Welfare and Education - Austria & Sweden in comparison

Seminar Paper, 2000

23 Pages, Grade: very good




1. The higher education system in Sweden:
1.1. General structure
1.2. Student enrollments
1.3. Access and admissions
1.4. degrees and credit point system
1.5.. Reforms of the Swedish higher education system

2. The higher education system in Austria
2.1. General structure
2.2. student enrollments
2.3. entrance requirements and admissions
1.4. degrees and credit points
2.5. Reforms of the Austrian higher education system

3. Comparison of the higher education systems

4. National study support in Sweden
4.1. the study allowance (Studiemedel)
4.2. study support and study behaviour

5. National study support in Austria
5.2. the family grant
5.2. the study grant
5.3. study support and study behaviour

6. Comparison and conclusion



In February 1996 the Austrian government presented a stupendous and comprehensive package of reductions to the public expenditures, which had tremendous effects on the living conditions of the Austrian students. This ”saving´s package”, as the government itself called it, led to very determined student protests in Austria, in which the author of this paper also participated. My motivation for writing this paper is therefore also a personal one. The purpose of this paper is to compare the student income situation for both countries, Sweden and Austria, with a special focus on state measures. In particular i will compare the Swedish Studiemedel system with the Austrian study grant system.

The overall question for this paper is How are the living conditions of students influenced by state measures? This question is of special political interest, because the financial situation of students has a determining influence on the study behaviour and the study success. Bad financial conditions can leed to longer periods of study, especially due to part-time occupations and can also influence the study behaviour in other ways. In addition extended study periods leed to a greater number of students at the universities and may therefore increase their expenditures. Furthermore the labour-market will also be influenced, when students try to finance their studies through jobs. These aspects leed to the second question: How do the living conditions of students influence their study behaviour? To close the circle one could argue that shorter study periods leed to lower expenditures for the state. In particular i would like to find out, if the Swedish Studiemedel system leeds to shorter periods of study and to less student employment than in Austria, where only 13 percent of all students get a study grant.

The first part will give a brief overview about the higher education systems in both countries, focusing on aspects that influence study behaviour and study durations. The comparison chapter will summarize the main differences, but without comparing the detailed figures, as this would leed to a rather monotonous repeating of facts. The second part than will compare the study support systems of both countries and their influence on the study behaviour.

The paper will be based on secondary literature analysis as making an own survey would be to timeconsuming. The main methode will be the analysis of statistical material and legal regulations. As sources reports, studies and surveys by governmental and administrative agencies in both countries are used.

1. The higher education system in Sweden:

1.1. General structure

The concept of higher education in Sweden includes all forms of post-secondary educations. The higher education system in Sweden is mainly organized by the state. The overall responsibility for higher education lies at the Ministry of Education and Science (Utbildningsdepartment), which designs the legal framework for higher education in Sweden, and the National Agency for Higher Education (Högskoleverket), which has the main task of inspecting, controlling and evaluating the activities of the higher education institutions. It also oversees the right of this institutions to award degrees and provides statistic material and general information about higher education and study programmes in Sweden (see The Swedish Institute 1998). The cooperation between relatively small ministries and administrative agencies is typical for the political system in Sweden.

The National Board of Student Aid (Centrala studiestödsnämnden - CSN) is responsible for financial support for students. The National Admissions Office to Higher Education (Verket för högskoleservice – VHS) coordinates the intake of students. All higher education institutions are operated by the central government, except of three, the Stockholm School of Economics, the Chalmers University of Technology and the University College of Jönköping, which are privately run. Higher education institutions include such with University status (13) and non-academic colleges (högskolar) for professional education without university status, e.g. schools for Nursing.

1.2. Student enrollments

The number of students in higher education was expanding substantially since the 1960s. During the 80s the rise of the number of students came to a standstill, but the enrollments again began to rise in the 90s: during the ten-year period from 1986/87 to 1995/96 the number of students increased by 58 per cent. The Högskoleverket (1998, p.12) argues, that “this is mainly because the number of applicants increased substantially at the same time as the amount of resources to higher education institutions increased, which meant that the number of new students increased drastically.” The deteriorated labour-market situation is surely another important reason.

In the academic year 1996/97 the number of undergraduate students was about 300,400, of which 57 per cent were women, and 17,000 of the postgraduate students (37 per cent women). This shows, that the share of women is diminishing, when climbing up the academic carrer ladder. The number of first-time enrollments is about 65.000 for every year. (see Swedish Institute 1998)

1.3. Access and admissions

The entrance rquirements for higher education in Sweden are divided into two groups, basic requirements, valid for all higher education, and special requirements for certain courses and study programmes.

The basic requirements are determined by the government and are the same for all study programmes in Sweden. The basic eligibility is possessed by everybody who:

a) has completed upper-secondary school (gymnasium) or
b) has an equivalent Swedish or foreign education or
c) who is at least 25 years old and has has worked for at least four years and has qualifications of Swedish and English equivalent to the level at upper-secondary school.

