‘A real eye-opener’: the Swedish university future-proofing careers

Whether you live in Sweden or elsewhere, the kind of skills you most need for tomorrow’s job market are changing. This means one more challenge to overcome for anyone living abroad or wishing to move abroad.

‘A real eye-opener’: the Swedish university future-proofing careers
Photo: Linköping University graduate Elias Hallack working at SKF

But some educational institutions excel in helping you to prepare for the future. That’s certainly true of Linköping University (LiU) in southern Sweden, which ranks in the worldwide top 50 for universities founded in the past 50 years.

Do you want to specialise in sustainable engineering or making sense of migration? Aircraft design or ageing populations? LiU offers 30 international programmes taught in English, covering all these fields and many more. 

The Local spoke with two international graduates, now working in major Swedish companies, who took their future into their own hands through their choice of Master’s studies.

Browse the full range of Master’s and degree programmes taught in English at Linköping University 

An eye-opening education

“I would definitely say I’m helping to create a more sustainable future,” says Elias Hallack. “I feel sure that I’m contributing to the change in this industry – and in the world.”

Elias, who is half-Syrian and half-Brazilian, began working as an environmental analysis specialist at Swedish industrial giant SKF in September after completing a two-year Master’s in Sustainability Engineering and Management at LiU. 

He uses skills he learned during his studies “on a daily basis” to gain a true picture of what’s kind to the environment and what isn’t.

“You look not only at a product’s use phase but the whole life cycle – extraction of the raw materials, transportation, production and the end of life, whether that means landfill, incineration, or recycling,” says Elias. “Learning about this was a real eye-opener for me in terms of how to think about things and see all the dimensions.” 

Marcela Miranda, from Brazil, has been a sustainability specialist at Ikea for nearly three years. Like Elias, she’s concerned about climate change but feels sure she’s contributing to a positive transformation through the skills she learned during a two-year Master’s in Science for Sustainable Development.

Ikea is aiming to become a fully circular business by 2030 and Marcela analyses sustainability data and KPIs for paper suppliers. She’s “putting into practice” technological skills for powerfully illustrating potential climate impacts that she learned at LiU.

“There’s a Decision Arena at the Norrköping campus, where the whole room is full of screens,” Marcela explains. She says this was a priceless tool for using maps and graphs to clearly communicate the potential impact of different business choices.

Linköping University’s Decision Arena. Photo: LiU

“I use this approach a lot in my current job,” she says. “We collect our suppliers’ sustainability data and give them feedback every year, so we need [to create] nice visualisations.” This data is one of the factors taken into account in Ikea’s sourcing decisions, she adds.

Future-proof your own prospects: check out all Linköping University’s programmes in English and use this form to request further information on any programme

Comprehensive and collective 

Elias and Marcela, who both came to study in Sweden with scholarships from the Swedish Institute, each say that LiU offers a comprehensive approach to the topics they care about that sets it apart. 

“I chose Linköping University because the sustainable engineering programme included not only renewable energy and sustainable energy sources but also design and social aspects of sustainability,” says Elias.

Marcela, who came to Sweden from São Paulo in 2016 and completed her Master’s in 2018, says: “I looked at the course descriptions and there was a lot of really advanced technology that we don’t have in universities in Brazil.” 

Photo: Marcela Miranda and her parents at Linköping University

Looking back, one more reason now stands out: “I heard from students on other Master’s that the university always emphasises critical thinking, even with something like the Sustainable Development Goals.” 

This dedication to scrutinising everything in the search for solutions also inspires a collective feeling of belonging, according to Marcela: “There’s a real sense of togetherness among the students.”

Diverse paths to a future-proof career

If you’re looking to future-proof your career, focusing on sustainability is one option of many. Perhaps your interest lies in how societies should cope with ageing populations or in challenging and reimagining gender norms? There are Master’s degrees at LiU for you too. 

