How did such a small country win such an international reputation for innovaton and scientific advancement?
According to the European Innovation Scoreboard, Sweden is the most innovative and entrepreneurial nation in Europe, while maintaining a very high quality of life.
The same country that gave the world ABBA, Celsius and Linneaus has also given us IKEA, Volvo and Scania. The same inquisitive engineering tradition that led Alfred Nobel - immortalised by the Nobel Prize - to invent dynamite, has led to Swedish innovations such as the telephone handset, pacemaker, dialysis machine and computer mouse. More recent entrepreneurs have given us mobile technology such as Bluetooth and internet applications such as Skype and Spotify. Where do all these ideas come from?
Part of the secret may be the Swedish traditions of respect for the individual, coupled with the strong need for cooperation that comes with living in a sparsely populated country. While Sweden is about one-eighth the size of India, it only has nine million individuals, fewer than Delhi. Add in Sweden's great natural resources - timber, ore, water and hydroelectric power - and a low availability of arable land (7%), and you will understand why Swedes made a very rapid transition from a nation of small farmers to a nation of grand tinkerers, as well as international marketers.
Sweden treasures and nurtures its university system and encourages enrolment from abroad
Accessible university education
Sweden treasures and nurtures its university system - first established in the 15th century - and at the same time encourages enrolment from abroad. For bright international students, attending university in Sweden has never been easier. There are currently about 31,000 foreign students studying in Sweden, or around 8% of the total student body.
The wide choice of English-language courses - aimed at both Swedes and non-Swedes - is perhaps the most obvious attraction for students shopping the world for higher education. Because of the challenges posed by the Bologna process, the ongoing educational reform across Europe, and because Swedish universities have a tradition of being responsive to student demand, Sweden has created a wide range of Masters programs in English. Sweden's educational policy is based on the recognition that a multicultural student body is a resource for all students. So naturally there are services designed to make international students feel at home.
For Swedes, most of whom speak fluent English, studying in English is a self-evident choice when preparing for an international career. The enthusiastic adoption of English in Sweden as the lingua franca for many of its business and academic pursuits is one reason why the country continues to top global competitiveness surveys. Many Swedish companies use English as their official working language. International students find that this prevalence of English makes adapting to their new surroundings relatively easy - and also makes it simple to find internships and job opportunities.
More than 600 graduate programs
In line with the Bologna Process, which is driving conformity in European higher education - Swedish universities have switched to a new degree structure, with both one-year and two-year Masters programs. Sweden has also adopted the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System, which standardises credits and grading.
There are currently over 600 one and two-year Masters programs taught in English at Swedish universities, ranging from human rights law to environmental sciences, logistics to mechanical engineering. Around 40% are in the natural sciences, technology or engineering - fields that have been the most thoroughly anglicized globally.
A searchable up-to-date database of all available Swedish programs can be found at www.studyinsweden.se.
A question of style and structure
Since today's job market values ambitious, innovative, perceptive team players, Swedish universities have found a way to foster these qualities through a
forward-thinking culture and an informal and open climate.
There is a strong focus on group work, encouraging students to discover and develop their true strengths and talents. Many programs also offer close cooperation between academia and industry, giving students a distinct advantage when entering the job market.