Uppsala University, Sweden

Month: October 2018

Coordination necessary for better internationalisation

Right now, Agneta Bladh is on stage in the Humanities Theatre here in Uppsala. She is presenting the report of the Internationalisation Inquiry, “Making Sweden more attractive as a knowledge nation”, and the measures proposed in it. This is the first presentation of the final report of this government inquiry and we are pleased it is happening on our home turf. (Here’s a video of the presentation in Swedish).

Agneta Bladh.

Internationalisation is nothing new for us in Uppsala. A university is international by nature and as Sweden’s oldest university, we have more experience than anyone else in this country of cooperation across national borders.

Experience breeds perspective. We can see that internationalisation is evolving and becoming more complex. Research crosses borders in more than one sense of the word, and education is becoming increasingly global. As a result, universities around the world are seeking to make themselves more attractive. The time is long gone when internationalisation could be seen as an isolated activity. These days it goes without saying that internationalisation has to be regarded as a concern and a shared responsibility for the entire organisation. This means creating conditions for all students (and staff) to obtain intercultural knowledge and skills and international experience.

Ludvig Lundgren, President of Uppsala Student Union

Together with other universities abroad and in Sweden, we are building networks to strengthen cooperation and reap mutual benefits. Let me mention, for example, the South Africa–Sweden University Forum (SASUF), a project focusing on sustainability involving 13 Swedish and 23 South African universities, and MIRAI, a project involving six Swedish universities and several leading Japanese universities. Both initiatives are partly funded by the Swedish Foundation for International Cooperation in Research and Higher Education (STINT).

Like many other higher education institutions, Uppsala University has worked hard to raise the profile of Sweden as a study destination, particularly since the introduction of tuition fees for non-European students in 2011. The hard work has paid off: we had 15,800 international applicants for the 2018 autumn semester, compared with 4,225 in 2011. This is important, but the most important thing of all is that we all recognise that international students enrich our activities. The Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology has set a target of 1,000 paying students by 2025 and, given the present trend, these plans look set to be realised. The Bachelor’s programmes in game design at Campus Gotland are another example, where students from countries other than Sweden are already in the majority. We are now developing a strategy to further strengthen internationalisation efforts on Gotland. Much of our work on internationalisation is going well and we know what is missing. We have drawn up a language policy to ensure that all students and researchers receive instruction and information in the appropriate language and can participate in faculty business and exercise student influence. Quality and Renewal 2017 and our work on the Charter and Code have also revealed the need for improved parallel language use.

Many countries have a system or organisation dedicated to coordinating internationalisation efforts in research and education, marketing, trade and innovation, and scientific diplomacy and aid. As the inquiry quite correctly notes, Sweden does not have this type of coordination. No obvious arena exists in which actors/stakeholders from different sectors can combine their efforts or explore synergies in their cooperation with a certain country through joint or mutually complementary actions. To enable universities and other stakeholders to participate effectively in international cooperation (and to increase the impact of their efforts), it is of great importance that the support provided by government agencies is further developed. A lack of coordination risks leading to fragmented internationalisation efforts in which potential synergies between different activities and sectors fail to materialise. One of the measures proposed by the inquiry is a platform for coordination between government agencies. As we pointed out in our consultation response to the inquiry’s interim report, regulations and administrative systems must always support international cooperation, and hopefully this will be a step in the right direction. If internationalisation efforts are to have any real impact, foreign students and staff must not be treated as exceptions and special cases.

Since 2015, the Association of Swedish Higher Education Institutions has had an expert group for internationalisation, which I currently chair. The expert group has followed the work of the inquiry closely and we have drawn attention to the need for coordination and the need to remove the obstacles hindering students and researchers from coming to our country. This applies to everything from bank accounts to visa processing by the Swedish Migration Board and housing. If we want Sweden to be an attractive option for international students and researchers, uncertainties and unnecessary obstacles must be removed and a substantial scholarship programme must be established.

Share this post

A week in Japan – MIRAI

(Swedish post published 11 October.)

During the past week, I (Eva) have been in Japan for the STINT Leadership Summit (Kyoto), the STS Forum (Kyoto), a visit to the Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) and the MIRAI Seminar (Tokyo).

This year is the 150th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Japan and Sweden. We have already participated in the celebrations through the exhibition “The art of natural science in Sweden: treasures from Uppsala University” in Tokyo. The anniversary has received renewed attention this week through the Sweden–Japan University and Research Leadership Summit in Kyoto. The meeting is a follow-up of the University Presidents’ Summit in 2015, when a large delegation representing Swedish universities travelled to Japan. On that occasion, Uppsala University was represented by Deputy Vice-Chancellor Anders Malmberg. The topic of this year’s meeting was Impact from Strategic University Initiatives – a reference to MIRAI, which was a result of the meeting in 2015. Some thirty university heads and representatives of research funding bodies discussed what is needed to strengthen cooperation, what obstacles exist and the future outlook after MIRAI. Many participants emphasised younger researchers, the link between education and research, joint research schools and interdisciplinary topics. Several argued the need for a long-term perspective, persistence and predictable funding. Some also pointed out that we have several ingredients required for success, such as trust and confidence in one another, shared basic values and a long history. The session was moderated by Sylvia Schwaag Serger, Chair of the Swedish Foundation for International Cooperation in Research and Higher Education (STINT) and Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Lund University.

The visit to Japan continued with the Science and Technology in Society (STS) forum in Kyoto, in which I participated on Sunday and Monday. STS is an annual event that was being held for the fifteenth time and that brings together academics, politicians and other stakeholders for relatively informal open discussions. The best thing about it was networking with colleagues from Sweden and different parts of the world. I was able to continue conversations that had begun the day before with Japanese colleagues. The Guild universities were well represented at the University Presidents’ lunch meeting where the discussion centred around two topics: “The university as a platform for change” and “Cultural attributes for success over the centuries”.

