The Swedish National Agency for Higher Education (Högskolverket) sees the trend as a problem.
“International experience is part of the competence needed for the labour market into which students will enter. It is ever more global and [studying abroad] is an experience people will come to miss,” said University Chancellor Anders Flodström, who heads the agency.
The flood of students in and out of Sweden has increased steadily over the last several decades. But in recent years, fewer Swedes have applied to study abroad.
And after compiling statistics from the 2006-2007 academic year, the Agency for Higher Education found for the first time that were more international students studying in Sweden than there were Swedes studying abroad, nearly 28,000 compared to 25,600.
Compared to the previous academic year, the number of international students in Sweden increased by nine percent, while the number of Swedes studying in other countries dropped by two percent.
However, the number of Swedes studying abroad has remained relatively constant—at around 26,000—for the last ten years.
Meanwhile, the number of international students as a percentage of the overall higher education student body population in Sweden has more than doubled in the last ten years, from 3.1 percent to 7.3 percent.
In addition to students losing out on valuable contacts and experience in a more globalized economy, Flodström sees a number of other possible problems.
Compared with students from other countries, Swedes more often choose to complete their entire education abroad.
“I can imagine that this may lead to the labour market losing accomplished Swedes who decide to stay overseas when they begin their careers. It’s a sort of brain-drain,” he said.
During the 2006-2007 academic year, the vast majority of Swedish students—around 20,000—arranged their own study abroad experience. The remainder of around 6,000 studied abroad in some form of pre-existing exchange program, with nearly half participating in the European Erasmus program.