SWEDEN: PhDs 'wrongly focused', business warns

A survey of PhD graduates in Sweden has revealed that fewer than half of those responding believed their PhD was a factor in getting a job and that just one in six were contributing directly to the development of products and services stemming from research.

The Confederation of Swedish Enterprise asked 8,537 of the PhD candidates who graduated between 2006 and 2009 if they got work after their graduation that corresponds to their qualifications.

Just 51 % responded, and only half said that their doctorate contributed to their getting a job, while only one in six said they were engaged in the development of products or services leading to new commercialising of research results.

The report, Wrong Focus for Swedish Research Training, was published by the confederation, and written by Emil Erikson, Emil Görnerup and Mikaela Almerud.

Research training in Sweden is estimated to cost SEK13 billion (US$2 billion) and involves 17,000 registered PhD students. This could be compared to the SEK21 billion a year invested in the higher education of 316,000 students.

The lack of collaboration between Swedish industry and universities is alarming, the report states. Less than one third of PhD students collaborate with private firms during their degree preparation.

If a PhD candidate had collaborated with a firm during PhD preparation, the statistical probability that he or she would contribute to the development of a product or service that would be commercialised or patented, increased by 266%.

Three out of 10 doctoral graduates do not work as researchers after graduation. The majority are employed in the public sector and only 8% in the private sector of the economy.

Taking into consideration that private sector funding accounts for two-thirds of research and development investment in Sweden, this is unacceptable, the report said,

A significant number of respondents said that they either were too highly or incorrectly qualified for the work they presently were doing.

This year the government is contributing SEK114 billion to research at higher education institutions, the report said. Approximately half will go to the training of young researchers.

* Read the report and press release (in Swedish only) here