There are also a wide range of engineering and scientific Master’s programmes, such as Biomedical Engineering, Statistics and Machine Learning, and Communications Systems (with the university at the forefront of research into 5G). You can view all 30 international programmes in this 2022 prospectus and you can use this form to get more information on any programme within an hour.

Elias, who did a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering in Syria, says the more relaxed style of teaching in Sweden helped him “grow in confidence” through discussions with his professors. Teaching staff also helped him submit research to a life cycle engineering conference in Belgium, where he hopes to make a presentation next year. “I believe these good relationships with my professors will also help me in the future if I ever need to ask for help,” he says.

Marcela praises the university’s CV workshops – which also encompass support with social media – for further supporting students to plan for the future.

And while she felt concerned about finding accommodation before leaving Brazil, she needn’t have worried. “As an international student, you’re really taken care of by the university and its international office,” she says. “They had everything arranged for me and also booked a taxi to pick me up at the airport. Everything was really easy, so don’t be afraid!”

Want a better future for yourself and the planet? Check out all Linköping University’s Master’s and degree programmes in English. Then find out how to apply (applications for 2022 close on January 17th)

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‘Don’t ignore our presence’: How Sweden could be more inclusive for foreigners

There are plenty of things Sweden could do to help foreigners integrate, said The Local's readers when we asked for their suggestions as to how the country could become more inclusive.

'Don't ignore our presence': How Sweden could be more inclusive for foreigners

In a recent survey, we asked our readers one question: “What can Sweden do to make the country more inclusive?”

Answers were varied, with some focusing on the social aspect of inclusion, such as making more of an effort to include immigrants in conversations or social gatherings, while others discussed bureaucracy, politics or issues finding work.

Others covered issues like xenophobia and racism, and ways in which Sweden could become better at tackling and acknowledging these issues on a structural level.

‘Don’t just ignore our presence’

Inclusion can be as simple as switching to English when a non-Swedish speaker is around, one respondent said.

“Accommodate to English if a non-Swedish speaking person joins your Swedish-speaking group at work or at social gatherings,” a reader originally from India, who now has Swedish citizenship, wrote. “Just don’t ignore our presence, please.”

Of course, that doesn’t mean that Swedes should switch to English all the time, said PhD student Vinicius.

“Regular Swedes should feel more responsible for inclusion too. Perhaps they could be more helpful to Swedish learners who try to practise the language with them instead of switching to English all the time,” he said, encouraging Swedes to extend invitations outside their social bubble.


“I’ve seen proof that I’m being accepted because I blend in and because my semi-American lifestyle and business made it easy to make contacts,” a Dutch respondent said. “People coming from other cultures find it harder to ‘feel Swedish’ in part because Sweden’s individualist culture makes it easy to not invite someone.”

“This is usually innocent, but it makes it very easy for xenophobic and racist people to normalise exclusion on the wrong grounds. In my opinion this is where typical Swedish silence should be broken. One way to improve things would be to more actively invite non-EU immigrants to national and traditional celebrations.”

‘The language requirement has been one of my biggest barriers’

The issue of language barriers in the workplace can also be an issue when applying for jobs.

“I can understand for certain technical roles that you need to be able to read/speak Swedish for safety reasons, but the majority of Swedes speak great English and that shouldn’t keep them from excluding a highly sought after workforce that just happens to still be learning the language,” a reader from Puerto Rico based in Malmö said. 

“I was, until recently, working in the video games industry. I was affected by layoffs and am struggling to find work quickly enough to keep myself in the country after 5.5 years of living in Sweden. The language requirement has been one of my biggest barriers.”

a person in front of a computer

Several readers described language as a big barrier, despite working in international industries like tech. Photo: Melker Dahlstrand/

‘My international experience has been ignored’

Another reader, named Sarah, argued that while language programmes like Swedish for Immigrants (SFI) classes are good, they are not inclusive – she found it difficult as a full-time working parent to attend them, for example.

