‘Sweden has too many universities’

Less is more when it comes to universities. That at least is the opinion of Anders Flodström, newly appointed University Chancellor at the National Agency for Higher Education (Högskoleverket). Flodström has indicated that he would like to see today's fourteen state-run universities pared down to a more manageable five.

'Sweden has too many universities'
Photo: Sören Vilks

The physics professor made the short move this summer from the grand surroundings of the Royal Institute of Technology to the rather less salubrious offices of the education agency. But what he may have lost in architectural grandeur he has more than gained in influence – as University Chancellor he is responsible for ensuring that Swedish third level education maintains a high standard.

While Swedish universities remain relatively strong they are no longer among the best in the world, according to Flodström.

Stronger constellations are required if Swedish institutions are to produce professionals and researchers capable of competing with those in the United States or emerging nations such as China. Universities in Denmark and Finland have already begun moving in this direction, he noted.

Improved cooperation between universities is not the solution, he said. As long as the institutions are under different leadership there is too much scope for competition between them.

“I don’t see a need for more universities, I see a need for fewer,” he told news agency TT.

As an example, he noted that the Norrland region could be better served by one university rather than today’s three.

“Such a university would also be a strong actor on a European or a global market,” he said.

In total he would like to see no more than five universities nationwide: one in the south, one in the west, one in the Linköping/Norrköping region, one for Stockholm and the central Mälardalen region and, finally, one in Norrland.