Economists: Colleges being transformed into universities leads to a sharp increase in scientific output

The resources available to higher education institutions are crucial for how much their researchers produce. In addition, researchers born outside Sweden publish more than those born in Sweden, while male researchers publish more than their female colleagues, according to Olof Ejermo and Yotam Sofer in a new SNS report.

Scientific output increases sharply when higher education institutions are transformed from colleges into universities. This is shown by Olof Ejermo and Yotam Sofer in their new SNS report Scientific Output and the Transformation of Colleges into Universities – Background, Development and Analysis of Publication Data.

 “We study the natural experiment arising when the colleges in Karlstad, Växjö and Örebro became universities, thereby receiving much more funding. This also led to a significant increase in scientific output among the researchers working there,” says Olof Ejermo, professor of economic history.

This needs to be taken into account when designing new research and education policies, according to Ejermo and Sofer. Exclusively focusing more on established higher education institutions, they argue, risks counteracting the very purpose of these policies. In their study, they also identify additional clear patterns they believe should be considered when making policy choices.

“Researchers born abroad but working in Sweden are approximately 50 percent more productive than researchers born in Sweden. If, however, these researchers do not have a permanent position at a higher education institution, they need a contract stipulating longer periods of work in order to remain in Sweden. It is difficult to justify the policy of expelling high-performing researchers, not least from a purely socio-economic perspective. Frequently, millions of SEK in public funding are spent per individual on their PhD studies or postdoctoral fellowships,” says Yotam Sofer, PhD student in strategy and innovation.

The report also highlights clear differences in publication rates between women and men. There is a gender gap in academia, which grows at about the age of 30. Between the ages of 30 and 35, the productivity of women compared to that of men drops from 60 percent to 41 percent. This is in line with research showing that women face large costs in terms of having a family, write Ejermo and Sofer. They want to see improvements in terms of researchers being able to combine having a family and having a career.

“Many give up their academic career as a result of competitive pressure that cannot be combined with having a family. Several measures are needed to address this, such as a higher portion of research in their employment contract following parental leave,” says Olof Ejermo.

It should also be easier to combine teaching and research, according to Ejermo and Sofer. They call for more funding for the education system, which they currently view as underfunded.

More about the report.

about the authors

Olof Ejermo is a professor at the Department of Economic History at Lund University and a researcher at Ratio.

Yotam Sofer is a PhD student in strategy and innovation at Copenhagen Business School.