Uppsala University, Sweden

Month: May 2019

Erasmus+: a turning point in the lives of five million EU students

Between 2014 and 2018, more than two million students and staff in higher education undertook a learning, training or teaching period abroad as part of the Erasmus+ programme. An independent study has assessed the impact of the programme on the lives of individual students and staff members. The study analysed nearly 77,000 responses, including responses from around 47,000 Erasmus students, 12,000 graduates and 10,000 university staff members with Erasmus+ experience. I often point out that the various Erasmus programmes are ultimately a peace project that helps to unite humanity.

The key findings of the study are:

Erasmus+ helps students find their desired careers and get jobs quicker

Over 70% of former Erasmus+ students say that they have a better understanding of what they want to do in their future careers when they return from abroad. Their experience abroad also enables them to re-orient their studies to better match their ambitions. The higher education impact study further reveals that 80% were employed within three months of graduation and 72% say their experience abroad helped them get their first job. Nine in ten Erasmus+ alumni say they make use of the skills and experiences acquired abroad in their daily work. Erasmus+ addresses skills mismatches by focusing on the soft and interdisciplinary skills businesses need.

Erasmus+ boosts European sense of belonging

More than 90% of Erasmus+ students also improve their ability to work and collaborate with people from different cultures and feel they have a European identity. The biggest impact is on the students who felt less convinced about the EU prior to their exchange and the students that spent time in a more culturally different country. Of all Erasmus+ students, those coming from Eastern Europe identify the most with the EU.

Read the press release from the European Commission here.

At this time of European Parliament elections, many politicians say they are against populism and polarisation, yet none of them have any specific proposals on how to stop these phenomena. The opportunities for mobility and evidence-based education or, to put it another way, skills development offered by the Erasmus+ programme are a tangible example of what can be done. The report on Erasmus+ that has just been published confirms this. Politicians aspiring to a place in the European Parliament should take note, as they are the ones who will be deciding on the budget for the next period of both Erasmus+ and Horizon Europe.

Last week, Uppsala University received two encouraging pieces of news in connection with the Erasmus+ programme. The University was granted a record sum of EUR 2,928,590 for cooperation and exchanges, to cover a total of 1,294 mobilities during the 2019–2021 period (compare 728 mobilities for Lund University and 602 mobilities for the University of Gothenburg). This will enable students, staff and doctoral students at Uppsala University to undertake exchanges and establish lasting cooperation at European level, contributing to the strategic and long-term development of higher education in Europe. Over a two-year period, the number of outgoing Erasmus placements and outgoing staff in the Erasmus+ programme in the EU/Europe has virtually doubled. The large amount of scholarship funds granted will make it possible to continue to engage in Erasmus placements, staff mobility and doctoral student mobility.

For the third year in a row, Uppsala University was best in Sweden at cooperation and exchanges outside Europe. This year we were granted a record sum of EUR 1,091,415 for a total of 228 mobilities! This will enable students, teachers and administrative and technical staff from 20 higher education institutions outside the EU to come to Uppsala. It also means that students, teachers and other staff at Uppsala can receive funding for exchanges outside the EU.

Keep an eye on Medarbetarportalen if you are interested in applying for a grant to take part in an exchange in or outside the EU/Europe:



Students can find information here:


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Conferment Ceremony in early summer setting

The sound of cannon salutes echoed round the walls this morning. One salute for each jubilee doctor and one for each faculty. Forty times the cannons fired while the city slowly warmed up in the sun. As noon approached, our beautiful University Main Building buzzed with activity. Everyone was eager to find their seats and the atmosphere filled with a mix of nervousness and party spirits. Then it started. It is always a great experience to celebrate our new doctoral graduates and their successes – academic and personal. The Royal Academic Orchestra played, I gave the traditional speech and Margareta Hammarlund-Udenaes spoke about Fifty Years of Pharmaceuticals to mark the 50th anniversary of the Faculty of Pharmacy’s first participation in the Conferment Ceremony. The President of the Uppsala Student Union, Ludvig Lundgren, paid tribute to this year’s jubilee doctors, after which one of their number, Professor Adam Taube, gave a much appreciated speech. A dignified and beautiful celebration.

