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Quality of Swedish unis 'too low': minister

Quality of Swedish unis 'too low': minister

Published: 17 Jan 2012 12:23 GMT+01:00
Updated: 17 Jan 2012 12:23 GMT+01:00

Sweden’s education minister Jan Björklund has slammed the quality of the country's higher education system as he unveiled plans to revamp the way university quality is monitored.

“The quality of the knowledge that Swedish students have when they leave university is not enough to prepare them for adult life,” Björklund told Sverige Radio (SR), adding that too often, the quality of Swedish universities is often "too low".

“We need a much tougher and more stringent government inspection of Sweden’s higher education.”

The government wants to create a new authority which has the sole purpose of monitoring the quality of higher education at universities and colleges nationwide.

The idea is to get rid of all courses that are not up to scratch and revamp the current bureaucracy by replacing the three current academic authorities with two.

The three current authorities are the Swedish National Agency for Higher Education (Högskoleverket), the Swedish Agency for Higher Education Services (Verket för högskoleservice - VHS) and the International Programme Office for Education and Training (Internationella programkontoret för utbildningsområdet - IPK).

Following the reshuffle, the responsibilities of the three will be divided over two agencies, with the one being the only agency responsible for quality control of the higher education system.

Björklund explained that the current Swedish National Agency for Higher Education, is plagued by being required to both give development advice and review courses at the same time.

Such a mandate was unsustainable, according to the minister, as it resulted in the possibility that bureaucrats would end up reviewing the very concepts they proposed.

The new proposal, contained in the interim findings of a government inquiry presented on Tuesday, will abolish such risks, according to Björklund.

The concept has been tested on campuses by the Swedish School’s Inspectorate (Skolinspektionen), and the careful scrutiny has given immediate results, according to Björklund.

“The quality is monitored very, very closely," he told SR.

"It is for the students’ best."

The new authority is planned to come into existence at the end of the year.

Oliver Gee (oliver.gee@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

14:02 January 17, 2012 by StockholmSam
The curriculum has had to be dumbed down to suit the capabilities of the students that have been coming out of Swedish high schools for the past decade and a half. High school graduates in Sweden are by and large not at all prepared for the rigors of higher education, yet the system guarantees free access to anyone. The pressure on high school teachers to inflate grades, especially in the free school sector where demand for seats must be kept high to keep the profits high, is tremendous. When high-school students fail, it is often the teacher that gets the blame. But after nearly ten years as a teacher, I see clearly that classrooms are filled with lazy, disrespectful and arrogant students (empowered by their curling, overprotective parents) who slip by because the teachers are unprotected and fearful of the wrath of the parents. Principals, too, cater to the whims of the parents rather than the needs of the teachers. This weakens students who, like people who never exercise and become fat and unhealthy, develop weak minds and poor problem-solving inititative. This is one of the primary reasons Swedish unis have suffered: the students they have to work with begin on a substandard level.
14:59 January 17, 2012 by babashki
Is unis supposed to be an abbreviation for University?

Please dont use slang, it aint cool yo!

-Ethnically confused Jordanian
15:19 January 17, 2012 by Scepticion
I agree with the principle, but I don't think bureaucratic top-down control is the right way. As StockholmSam said, the quality of students that want to work hard is lacking. Universities have adjusted to this by offering idiot courses, because even government universities are paid by number of students - which is a major flaw. Removing stupid courses will not be the solution if nobody wants to take on math and science.
15:30 January 17, 2012 by engagebrain
Sweden has a systematic problem - almost every vacant teaching post goes to an internal candidate, making it unlikely that the best qualified person are appointed. Strongly favouring internal candidates also keeps out new idea. Over a few decades this affects the teaching and research performance of Swedish Universities.
15:47 January 17, 2012 by EP
About time .. and furthermore, no repeating of exams ad infinitum. You fail, one chance to re-write, and then that's it.
16:34 January 17, 2012 by Svensksmith
Students must realize that an education is a privilege.
17:00 January 17, 2012 by akhokhay
This article is sort of laughing article.

They said they have problems (Somehow serious problems) with university and on the other hand when it comes to tuition fees they claim to be the best.

Just for information:

KTH tuition fee : 42,000 USD for 2 years Best technical university in Sweden, ranked 150-180 on different websites

MIT tuition fee: 40,000 for 2 years Best Technical university in the world, ranked 1-3 in different websites

Statics talk......
17:25 January 17, 2012 by Decedo
Agreed EP.

I'm a UBC engineering grad. My Chalmers engineering buddy said he was in midterms, I thought I could empathize. I was shocked when he said he was going skiing because he'll write one and defer the rest because he needs a break......WTHeck!! (the local made me edit, lol). He went on to explain the Swedish system.