The Swedish school system is based on a compulsory comprehensive school of nine years and a three.year upper-secondary school, which consists of a number of different programmes for general and professional education.

The number of places in courses can be limited by the institution. If the number of eligible applicants exceeds the number of places available, special selection procedures are used. Requirements for theses procedures can be grades from upper-secondary school or the results from the national university aptitude test, sometimes work experience can also be credited. The university aptitude test measures skills, that are important for studies at higher education level. This test is done by about 140,000 people every year. Sometimes special selection tests can also be used.

To which extend the use of these selection procedures can be decided by the institutions themself, respectively how far they are determined by the National Agency for Higher Education remained unclear as the literature is contradictory in that point: The Swedish Institute (1998) explains: “Within a generally formulated framework, the institutions of higher education decide what selection criteria shall be used for admission to their programmes and courses...” and further on “... institutions set their own student numbers and admittance requirements.”, whereas the describtion by the Högskoleverket (1998, p.10f) gives a different impression: “Course eligibility requirements are divided into standard eligibility categories, which are determined by the National Agency for Higher Education. (...)Today the higher education institutions have little influence on decisions about selection procedures.”

1.4. degrees and credit point system

The scope of study programmes is measured in credit points. One credit point equals one week of full-time study. One academic year of full-time studies consists of 40 points and is divided into two terms. One Swedish credit point corresponds to 1.5 ECTS-credit points (European Credit Transfer System).

Teaching methodes and examination procedures are decided by each institution. Marks are given on a three-level scale: Fail, Pass and Pass with distinction. Examinations are usually hold at the end of each course.

The government decides about the requirements, goals and scopes of the different degrees. The under-graduate degrees are divided into two categories: general degrees and professional degrees. The general degrees are:

- Diploma (högskoleexamen) can be awarded after studies with at least 80 credit points (2 years of full-time studies)
- Bachelor´s degree (kandidatexamen) is obtained after at least 120 points (3 years of full-time studies, including at least 60 points in the main subject
- Master´s degree (magisterexamen) is obtained after studies of at least 160 points (4 years´ full-time studies), including at least 80 points in the major subject.

Additionally there are about 50 special degrees for certain professions, e.g. engineering, health care, school teaching with scopes ranging from 40 to 220 credit points. The post-graduate programme takes four years.

The availability of three different degrees at undergraduate level expresses adjustment to the students demand regarding the period of studying and a high level of openness. This way, barriers to start an academic studying programme can be kept low and more groups of persons get suitable education opportunities. It can be assumed, that the number of dropouts due to long periods of studying is very low in Sweden (No empirical evidence for this thesis could be found, because this aspect was not mentioned in the literature. However, this can also be a sign for the nonexistence of a dropout-problem in Sweden).

1.5.. Reforms of the Swedish higher education system

A comprehensive reform in 1977 made the courses firmer and a numerus clausus was introduced. The goals of the reform were to adjust higher education better to the labour-market and to give the central government a detailed control over the institutions. This system included a strong element of national planning.

Another fundamental reform came into effect with the new Higher Education Act in 1993. This reform aims at giving the institutuions more autonomy and independence. In the new system, the government only sets up tasks, goals and financial limits for the institutions, but leaves the detailed decisions about courses and programmes to the universities. A new resource allocation system was introduced, in which the institutions get lump sums for education and for research, based on the performance and the results of the institutions activities and not on planned activities. About 60 per cent of the government grant for education is related to the examination performance (number of credit points earned by the students) and about 40 per to the number of students (see The Swedish Institute 1998). Moreover the possibility for students to choose between courses was increased.

2. The higher education system in Austria

2.1. General structure

The concept of academic or higher education in Austria does not include all post-secondary education programmes like it is in Sweden. In principle the concept only includes programmes, that leed to an academic degree, i.e. studies at university level or equivalent programmes. Certain post-secondary colleges and schools for professional training, like e.g. for primary school teachers, paramedical professions as well as certain engineering and economic professions, are not included. (see Ministry for Science and Research et al. 1993, p.407ff.) This can have negative effects on the comparability of the figures for both countries, Sweden and Austria, and has to be considered e.g. regarding the number of enrollments. About 7 per cent of the Austrian adult population have an academic degree. A percentage, which looks significantly lower as in other OECD-countries, but it has to be put into that perspective.

Higher education in Austria is mainly state-operated. All responsibility for the higher education system lies at the Ministry for Science (the exact names of the ministries are usually changed after elections due to reorganisations of the competences). Financial support for students is administrated and paid by the Agency for Study Allowances (“Studienbeihilfenbehörde”), which is a subordinate body of the Ministry for Science. There are no separate agencies for the administration of higher education like in Sweden, because all the administration and regulation is done by the responsible departments within the ministry.


Excerpt out of 23 pages


Welfare and Education - Austria & Sweden in comparison
Göteborg University  (Department of Political Science)
Course: Swedish politics in a comparative perspective
very good
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ISBN (Book)
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Welfare, Education, Austria, Sweden, Course, Swedish
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Thomas Paster (Author), 2000, Welfare and Education - Austria & Sweden in comparison, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/3535


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