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EDUCATION

‘Offer preschools a bonus for hiring men’

Sweden could entice preschools to employ more men with a one-off bonus, similar to a system in neighbouring Norway that aimed to bump up men’s representation in the profession to 20 percent.

'Offer preschools a bonus for hiring men'

Researchers Inga Wernersson and Ingrid Granbom reviewed efforts to include men in the traditionally woman-dominated field.

They looked at different policies to include more men at different levels of teaching since the 1960s. There were efforts in the 60s and 70s to increase their representation in teacher training, but the efforts did not address the imbalance at preschool level.

Swedish children have the right to state-financed preschools from the age of one until they start school at age seven.

Umeå is currently the best at enticing men to preschool teacher training. At Umeå Univeristy they make up 21 percent of the course, and there are also many men working in the northern city’s preschools.

Northern Sweden did better overall in the statistics and, in general, the cities had more male preschool teachers than the national average.

In the report, researchers note that individual school principals are the key to whether the preschools prioritize a more gender-equal workplace.

The report, commissioned by the National Agency for Education (Skolverket), looks in detail at a Norwegian campaign on state level since 2001 that aims to introduce more men to the profession.

Norway offered 12 preschools a reward of 50,000 Norwegian kroner ($9,000) if they hit a 20-percent target, which several of them did.

The National Agency for Education has now asked the government to look into a similar drive, although the report recommended awareness-raising and national coordination in any future effort.

The preschools in Norway were asked to publicize their work as much as possible. The Swedish report authors note that a positive attitude from the Norwegian media helped the project along.

The review also included other European examples.

Scotland has also seen some successes in their work to include men in the traditionally woman-dominated field but its neighbour, England, has failed to a large extent in a similar drive.

The researchers said that citizens in both Scotland and Norway were positive to such efforts, while the English could be seen as more sceptical.

”In Norway, people in general know a lot about inequality and people often welcome equality initiatives in a way we don’t see in England,” the researchers noted.

Several of the countries saw a correlation between the state of the economy at large and the clout of their projects.

In Germany, similar efforts focused on retraining former industrial workers to becoming preschool teachers.

Similar labour market factors may have underpinned Norway’s success. The researchers noted that the start of the programme coincided with relatively high unemployment.

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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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