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EDUCATION

Joy in Malmö as city gets its first university

Twenty year after its foundation, Malmö Högskola is about to become a fully fledged university.

Joy in Malmö as city gets its first university
Malmö Högskola's dean, Kerstin Tham, could not be happier. Photo: Emil Langvad/TT

It’s already known as Malmö University in English, but that’s only because Sweden doesn’t have any serious restrictions on what schools can call themselves in other languages. 

In Swedish it’s another matter, and Malmö Högskolan has long fought to be recognized as a university. 

With the decision likely to double the research budget the college’s dean, Kerstin Tham, was jubilant upon learning of the government’s decision. 

“I don’t know how we are going to celebrate. We’ll do it in different ways. For now we’re just going to take it in and enjoy it,” she told news agency TT. 

As well as ensuring more resources, the switch to full university status will provide more freedom. It will also add more weight to degrees awarded to students in Sweden's third-largest city. 

With its 24,000 registered students, Malmö Högskola was by far the largest Swedish college not to enjoy the university status held by 14 institutions nationwide. 

Until now, the Skåne region’s only university was the venerable institution in neighbouring Lund. Stockholm, by contrast, has four universities and Gothenburg has two. 

“Making Malmö Högskola a university was one of the region’s highest priorities,” said regional authority chairman Henrik Fritzon. 

“It’s the crowning moment in the progression from an industrial city to a knowledge city,” he added. 

Once all the paperwork is out of the way, Malmö is expected to officially become a university on January 1st 2018.

 

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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