History of Swedish higher education

The first Swedish university was founded in 1477. This was Uppsala University and to begin with it was mainly intended to train priests.

At times during the 16th century the activities of the university more or less came to a stop because of political disturbances. In Sweden’s Great Power Era during the 17th century more government officials were needed to represent Sweden in other countries. Higher education was adapted to meet this need.

In 1632 Sweden’s second university was founded, in Tartu in what is now Estonia (and was then called Dorpat when the city belonged to Sweden). This was followed by the Royal Academy in Åbo (Turkku) in 1640 and Lund University in 1666. There was growing interest in the study of medicine and the natural sciences during this period.

Entrance examinations eaised educational standards

During the 18th and well into the 19th century the universities concentrated mainly on teaching. During the 19th century the quality of university education was raised. Entry requirements were tightened and all applicants had to sit an entrance examination. In 1826 the Technological Institute in Stockholm started offering courses, since 1877 it has been known as the Royal Institute of Technology.

Municipal colleges focused on the natural sciences

Higher education developed extensively during the 19th century. Institutions offering vocational programmes became higher education vocational colleges and new professors were appointed. Towards the end of the 19th century two university colleges that were linked to and funded by municipalities were established – one in Stockholm (1878) and one in Göteborg (1891). The focus at both was on the natural sciences.

Professional programmes incorporated into higher education

The early 20th century saw further developments in higher education in Sweden. Several vocational colleges and specialist educational institutions became university colleges. Some examples were the teacher training colleges, colleges for social workers and schools of journalism.

Between 1940 and 1975 there was a great increase in the research undertaken at the HEIs. A new research organisation was created and special research posts established.

Increasing numbers of HEIs offered greater possibilities to study

Towards the end of the 20th and the early 21st century higher education in Sweden expanded greatly. Many new HEIs were founded (above all between 1977-1980 when many professional colleges were granted HEI status) and the student population mushroomed. The political aim was for everyone to have a chance to study in higher education.

Mergers lead to fewer HEIs

Today many new HEIs are the result, instead, of mergers between existing HEIs. Examples of the mergers that have taken place in recent years are the foundation of Linnaeus University through the merger of Kalmar University College with Växjö University in 2010. In the same year the Stockholm Institute of Education became part of Stockholm University.

The University College of Film, Radio, Television and Theatre, (Dramatiska institutet) and Stockholm University College of Acting merged in 2011 to form the Stockholm Academy of Dramatic Art. On 1 July 2013 Gotland University College merged with Uppsala University.

On 1 January 2014 Stockholm University of the Arts came into being. This was the result of a merger between the Stockholm Academy of Dramatic Art, Stockholm University College of Opera and the University of Dance and Circus.