycle courses and programmes.

Comparison between 2004 and 2014 reveals that the largest rise has been in state funding for research and third-cycle courses and programmes. But revenues from other sources of funding have also risen.

Funding for first and second-cycle courses and programmes and for research and third-cycle courses and programmes in 2004 and 2014 per source of funding

Funding for first and second-cycle courses and programmes and for research and third-cycle courses and programmes in 2004 and 2014 per source of funding, SEK billions in 2014 prices.