Now we look forward to the party at Uppsala Castle.

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With Vikings and friends in Minneapolis

On Thursday to Sunday last week, I (Deputy Vice-Chancellor Anders Malmberg) visited Minneapolis, a sister city of Uppsala and the home of one of our closest university partners in the United States, at the heart of the area settled by Swedes in America.

The reason for the visit was a board meeting of the American Friends of Uppsala University, a non-profit-organisation that supports us by making donations to the University tax deductible for Americans. I have recently succeeded Bo Sundqvist as president. Below you can see two of the other board members, Bob Stein, Professor of Law at the University of Minnesota, and Bruce Karstadt, CEO of the American Swedish Institute and Honorary Consul General of Sweden in Minnesota.

The board meeting coincided with the opening of the Gustavianum exhibition The Vikings Begin at the American Swedish Institute. At the opening event, attended by 600 people, our Professor of Archaeology Neil Price gave a much appreciated lecture. The exhibition (and the lecture) attracted great interest from the media – see the article in the Star Tribune, for example. The exhibition has been on tour in the United States over the past year (Mystic Seaport, Seattle and now Minneapolis) and there are plans to continue to additional venues. Initiatives of this kind are a fantastic way to raise the visibility of Uppsala University.

The law faculties at the University of Minneapolis and Uppsala University have engaged in cooperation, with faculty exchanges, for nearly 40 years. On Saturday we took part in the Law School Commencement Ceremony, which contained everything we expect of an American graduation ceremony: gowns, mortar boards and rousing speeches.

With our USA expert Dag Blanck present – recently elected to the board of the American Friends, incidentally – a day trip to Moberg country was a must, with stops in Ki-Chi-Saga, Lindström, ‘Nya Duvemåla’, Scandia and Stillwater.

We also had time for a visit to Swede Hollow Park, which has become a tourist attraction for Swedes in the wake of Ola Larsmo’s novel. Swede Hollow – due to be published in English translation in the United States this autumn – depicts “the dark side of Swedish immigration”.

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A visit from the Minister

(Original Swedish post published 16/5.)

Matilda Ernkrans (Social Democratic Party), Minister for Higher Education and Research

Yesterday afternoon (Wednesday) we had a visit from Matilda Ernkrans, who is the Minister for Higher Education and Research. Her visit to us is part of a tour she is making of Swedish higher education institutions. She was accompanied by Political Adviser Klas-Herman Lundgren, a former chair of Uppsala Student Union, and Deputy Director-General Sara Bringle.

Presenting our entire University in all its breadth in just a few hours is a challenge. The Ministry had expressed a wish to discuss several issues that are high on the political agenda, such as teacher education, research infrastructure and students’ mental health.

We began with a general discussion of University-wide priorities, in which the vice-rectors for the three disciplinary domains participated. I also wanted to raise certain issues that are particularly important for us ahead of the upcoming budget round. These included making the direct government funding for ‘strong research environments’ permanent and the need to increase direct government funding for undergraduate education to prevent a loss of quality, i.e. to avoid further erosion of the ‘price tags’ per student. Read the presentation in full here (in Swedish). Adviser to the Vice-Chancellor Anna Rutgersson described ongoing initiatives and our concerted efforts in the area of sustainable development.

We then proceeded to the Ubbo Foundation for a discussion on mental health with Eva Söderman from the Student Health Service and representatives of the students’ unions and nations. This is an issue that concerns and involves the local health authority and actors outside the University. Several other questions also came up: too little teacher-directed learning, more money for undergraduate education, the housing issue and the impact of abolishing obligatory membership of a students’ union or student nation.

