Startpage for Swedish National Agency for Higher Education

Please note! The Swedish National Agency for Higher Education was closed down on 31 December 2012. Instead two new agencies have been established: the Swedish Council for Higher Education and the Swedish Higher Education Authority. This website will continue to operate as the new agencies will have links to information it contains.  

2005:11 R

Evaluation of undergraduate and graduate programmes in English at higher education institutions in Sweden

This report presents the results of an evaluation of undergraduate and graduate programmes in English undertaken by the National Agency for Higher Education during 2004. It comprised 24 higher education institutions, of which 10 offer graduate programmes. The evaluation was carried out for the National Agency by a panel of external assessors consisting of experts from Denmark, Finland, Norway, Switzerland and Sweden.

The panel finds that both undergraduate and graduate programmes at higher education institutions in Sweden have developed positively during the last decade. Undergraduate programmes demand a greater degree of theory and methodology in essays and there is a clearer overall view. Teaching and examination methods are more varied and there is more written work. Nor do programmes focus solely on Great Britain and the USA, but the language and literature of a large number of English-speaking countries are also studied. The results of the programmes are on the whole good and there are no general differences between the universities on the one hand and the university colleges on the other. The standards of the essays reviewed by the panel are also described as good from an international perspective.

English is most frequently offered as a single-subject course in units of 20 credit points from first term (A) level to third (C) or fourth (D) term level. A large number of students are also taking shorter courses that focus on English for special purposes.

The problems that exist are due, among other things, to the variations in the knowledge that students bring with them when they begin their studies, which makes great demands of the way in which programmes are organised. This applies not least to those who are studying to qualify as teachers. Diagnostic texts, preferably common to several institutions, could help to provide knowledge about the students´ qualifications and this could be used by the subject as a whole and by the students themselves. In addition, the extent of the programmes is considerably smaller than in the other Nordic countries, both in terms of the number of teaching hours per week and the total length of the period students devote to the subject. This raises the question of the need for increased resources.

It is surprising that relatively few students take advantage of the opportunities to study abroad. A few institutions have, however, managed to establish successful and permanent cooperation with universities in English-speaking countries.

There are more students taking graduate programmes today and the number of theses produced is considerably larger than it was ten years ago. This may however change when the relatively large numbers who began their doctoral studies before the 1998 reform of graduate courses finish their programmes. Cooperation between university colleges and universities has developed and several university colleges are now funding their own graduate students at other institutions.

On the basis of the report of the panel of assessors, the National Agency is able to determine that all of the undergraduate programmes evaluated attain the standards required in higher education. Graduate programmes at nine of the ten universities are of satisfactory quality. However, the National Agency considers that there are shortcomings at Örebro University in terms of the extent of the programme offered and the subject´s development that must be remedied.

The organisation of the report

This report consists of two sections: one of them containing the decisions and reflections of the National Agency for Higher Education, the other the report submitted by the panel of external assessors. The panel´s report includes an account of the premises on which its appraisal was based, an overall analysis of the evaluation with examples of good practice and joint recommendations, as well as assessments and recommendations for each of the institutions. The National Agency´s decisions and reflections are based on the report submitted by the panel of assessors.