High bar illustration

The bar for quality should be set high and the criteria for promotion transparent. Illustration: Webstockrev.

Report on career paths at Swedish universities – Now in English

Career paths for younger researchers continue to be a core issue for the Young Academy of Sweden. The academy has conducted a comprehensive survey on how assistant professorship has been implemented at Swedish universities. Read the full report in English.

Download full report Pdf, 2.2 MB, opens in new window.

In May the academy presented its comprehensive survey of how the new position of Assistant professorship has been implemented at Swedish Higher Education Institutions (HEIs). However, since Swedish research and higher education is an international arena, it was clear that there was a great demand to make the report available in English. The Young Academy of Sweden is pleased to announce that the report is now available in English for download.

Pontus Nordenfelt Photo: Johan Wingborg/YAS

Photo: Johan Wingborg/YAS

We hope the report will be of use to everyone in the research system, says Pontus Nordenfelt, Associate Professor in Infection Biology at Lund University, and project manager for the report. It looks very different across the country and much can be done here in order to tap into the potential of younger researchers. The report provides an overview and presents a number of good examples!

The study was carried out through a survey to all faculties at Swedish higher education institutions (101). We have analysed data from the recruitment of 878 assistant professors or analogous positions before and after the 2017 reform, and have compiled a report on how this type of position is used and what advantages and disadvantages have been identified. The results show that the majority of the 65 faculties who answered the questionnaire are satisfied with the assistant professorships. The survey results highlight a number of challenges, but the overall picture is that assistant professorships are about to become an important tool in achieving more transparent and attractive career paths at Swedish universities.


A predictable and transparent career system that rewards high scientific quality is a prerequisite for Sweden to be a successful research nation. Unfortunately, the Swedish academic career system has been fragmented, featuring a wide variety of employment forms and types of positions for young researchers not only at the different higher education institutions but also at different faculties within the same institutions.

A number of studies have investigated career paths and conditions of work for young researchers, and in 2017 a tenure-track system was formally established through the introduction of the assistant professor position (biträdande lektor) in the Higher Education Ordinance (högskoleförordningen External link.). The Young Academy of Sweden believes that this is a key reform of the academic system, and we have therefore conducted a survey of how assistant professorships have been implemented at Swedish HEIs. We have analyzed data from the recruitment of 878 assistant professors or analogous positions before and after the 2017 reform, and have compiled a report on how this type of position is used and what advantages and disadvantages have been identified.


To further facilitate the use of assistant professorships at Swedish HEIs, the Young Academy of Sweden proposes the following changes to the Higher Education Ordinance:

  1. The window of eligibility for assistant professorships should be extended from 5 to 7 years. Most faculties within the fields of science, technology, and medicine find that the current 5-year limit is too short and makes it difficult to recruit the best candidates. It also hampers mobility between institutions, countries, and sectors of society, and has a negative impact on gender equality.
  2. The regulations should be clarified to allow the combination of assistant professorships with clinical work in hospitals. Medical faculties report that they cannot make full use of this type of position, since it is currently not possible for medical doctors and other healthcare personnel to combine their employment with an assistant professorship position.

– The competition for recruiting researchers is stiff, and it is therefore important that Sweden's universities continue their efforts to develop attractive and competitive career paths for younger researchers, says Sanna Koskiniemi, chair of the Young Academy of Sweden.

The survey shows three key factors that are crucial to attracting the best younger teachers and researchers to Swedish universities:

  • Recruitment through transparent, broad, international calls that are managed fast and where the position is allocated sufficient resources.
  • Transparent, quality-driven and quality-assured processes during promotion.
  • Well-developed mentoring and leadership programs that can serve as support for the established researcher.

Young Academy of Sweden
c/o The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
Box 50005
SE-104 05 Stockholm

+ 46 (0)8 673 9500

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