Math programme earns highest marks

Published Sep 23, 2013

KTH Royal Institute of Technology offers Sweden’s best advanced-level Mathematics education. Along with Stockholm University (SU), it was the only educational centre that obtained maximum marks in five of six categories in connection with the Swedish Higher Education Authority’s quality inspection. Highly committed teachers and motivated students help to explain this top placement, according to representatives of the Department of Mathematics.

“We put the accent firmly on the student when we drew up the Master’s programme in Mathematics,” says Svante Linusson, centre, between Filip Lindskog (left) and Kristian Bjerklöv (right). (Photo: Christer Gummeson)

“It feels well-merited,” says Svante Linusson, Professor of Discrete Mathematics, who has been KTH’s co-ordinator in the evaluation work. “We have continuous development of the Master’s programme, and students’ own experience with the education here is very important to us.”

KTH and four other seats of learning acquired the overall grade of “Very high quality” for their Masters’s degrees in Mathematics in the review conducted by the Swedish Higher Education Authority (UKÄ), published last week. Among these, KTH and SU received the largest number of the highest commendations in relevant subcategories.

“It’s perfectly appropriate that together we have started a joint Master’s programme this autumn,” Linusson says. The new

I see it as a privilege to be able to hold a course at advanced level.

- Kristian Bjerklöv

investment with SU may be one reason why these centres of higher education emerged best in the review.

KTH also started the Master’s programme in Applied and Computational Mathematics this semester. The development work that preceded both new programmes has focused on the needs of the students.

Frequent discussion concerning course arrangements

“A lot of thought has gone into planning the programme structure and how the courses interconnect,” says Filip Lindskog, programme co-ordinator of Applied and Computational Mathematics. “The timetabling is an important part of ensuring a successful programme, so we have also been painstaking there too.”

UKÄ has carried out a comprehensive evaluation of the education in this case. In reviewing students’ degree projects, the authority assessed the depth of the students’ knowledge, such as methods of knowledge, analytical capacity and skills in creatively and independently handling complex mathematical problem formulations.

Lindskog is keen to highlight the great interest in educational issues among the Department’s researchers as an explanation for the top mark awarded by UKÄ. Historically there has been a very close connection between education and research in KTH’s Mathematics Department. “We frequently discuss courses and the programme set-up when we meet one another at the department,” he says. “I believe these informal discussions are the basis for generating high quality in the higher education programmes.”

Attractive in the employment market

Kristian Bjerklöv, who is responsible for the joint KTH-SU Masters programme, calls attention another success factor: the high study motivation of the students.

“I see it as a privilege to be able to hold a course at advanced level,” Bjerklöv  says. “It’s possible to mix in a lot of content that is related to the department’s research. It’s dynamic and fun in a way that favours the learning process.”

One of the subcategories in which KTH students obtained the highest mark was their capacity to discuss mathematical conclusions with groups outside their own professional fraternity.

“We’re not educating our students to put them in an ivory tower,” Lindskog says. “Most of them will be working in the community and operating in a role – perhaps with other engineers or frequently other occupational groups. For this reason we highlight the communicative aspects of the education, so that their knowledge will be available for everyone. Results show also that our students are very attractive to many different types of employer.” 

Christer Gummeson

UKÄ’s evaluation has taken place in three stages. The first step is an analysis of 16 degree projects carried out by an assessment group. KTH’s Mathematics Department has also conducted a self-evaluation of its activities on the basis of UKÄ’s instructions. Furthermore, UKÄ’s assessment panel carried out a series of interviews with students and teachers on site at KTH.

UKÄ’s ongoing national reviews also cover all other educational subjects at KTH. The degree programmes are divided into eight clusters: 1. Biology/Chemistry/Energy/ Environment; 2. Data/IT/Media; 3. Department of Industrial Economics and Management (Indek); 4. Mechanical and Materials Engineering; 5. Built Environment, 6. Applied Physics/Electro/Engineering (undergraduate), 7. Architecture, 8. Mathematics
The results from the UKÄ reviews are expected to appear this autumn.

Read more about UKÄ’s evaluation of Sweden’s degree programmes in Mathematics.