Scientific Output and the Transformation of Colleges into Universities – Background, Development and Analysis of Publication Data

Olof Ejermo Yotam Sofer

The report makes a broad review of what affects the level of Swedish scientific knowledge production with a focus on the institutional development of the system of higher education and how the structure of employment among researchers has developed. Data on the scientific publication activity of over 25,000 researchers is used to describe who publishes and trends in publication levels. The data are also used to investigate how the rate of publication changed at the three former university colleges in Karlstad, Växjö and Örebro after they were granted university status.


  • The authors show that when the higher education institutions in Karlstad, Växjö and Örebro became universities the publication activity increased between 60-80 percent. This is explained mainly by resource additions for research.
  • The Swedish higher education system has become more teaching-intensive, especially for permanent staff, without the resources allocated for teaching having risen correspondingly.
  • Foreign-born researchers publish at a clearly higher rate compared to Swedish-born researchers and women’s rate of publishing drop relative to those of men at the age which they tend to become mothers.

conclusions and recommendations

  • There is no established scientific consensus dictating that a priority in scientific research resources allocation should be given to established higher education institutions. On the contrary, the results, based on the experiences of Karlstad, Växjö and Örebro, indicate that strong effects on publications could be obtained even when investing in smaller universities at a relatively low cost.
  • The immigration system should support foreign-born researchers who are willing to stay in Sweden after defending their thesis. According to the report this group is particularly scientifically productive.
  • The gender gap in publication should be further researched to shape appropriate policy for gender equality in academia.
  • The state should review the contents of work contracts in academia which varies by academic institution. Important components of this analysis are not only how different positions are financed through basic and external funding, but also how this interacts with increasingly poorly paid teaching.
  • Access to the type of publication data used in the empirical analysis can give us further insights scientific production. Funds should be provided to create opportunities to systematically collect such data at UKÄ in collaboration with Statistics Sweden.


Olof Ejermo är professor vid ekonomisk-historiska institutionen vid Lunds universitet och forskare vid Ratio.

Yotam Sofer är doktorand i strategi och innovation vid Copenhagen Business School.