Change the world with a master’s degree from Sweden’s Linköping University

Master’s students at world-leading Linköping University (LiU) aren’t there simply to study. They solve real-world problems alongside experts in fields that can create a better tomorrow. Do you have what it takes to join them?

Change the world with a master’s degree from Sweden’s Linköping University
Photo: Linköping University
When LiU Professor Jan Lundgren began studying traffic systems, he couldn’t have predicted that his field would one day become quite so central to society.

“When I started in this business some 30 years ago, the transport service was a very low tech business. Now you see that tech companies like Ericsson, Siemens and IBM are all entering the sector.”

He explains that with the application of modern technology, the traffic systems sector has never been more relevant.

“We have self-driving cars and big data availability. Everything will be connected with everything and it all relates to traffic systems. Sometimes I feel the area is just becoming more and more relevant.”

Find out more about the master's programmes at Linköping University

What’s more, he adds, it has a pivotal role to play in safeguarding the future of the planet.

“The environment is something that concerns everyone. We talk about a fossil-free society — transportation is one of the main contributors of negative environmental impact. And so working with traffic systems is to work for a better environment.”

Professor Lundgren heads up Linköping University’s Intelligent Transport Systems and Logistics master’s programme, a unique degree that combines knowledge about the transportation system, like supply-chain modelling, road safety and project managements, integrated with technology designed specifically for the transport industry.

Photo: Professor Lundgren

It’s an intense multi-disciplinary programme taught entirely in English that teaches students to understand, develop and control transport systems — skills which are highly coveted today and will almost certainly continue to be so in the future.

“You can say the overall concept of this program is the same as the research we are doing within our department. The traffic system exists all around the world so with this education students can work pretty much anywhere and the problems are essentially the same.”

As with many of the courses at Linköping University — which is a world-leading university based between three campuses in Linköping and Norrköping in southern Sweden — students aren’t there simply to study. Since LiU is the co-ordinating university of the Swedish National Postgraduate School of ITS (Intelligent Transport Systems), they are at the frontline of research in the Swedish transportation industry.

As such, the course is hands-on, challenging and just as fast-paced as real-world working life.

“We have very few written exams. Instead we have a lot of assignments, lab reports and project work,” explains Professor Lundgren.

READ MORE: Is this the best Swedish university for international master’s students?

He adds that when he interviews students some years later, which he always tries to do, this is what they say they found most valuable and that prepared them best for life after university.

“There are rarely written exams when you have finished your studies. You have to deliver, co-operate and work on projects. We prepare students for this.”

Photo: Linköping University

You can really follow your interests’

Linköping University researcher Professor Maria Huge Brodin didn’t immediately jump at the idea when she was asked to join a project about the environment.

“It was the early ‘90s and at the time it wasn’t seen as a ‘cool subject’,” Professor Brodin recalls with a hint of humour. 

As it turns out, she found her calling and went on to obtain her PhD in recycling and logistics for recycling. Then, when the environment became a hot topic in around 2006-2007, Professor Brodin was well positioned at the forefront of the industry. It’s now one of the most critical issues faced by the world today and Professor Brodin is at the heart of it.

“When people started bringing the environment into every topic, I was there. Then it became cool!”, she laughs.

Now, Professor Brodin describes herself as a mechanical engineer who “turned green philosophically”, and is the world’s first professor of environmental logistics. Her current research concerns green business models and technology for logistics service providers.

Photo: Professor Brodin

She also manages the Energy Environmental Management degree programme at LiU, mainly taught in Swedish. The master’s programme in Sustainability Engineering and Management is taught entirely in English.

Find out more about the master’s programmes at Linköping University

“It’s a unique programme in Sweden. We focus on companies’ profitability and sustainability in all dimensions. This is what distinguishes our research and what we’re known for,” she explains.

She says that by studying and researching transportation, students can address an area that affects everyone from the average person to major companies. For example, Professor Brodin’s research at Linköping University has involved postal giant DHL and Sweden’s national postal service PostNord.

“We focus on reducing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases for climate change reasons. By studying and researching transport, we address a difficult but very important area. Our work has impact on companies not just within logistics but on business models for sustainability in general.”

READ MORE: The Swedish university where students tackle real-world problems

Professor Brodin adds that master’s students have the chance to effect real change because, like many master’s programmes at LiU, the teaching is not wholly theoretical. 

“The master’s students often have projects in which companies have given them real-life problems which they help to solve. They are also encouraged to take internships when they do their thesis.”

She adds that environmental logistics is a young field which allows both researchers and master’s students more freedom to conduct cross-disciplinary research.

“You can really follow your interests while making a valuable contribution and being creative in the area, which is quite unique.”

Find out more about the master’s programmes at Linköping University 

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This article was produced by The Local Creative Studio and sponsored by Linköping University.


English-language programmes at Danish universities face cuts

Denmark's government has agreed on a plan to significantly reduce the number of courses offered in English in the country's universities.

