Focus on the future of higher education in Sweden

“Throughout Sweden, throughout life, and throughout the world” – these are the Swedish government’s guiding principles for higher education. So said Helene Hellmark Knutsson, minister for higher education and research, when speaking at Högskoleforum in Linköping, 4-5 December.

högskoleforumWhat this means is that higher education is to be available throughout Sweden, that it is to contribute to long-term learning, and that international contacts and exchange are to be developed, within both research and education.

“We will increase the capacity of higher education by 25,000 new permanent places between now and 2021, and we will ensure that the whole of Sweden shares in the increase. We shall in this way avoid creating inequalities in education, and provide the personnel required throughout Sweden in, for example, industry, schools, the healthcare system, and social services,” Helene Hellmark Knutsson said.

She is the minister with responsibility for the single largest governmental activity, with just over 400,000 students, 75,000 employees and an annual budget of SEK 67 billion.

“This is more than the defence budget,” she pointed out.

An inquiry into control and resource allocation

A governmental inquiry into how higher education is to be controlled and how resources are to be allocated has been set up, led by Pam Fredman, formerly vice-chancellor at the University of Gothenburg. The proposals of the inquiry will not be presented until the end of next year (by 3 December 2018), but Pam Fredman was prepared to share some of her thoughts.

“The role of higher education must be more precisely defined. The principle of academic freedom for research is guaranteed by the Higher Education Act, and it may that this should also apply to education. The higher education system has, at the same time, a societal responsibility, and a responsibility to contribute to development throughout the country,” Pam Fredman said.

She pointed out that higher education currently has many different and disjointed tasks. And there is no direct co-ordination between investment in research activities and educational activities.

“We want to collect the tasks more closely in general government bills in the field of higher education. All institutions of higher education are subject to agreements that cover four years, based on their particular profile. It is then up to the institution to use the resources in a sensible manner. Follow-up of this takes place in that the institution can demonstrate after four years how well the agreed tasks have been carried out.”

The ideas presented by Pam Freedman seemed to be positively received in general by the panel members and other participants at Högskoleforum.

#Metoo must be taken seriously

Helene Hellmark Knutsson ended her speech by underlining the significant role that the academic world plays in ensuring democracy.

“If we are to be able to meet knowledge resistance and populism we must reach more people; inequalities in education must be reduced; and trust must grow. Openness and collaboration will be crucial.

The higher education system must at the same time make its contribution, and eliminate everything that does not belong in an academic environment.

“The #metoo movement, which has led to claims from women also in the academic world, must be taken seriously and ensure that a healthy culture is created everywhere, in which no-one is the target of any form of abuse,” Helene Hellmark Knutsson concluded.

 

Footnote: Högskoleforum was arranged by the Swedish Higher Education Authority in collaboration with Linköping University. The conference gathered management and student representatives from the universities and university colleges in Sweden.

For more information (in Swedish)

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