Why are international doctoral students flocking to Stockholm universities?

The share of international doctoral students in Stockholm has increased sharply in the past ten years, a new report shows.

Why are international doctoral students flocking to Stockholm universities?
The KTH Royal Institute of Technology gets the largest share of international doctoral students. Photo: Veronica Johansson/SvD/TT

A total of 43 percent of Stockholm's 5,440 doctoral students come from another country – an increase of 14 percentage points since 2008 – according to the report by the Stockholm Academic Forum (Staf).

Most of them are enrolled at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology, where almost 1,000 doctoral students are of foreign origin – or, in other words, 58 percent of doctoral students at the university.

The Stockholm School of Economics has seen its share of international doctoral students grow from 25 to a whopping 53 percent over the past ten years, and from 19 to 42 percent at Stockholm University.

Sweden as a whole has seen a rise from 20 percent to 35 percent in the same period.

“It is a testament to the great reputation of our higher education institutions. We know that Stockholm is highly valued by foreign researchers, and in international comparisons, we often see that higher ranked universities have a higher proportion of international doctoral students,” said Maria Fogelström Kylberg, CEO of Staf, a collaborative body of Stockholm City and its 18 higher education institutions, in a statement.


Being a doctoral student in Sweden comes with several perks. One of the main ones is that unlike in many other countries, in Sweden doing a PhD is considered a job, which means that it often comes with not just student discounts, but also a range of employee benefits: salary, holiday days, sick pay and a pension.

If you come from a non-EU country, you may also be eligible for a permanent residence permit after your four years of doctoral studies – an attempt by Sweden to convince foreign talent to stay after their studies.

But students waiting for an extension to their permit often face long waits for a decision, and several readers have told The Local of the stress this causes: including being prevented from travelling to their home countries to visit family and friends, or missing out on key international academic conferences.

If you are an international doctoral student in Sweden who want to share your story – good or bad – we would love to hear from you. Please email [email protected].

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Inquiry calls for free after-school care for 6-9 year-olds in Sweden

Children between ages 6-9 years should be allowed admittance to after-school recreation centers free of charge, according to a report submitted to Sweden’s Minister of Education Lotta Edholm (L).

Inquiry calls for free after-school care for 6-9 year-olds in Sweden

“If this reform is implemented, after-school recreation centers will be accessible to the children who may have the greatest need for the activities,” said Kerstin Andersson, who was appointed to lead a government inquiry into expanding access to after-school recreation by the former Social Democrat government. 

More than half a million primary- and middle-school-aged children spend a large part of their school days and holidays in after-school centres.

But the right to after-school care is not freely available to all children. In most municipalities, it is conditional on the parent’s occupational status of working or studying. Thus, attendance varies and is significantly lower in areas where unemployment is high and family finances weak.

In this context, the previous government formally began to inquire into expanding rights to leisure. The report was recently handed over to Sweden’s education minister, Lotta Edholm, on Monday.

Andersson proposed that after-school activities should be made available free of charge to all children between the ages of six and nine in the same way that preschool has been for children between the ages of three and five. This would mean that children whose parents are unemployed, on parental leave or long-term sick leave will no longer be excluded. 

“The biggest benefit is that after-school recreation centres will be made available to all children,” Andersson said. “Today, participation is highest in areas with very good conditions, while it is lower in sparsely populated areas and in areas with socio-economic challenges.” 

Enforcing this proposal could cause a need for about 10,200 more places in after-school centre, would cost the state just over half a billion kronor a year, and would require more adults to work in after-school centres. 

Andersson recommends recruiting staff more broadly, and not insisting that so many staff are specialised after-school activities teachers, or fritidspedagod

“The Education Act states that qualified teachers are responsible for teaching, but that other staff may participate,” Andersson said. “This is sometimes interpreted as meaning that other staff may be used, but preferably not’. We propose that recognition be given to so-called ‘other staff’, and that they should be given a clear role in the work.”

She suggested that people who have studied in the “children’s teaching and recreational programmes” at gymnasium level,  people who have studied recreational training, and social educators might be used. 

“People trained to work with children can contribute with many different skills. Right now, it might be an uncertain work situation for many who work for a few months while the employer is looking for qualified teachers”, Andersson said.