English-language programmes at Danish universities face cuts
Life sciences faculty hold an open house at Copenhagen University. The university is now expected to reduce admissions as part of a plan to decentralise higher education in Denmark. Photo: Thomas Lekfeldt / Ritzau Scanpix

At the end of June, the plan aims to reduce the number of English-language higher education programmes while also expanding educational opportunities outside of Denmark’s major cities.

The exact number of courses to be cut – and where they will be cut – depends on the future employment of graduates.

Cuts to English-language programmes

The reduction of English-language programmes at institutions of higher education is rooted in an effort to reduce rising costs of state educational grants (SU) in Denmark. Despite attempts to reduce SU expenses, the cost is expected to rise to 570 million kroner by 2025, far above the cap of 449 million kroner set in 2013. 

There are a number of cases in which non-Danish citizens are entitled to SU, from moving to Denmark with one’s parents, marrying a Danish citizen, residing in Denmark for more than 5 years, status as a worker in Denmark, and more.

The reduction is targeted at English-language programmes where few English-speaking students find employment in Denmark after graduation, according to Denmark’s Ministry of Education and Research. 

Among the targeted programmes are business academies and professional bachelor programmes, where 72 percent of students are English-speaking and only 21 percent find work in Denmark after completing their education. 

However, programmes where higher proportions of English students enter the Danish workforce, and those that have a unique significance on the regional labour market, will be exempt from the reduction. This amounts to 650 education institutions around the country. 

In 2016, students demonstrated against cuts in SU. Photo: Emil Hougaard / Ritzau Scanpix

The agreement also establishes a financial incentive for institutions that graduate English-speaking students who remain to work in Denmark.

According to a June 10 analysis from consulting firm Deloitte, EU students who receive higher education in Denmark contribute an average of nearly 650,000 kroner to Denmark’s public coffers over a lifetime. 

However, the report notes, a student’s positive or negative contribution depends on how long they stay in Denmark. Although students who leave Denmark shortly after graduating constitute a cost to the Danish state, the analysis found that the contribution of students who stay in Denmark to work offsets the cost of those who leave.

The analysis expressed concern that reducing opportunities for English-language higher education could “have a number of unintended negative consequences,” including deterring students who might stay in Denmark to work from moving in the first place. There’s also the risk that it will become more difficult to recruit foreign researchers to Danish universities, which could impact education quality, the analysis claims.

The UCN professional school in Thisted is expected to open one new training program as a result of the decentralisation plan. Photo: Henning Bagger/Ritzau Scanpix

Decentralisation of Danish education

The plan to decentralise higher education in Denmark not only expands educational opportunities outside of Denmark’s major cities, but it also aims to reduce enrollment in higher education within major cities by 10 percent by 2030 (but not more than 20 percent).

For example, a law programme will be established in Esbjerg, a medical programme in Køge and a veterinary programme in Foulum.

Minister of Education and Research Ane Halsboe-Jørgensen said the goal was to offer students educational opportunities regardless of where they live within Denmark and strengthen the economy outside of major cities. 

However, the Danish Chamber of Commerce, Dansk Erhverv, expressed concern that the decentralisation plan doesn’t factor in labour demands within Denmark’s major cities.

Mads Eriksen, head of education and research policy at Dansk Erhverv, said it was “unwise” for programmes to reduce acceptance rates to in-demand fields in that particular city. 

“They are trying to solve a problem with labour in the countryside, but at the same time they are creating labour problems in the cities,” Eriksen said. “The English-language programme cuts are far more aligned with the demands of the labour market.”

Denmark has utilised unemployment-based admission for higher education since 2015. Programmes whose graduates experience unemployment consistently 2 percent higher than average are subject to a 30 percent admission cut.

Eriksen thinks it shouldn’t be a matter of reducing admissions across several universities by

“For example, we have five philosophy education programmes in Denmark, each of which have high unemployment rates among graduates,” Eriksen said, referencing a recent Dansk Erhverv analysis

He would prefer to see resources concentrated into making a couple of those programmes the best they can be and closing the rest, versus reducing admissions in all five programmes. “We have to be ready to close programmes that continue to have high unemployment, not just reduce them.”

In 2018, the University of Southern Denmark closed one English-language program and converted two from English to Danish. Photo: Tim Kildeborg Jensen / Ritzau Scanpix

Opposite impacts on provincial institutions

Gitte Sommer Harrits, vice chancellor at VIA University College, shared concern that although the decentralised education aspect of the plan aims to increase the number of students at provincial universities, the reduction of English-language programmes is likely to have the opposite effect.

A report from the organisation Akademikerne in early June found that international students have played a significant role filling educational institutions outside of Danish cities. Nine of the 10 educational institutions with the largest proportion of English-speaking students are outside the country’s largest cities. 

The University of Southern Denmark in Sønderborg has the highest proportion of international students; 40 percent of its 628 students are not affiliated with Denmark or other Nordic countries. 

While significantly larger with nearly 37,000 students, Copenhagen University has 5.2 percent international students.

Already in 2018, the University of Southern Denmark closed one English-language programme and converted two others from English to Danish after the Danish government ordered universities to reduce the number of international students.

Harrits said she found the possible closure of English-language programmes drawing international students to provincial areas to be puzzling when paired with the intention to decentralise education.