Eva Gardmedia, coordinator, Uppsala Antibiotic Center, Matilda Ernkrans, Minister for Higher Education and Research, and Kristina Edström, Professor of Inorganic Chemistry.

After a sunny stroll through the Botanical Garden, the programme continued at Blåsenhus with a presentation by Kristina Edström, who talked about the major EU project Battery 2030+, and a discussion on research infrastructure in which Library Director Lars Burman participated and talked about the role of the University Library.

The next session was about antibiotic resistance. Eva Garmedia from Uppsala Antibiotic Center presented the graduate school, at which fourteen doctoral students from different departments are working together to solve one of the great challenges of our time. During this session, Carl Andersson Kronlid, Chair of the Doctoral Board, also had an opportunity to bring up issues relating to the situation of doctoral students.

In the January Agreement between the Social Democratic Party, the Centre Party, the Green Party and the Liberal Party, the government announced a reform of teacher education. In Uppsala we have developed close collaboration between the University and the Municipality. We share a concern to make both the educational programme and the profession attractive. Dean Elisbeth Nilfors, Head of Department Henrik Edgren, student Frida Tidén and Olle Bergh from Uppsala Municipality, described how we are working together to strengthen the profession and reinforce the scientific basis of the teacher education programme.

Peace and conflict research is one of Uppsala University’s strongest research fields and includes one of our most popular international Master’s programmes. Head of Department Lisa Hultman and Master’s student Nathanael Eschmann talked about the work done at the department.

The day concluded with an overview of the University’s international activities, which I presented with Kay Svensson. We talked about the networks in which we are involved, how we use them and how we cooperate internationally in education and research. In this context, I also talked about SASUF, which you could read about in this blog last week, and had a chance to deliver a copy of the declaration on cooperation produced jointly by the 36 Swedish and South African universities in this network.

The SASUF Declaration is delivered to Minister Ernkrans.

It was an intensive afternoon with a packed programme. The Minister was interested and curious about our activities. She asked many questions. These few hours gave us a chance to give a glimpse of some of our educational and research environments. It always makes me proud to hear students, teachers and researchers talking about our University. I would like to express my sincere thanks to everyone who took part. It feels rather unfair not to be able to show everything. I therefore concluded by inviting the Minister to come back another time to visit our other, equally strong, international research and education environments here in Uppsala and on Gotland.

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SASUF a success!

Back home from SASUF, South Africa–Sweden University Forum, in Stellenbosch, South Africa, and trying to sum up the past week – many impressions. What impressed me most was the enthusiasm and commitment everyone shows for SASUF. More than 50 events and workshops in 13 cities around South Africa during the week, all of them addressing the 2030 Agenda and the sustainability goals formulated by the UN, gathered into SASUF’s six general themes (see below). Many joint projects have already been established and new ones were created during this week in South Africa.

Theme 1 – Climate change, natural resources and sustainability

Theme 2 – Education for a Sustainable Society

Theme 3 – Social transformation through change: Knowledge and social development strategies for society

Theme 4 – Understanding the burden of disease in Sweden and South Africa and its impact on the health systems of the two countries in the future

Theme 5 – Sustainable urbanisation, travel and tourism in the 21st Century

Theme 6 – Digital technologies, big data and cybersecurity

Full house at the opening ceremony in Stellenbosch

We are happy to be able to offer twice as many groups project funding during the upcoming period. You can read more about this at SASUF.org, where you will also find information about other funding opportunities for cooperation between South Africa and Sweden. One success factor for SASUF is that research funding bodies such as the Swedish Research Council, the Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare (Forte), the Swedish Foundation for International Cooperation in Research and Higher Education (STINT) and their South African counterparts participate in the forum and can pick up and respond to needs. The Young Academy of Sweden was also there, along with representatives of several students’ unions. The next time we gather will be in Uppsala on 4–8 May 2020, with satellite meetings at all participating partner universities in Sweden. Planning is already in full swing for a SASUF week that is at least as successful as the past one.

