“It is a group of students who are dedicated and inquisitive. Nobody has quit and everyone has completed their exams and paper assignments so far,” says Stefan Jonsson, professor at REMESO and initiator of the programme.
“It's a great group to work with because there are so many nationalities represented among them. A third of them have Swedish citizenship, but the majority have a foreign background. Another third comes from the EU and the final third comes from other parts of the world. Seven students pay for their education themselves, three of whom have received grants from the Swedish Institute.”
“We have students from, for example, Ghana, Canada, Bangladesh, China, Russia, Italy, Finland and Denmark. Many come from the Middle East, three from the University of Damascus. There are thus many having a background in crisis regions and direct experience and knowledge from the current refugee situation.”
How can one understand the great interest for the programme?
“First, it has to do with the subject matter. Issues of migration, ethnicity, discrimination and so on are important today, both nationally and globally,” Stefan explains. “There is clearly a need for an education like this: there are jobs waiting after graduation and young people are interested and engaged in these issues.”
“Secondly, our programme is different from other similar programmes offered at other universities in Europe,” Stefan continues. “Other programmes are often characterized by only one discipline, such as political science or sociology. We offer courses within both the humanities and the social sciences, which makes our programme broader. Unlike many, we also have a global and critical perspective that attracts today´s students.”
“A third reason is LiU’s solid reputation. We offer high quality education.”
Setting up a new master’s programme is a long process. The work with Ethnic and Migration Studies began in the autumn of 2013. Stefan Jonsson, who came as a new professor to REMESO, was the one who lead the work.
“The Faculty of Arts and Sciences wants strong research environments to offer advanced education, so the project was supported both by the faculty and LiU’s leadership. REMESO also has a great interest to disseminate and put into circulation our knowledge. This has made for a favourable environment in which to create and launch a programme like this,” Stefan says.
REMESO started by appointing a working group to make an inventory of the available educations in this field in Europe. The group also examined the labour market - what skills are in demand? Then a number of brainstorming meetings were held at REMESO, before a preliminary outline of the programme was sent to the dean of the faculty. This was met positively and the dean gave REMESO the task to proceed with the work to develop an international master’s programme. After a preliminary budget decision, REMESO established the final syllabus. The planning work has largely taken place in large meetings. An important issue discussed was whether to opt for a distance education or a more classic on-campus programme.
“To ensure quality and boost student and teacher commitment and interest, we wanted to have the students here, on site and to have daily contact with them. We believed that if the programme was of sufficient quality and established a good reputation, the students would come. This has proven to be true. On-campus education is a superior model that ensures quality and that students carry through their programmes and receive a degree,” says Stefan.
The high quality of the programme and the good start it has had depends, apart from the many talented students whose contributions to seminars and discussions are vital, on the enthusiasm of the teachers at REMESO and ISV (the Department of Social and Welfare Studies).
“We enjoy this! That is critical, we have a tight budget, which means that the commitment must be there, and it is. ”