The next stop was Tokyo on Tuesday and a visit to the Tokyo Institute of Technology. Uppsala University has engaged in collaboration with Tokyo Tech since 2014, with annual symposiums, the latest of which took place recently in Uppsala. We have research cooperation in several thematic areas, such as energy systems and environmental technology, mathematics, nuclear engineering, and medical radiation, and we also have a university-wide agreement on student exchanges. During my visit to Tokyo Tech, I visited Dr Koshihara’s lab (spintronics) and the Environmental Energy Innovation Building, where the entire façade is covered by solar cell panels developed at Tokyo Tech.

MIRAI is the name of a project being conducted in 2017–2019 to promote increased collaboration between Japanese and Swedish universities, with the support of the Swedish Foundation for International Cooperation in Research and Higher Education (STINT). It involves a total of 15 universities, seven from Sweden and eight from Japan. Three themes have been chosen: Ageing, Material Science and Sustainability. MIRAI focuses on enabling researchers to make international contacts at an early stage of their career. Nearly 300 people are participating in the meeting in Tokyo, which runs until Friday. I heard many interesting presentations, including one by the Japanese Nobel Laureate Professor Hiroshi Amani from Nagoya University.

The next meeting will be held in Stockholm in November 2019 but discussions are already in progress on MIRAI II and the outlook from 2020 onwards. If you would like to know more about MIRAI, you can contact Ulrica Ouline ulrica.ouline@uadm.uu.se or Leif Kirsebom.

While in Tokyo we took the opportunity, as usual, to organise a joint alumni event with the other Swedish MIRAI universities. Nearly 200 alumni turned up at the Swedish embassy to meet us and one another. There were many happy reunions and memories. These events are greatly appreciated by alumni, and the most common question was when the next event will be. Alumni are our true ambassadors.

The participants from Uppsala University were Dr Yasmine Sassa (Dept of Physics and Astronomy), Dr Daniel Globisch (Dept of Medicinal Chemistry), Dr Malgorzata Blicharska (Dept of Earth Sciences), Dr Wei-Chao Chen and Dr Sethu Saveda Suvanam (both from the Dept of Engineering Sciences), and Dr Jonas Mindemark and Dr Erik Lewin (both from the Dept of Chemistry). Dr Malin Graffner Nordberg (UU Innovation) and Dr Ulrika Persson-Fischier (Dept of Engineering Sciences) took part in an innovation seminar.

Share this post

Future in focus

(Original Swedish post published 5 October.)

On Tuesday we broke the ground for the new Ångström expansion. This will add a further 30,000 square metres to our lively laboratory, bringing the total area to 100,000 square metres. The Department of Information Technology will move in and there will be space for an auditorium, a library, classrooms, offices and meeting areas. This investment in the future will enable us to develop our activities and is the largest new venture so far undertaken by Uppsala University and Akademiska Hus together.

Enhancing our capacity for renewal was also the topic at the deans meeting, a forum that gathers some fifty participants twice a year. The deans, vice-deans, vice-rectors, advisers to the Vice-Chancellor, students and managers from the administration come together for strategic discussions led by the Vice-Chancellor, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and University Director. This time we were at Stora Brännbo Conference & Hotel in Sigtuna.

We began on Wednesday afternoon, when the six advisers to the Vice-Chancellor talked about their roles. Each of the advisers is responsible for a particular area in which they drive development efforts. Our advisers to the Vice-Chancellor are Anna Rutgersson – sustainable development; Anders Backlund – internationalisation; Cecilia Wejryd – equal opportunities; Olle Jansson – Campus Gotland; and Stefan Eriksson – good research practice. You can find pictures of the advisers here.

Kay Svensson, Deputy University Director and International Coordinator, gave a status report on European Universities. This is about giving concrete form to an initiative launched by French President Macron that has taken off in the EU. The basic idea is to increase cooperation between European universities and we expect a call for the pilot scheme to be launched in October. Along with our friends in the U4 network, augmented by the University of Tartu (Sweden’s second oldest university), we are set to apply to be a node in this new initiative. We will build on the good cooperation we have already established, though many details still remain unclear – so far we are aiming at a moving target. If we are successful, it will have great potential benefits for our education and research, but above all, it will enable us to influence the shape of future cooperation between European universities.

It was interesting after that to hear about the issues the student body wants to focus on in the year ahead. In many areas we can link arms and support one another. To wrap up the first day, the vice-rectors told us what’s in the pipeline in their disciplinary domains.

We continued on the theme of the future on Thursday. We began in the morning with an introduction to the project on revising “Uppsala University: Mission and Core Values”. How should Uppsala go about strengthening its position as a world-leading university? What sort of strategies should we have for education and research? How should we work on quality, skills development, infrastructure, sustainable development, equal opportunities, internationalisation and good research practice? There were many questions and the group discussions were lively. The discussion will no doubt continue in many parts of the University.

After that we had a presentation and report on Development Plan 2050 and the second day ended with a status report on fundraising. We had a busy programme, in good spirits, and we can conclude that as always a lot is going on at Uppsala University. But we are also pleased that no matter how successful we have been historically, we always aim higher. This weekend we will celebrate our 541st anniversary. In this connection, the Royal Academic Orchestra is giving a Beatles concert in the Grand Auditorium on Saturday and Sunday, under the slogan “Come Together”, in true University spirit.

Share this post