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Sweden develops new HE internationalisation strategy

“Sweden must improve its capacity to receive foreign expertise”. That is the finding of a government inquiry tasked to develop a new internationalisation strategy for Sweden’s higher education system. It hopes new policies will make Sweden “one of the most attractive, international knowledge nations with world leading quality of education and research”.

The report set a goal to see 25% of students spending at least three months of their education abroad by 2025.

Among its plans, it set a goal to see 25% of students spending at least three months of their education abroad by 2025

“In the context of greater competition…Sweden must improve its capacity to receive foreign expertise and contribute to the collective knowledge of the world,” the report reads.

“Nearly all sectors of society benefit from the internationalisation of higher education institutions”

The inquiry report presented a new internationalisation strategy for the period 2020-30 and advocated for the cooperation of government agencies, under the lead of the Ministry of Education and Research, to remove barriers to internationalisation.

“Nearly all sectors of society benefit from the internationalisation of higher education institutions and many policy areas affect the prerequisites for internationalisation,” it said.

The strategy put internationalisation at the core of higher institutions management, calling on institutions to develop a “documented and strategic” approach for international cooperation – and to “strategically manage” the use of the English language in teaching and research.

In order to increase Sweden’s attractiveness as a study destination, the strategy said the country’s universities and government need to cooperate to ensure foreign students, staff and researchers are welcomed and encouraged to stay.

Among its plans, it set a goal to see 25% of students spending at least three months of their education abroad by 2025 and advocated for the increased use of national and EU mobility schemes.

Also, it recommended that Sweden strengthens its collaboration with the Nordic countries to create an “internationally competitive knowledge region in northern Europe” and with other EU partners.

The inquiry also proposed to amend the Swedish Higher Education Act to reflect the importance of internationalisation and international cooperation to university and society. The amendment should take effect in January 2020 and provide overarching objectives for the international work of higher education institutions.

The report offered a picture of the present state of internationalisation in the country.

Sweden receives slightly less than 1% of the world’s internationally mobile students and produces slightly more than 1% of the world’s research publications. And while outbound mobility has remained relatively constant over the past ten years, averaging 14% of all students, the country has seen the number of inbound students decreasing “a great deal” over the same period.

From a peak of 46,700 in 2010-2011, after the introduction of tuition fees for non-EU students, the number fell to 32,600 in 2013-2014 and recovered over the following two years to 35,900.

And while the number of internationally co-authored research is high – 65% of all publications were born out of international cooperations, compared to 25% worldwide – researchers mobility is still “lower than in other strong research nations”.

“There are several reasons for higher education institutions to increase international cooperation and the international elements of education and research,” the report states. “The most important of these is to enhance the quality of activities.”

The inquiry will present another report, with recommendations for a review of the university application process and tuition fees, by 31 October, 2018.

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