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The pandemic increases the need for education

Published: 4 June 2020

Last week, a number of issues, most of them related to the current corona situation, were discussed with Minister for Higher Education and Research Matilda Ernkrans.

Two days before we were informed by the government that the requirement for distance education was lifted, Matilda Ernkrans participated at a meeting with Swedish Vice-Chancellors. 

A number of issues were discussed, most of them related to the current corona situation. Matilda Ernkrans pointed out that we have to deal with corona for a long time and that the situation is far from over.
She also emphasized that universities and colleges have an important responsibility for the provision of skills and that the focus will be on education under the current situation. 

A dialogue is currently taking place on how to increase the number of permanent education seats. The purpose of the initiative is to increase the possibility of education for persons who, due to the prevailing labor market situation, are now applying for education.

How is research funding affected?

When it comes to research, the message was that research foundations with capital from the employee funds should not be adversely affected. However, she did not say anything about the research-funded authorities (the Swedish Research Council, Formas, Fas and Vinnova), but stated that Swedish research is dependent on private financiers and that many of them will probably not be able to set aside the same level of funding as in previous years. Finally, Matilda Ernkrans said that Sweden will need to kick-start after the pandemic and that it is common to use research and innovation for that purpose, and that it is not impossible that the government also will do so this time.

The government will continue to focus on the challenges that the corona pandemic brings, but they will also work on previously identified challenges that the government announced. One such area is research infrastructure and how to fund it. Research infrastructure is a priority area for the government and they need to find ways so that they can take responsibility for existing facilities in the future, but also new initiatives. 

When it comes to the research bill, she couldn't say anything yet – we have to wait until it becomes public. This means that we did not receive any answers or signals as to what will happen to the strategic research areas. Of course, we hope that they will become part of the research grant.

Birgitta Bergvall-Kåreborn, Vice-Chancellor of Luleå University of Technology.

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