“When I first moved here I had a small baby and then had a second child. The whole time I had a small child I could not attend SFI and then I entered full-time work. None of my employers have discussed with me my language needs or goals,” she said.

“I work in English – there is an absolute need for it given Sweden’s export and trade focus, but I’ve not been given any support at all to help with language development and this has fundamentally limited my career prospects.”

Sarah also added that her international experience has essentially been ignored when applying for jobs.

“I’ve never been asked about the roles I’ve had or the companies I’ve worked for outside of Sweden. I basically had to start from the beginning. I’ve worked for some well known companies, so it should count, but this has pretty much been void.”


Another respondent, a tech worker in his 30s from Bosnia and Herzegovina, said that while he felt included, his wife did not.

“I feel included, by being the breadwinner and working in the software business from day one. On the other hand, my wife, with a master’s degree in architecture, failed to get invited to a single interview for a job. The most common response she would get: ‘you need to be fluent in Swedish’.”

“If only companies would support people, especially highly educated, to demonstrate their job skills, while learning the language on the way,” he added. “It is very discouraging to have to be unemployed or work lower skilled jobs for several years, while trying to get to the fluency that might be required.”

He’s also unsure whether the language barrier is the real issue, or whether it’s a sign of a wider issue of discrimination.

“Is it just the easiest excuse companies can think of to reject people of non-Swedish origin?”


a person and a dog in the archipelago

Some readers said they felt very included by their Swedish friends, whereas others asked Swedes to open up their social circles a bit more. Photo: Isak Stockås/

‘Discrimination is the elephant in the room’

There were a number of respondents who had lived in multicultural countries like the US, UK and Canada, who said they saw a stark difference in how immigrants are treated in Sweden compared to elsewhere.

One reader from Australia, who has a Turkish name, was “shocked” by the widespread discrimination in Sweden.

“It’s the elephant in the room,” he said. “I’m self-employed as an e-commerce consultant as I have no alternative here. I’ve had one request for an interview with over 100 job applications.”

“I find it super strange that it’s widely accepted that if you have a foreign name that you will be discriminated against. I’ve never experienced that before.”


LTH graduate Spilios from Athens, now based in Malmö, said that issues like ethnic discrimination need to be raised more often in public dialogue.

“Without this, inclusion can not be achieved,” he said. 

“Dialogue needs to be initiated not only by those who suffer the trauma of discrimination but also by people like white native Swedes who also share the belief that this is a huge societal problem. If there is no public dialogue over the issue of ethnic discrimination as a major factor for exclusion then it is likely that in an era of further rise of the far right and securitisation, the phenomenon will become more and more widespread.”

‘Hiring foreigners is a major step out of their comfort zone’

Eva, a Spanish reader in Stockholm, argued that companies should be made to collect and publish data on employee ethnicity, citizenship and other significant diversity points, and that it should be made mandatory for companies to include this in their sustainability goals.

“As someone who has worked in management in Swedish companies: It is not a surprise that Swedish HR and hiring managers consciously or subconsciously avoid hiring foreigners, even more in management and leadership positions, as that would be a major step out of their comfort zone,” she added. 

“Foreigners bring other work models and communication styles, defying the notion that the Swedish way of business (which has many positives) is the optimal and only acceptable model for every scenario.”


Heidi Carmen Howard from Québec spent almost ten years working in Swedish universities and had a number of ideas on how Sweden could make job searches more inclusive.

“Make sure foreigners who have the same expertise or experience as Swedes get the same salary. Make evaluation criteria for job hiring and promotion transparent, in writing, in different languages and easily accessible. Have international experts weigh in on evaluating CVs, remove names from CVs and write job descriptions with different genders and backgrounds in mind,” she said.

