Project plan

Origins of the knowledge economy: Higher education and Scandinavia’s economic development

Presented at Lund University
3 September 2021


  • Research question: How did changes in the supply of and demand for different types of higher education contribute to Scandinavia’s economic development from the nineteenth century onwards?
  • While there is much theoretical and empirical literature examining the role of education in long-term growth, less understood is how different types of education — and the specialisation of skills implicit in higher education — shape development.
  • The twin purposes of this project are to:
    • examine the role of higher education in Scandinavia’s industrialisation and long-term economic development from the nineteenth century onwards
    • develop and apply new techniques for the measurement of human capital (education) and the analysis of its effects.
  • I employ two sets of novel Scandinavian source material: grade lists, which track student performance in high school and university; and graduate biographies, which provide details of students’ background, education and post-study careers.
  • My dissertation will comprise a collection of four articles which build and apply a new skills-based measure of human capital to examine different aspects of the role of higher education in Scandinavian industrialisation.
  • Supervisors: Kristin Ranestad (primary), Mats Olsson, Paul Sharp (University of Southern Denmark).
  • Indicative timeframe: September 2020 – August 2024.

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