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Exceptions in the Swedish school system: Exploring the conditions facing secular and confessional nonprofit schools

Publicerad:25 januari
Uppdaterad:8 februari

Ebba Henrekson vill med sin avhandling bidra till en ökad förståelse av de villkor och förutsättningar under vilka sekulära och konfessionella icke-vinstdrivande friskolor etableras och drivs.


Ebba Henrekson


Docent Johan Hvenmark, Marie Cederschiöld högskola Docent Johan Vamstad, Marie Cederschiöld högskola Erika Willander, Umeå universitet


Professor Lars Skov Henriksen, Aalborg Universitet

Disputerat vid

Marie Cederschiöld högskola



Abstract in English

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Swedish school system underwent a series of reforms that opened up the system for independent schools funded through vouchers. Since then, for-profit firms have gained significant traction and constitute a far greater share of the school system compared to nonprofits. This dissertation aims to contribute to a better understanding of the conditions facing secular and confessional nonprofit schools, both during the establishment process and the day-to-day operations. To achieve this aim, I have adopted an institutional approach which in this case implies that I focus both on formal rules and regulations (i.e., legal framework) as well as systems of beliefs, values, and ideas. The articles included in the dissertation analyze four conditions. First, I point to how confessional schools have always been perceived as deviant and as reducing social cohesion. This remains true regardless of whether the value system of the Swedish school system has been said to rest on a secular or a religious foundation. Second, I show how a lack of a philanthropic infrastructure in Sweden makes it harder for nonprofits to initiate new schools. Third, I discuss how due to the marginal presence of independent schools in Sweden before the school choice reform there is a lack of intermediary organizations giving advice to nonprofit schools regarding best practices and representing them at the political level. Fourth, I show how the design of the legal framework of the school system puts high demands on nonprofit schools to conform both to a bureaucratic logic and a market logic. Taken together, the results point to various conditions that contribute to a situation in which secular and confessional nonprofit schools have difficulties asserting themselves in the Swedish school system.

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