She also recommended providing more written information in multiple languages about crucial aspects of the Swedish labour market like salary setting, promotions and conflict resolution, as well as paid time during the work week for international workers to learn Swedish.

a woman talking in sign language in front of a laptop on the train

Several readers argued foreigners should be given more information on how the Swedish job market works, including job interviews and CV writing. Photo: Scandinav/

‘Perhaps the ideals don’t match the realities us immigrants experience’

“I live in Malmö and love it here,” wrote Michael, a 56-year-old African-American who has been in Sweden for almost a decade.

“That is despite the various challenges there are for immigrants and people of colour,” he added. “The values and ideals that Sweden strives for are great. But I would say that perhaps the ideals don’t match the realities that us immigrants experience. This is exponentially observed if you’re a person of colour.”

Software developer Jeremiah, also from the US, said that Swedes need to “embrace multiculturalism”.

“Sweden lags behind in its understanding of diversity, equity, and inclusion. The goal is not for everyone to be the same. The goal is for no one to be oppressed. The goal is not everyone having the same starting point. The goal is equal access to opportunity. The goal is not to be colour blind. The goal is to actively identify and oppose racism, xenophobia, and other forms of discrimination.”


‘Diversity needs to go both ways’

A French reader from Blekinge said that there need to be higher expectations placed on immigrants to be more inclusive, such as respecting Swedish culture and trying to get to know Swedes.

“My parents are French and American (US), and my Swedish wife’s parents are Danish and Polish, so we are very familiar with the immigration question. In our view, greater emphasis should be put towards integration and assimilation than simply avoiding it by claiming it’s good for ‘diversity’,” he said.

“We need to build more bridges than ghettos, but it will only work if there is an expectation that diversity needs to work both ways, with Swedish culture, history and values also being taught, celebrated and respected as well.”

‘Excessive bureaucracy’

A number of respondents said that they had found Swedes themselves very inclusive, but that the real barriers to inclusion were due to bureaucracy, such as the long wait for things like personal numbers, bank accounts or ID cards.

Pedro from Italy said that this had almost made his family reconsider moving to Sweden in the first place.

”Even if I am an EU citizen, the process of right of residence was excessively bureaucratic when compared to other countries. My difficulties in integrating today are in big part due to the long four-month wait for daycare which made finishing university a very difficult task, which reflects directly in my job-seeking capabilities now as I am still unable to finish my studies.”

Tamim, a 40-year-old Syrian student who moved to Sweden from Saudi Arabia, said that he “finds it hard to find something Sweden could do to be more inclusive”, as he and his wife were quickly able to study for free and his son was given a school place after just two weeks in Sweden.

“The only thing that might be a potential area for improvement (at least in my experience) is opening a bank account with a BankID. This took some time but was easy when I got my part time job. Another thing that is difficult is managing my finances since I am coming from Saudi Arabia and my savings were there. Swedish banks don’t accept transfers from there.”

‘Immigration law changes make me feel like I’m not welcomed here’

On a political level, many respondents felt that recent laws made Sweden feel less inclusive.

“The immigration law changes make me feel like I am not actually welcomed here,” a 34-year-old software developer in Umeå said. “I have to contribute to the society ten times more than an average Swede to be included.”

“As much as we’re trying to see and depict Sweden as open to immigrants, I think the bitter truth is that it is not, and with the growing power of the Sweden Democrats this is more than clear,” said the tech worker from Bosnia and Herzegovina quoted previously.

The Dutch respondent, who moved to Sweden from the Netherlands over a decade ago, said that the same things that caused him to leave the Netherlands are now happening in Sweden.

“Decent traditional political parties should have maintained their Cordon Sanitaire against xenophobic and racist politicians,” he said. “The infiltration and normalisation of far-right ideas are destroying the very thing that made Sweden a global human rights leader.”

More than 80 people responded to The Local’s survey about how Sweden could become more inclusive. We weren’t able to include every single comment, but we did our best to select a representative sample. We’d love to hear your thoughts too – please join the conversation in the comments below.