Nevertheless, competition at the top of the pile is stronger than ever for the best students from all over the globe and, with an expected seven million set to study abroad by 2020, it is little wonder that student mobility has become a buzzword in academic institutions around the world.
The Swedish capital has plenty to offer, with a rich history of academic excellence at its foundation.
Renowned institutions such as Karolinska Institutet, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, the Stockholm School of Economics and Stockholm University have produced twelve Nobel Laureates within physiology and medicine, physics, economics, and chemistry, while research conducted in Stockholm is renowned throughout the world.
Academically, and historically, the rise in prominence of Stockholm University has gone hand in hand with the city where it was born. Sweden has a long and proud academic history with universities dating back to the 15th century.
Stockholm University was established as a university college in 1878 on the initiative of the city council, and became a state university in 1960.
Even as early as the 1870s, the city council realised the importance of being able to offer higher education to ensure growth. That importance gained momentum in the early 1900s, thanks to Alfred Nobel.
“One of the main external factors in Stockholm’s success is the connection with the Nobel Prize,” says Stockholm University history professor Lars Nilsson. The importance of this connection cannot be overstated in what is after all a small country.
Other key historic events also stick out, including when Sonja Kovalevsky became the world’s first female professor of mathematics in 1889 and the year the city organised both the International World History Congress and the World International Congress in Geography in 1960, which brought a great number of international guests flocking to the city and acted as a great marketing showpiece.
Today, Stockholm University has more than 64,000 students, 5,000 members of staff and the home to the country’s most substantial research within science, humanities, and social sciences.
It has also spent a great deal of effort cultivating relationships with the business world as well as academic institutions abroad, both of which are seen as key to its continued success.
“With a great stock of well educated people, the city can attract knowledge-intensive businesses and services,” says Professor Nilsson. “And with a well-educated working force and knowledge-intensive activities, economic and population growth often follow, as well as new investment and more business,” he adds.
“A progressive and expanding city means that the university can also be attractive worldwide. This relationship between city and university has grown stronger still over recent decades,” says Nilsson.
With this in mind, Stockholm University has embarked on several long-term, wide ranging partnerships with other institutions around the world. One example, the Stockholm University Academic Initiative, began in 2010 to form strategic collaborations with around 30 universities globally.
So far, 15 have signed up, with more to follow. Funding includes an initial investment by Stockholm University of 38 million kronor ($6 million) for international research, as well as government funding for scholarships to international students.
A further initiative is the Stockholm Summer Schools, a project that kicked off in 2012 in the capital and is close to the heart of vice chancellor Kåre Bremer.
“At Stockholm Summer School, you can study five different courses, of which Stockholm University are responsible for two, The Earth’s Climate and Climate Change as well as The Swedish Model.
"I hope we can expand this next year. It is an example of our joint strength and the development of cooperation between Karolinska, KTH and Stockholm University at the undergraduate level,” he says.
The Stockholm Summer Schools project was seen by those involved as a great start to another initiative that will help further spread the reputation of the university and the city itself beyond Scandinavia’s borders.
It is also of help that the state is so supportive of initiatives to help promote further education in the city and underpins a major plan for the future.
“The present government supports the idea of integrating Stockholm University, the Karolinska Institute and the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) into one University, which should be one of the 25 biggest in the world. In the new budget, research is getting strong support, which is good news,” adds Lars Nilsson.
But there is more to studying in Stockholm than its unquestionable academic excellence. It is also one of the most desirable cities in the world to live, work and study, another key ingredient, according to Nilsson.
“The water and the green space make it attractive, but also as a society, Swedes are very environmentally protective and known for our equality of the sexes. All of these things play a role in making the city and country what it is,” he says.
Article sponsored by Stockholm University