Figures show that in 2021, the numbers of admitted students not previously educated in Sweden had increased from 27,746 last year to 28,666.
The increase was driven by an uptick in masters students, with 26,563 admitted – up from from 25,647 in the previous academic year. A very modest increase saw 2,289 admitted at bachelors level, up from 2,276 in 2020.
The numbers of actual students who arrived in the country to study in 2020 and enrolment data remain unavailable.
The latest official figures are from 2019/20, which show that 39,600 incoming students were studying courses at Swedish universities – 13,100 were exchange students and 26,500 were so called ‘freemover-students’ who join courses outside of organised student mobility programs.
Among the 26,500 freemovers, 8,800 paid student fees for the year – an increase of around 800 from the previous year. Of the freemovers, 73% came from Asia, with around 2,000 from India.
“Sweden is simply becoming more recognised as a study destination,” Douglas Washburn, senior marketing manager at Study in Sweden said, asked on why the numbers had increased.
“Students enjoy studying and living in Sweden but it takes time to for a country to build a reputation as a study destination and to build word of mouth among students and alumni.
“It takes time to for a country to build a reputation as a study destination”
The country continues to establish its reputation for offering “high quality academic programs in a country where that’s safe, modern and at the forefront in terms of innovation, equality and sustainability”.
“We have a pretty distinct position that few other countries can match,” he added.
“That being said, our end goal is not just to get as many applications as possible but to attract high quality students who come to Sweden.”
Study in Sweden marketing has also sought to attract international students that “genuinely want to make the world a better place”.
The Choose Equality | Choose Freedom | Study in Sweden film was launched in June by Study in Sweden.
“The film is different from what you’d expect in the education space and that’s fine because Sweden is a pretty unique study destination,” Washburn explained.
“We found that many students that come to Sweden want to be part of a global movement for doing good in the world and want to study in a country where they can be themselves. These are things we feel passionate about highlighting given the importance they have for our international students,” he said.
While the admitted numbers of students is promising news, it remains unclear how many students will arrive of those admitted.
“The only question mark at this stage is the capacity of Swedish foreign missions who play a key role in issuing residence permits,” Washburn noted.
“They’ve been working hard under challenging conditions to issue residence permits but there is always the possibility their capacity may be impacted in countries which are harder hit by the pandemic.”
“There is always the possibility their capacity may be impacted in countries which are harder hit by the pandemic”
However, Swedish authorities have lifted requirements to attend on campus classes for the 2021/22 academic year, he added, which has previously been required to receive a residence permit for studies.
“This has been a huge help as it means that international students accepted to Sweden don’t need to have any worries about getting a residence permit if part of their education is online.
“There’s still some uncertainty due to the pandemic and things can always change but it seems like most universities are planning to open up campus during the autumn semester,” he added.
“I know that Swedish universities have done a fantastic job of staying in contact with their students to keep their students updated on what they expect in the autumn as universities given the fact that universities have some freedom in how they deal with the situation.”