Uppsala English school’s ‘tough love’ breaks law

The Swedish Schools Inspectorate has ruled that a "disciplinary contract" used by the International English School (IES) in Uppsala is in breach of the law, despite the school's attempt to defend its "tough love" culture.

Uppsala English school's 'tough love' breaks law

An official complaint against the school, which is mainly attended by children aged nine to 12, was submitted in November to the inspectorate by an unnamed relative of one of its pupils.

The complainant argued that pupils should not be disciplined for calling teachers by their first names, which is common practice elsewhere in Sweden. The letter also noted that girls at the school could be punished for having a bra strap showing.

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” target=”_blank”>Uppsala school defends its ‘tough love’ culture

School principal Mikael Östling said in response that many of the points in the official complaint were moot, as the children respected the disciplinary culture at the school and were rarely given detention.

“We think a distraction-free learning environment is more important than being able to show your underwear,” school principal Mikael Östling told The Local in April, as the school awaited the inspectorate’s verdict.

“We follow the Swedish school laws, but we also have an Anglo-American heritage, which we are proud of and enhances our profile,” he said at the time.

Students and their parents sign a comportment contract before the start of term, which has now been officially deemed unlawful by the Schools Inspectorate.

A similar complaint had been made against the IES school in Linköping, reported the TT news agency.

The IES network in Sweden has about 13,000 students. Its American-born founder Barbara Bergström penned the official reply to the state agency, in which she argued that the “tough love” ethos was good for the children and helped create a productive learning environment.

One of the parents whose children attend the Uppsala school said she thought using the term “tough love” might give people the wrong idea, as she found that her children thrived in their new school and said the teachers were kind.

“The school contract has some silly little things like no ‘häng’ (lowslung trousers), no chewing gum, and no visible bra straps, but I’d rather have a school with no häng than one where everything is allowed,” the mother-of-two told The Local last month.

Ann Törnkvist

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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.”