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EDUCATION

Tightened teaching rules cause trouble for students

All Swedish teachers will soon have a professional certificate. But this new requirement is posing difficulties.

Students may have to switch teachers, be taught from a distance, or even see their school shut down.

“We’re a little worried that this may kill schools,” Ann-Mari Mäki Larsson, in charge of Pajala municipality’s education, said to the TT news agency.

Larsson is referring to a dilemma Pajala, in the far north of Sweden, shares with other thinly populated municipalities: their schools are small, with few teachers, and are far from other schools.

Competence regulations for teachers will be tightened this summer, and the Swedish National Agency for Education (Skolverket) is to issue teacher certificates. This will make small schools very vulnerable.

Two or three teacher together must have full competence for all subjects and all grades. After 2015, only certified teachers may be in charge of teaching and grading.

Neighbouring Kiruna municipality, as well as Krokom and Ånge municipalities, also in northern Sweden, are considering a range of practical solutions.

“Getting teachers to commute between several schools or distance teaching are the possibilities that we can see,” concluded school director Peter Nordmark in Kiruna.

“But distance teaching requires one teacher to broadcast, and one to be on location with the students, and that won’t be cheap.”

Rural areas and cities alike will have employers making some large changes within the teaching staff.

“Basically this reform is good, but when too much is changed at once the quality of the education is lowered. There’s a risk that we’re going to have worse teaching than we’ve had earlier between now and 2015,” said development manager Lars Thorin in Ånge municipality.

86,000 people are working as grade school teachers, and of these, 86 percent currently hold a degree in teaching.

This means that 10,300 full-time teachers lack competence, and cannot obtain a teacher certificate.

On July 1st the regulations for teachers and pre-school teachers will be tightened, and only teachers with the appropriate qualifications, in other words a teaching degree within their subject, can then be hired.

From August 1st teachers will be able to apply for a teacher certificate from the Swedish National Agency for Education. This will show which grades and subjects the teacher is qualified for.

To receive this certificate, a teaching degree and one year’s work experience is required.

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EDUCATION

‘They feel conned’: Swedish universities fight for PHDs hit by new residency rules

Sweden's top universities are to call for doctoral students to be exempted from Sweden's tough new permanent residency rules, arguing that it will damage both academic standards and national competitiveness.

'They feel conned': Swedish universities fight for PHDs hit by new residency rules
At Lund Technical University, a majority of doctoral students are international. Photo: Kennet Ruona/LTU

In a post on Wednesday, Astrid Söderbergh Widding, the chair of Association of Swedish Higher Education Institutions, said that Sweden’s universities had agreed to submit a joint letter to the government “very soon”, calling for parliament to put in place a special exemption for PHD students to make it easier to stay in Sweden after their studies. 

The parliament, she wrote, “should introduce an exemption for doctoral students and young researchers from the requirement to be financially self-sufficient”. 

Previously, doctoral students were eligible for a permanent residence permit if they had lived in Sweden with a residence permit for doctoral studies for four out of the past seven years. Apart from a slim set of requirements, this was granted more or less automatically.

But according to Sweden’s new Migration Act, which was introduced in July this year as comprehensive legislation to control the number of asylum applications, they now need to be able to additionally show that they can support themselves financially for at least a year and half.

The new law means that the rules for permanent residency are now the same for all categories of applicants, including doctoral students.

Stefan Bengtsson, the rector at Chalmers University of Technology, said that the change would mean as many as 400 to 500 doctoral students, many of whom have built up considerable expertise, might be unable to stay in Sweden.

“This makes for an uncertain future for those from outside of Europe who have applied to come to Sweden for an academic career, which is cause for great concern and disappointment among those who came here under other circumstances,” he told The Local. “Some of them may, of course, feel like they’ve been conned

But what was even more worrying, he said, would be the impact the change to the law might have in the longer term. 

“This change to the law could contribute to giving Sweden a bad reputation. This will create difficulties in recruiting internationally and damage our long-term skills supply.”

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At Lund University, the majority of doctoral students in the science and technical faculties are from outside Europe, while Söderbergh Widding, who is also vice chancellor at Stockholm University, estimated that about half of doctoral students were international. 

Söderbergh Widding told the TT newswire that the change was “a devastating death blow”, which put to waste a “previously hard-won battle to make it possible for doctoral students to obtain a permanent residency permit after four years of studies”. 

She said in her letter that the change contradicted the research policy proposition from December 2020, which stated that the “number of foreign doctoral students who stay in Sweden should increase”, and said that giving residency to doctoral students was a good way to increase this.  

Ole Petter Ottersen, the rector of the elite Karolinska medical university, told the newswire that he thought the change in residency laws would damage Swedish competitiveness. 

“This is not good for Sweden. This will damage our ability to attract and recruit talent from other countries. For a country that lies on the periphery, the goal should be to make it easier, not harder, to recruit competence.” 

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