Foreign students and graduates thrive in Sweden

A new study by the Swedish Higher Education Authority, or UKÄ, shows that 79% of those with a foreign degree who supplemented their qualifications with additional studies in Sweden were established in the labour force three years after having completed their supplementary studies. Another UKÄ study showed that foreigners perform well at Swedish universities.

The UKÄ reported on the first-mentioned study on 19 October. A total of 2,959 people who registered for supplementary education between 2007 and 2014 were surveyed.

Staffan Nilsson at UKÄ said the study shows that over time foreigners achieve almost the same degree of labour market participation (85%) as those who completed the equivalent degree in Sweden.

The study examines individuals who had to supplement their qualifications to be licensed to work as lawyers, doctors, teachers, nurses and dentists. Supplementary programmes been available since the beginning of the 1990s and those examined by the study are part of the government's special initiatives.

The aim is to help individuals with foreign qualifications to find work on the Swedish labour market in the professions they trained for in another country.

Approximately one year after their last semester, 66% of those who supplemented their qualifications had become established in the labour market, compared with 79% three years later.

This suggests that it takes a little longer for individuals who attended a supplementary programme to establish themselves on the labour market than those who completed their entire education in Sweden. Nilsson suggested that this could be because they do not have an equally well-developed network of contacts.

Second UKÄ study

Another study by UKÄ demonstrates that the study fulfilment degree, that is, the degree or extent to which students are completing the study points they are registered for, increased for international students in Sweden between 2011 and 2012, while a similar increase was not found for Swedish students.

Incoming international students, notably on free courses, fulfil significantly more study points, 83% for women and 80% for men, while the corresponding figures for Swedish students are 70% for women and 60% for men. Older students have on average lower fulfilment of study points.

The highest numbers of study points fulfilled for foreign students in 2012-13 were at Karolinska Institute (91%), Chalmers University of Technology (87%) and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (90%).

Supplementary education

The government is now intensifying its work with supplementary education for foreigners like lawyers, doctors, teachers, nurses and dentists. Social scientists will be offered supplementary courses in Stockholm, Malmö and Gothenburg.

Lund and Umea universities will build up such supplementary education in pharmacy, and Malmö University College in dentistry. Several other universities have expressed interest in such supplementary education in biomedicine and psychology, and the government is expected to work out additional schemes.

The Swedish Confederation of Professional Associations in 2015 calculated the costs of educating students for a whole degree in Sweden compared with the costs for supplementing the education of an immigrant already holding an academic degree.

For instance, would the costs of the supplementary education of a medical doctor including the validation of the degree only constitute 10% of the costs of educating a medical doctor in Sweden?

In 2014 the government allocated SEK70 million [US$7.8 million] to supplementary education of immigrant academics, and this corresponds to the costs of graduating 30 academics in Sweden.