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Higher education

Swedes better educated now than a decade ago

Published tisdag 28 augusti 2012 kl 10.27
Uppsala University is Sweden's oldest, Photo: Katarina Hedström/SR Gotland

The number of people with college or university education has risen in every part of Sweden in the last decade.

Figures from Statistics Sweden indicate that the number of residents with post-secondary school education has increased in every municipality in the country. Over the past three years it’s risen from an average of 16 percent to 24 percent.

Traditionally here the universities have mostly been the for the children of the affluent, and with a strong labor movement, there was some working class pride in getting a job without going on to college.

But there’s been a generation shift, as industrial worker Peter Johansson told Swedish Radio News. He went straight to the factory floor after finishing high school. But that’s not the path for his children.

The oldest, he says, is at the university college in Jönköping. "You have to have an education today," Peter Johansson says, "the kind of job that didn’t require one no longer exists. Even to work factories you need a proper education if you want to interest an employer."

The largest groups are still in the largest cities and traditional university towns like Stockholm, Uppsala, Lund and Malmö. But the increase is also reflected in other areas. Björn Öckert is a researcher at the Institute for Evaluation of Labour Market and Education Policy.

"First of all," he says, "there was a general expansion of higher education during the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. But there has also been an increasing regionalization of colleges and universities, where the expansion hasn’t been at the traditional seats of higher learning, but rather at small and medium-sized schools."

The trend is even in rural areas, which otherwise have seen a depopulation in recent years, as young people have often left small towns for the bright lights of the cities. Sweden’s most northerly province, Norrbotten, is the only area in the country where the number of residents of working age has shrunk. But despite that the number of people with higher education in the north is still increasing, as young people buck the trend to move south.

Niklas Sirén, a member of the city council in Kiruna, above the Arctic Circle, welcomes the change:

"It’s good that the level of education is increasing," he tells Swedish Radio News. "It improves the opportunities for people to keep an income even if they lose their jobs or if there is a slowdown in the labor market."

Our journalism is based on credibility and impartiality. Swedish Radio is independent and not affiliated to any political, religious, financial, public or private interests.
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