Edition 182 - June 2016

Countering the trend – Sweden’s growing international PhD body


While the Swedish foreign student body is dwindling, after the introduction of fees for non-EU students looking to study in the country outside of exchange frameworks, it's international doctoral studentship is growing. The Swedish Higher Education Authority (UKÄ) has released it’s newest statistics reporting on Third-cycle students and third-cycle qualifications for 2015.  Even though Sweden incurred a decrease in the total number of students studying for a PhD, as well as a lower number of new entrants, a high percentage of international new entrants into PhD courses and programmes counter balance the trend.

According to UKÄ, Sweden’s doctoral student body shows the following developments:

  • The total number of active PhD students, amounting to over 18 000, declined by 500 women and 400 men.
  • New entrants into doctoral studies amounted to just under 3000, a figure with a decrease of 200 students compared to last year. 47% being women and 53% men solidifies the trend of the last ten years, where female students steadily represented half of new entrants into third cycle studies.
  • Significantly 38% of new third cycle entrants were international - with 1,140 new international PhD entrants joining the Swedish doctoral student body in 2015, and 40% being women.  The majority of international students dedicated themselves to research in the science discipline. Science and technology was the most popular field of study for international students, where they represented over half of all new entrants   - medicine and health studies being the largest research field pursued.
  • The most prominent source of funding was Doctoral Studentships - with one third of students supported through this financing mechanism.
  • The amount of PhDs awarded over the last 20 years has nearly doubled.   

In hopes of revitalizing Sweden’s steadily decreasing foreign student numbers, to attract more students from across the globe and preserve a culturally diverse learning environment at all levels –UKÄ, The Association of Swedish Higher Education (SUHF), the Swedish Institute (SI), Uppsala University and the Swedish Council for Higher Education (UHR) have devised a proposal for establishing a national scholarship foundation. The foundation would increase international exchanges and serve as a, politically independent, medium of secure funding. The foundation would base on a model of co-financing by government, business sector and fundraising by higher education institutions.

UKÄ on third cycle international entrants
UKÄ - The national scholarship foundation

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