University of Gothenburg
Photo: Henrik Sandgren

About us

The School of Public Administration at University of Gothenburg is a leading Swedish academic community of students, alumni, practitioners, faculty, and staff, developing and disseminating multidisciplinary knowledge about Public Administration and its environment.

The professional origin is an educational programme for local officials offered since 1944 at Göteborg’s Institute for Social Work. The institute was established in response to the administrative needs of the then emerging Swedish welfare state, especially at the local level. The education at the institute consisted of two study programmes; a social programme where social workers were educated, and a municipality senior accountants study programme. Both programmes were, in their nature, fundamentally professional education programmes. The purpose of the municipality senior accountants programme, which is the inspiration for the School of Public Administration programmes, was to supply the growing municipality services and its senior staff’s administration with a work force. The main subject was ”municipal economy”, quite a practical subject that, to some degree, was combined with fundamental studies in academic subjects such as political science, political economy and sociology.

To begin with, Göteborg’s Social Institute was mainly run with the support of local finance, but in 1964 the organisation, like other institutes of this kind around Sweden, came under the government’s authority and was named The College of Social Work. The education was made longer and the name of the municipality senior accountants study programme was changed to the administration study programme. The study programme’s partially revised and more comprehensive curriculum meant that the academic subjects became more valid.

In 1977, the Swedish higher education system was reshaped by a comprehensive political reform, aiming at strengthening the links between higher education and research. Practically all post upper secondary education was brought together under the overall concept of higher education. The reform meant that the College of Social Work became a part of University of Gothenburg, but there were no major changes of the contents and the structure of the education. Around the same time a comprehensive government overhaul of academic education was directed at the administrative and economic educational programmes in Sweden. At this time there were a large number of such programmes around the country that the government wanted to coordinate in accordance with the needs and developmental trends of the labour market.

For University of Gothenburg, the result of the overhaul was that the College of Social Work’s two study programmes would, from 1983, build their own university departments. The institute’s social study programme became the Department of Social Work while the College’s administration study programme became School of Public Administration. The administration programme joined up with University of Gothenburg’s study programme for public administration to make up a combined PA-programme, extending over three years and leading to a Bachelor’s degree.

During the last 15 years SPA has moved from offering academic professional training into a complete university environment. During this period SPA has consciously developed and created an active and vibrant research programme in public administration, an achievement of great importance for the quality and scope of SPA’s research.
In the mid-1990s there were no research subjects, no postgraduate studies, no permanent professorships, few teachers with PhDs and very little research at SPA.

Public Administration is well established internationally, even though SPA is the only university department in Sweden that offers postgraduate studies purely in the subject. When postgraduate studies in Public Administration commenced, its teachers were recruited primarily from political science and business administration. The process of creating a synthesis and developing the subject of postgraduate research studies has been underway since then. The result of this work is that Public Administration is now an independent subject.