How can this system prepare students with prioritizing and deadlines, let alone the real world?
18:56 January 17, 2012 by Just_Kidding
I completely agree with Mr Björklund. Swedish students are really lazy compared to Canadian students; maybe this is because of too much socialism. I admit this even though I don't like Canadians much. Swedish Universities (at least in engineering) try to offer a very good and needed education to the students, but unless the education is divided to simple easy bites, students do refuse to learn. They even refuse to work on assignments at home and in weekends and a teacher has to allocate lab time or tutorial time for them to work on assignments.
19:44 January 17, 2012 by StockholmSam
@Just_Kidding

Your statement...

"I admit this even though I don't like Canadians much"

...just disqualified everything you have to say, here or anywhere else. What kind of m0r0n says something so stupid? You are obviously uneducated. And no, I am not Canadian.
20:14 January 17, 2012 by Just_Kidding
@StockholmSam,

I agree that I wrote it in a bad way, there are Canadians that I like and respect, but I am not on the bandwagon of considering Canada the most perfect country in the world (polls show that many people are). I apologize to those Canadians who feel insulted. Canada has its own problems and shortcomings like any other country.
21:35 January 17, 2012 by Puffin
LOL - from an Education Minister who doesn't have a degree!

Admit that there is variation though between best and worst - but not convinced that introducing Military style controls is the answer though - but understand that it is an attractive option though for a Soldier
22:06 January 17, 2012 by star10
The quality of high-school students is horribly bad. I met a university student who feels simplifying basic equations as a "rocket science".
22:40 January 17, 2012 by Just_Kidding
Some engineering students hate sin(x) and cos(x) as if they are infectious diseases.
06:08 January 18, 2012 by calebian22
Anything that remotely has the potential to whip VHS into a leaner agency is a good thing. Those clowns are morons.
08:18 January 18, 2012 by Puffin
I have studied at Undergraduate and Post graduate levels at good and bad Universities in both the UK and Sweden. The best courses that I did were at the Swedish top university but the worst were also at a University College (Högskola) in Sweden that lacked full university status and where the other students complained bout having to read "hard" books! However the former poly in the UK was really dire as well. The most surprising thing for me was just how much spoon feeding there was on the UK post grad course I took with a significantly lower workload than that expected in Sweden
09:26 January 18, 2012 by Chuck_Norris
reading comments is like overhearing your crazy lonely neighbour, only moaning complaining and only if they did this or that the world would be solved
21:54 January 18, 2012 by swedejane
I recently spent a semester as an assistant professor at Chalmers University, in the CS department, and can attest to how unmotivated...in general...the students are. I received some negative feedback for being "too hard" on the students, because I wasn't taking into account the other class they have and that they are "only supposed to work during class" on projects. Give me a break. Had I been responsible for their final grades at least half would have failed, based on contribution and quality of work.n All I could think was 'good luck getting a job'.
16:30 January 23, 2012 by PragmaticProf
My experience of Swedish h.e. suggests that there are deeper seated problems which may account for its low quality and international rankings. In October 2006, I applied for a Professorship at a Swedish University. I have a PhD from a university ranked in the Times Higher Education's top global 50, I have co-authored books and articles, I have won both national and European grants (the largest was worth 4,249,999 GBP), I have a Docentship from a Finnish University, and I worked for two years as a Visiting Professor at Mexico's largest private university, where I learnt Spanish and collaborated with the World Bank's Global Development Learning. I applied for the professorship as I hoped to use my European and international contacts to increase the University's postgraduate students coming from Latin America, and because I could use my experience of securing EU research funding and inks with the World Bank Institute to raise the research income and profile of the Department in Sweden.

In U.K. universities, the staff selection typically takes 2-3 months from the application closing date. However, nothing was resolved about the Swedish Professorship by February 2007, although the applicants' publications had been sent out to external evaluators. A colleague at the University told me that a decision on the Professorship would be made in November or December 2007 - more than a year after the closing date. In February 2008, my colleague told me informally that the Appointment Panel decided that none of the applicants fitted the job profile well enough to warrant being appointed. However, I, (and I assume the other candidates), was not informed of this fact. I understood the rationale for this outcome, but was disappointed, as I had relished the prospect of using my knowledge, experience and European and international contacts to help build a vibrant academic community within the University. However, the time taken for the decision was such that I had ceased to consider the possibility of being appointed. As I received no information whatsoever from the University about my application, I wrote to the Dean, outlining what had happened, and requesting the Dean's Office of the Faculty to keep me informed of any future Professorships for which I may be eligible. However, I received no response from the Dean to this letter.

In July 2009, nearly three years after I had applied, I received from the university a package containing the books and articles I had submitted in support of my application, but with no explanation. So, I wrote to the University Rector. In my letter, I advised him what had happened and I observed that in the future, in its pursuit of academic excellence, the university should ensure that prospective international applicants for posts at the University were treated better than I was, if the University wished to attract the very best scholars. To this letter, like that sent to the Dean, I received no response.
13:28 January 29, 2012 by Just_Kidding
@PragmaticProf: Not a great experience! Swedish organizations always have a hard time making decisions. Hopefully you have a better position now and you are dealing with more decent people.
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