33% of Swedish doctorate grads joined programs overseas

In 2020, some 33% of the 2,574 candidates completing doctorates had participated in education abroad programs, with the US the most common destination. Two years earlier, some 27% of the graduates said the same. The EU has a strategy aiming to have at least 20% of graduates study overseas for at least three months.

The University of Gothenburg and Lund University had the highest numbers of doctorate graduates saying that they had completed part of their course overseas. The 109 Gothenburg graduates represented 43% of the doctoral cohort, compared with the 107 from Lund, equal to 29% of its doctoral graduates.

Broken down into subjects, science and technology were the most common doctorate holders to have been abroad, with 29% and 22%, respectively, saying they had done so.

UKÄ analyst Eva Stening said that the natural sciences has a high number of doctoral students going overseas, second only to the medical and health sciences. With many of the latter working within the health care system, they are less prone to travel, she noted.

After US, the UK and Germany were popular destinations, with Stening explaining that the countries have a large number of exchange programs with Sweden, both for post doctoral studies but also for first- and second-cycle students.

“It is possible that we will see changes in the number of doctoral students visiting the UK in the future (due to Brexit),” she told The PIE.

The findings also revealed that slightly more candidates joined programs that were not funded by the EU, than the number whose experience abroad was financed by the union.

“For first- and second-cycle students there are many EU-financed programs, but for doctoral studies there are only a few. This is probably why there are more doctoral students making non-EU financed trips,” Stening said.

“For first- and second-cycle students there are many EU-financed programs, but for doctoral studies there are only a few”

It is too early to say how the numbers of doctoral candidates going abroad has been affected by the pandemic using the survey data from 2021, she continued.

“Our results show how many of the doctoral graduates 2020 have been abroad during any time of their doctorate program. This means that they could have been going abroad in 2016 for example, and we have no way of knowing when they did. In a few years time I’m sure we will be able to see effects of the pandemic in our data.”

Included as part of the EU’s common strategy for growth and jobs, Europa2020, there is a goal to have at least 20% of the graduates in the European area of ​​higher education to have had a period of study or internship abroad lasting at least three months.

The UKÄ survey found that short stays abroad, three months or less, were most common, with 66% spending between zero to three months abroad.

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