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Quality nurtures talent

Perhaps the most common question I am asked, as Vice President for Global Relations, is: Why should we recruit international students? The answer expected is that it generates substantial revenues, last year over SEK 110 million. That is not to be sneezed at, but it is absolutely not the only nor the deciding reason.

Two weeks ago, I was at a lunch seminar arranged by the IVA (Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences) enterprise sector council. The theme was attracting talents to Swedish enterprise and the question was asked whether Sweden was a departure hall or an arrivals hall.

Initially, this brought to life many of the familiar old expectations about Sweden as a safe and functioning welfare system, with non-hierarchical organisations, good schools, a clean environment and that Swedes are good at English. Issues that are naturally of the utmost relevance if you are thinking of moving to Sweden, but are these issues that relevant for talents?

An interesting input from the Swedish Association of Graduate Engineers was how skilful ABB in Ludvika is in recruiting highly qualified engineers, and being a world-leading high technology company, despite a less advantageous geographical location.

It just so happened that I had been invited to ABB Power Grids in Ludvika the previous week to present what KTH is doing in its Division of Electric Power and Energy Systems. The lecture hall was full of PhDs, MScs and civil engineers from KTH (and Chalmers), many of whom had come to Sweden as international students. Clearly a study programme at KTH is an incredibly effective way of recruiting talented engineers, something that was also confirmed at the IVA meeting by the CEO of a medium sized clinical engineering company.

However, to attract the best students, KTH has to have a high ranking, which is also important for attracting the best researchers that are also attracted by close cooperation with Swedish industry that will go on to employ our students. A highly efficient cycle that attracts talents to Sweden and creates the right conditions for both established and start-up companies. It’s no harder than that. But where do we see this kind of thinking within Swedish education policy?