(Original Swedish post published 24 January.)
The annual meeting between Minister for Higher Education and Research Helene Hellmark Knutsson and university vice-chancellors, organised by the Swedish Higher Education Authority, has just ended. As usual, it took place at Steningevik. Obviously we are heading for an election, and the Minister’s speech was clearly influenced by this. She looked back on what it had been like the first time she stood before this group of vice-chancellors and gave the impression that this was the last time in this context.
What issues will be important in the election campaign? The issues the voters care most about, we were told, are health care, refugees, and law and order – not university issues. The Minister went on to talk about the security issues affecting the sector, such as the threat against Malmö University and the shooting in Uppsala. Then she took up the research bill and the investments made by the government during this electoral period. She particularly emphasised that the 25,000 additional places are permanent, unlike the temporary measures taken by the previous government. In general, she praised the sector and stressed that Sweden as a whole has a fantastic higher education landscape. And then came the “whole country – lifelong – worldwide” line as the setting for policy.
I noted that a government bill on higher education admissions will be presented in March, with a government decision due in June, taking effect in the autumn semester 2022, to allow time for those just entering upper secondary school to complete their programme. Otherwise there was little that was new, many issues were postponed for future attention, for the most part assigned to ongoing government inquiries on internationalisation and on governance and resources. But research infrastructure is so important and complex that it will be tackled by a separate inquiry, the Minister said, though not before the election. And the inquiry on internationalisation will probably deliver its interim report during the spring. Good to know in advance so we can plan and be prepared. As usual, it was worthwhile to meet colleagues and exchange experiences, and to get some idea of what’s coming up. The fact that it’s an election year was obvious.