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EDUCATION

Swedish pupils in uni admissions letter blunder

Sweden's oldest university was left red-faced after it accidentally sent out thousands of acceptance letters to children as young as six following a slip-up at the printers.

Swedish pupils in uni admissions letter blunder
Are these Swedish children old enough for university? Photo: Lena Granefelt/imagebank.sweden.se

Swedish students can usually start university the year they turn 19. However, this week around 5,000 pupils aged between six and 14 unexpectedly received letters from Uppsala University declaring they had been accepted on to a degree course in teaching starting in the new year.

The formal letter had parents and children in Täby outside of Stockholm scratching their heads. But the head of education in the municipality quickly reassured families this was not an unusual scheme by the Swedish government to get more youngsters interested in the teaching vocation.

“Sure, our pupils in Täby are very talented and sure, there is a teacher shortage, but they should probably finish primary and secondary school first if they are to train as teachers,” Patrik Forshage told regional newspaper UNT after the story was shared on social media.

But the parents seemed unfazed by their children's admission to higher education.

“Siri, 7, is welcomed to the teaching course in Uppsala. To fill the seats they're apparently targeting the lower age brackets,” wrote one dad on Twitter.

The youngsters were supposed to have received letters welcoming them back to school after the Christmas holiday break. But gremlins at the printers responsible for producing both letters admitted the address list got mixed up with the prospective Uppsala students.

“This is of course nothing sent out by Uppsala University, but we have received quite a few calls about it,” Anna Hagborg, of the university's teaching faculty, told UNT.

“Some parents are concerned that it was a case of stolen identities, others saw it as a bit of fun and said things like 'Our daughter is just six years old, perhaps it's a bit too early to train to become a teacher?'” 

The hopeful prospective teachers are set to receive their acceptance letters for the spring semester on December 9th, along with the rest of Sweden's new batch of university students. It was not known on Wednesday what would actually appear in their letter boxes.

Sweden has previously been told by the OECD to invest in teacher training after a decade of slipping results in schools and fewer people applying for university teaching courses.

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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