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EDUCATION

Sweden looks to educate more engineers

The government plans to budget for 400 new spots for engineering students at Sweden's universities next year in an effort to boost the country's corps of capable engineers.

Sweden looks to educate more engineers

“Sweden is and will remain an industrial nation. We’re dependent on educating many talented engineers,” education minister Jan Björklund of the Liberal Party (Folkpartiet) told the TT news agency.

According to the forthcoming autumn budget proposal, the additional engineering spots will cost around 214 million kronor ($32 million) by 2018, by which time a total of 1,600 new places for civil engineering students will be created, the business daily Dagens Industri (DI) reported.

Björklund explained that the new engineering student spots are being created in response to increased interest in engineering among young people in the last two years following 20 years of decline.

“We want to respond to that interest so that those who have the capacity to complete the programmes are also admitted,” he told the TT news agency.

Critics often argue that such efforts come too late and when students have completed their degrees demand for their skills has since declined.

“It takes five years to educate an engineer and then they will work for 40 years, so it’s a very long-term investment. But I agree that such an effort should have been undertaken ten years ago, but then there was no interest among young people,” said Björklund.

According to most analysts, there is a balance between the supply and demand for civil engineers, but Björklund believes demand will increase.

“The average age of Sweden’s engineers is very high. When they retire, there is going to be a deficit if we don’t educate more,” he told TT.

TT/The Local/dl

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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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