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.  

Report 2010: 1 R

Higher education programmes and the labour market. Basis for planning for the academic year of 2010/11

This is a summary in English. The report is available only in Swedish.

Early years teachers, biomedical laboratory scientists, bachelors of engineering and dentists are among the groups of graduates in which there may be future shortages unless the numbers of new enrolments on these programmes rise. More places are needed for dentistry students to reduce the threatened shortage. This also applies to some extent to medical students, as for several years Sweden has not produced the numbers of physicians required and has relied on the immigration of graduates in medicine from other countries. The other programmes from which a shortage of graduates is feared offer adequate numbers of places but interest among students is low. This applies to several categories of teachers, especially those focusing on early years and extended education, vocational teachers, special needs and special educational needs teachers. There have been shortages in these groups for several years.

These are some of the results of the estimates of the future balance of supply and demand of graduates from higher education made by the Forecasting Institute at Statistics Sweden (SCB) at the behest of the Swedish National Agency for Higher Education. This report is submitted in response to the National Agency's remit from the government to produce figures to enable higher education institutions to plan their programme offerings in relation to future labour market requirements.

Future needs can provide guidance in planning programmes

It is assumed that the different programmes and numbers of places offered by the higher education institutions will be based on both student interest and also labour market requirements. With the exception of one or two second-cycle courses and study programmes, it takes students three years to complete their programmes in higher education before they begin to emerge into the labour market. The estimated requirements for different categories of graduates can provide some guidance on the appropriate enrolment numbers for various programmes. Discussions on the range of offerings and the numbers of places in different programmes — from the point of view of the higher education institutions and the community as a whole — are often dominated, however, by the current labour market situation. In certain subject areas a great deal can happen in the course of three to six years, in other words the time it normally takes to complete an entire higher education programme. From the point of view of students these estimates can help in their choice of programme on the basis of where they are most likely to find employment.

Future requirements can to some extent be predicted on the basis of known circumstances in the labour market, which may lead to potential changes in the range of programmes offered. Chief among these known circumstances are the numbers of future retirements, which vary for different categories of graduates and which lead to differences in future recruitment needs. Historically there have been variations in the development of different sectors so that some areas expand while others decline. Structural changes in the labour market of this kind also affect recruitment needs to varying degrees. Demographic developments, age ratio variations and technological changes in different sectors are examples of circumstances that can in the long term affect how many graduates of different categories will be needed in the future.

Shortages threaten for several groups of teachers, dentists and bachelors of engineering

It seems that there is likely to be a balance in supply and demand for just over one-third of the graduate categories included in the estimates when those beginning their studies in the autumn of 2010 reach the labour market. For just under two-thirds of these categories there is a risk of imbalance in supply and demand unless there are changes in the numbers of new entrants. More or less the same number of categories seem likely to be affected by either surpluses or shortages.

According to the estimates the categories in which shortages will arise in a few years which seem likely to persist until 2025 are those involving graduates in biomedical laboratory science, vocational teachers, extended school teachers, bachelors of science in pharmacy and engineering, special needs and special educational needs teachers, early years teachers and dentists. Overall a number of programmes leading to professional qualifications need to enrol more students to avoid future shortages.

Given the current numbers of new entrants, there is a risk that surpluses will arise for some graduate categories. This applies for instance to students in programmes in social work and law or subjects such as economics, the fine, applied and performing arts, journalism and media studies, the natural sciences as well as informatics, computer studies and system science. There is also a risk of a surplus of graduates from master's programmes in pharmacy and in engineering. These are two groups for which it is particularly difficult to make estimates. The shortages of those with bachelor's degrees in pharmacy and engineering may increase the chances of employment for those with corresponding master's degrees in the same sector. Recruitment needs for graduates with master's degrees in engineering also vary according to their areas of specialisation.

The most explicit results of the estimates are that more new entrants are needed in teacher-education programmes and in bachelor's programmes in engineering. In terms of numbers these are the largest categories in higher education. Where teacher education programmes are concerned lack of student interest is the principal cause, as the shortage is not due to any dearth of places in higher education. More students need to opt for programmes for early years and extended education. Some changes may be needed in the areas where shortages could arise to make them more attractive in the future.

The table below summarises the predicted balance when those beginning their studies in the academic year of 2010/11 start to complete their programmes and enter the labour market — unless the current numbers of new entrants are changed (see also the introduction to the next section). The figures for each individual group disclose that for the following five graduate categories the situation will change after students beginning their programmes in the autumn of 2010 begin to enter the labour market: for primary school teachers from shortage to surplus; for graduates in library and information science from shortage to balance; for graduates in agriculture and horticulture from balance to shortage; for graduates in the humanities and psychology from balance to surplus; for graduates in systems science from surplus to balance.


Biomedical laboratory science Shortage
Vocational teaching Shortage
Extended school teaching Shortage
BSc in pharmacy* Shortage
BSc in engineering Shortage
Special needs and special education needs teaching Shortage
Early years teaching Shortage
Dental surgery Shortage
Primary school teaching Shortage
Graduates in library and information science Shortage
Nursing Balance
MSc in pharmacy* Balance
Medicine Balance
Physiotherapy Balance
Architecture Balance
Agriculture and horticulture Balance
Secondary school and upper secondary school teaching Balance
Vocational therapy Balance
Social and behavioural sciences Balance
Humanities Balance
Theology Balance
Veterinary surgery** Balance
Psychology Balance
Systems science Surplus
Natural sciences Surplus
MSc in engineering Surplus
Law Surplus
Social work Surplus
Journalism Surplus
Fine, applied and performing arts Surplus
Economics Surplus
MSc in pharmacy* Surplus
Estimated labour market balance when new entrants to higher education in the academic year 2010/11 enter the labour market, given current entry figures and graduation rates
Balance means that the numbers graduating correspond to between 80 and 120 per cent of recruitment needs. Shortage means that the estimated numbers graduating are less than 80 per cent of recruitment needs. For these groups recruitment needs exceed the totals graduating and the number of entrants needs to be raised. Surplus means that current entry figures may lead to an excess of more than 20 per cent of the graduates required by the labour market.

* The estimates indicate a surplus of those graduating with master's degrees in pharmacy and a shortage of those with bachelor's degrees. It is difficult to estimate future needs for these two categories as the pharmacy market is now being deregulated. For the two groups together the estimates suggest there will be a balance.

** Graduates in veterinary surgery constitute a small group so that the estimates are uncertain. For this reason the balance for this group is based on a three-year average.

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