The Spring Budget Bill presented by the Swedish government today proposes an increase of SEK 513 million in direct government funding for universities and other higher education institutions. There is no decision yet on how this money will be divided between HEIs, but this will be announced in the near future. The funding is primarily intended for temporary places on summer courses and foundation (access) years, but will also include permanent places.
The government also proposes to allocate approximately SEK 100 million to a special research initiative linked to the COVID-19 virus. These funds will be distributed by the Swedish Research Council. This is another important investment in which we have good prospects of sharing. Our University has several outstanding research teams in this area.
We have indicated that we will be happy to welcome new students as early as this summer, so we look forward to news about the allocation of places. Opening up future opportunities for more people is a responsibility we are happy to take on at this time of uncertainty in the labour market. For many people, an extra opportunity for education and training can be the way to a new direction in working life.
At this time when travel and physical meetings are impossible and the focus is on the near at hand, it is important still to look beyond the coronavirus and its consequences and remember our partners in other cities and countries. Our exchanges and collaborations are important for the University’s development and need to continue. As far as possible, we will continue with what we are doing, while drawing on our new experiences to find creative and innovative ways to work in the future.
For my part, this is a week full of virtual meetings. Yesterday we ‘met’ the management of Lund University and discussed common issues. This morning, a staff meeting at Campus Gotland. Tomorrow the EUA holds its General Assembly, involving hundreds of participants, and on Friday it will be time for the General Assembly of the Association of Swedish Higher Education Institutions. That day starts with breakfast with politicians and ends with coffee with the University’s heads of department – in all cases via Zoom or a similar tool.
This week, the regional crisis collaboration group also met. Material collected by the University is benefitting the health services, and for the most part, things are ticking along in our new ‘abnormal normality’. However, we noted that we need to help one another stick to the restrictions that are in effect and not let up when it begins to feel like an everyday situation. When we get to the other side of all this, we will evaluate and learn lessons from what we have done.