Top universities tune in to web TV

A new web TV collaboration between Stockholm University and the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) is the latest innovative idea to reach a broader pool of future talent, promote the universities to a wider international audience and provide a new platform for academic discussion.

Top universities tune in to web TV

The programme, Crosstalks, has a chatshow type format, featuring studio guests and live link-ups with people all over the world via Skype.

Content is developed by an editorial team in Stockholm with the aim of stimulating academic discussions and attracting interest in both local and global issues. The response so far seem to suggest they are on the right track.

"So far the reaction has been very positive," says KTH project leader Annika Engström. "People have participated in discussions via social media with many followers, 'likes' and referrals. Many have followed the live broadcasts and taken part in discussions on the website.

"On the first programme we had people from at least 26 countries all over the world and we have new viewers and followers every day. The debates are meaningful and engaging," she adds.

The choice of platform and use of technology is completely in line with the ambitions of the production.

"This is the right media for the present and the future," says Engström. "Above all it is directed at the target group who want to see what interests them – it’s about quality before quantity. Why watch everything, when you can watch something that has been specifically created with your interests in mind, that arouses your curiosity and develops your talent?"

The first show, which premiered in late November, featured a guest line-up of researchers and professors including Johan Rockström, Åsa Moberg, Per Krusell and Pontus Braunerhjelm.

Filmmaker and photographer Mattias Klum joined via Skype, along with Josh Lerner, a professor at Harvard Business School and one of the world's foremost experts on venture capital financing.

"The guests are passionate about the subjects and share their expertise and research. Participants via Skype are just as engaged and want to join in on the discussions from their own perspective, other people’s research, the economy and more," says Engström.

"Talent attracts talent, as we know, and to inspire is important," says producer Tomas Axelsson. "We live in a time where technology, distribution and production are all there. Leading universities are a source of knowledge and exchange of ideas, but they are unfortunately lost in the media noise."

That guests can provide their perspective from anywhere in the world is testament to the global reach of the show. This is core to the project, because like the web itself, the kind of subjects they can, and do cover, range from local to global, with input from anywhere and at any time.

Web TV as a platform is hardly new, nor is the idea of reaching people all over the world. But any successful venture in this media space has to rely on a creative and educative content offering that is well targeted to the right audience. It is these issues that set the Crosstalks project apart, in an already crowded worldwide web.

"It is an innovative programme and website, where knowledge, curiosity innovation and entrepreneurship are key for talented people around the world, whatever stage their life or career may be at. Stockholm University, KTH, the city of Stockholm and Sweden form a fantastic meeting place for this kind of forum," adds Engström.

That it in turn, helps promote the idea of using technology as an academic platform. Another advantage is that it offers adaptability and plenty of different options for future programmes.

"Future topics include robotics, global health, particle and astrophysics. Viewers can already take part in discussions and help steer what will happen in future episodes of the show – they are just as important in this as the guests are," says Engström.

Above all, Engström stresses that it is an open forum, and the success of the show will largely come down to the audience. She urges people to participate by chatting with guests, joining online discussions, proposing ideas for future topics and forwarding their own ideas and research.

"We invite and encourage them to help create the programme and website," she says. "The audience plays a huge part."

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This article was produced by The Local and sponsored by Study in Sweden

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‘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.”


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.”