During the meeting, the participating universities produced a declaration that they will deliver to their governments, containing the following message:

The universities participating in SASUF call on their respective government to promote collaboration and networking linked to the United Nations Agenda 2030 through research and educational cooperation between South Africa and Sweden by facilitating the following:

  • To support flexible mobility of academic staff, students encompassing under-graduate, post-graduate, and doctoral students as well as post docs and provide for exchange opportunities for administrative officials – by strengthening existing funding structures and creating new ones where gaps exist.
  • To facilitate the development of early career academics – through the initiation of grant programmes to enhance collaboration and networking between South Africa and Sweden.
  • To ensure appropriate flexible funding schemes to facilitate partnerships in research and education between South Africa and Sweden.


Mingle at Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study – listening to Swedish Ambassador Cecilia Juhlin

I can already confidently say that the project is living up to its promise. All credit to everyone working with SASUF and especially project manager Gustaf Cars.

During 2017-2020 SASUF will:

  • bring together researchers from Sweden & South Africa in seminars, exchanges & projects
  • create innovative ways to approach internationalization & utilize the power of digital tools in international collaboration
  • connect researchers with funding agencies, industry, ministries & surrounding society in working towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

36 participating universities:

Sweden: Uppsala University (coordinator), Lund University, Karlstad University, KI – Karolinska institutet, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Linköping University, Malmö University, Stockholm University, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Umeå University,  University of Gothenburg,  University West & Örebro University.

South Africa: Cape Peninsula University of Technology, Central University of Technology, Durban University of Technology, Nelson Mandela University, North West University, Rhodes University, Sol Plaatje University, Stellenbosch University, Tshwane University of Technology, University of Cape Town, University of Fort Hare, University of the Free State, University of Johannesburg, University of KwaZulu-Natal, University of Limpopo, University of Pretoria, University of South Africa, University of the Western Cape, University of Venda, University of Witwatersrand, University of Zululand, Vaal University of Technology, Walter Sisulu University

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SASUF Research and Innovation Week

This week I am travelling to Stellenbosch in South Africa, together with project managers and researchers. We will be among the 500 participants from Sweden and South Africa in SASUF’s Research and Innovation Week on the challenges of the 2030 Agenda. Last year’s meeting, which was the first (of three), was a success, with many stimulating meetings for researchers, and interest has grown quite spectacularly since then. There is obviously a strong mutual desire among researchers and universities in both our countries to cooperate across disciplinary and national boundaries on the sustainability goals.

Throughout the week, there will be workshops and meetings all over South Africa in connection with SASUF. Erika Dabhilkar and I are visiting Central University of Technology in Bloemfontein and yesterday we got to meet the next generation of leaders in a newly started programme for young women. I was able to share what I have been through over the years, both the successes and the setbacks I have experienced. There were many questions and lively discussion in the group and it was very rewarding to take part.

The seeds for this partnership between 36 Swedish and South African universities that is SASUF were sown by a university leaders’ visit several years ago. We saw there was a desire and great potential to strengthen the cooperation between our countries in both research and education, and having returned to Sweden we set out to launch a project that became the South Africa–Sweden University Forum (SASUF), focusing on the UN Sustainability Goals and coordinated from Uppsala. Our involvement in SANORD and participation in several different Erasmus programmes have given rise to networks and experience that could make a cooperation project on the scale of SASUF possible.

Several of the researchers who came along last year have joint research projects in progress and when we organise the third and final meeting in Uppsala next year, we will be able to hear about early results from some projects. Plans for the meeting in Uppsala in May 2020 are already well under way and we hope to be able to offer as exciting a programme as we have had in South Africa. It will be important to arrange satellite events at various participating higher education institutions during the week in Sweden as well, so that everyone can get the most out of their long journey.

Today we are travelling on to Stellenbosch, and it also happens to be election day here in South Africa. I will write again at the end of the week to sum up SASUF’s second Research and Innovation Week on the challenges of the 2030 Agenda.

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