More foreigners earning PhDs in Sweden

Foreign students make up one third of doctoral candidates studying at Swedish universities and more than half of them stay in Sweden upon completing their studies, new statistics show.

More foreigners earning PhDs in Sweden

A new report from Sweden’s National Agency for Higher Education (Högskolverket) finds that efforts by Swedish universities to attract doctoral candidates from other countries are working.

In the last decade, the percentage of non-Swedish students enrolled in PhD programmes has more than doubled. In the report, the agency defines a foreign PhD student as one who moved to Sweden for the express purpose of pursuing doctoral studies, not students with foreign backgrounds who grew up in Sweden.

Students from Asia account for much of the growth, while the number of students from other European countries has declined.

The agency attributes the influx of foreign students in part to the proliferation of international masters-level programmes, which often serve as a stepping stone for foreign students who later elect to stay in Sweden to pursue a doctoral degree.

Another reason for the steadily rising number of foreign PhD candidates is the difficulty many universities report having in recruiting Swedish students.

Of the foreign doctoral students who completed their degrees between 1997 and 2001, 44 percent were still in Sweden five years later. The highest percentage of students who stayed, 50 percent, come from the technical and social science fields.

“That half stay in Sweden and half return is a good balance. Those who stay become a resource for the Swedish labour market and those who go back to their home countries also become a resource because the Swedish business community gets a network and contacts around the world,” said University Chancellor Anders Flodström in a statement.

Foreign doctoral candidates are also more likely to complete their programmes faster than their Swedish counterparts.

According to the agency’s statistics, 55 percent of foreign students finish their PhD programmes within five years, while the corresponding figure for Swedish doctoral students is 34 percent.

Part of the reason that foreign students try to complete their studies in less time may be that many are on scholarships, freeing them from the need to serve as teaching assistants in order to make ends meet financially as many Swedish PhD students are required to do.

In addition, foreign students are less likely to have their studies interrupted by things like parental leave. They may arrive in Sweden having already completed a portion of their coursework in their home country.

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Inquiry calls for free after-school care for 6-9 year-olds in Sweden

Children between ages 6-9 years should be allowed admittance to after-school recreation centers free of charge, according to a report submitted to Sweden’s Minister of Education Lotta Edholm (L).

Inquiry calls for free after-school care for 6-9 year-olds in Sweden

“If this reform is implemented, after-school recreation centers will be accessible to the children who may have the greatest need for the activities,” said Kerstin Andersson, who was appointed to lead a government inquiry into expanding access to after-school recreation by the former Social Democrat government. 

More than half a million primary- and middle-school-aged children spend a large part of their school days and holidays in after-school centres.

But the right to after-school care is not freely available to all children. In most municipalities, it is conditional on the parent’s occupational status of working or studying. Thus, attendance varies and is significantly lower in areas where unemployment is high and family finances weak.

In this context, the previous government formally began to inquire into expanding rights to leisure. The report was recently handed over to Sweden’s education minister, Lotta Edholm, on Monday.

Andersson proposed that after-school activities should be made available free of charge to all children between the ages of six and nine in the same way that preschool has been for children between the ages of three and five. This would mean that children whose parents are unemployed, on parental leave or long-term sick leave will no longer be excluded. 

“The biggest benefit is that after-school recreation centres will be made available to all children,” Andersson said. “Today, participation is highest in areas with very good conditions, while it is lower in sparsely populated areas and in areas with socio-economic challenges.” 

Enforcing this proposal could cause a need for about 10,200 more places in after-school centre, would cost the state just over half a billion kronor a year, and would require more adults to work in after-school centres. 

Andersson recommends recruiting staff more broadly, and not insisting that so many staff are specialised after-school activities teachers, or fritidspedagod

“The Education Act states that qualified teachers are responsible for teaching, but that other staff may participate,” Andersson said. “This is sometimes interpreted as meaning that other staff may be used, but preferably not’. We propose that recognition be given to so-called ‘other staff’, and that they should be given a clear role in the work.”

She suggested that people who have studied in the “children’s teaching and recreational programmes” at gymnasium level,  people who have studied recreational training, and social educators might be used. 

“People trained to work with children can contribute with many different skills. Right now, it might be an uncertain work situation for many who work for a few months while the employer is looking for qualified teachers”, Andersson said.