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‘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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WORKING IN SWEDEN

CHECKLIST: Here’s what you need to do if you move away from Sweden

What authorities do you need to inform before you leave, are you liable to Swedish tax and how can you access your Swedish pension? Here's a checklist.

CHECKLIST: Here's what you need to do if you move away from Sweden

Tell the relevant authorities if you’re leaving for more than a year

If you’re planning on leaving Sweden for more than a year, you will have to let the authorities know. The main authorities in question are Skatteverket (the Tax Agency) and Försäkringskassan (the Social Insurance Agency).

Försäkringskassan

You have to tell Försäkringskassan when you leave so they can assess whether or not you still qualify for Swedish social insurance. As a general rule, you aren’t eligible for Swedish social insurance if you move away from Sweden, but there are exceptions, such as maternity or paternity benefits if you’re moving to another EU country.

This also applies to any family members who move with you – any over-18’s should send in their own documentation to Försäkingskassan about their move abroad. If you’re moving abroad with anyone under 18, you can include them in your own report to Försäkringskassan.

If both legal guardians are moving abroad together, both need to include any children in their application. If one legal guardian is moving abroad and the other is staying in Sweden, you need the guardian staying in Sweden to co-sign your application. If you are the sole legal guardian of any under-18’s travelling with you, you don’t need any documentation from the other parent.

You can register a move abroad with Försäkringskassan on the Mina sidor service on their website, here (log in with BankID).

Skatteverket

If you are moving abroad for a year or longer, you also need to tell the Tax Agency. This also applies if you were planning on moving abroad for less than a year but ended up staying for longer.

If you move to another Nordic country, you will also need to register your move with that country’s authorities if you will be there for six months or more. You’ll be deregistered from the Swedish population register the same day you become registered in another Nordic country’s register.

This doesn’t mean that you’ll lose your personnummer – you’ll still be able to use it if you ever move back to Sweden – but you will no longer be registered as resident in Sweden.

Similarly to Försäkringskassan, you will also need to report any children you are bringing with you, and both legal guardians must sign the form, whether or not both guardians are moving abroad or not.

In some cases, you may still be liable to pay tax in Sweden even if you live abroad – particularly if you are a Swedish citizen or have lived in Sweden for at least ten years. This could be due to owning or renting out property in Sweden, having family in Sweden, or owning a business in Sweden.

You can tell the tax agency of your plans to move abroad here.

Contact your a-kassa, if relevant

If you are member of a Swedish a-kassa (unemployment insurance), make sure you tell them that you’re leaving the country. As a general rule, you have unemployment insurance in the country you work in, so you will most likely have to cancel your a-kassa subscription.

If you are moving to another country with the a-kassa system, such as Denmark or Finland, it may pay to wait until you have joined a new a-kassa in that country before you cancel your membership in Sweden.

This is due to the fact, in some countries, you only qualify for benefits once you fulfil a membership and employment requirement. In Sweden and Denmark, you must have been a member for 12 months before you qualify. In Finland, the membership requirement is 26 weeks.

If you qualify for a-kassa in Sweden before you leave the country, you may be able to transfer your a-kassa membership period over to your new a-kassa abroad and qualify there straight away, but this usually only applies if your period of a-kassa membership is unbroken.

Check what applies in your new country before you cancel your membership in Sweden – your a-kassa should be able to help you with this.

Contact your union, if relevant

Similarly, if you are a member of a Swedish union or fackförbund, let them know you’re moving abroad.

If you’re moving to another Nordic country, they might be able to point you in the direction of the relevant union in that country, if you want to remain a member of a union in your new country.

If you’re moving to another EU country, you may be able to remain a member of your Swedish union as a foreign worker with the status utlandsvistelse.

If you chose to do this, you will usually pay a lower monthly fee than you do in Sweden, and they can still provide assistance with work related issues – although it may make more sense to join a local union in your field with more knowledge of the labout market.

If you don’t want to be a member of a union in your new country and don’t want to be a member of a Swedish union, you should contact your  union and ask them to cancel your membership.

Collect relevant documents regarding your Swedish pension

If you have worked in Sweden and paid tax for any length of time, you will have paid in to a Swedish pension. You retain this pension wherever you move, but you must apply for it yourself.

To do so, you will need to give details of when you lived and worked in Sweden, as well as providing copies of work contracts, if you have them. If you have these documents before you leave Sweden, make copies so that you can provide them when asked.

If you move to the EU/EES or Switzerland, you may also have the right to other, non-work based pensions, such as guarantee pension for low- or no-income earners, or the income pension complement (inkomstpensionstillägg).

Currently, you can receive your Swedish pension once you turn 62 – although there is a proposal in parliament due to raise pension age to 63 for those born after 1961 from 2023, so this may change.

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