An Overview of Swedish Higher Education and Research 2022

With An Overview of Swedish Higher Education and Research 2022, the Swedish Higher Education Authority (UKÄ) wants to provide a summary reference work for everyone looking for an understand of and facts about Swedish higher education and research in English. New this year is a chapter about some major reforms that have defined the development of the system over the last 50 years.

The annual status report is based on data reported by higher education institutions to Statistics Sweden and to UKÄ. The focus is on the past year, but developments are often described from a longer perspective. In this particular annual report you can also read about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on higher education and research.

Below follows short summaries and descriptions of the different chapters in An Overview of Swedish Higher Education and Research 2022.

The road to today’s Swedish higher eduation and research

The report begins with a description of how the present system for higher education and research developed, with focus on some major reforms that defined the development over the last 50 years.

The Swedish system for higher education and research

In the second part we describe in more detail the current Swedish higher education system, that is to say, the basis for operations at higher education institutions and the results and analyses presented in the following chapters of the overview.

Effects of the coronavirus pandemic on higher education in 2021

Higher education demonstrated its ability to manage crises during the coronavirus pandemic. The higher education institutions quickly shifted to remote learning. The Government’s measures to expand higher education to address the worsening labour market then meant the institutions had to manage an increase in student volumes. This put pressure on all aspects of higher education. Read more in chapter Effects of the coronavirus pandemic on higher education and research in 2020.

First- and second-cycle education

The State continued to allocate extra funding for higher education institutions and interest for higher education continued to be strong because of the coronavirus pandemic. In the 2021 autumn semester, just under 490,000 individuals applied to higher education courses and programmes. Nearly 290,000 were admitted. The total number of students in higher education increased to record levels during the first full academic year impacted by the pandemic, 2020/21. Read more in chapter First- and second-cycle education.

International student mobility

The coronavirus pandemic has had a major impact on international student mobility. In the 2020/21 academic year, Sweden hosted 33,000 incoming students, a decrease of 16 per cent compared with the previous academic year. The latest statistics, however, show that the inflow of international students in the 2021 autumn semester is almost back to the same level as prior to the pandemic. In the 2020/21 academic year, there were just over 16,000 Swedish students studying abroad, either as exchange students or as freemover students, which was considerably fewer than the previous academic year. Read more in chapter International student mobility.

Third-cycle education

In autumn 2021, there were 17,400 doctoral students (third-cycle students) at Swedish higher education institutions, which was somewhat fewer than autumn 2020. For the first time, there were more women than men among the doctoral students.The international presence in third-cycle education was considerable. Among all third-cycle students, 36 per cent were foreign. Neither the foreign new entrants nor the foreign doctoral students decreased during the coronavirus pandemic. Read more in chapter Third-cycle education.

Education and the labour market

Even though the coronavirus pandemic has impacted the labour market for many young people, a majority of first- or second-cycle students who graduated during the pandemic have a good position on the labour market. Doctoral graduates also did well. Just over 80 per cent of 1998–2015 doctoral graduates were established on the labour market three years after graduation. Of 2015 foreign doctoral graduates, over half were still in Sweden three years after graduation and the majority had jobs. Read more in chapter Education and the labour market.

Staff at higher education institutions

The number of staff at higher education institutions continues to increase, but at a lower rate than previous years. Research and teaching staff have increased the most in the last decade. In 2021, there were 54,420 employees. Sixty per cent were research and teaching staff, while 40 per cent belonged to the category non-research and non-teaching staff. Men were the majority among research and teaching staff, while women were the majority among non-research and non-teaching staff. Read more in chapter Staff at higher education institutions.

Finance and research funding

Swedish higher education institutions had a financial surplus in 2021. It was the largest in the last decade and was primarily the result of increased direct government funding within both first- and second-cycle education and research and third-cycle education. Expenses for staff increased while operating costs were unchanged. For the second year in a row, unutilised grants increased because of delays in research projects caused by the pandemic. Read more in chapter Finance and research funding.

Research at higher education institutions

In 2019, Sweden’s investments in research and development (R&D) were 3.39 per cent, which was significantly higher than the average for both EU27 and OECD. The higher education institutions conducted 24 per cent of Sweden’s R&D. Total revenues for research and third-cycle education were close to SEK 45 billion in 2019. More than half of these revenues went to the institutions research in medicine and health sciences and the natural sciences. Read more in chapter Research at higher education institutions.

Key figures for higher education institutions

Swedish higher education institutions vary in both size and specialisation. The status report concludes with a set of tables that show quantative data for students, doctoral students, graduates, staff and funding per higher education institution. Additional tables, including the education profile and research profile of each HEI, are available (below) on this website.

Figures: Key figures for higher education institutions. Excel, 88.6 kB.