The Swedish Higher Education Authority, UKÄ, recorded a total of 37,834 international students in the country in 2017/18, up from 35,892 in 2016/17.
Figures show that 64% of the year’s total were full degree students, while the remaining 36% were exchange students. The total number of new international enrolments passed 24,200 in 2017/18.
“International students increase our quality in education”
The rise in student numbers was largely thanks to a rise in non-European students studying in the country. While around 8,900 students came from outside the EU, enrolments from within the European bloc saw a slight drop, from 11,812 in 2016/17 to 11,362 in 2017/18.
Nearly 4,000 international students studying for the first time in Sweden were listed as country unknown, but are EU/EEA students or students that have residency in Sweden.
The number of non-EU students in Sweden has been increasing over the past few years, recovering from a drop after the country introduced tuition fees for non-EEA students in 2011.
In 2017/2018, Sweden hosted 7,000 fee-paying students, marking an increase of 1,400 on the previous year. However, the vast majority, 17,300 international students, did not pay tuition fees.
But the total number of EU students in Sweden still exceeds the numbers of students from the rest of the world, Niklas Tranæus, marketing manager at Study in Sweden, told The PIE News.
Tranæus described the decrease in the number of exchange students from EU countries as “not a very large drop”.
The Swedish Institute, the public body which finances Study in Sweden, works in collaboration with Swedish universities to promote the study destination, mainly targeting countries outside the EU, he explained.
“Digital channels – including social media – have in recent years become increasingly important as a means of reaching out to international students,” Tranæus said, while Swedish embassies and consulates around the world can apply for funding and get training from the Swedish Institute to participate in fairs and organise events to support Swedish universities in their international recruitment.
Despite a public inquiry on the internationalisation of higher education deciding not to propose a target for international student numbers, there is widespread agreement that internationalisation and increased incoming mobility is something positive, Tranæus told The PIE.
Sweden recently announced recommendations to increase its international recruitment, which included a closer collaboration between government agencies to promote Sweden abroad.
KTH Royal Institute of Technology has had the highest increase of first time international enrolments since 2013/14, with 2,240 new international students beginning in 2017/18.
KTH also enrolled the most new incoming students who paid fees, at 630.
“We cannot increase the number of exchange students due to limitations in government funding”
According to Åsa Andersson, head of international student recruitment at KTH Royal Institute of Technology, the school has reached a top level of international students and is now primarily focusing on improving student quality.
“We cannot increase the number of exchange students or European degree program students due to limitations in government funding,” Andersson told The PIE.
The number of non-European, fee-paying students can still increase, she added.
“China and India are the largest markets, but we try to focus also on other markets with excellent students, to ensure diversity. We can mention Indonesia, Turkey, Mexico and Colombia, where we recruit actively. US, Iran and Pakistan are other markets.”
“KTH wants to recruit the best students and in order to do that we need to compete internationally. International students increase our quality in education, in terms of excellent students but also in terms of diversity in the classroom and a recruitment base for a future research career.”
The numbers of Swedish outbound students for the year fell by 300 students to 23,800, from 24,100 in 2016/17.
The decrease is largely due to a lower number of full-time outbound international students, which fell from 17,000 in 2016/17 to 16,410 this year. Outbound exchange students have in fact increased from 7,110 in 2016/17 to 7,420 in 2017/18.