Higher education institutions in Sweden - 2019 status report

With Higher Education Institutions in Sweden – 2019 status report, the Swedish Higher Education Authority (UKÄ) wants to provide a summary reference work for everyone looking for facts in English about Swedish higher education institutions (HEIs).

Swedish higher education institutions spent nearly SEK 74 billion in 2018 (about EUR 7 billion), of which 80 per cent came from state funding. With over 400,000 students and 76,000 employees, the sector encompasses a large number of people – nearly 5 per cent of the Swedish population.

Increasing number of new entrants

In the 2017/18 academic year, 86,650 individuals began studying at Swedish HEIs for the first time. That is 790 more new entrants than the previous academic year and the second year in a row that the number increased. It is, however, the first time in eight academic years that the number of Swedish new entrants has increased, while the number of incoming (international) new entrants increased for the fourth consecutive year.

Fewer students from Sweden’s population begin doctoral studies

During the last decade, the percentage of the Swedish population that has begun a third-cycle education (doctoral studies) by the age of 30 has decreased from 1,6 to 0,7 per cent. This decrease coincides with a largely unchanged size of third-cycle education and a growing proportion of incoming doctoral students.

In 2018 the number of doctoral new entrants was 3,080, which was a decrease of 100 from the previous year. The number of Swedish new entrants decreased, while the number of foreign new entrants was largely unchanged, increasing the proportion of international doctoral new entrants to 42 per cent. A recent study by UKÄ shows that 62 per cent of the international doctoral students had left Sweden three years after graduation.

Doctoral students conduct a large part of HE research

The higher education sector is the largest single state sector in terms of number of employees – 28 per cent of all state employees in Sweden work at higher education institutions. In 2018, there were 76,180 employees at HEIs. Converted to full-time equivalents (FTE), this number was 61,430, including doctoral students. Students at third-cycle education are normally employed and they conduct a considerable amount of the research and teaching at Swedish HEIs.

In 2017 doctoral students conducted 32 per cent of HE research. The academically most qualified employees – professors, senior lecturers, researchers and postdoctoral research fellows – conducted less than half (49 per cent) of the total number of research FTEs in 2017.

Women and men at different levels

The majority of the students in first- and second-cycle education are women, and there is no sign that this will change in the coming years. In academic year 2017/18 the number of men decreased for the eighth year in a row. Women are also overrepresented in positions that do not require a doctoral degree. At higher levels, among professors, less than a third are female. However, women are relatively well represented in other leadership positions at Swedish HEIs. The gender distribution among vice-chancellors, acting vice-chancellors, deputy vice-chancellors, chief administrative officers and deans or deans of faculty is relatively balanced. The percentage of women varied between 41 and 57 per cent on these positions 2018.