Edition 211 - November 2018

Sweden’s to-do list to become a knowledge nation

In March 2017 the Swedish Government established an Inquiry on increased internationalisation of higher education institutions (HEIs), with a view to propose a new internationalisation strategy for the years 2020-2030. In February 2018, the first report “Internationalisation of Swedish Higher Education and Research – A Strategic Agenda” was published and its content duly covered and explained by ACA

This month, the second and last report “Increasing the Attractiveness of Sweden as a Knowledge Nation” has been released to the wider public. This report stresses the importance for Sweden to promote its high quality higher education. In fact, despite its high quality, Swedish HE is still not very visible in many other countries and therefore needs to be boosted by a long-sighted strategy. These are the main proposals put forward by the Inquiry Chair: 

  • Strengthening the international presence of Swedish HEIs, for example by expanding the current Offices of Science and Innovation, which are now present in six Swedish embassies. 
  • Launch of a pilot project to establish two new international offices hosted by an agency outside the Government Offices.
  • Programme of Swedish research and HE ambassadors to be established within the Swedish Institute, in cooperation with the Association of Swedish Higher Education Institutions. The role of the ambassadors is to promote Sweden as a knowledge nation. 
  • Creation of a Team Sweden Knowledge to enhance cooperation within HE and research and increase their visibility. 

Moreover, the Inquiry recommends that internationalisation of HEIs be integrated in all relevant national policies, for which an increased cooperation between government agencies is a necessary prerequisite. In order to make this possible, the creation of an internationalisation platform is suggested. Such platform should consist of the Swedish Institute, the Swedish Higher Education Authority, the Swedish Council for Higher Education, the Swedish Research Council and Sweden’s Innovation Agency.  

The Inquiry also addressed the issue of how complicated it currently is for an international student to apply to study in Sweden, due to the many stages students must go through and because the fragmentation of the system requires to submit different documents to different agencies. According to the Inquiry, application procedures could and should be simplified, for example via an online, joint, cross-agency procedure

Finally, fees. Swedish universities have introduced tuition fees for non-EU students in August 2011. According to the Inquiry, the system should remain pretty much the same, with some minor suggestions in the report concerning mostly the establishment of clearer rules for students about repaying fees. On the other hand, big emphasis is put on the strengthening of the scholarships system, which is now judged insufficient. The amount of money dedicated to scholarships should be doubled from SEK 60 million to SEK 120 million. 

These are the main points touched upon by the Inquiry. But these recommendations are for the moment blowing in the wind, as no government has been yet appointed after the 9 September elections. 

Summary of both reports here

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