Quality of Swedish universities ‘too low’

Sweden’s Education Minister has some harsh words for the country’s universities

Echoing the views of the Ugandan President on his country’s higher education system, Sweden’s Education Minister, Jan Björklund, has been speaking out:

“The quality of the knowledge that Swedish students have when they leave university is not enough to prepare them for adult life,” Björklund told Sverige Radio (SR), adding that too often, the quality of Swedish universities is often “too low”.

“We need a much tougher and more stringent government inspection of Sweden’s higher education.”

The piece in The Local goes on to suggest that the government intends to restructure the regulatory machinery in Sweden “to get rid of all courses that are not up to scratch”

Are Sweden's universities flagging?

The plan involves merging three agencies into two:

The three current authorities are the Swedish National Agency for Higher Education (Högskoleverket), the Swedish Agency for Higher Education Services (Verket för högskoleservice – VHS) and the International Programme Office for Education and Training (Internationella programkontoret för utbildningsområdet – IPK). Following the reshuffle, the responsibilities of the three will be divided over two agencies, with the one being the only agency responsible for quality control of the higher education system.

The Minister’s view is that the current Swedish National Agency for Higher Education, is “plagued by being required to both give development advice and review courses at the same time.” There is an argument for separating inspection from improvement in quality assurance but I’m not sure it will really make the kind of difference hoped for here. The benefit of development advice is unlikely to be greatly enhanced or make a real impact because of these changes. And it could be argued that Sweden already has some rather good universities with at least two universities normally in the QS Top 100; what might help is perhaps reducing the government interference in their academic activities.

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