This year it was two half days via Zoom instead of a physical meeting. The conference began with our new Minister with responsibility for higher education, Anna Ekström, introducing herself and raising some issues that are close to her heart:
Good education throughout the country
Welfare throughout the country
Popular adult education ("folkbildning") as a cornerstone of a democratic society. The importance of humanistic education
Quality in higher education to cope with the societal development we are facing
When she talked about quality, she also emphasized the importance of scientific grounding in terms of pedagogical development and UHR's new assignment to gather the higher education pedagogical work in a higher education pedagogical lift. As part of the assignment, UHR will disseminate information and good examples of how higher education institutions work with higher education pedagogical development and be responsible for the exchange of experience between relevant actors at national level. In my role as chairman of SUHF's expert group for higher education pedagogical issues, I am part of UHR's reference group for this assignment.
Financing of extended training assignments
The adjustment support, as part of the LAS agreement, was also briefly discussed and Anna Ekström said that it is incredibly important that there is a good range from all post-secondary education providers. When I asked how she sees that this expanded range of education, for a broadened target group, should be financed to result in an expanded and broadened target group and not just increased competition among those who want to train, I got the answer that there is no budget for training providers yet. She believed that the adjustment support would result in an increase in commissioned training and an increased application pressure on our traditional courses and programs. Should it turn out that there is a need for additional funding, the government would discuss this issue.
I also asked what she thinks of the changes in the Aliens Act and got the answer that it is still possible to obtain temporary work permits and that Sweden has very generous conditions compared to many countries. But, that Sweden also wants to be a country that offers good conditions and shows that we safeguard international competence.
Anna Ekström concluded by emphasizing the importance of the government keeping an arm's length distance from the higher education institutions and the focus of our activities, and that there is trust between the higher education institutions and the government. At the same time, she is aware that we do not always agree on where the limit for an arm's distance goes. The profile areas, which I told you about in a previous blog post, are one such example. Although it has been quiet about these for a while, the profile areas are part of the decided research policy bill "Research, freedom, future - knowledge and innovation for Sweden" and thus the government has the task of implementing the initiative.
Several uncertainty factors
On 13 January this year, the government also decided to commission Forte, Formas and Vinnova to jointly develop the profile areas. or a model for quality-based resource allocation of the universities 'and colleges' increased direct funding for research and education at the doctoral level, as the government expresses itself. According to the decision, it is intended that the model will be implemented in 2024, but given that we have a choice this year and that the next research policy bill will be decided in 2024, there are many uncertainties that may affect this funding and implementation of the model.
My impression of our new Minister for higher education is positive. She has a long and broad political career and has good knowledge of our sector from her board assignments at Linköping University and Uppsala University Consistory. She has also been a member of the National Committee for Raoul Wallenberg and Raoul Wallenberg Academy. In addition, she feels very committed, positive and driven.
I look forward to an exciting year with a new minister and lots of opportunities.
Birgitta Bergvall-Kåreborn, Vice-Chancellor of Luleå University of Technology