‘Swedes can be quite shy – be curious and ask questions’

'Swedes can be quite shy - be curious and ask questions'
This week we put Jönköping University in the spotlight, as President Anita Hansbo tells us about the school's intimate but international atmosphere and gives advice on how to get along with Swedes.


Describe your role at the university. What do you actually do? What is a typical day like?

As President I lead the university and act as its representative, internally and externally. A typical day I meet with faculty and staff or external partners and stakeholders to discuss strategies and development of current and future activities.

What makes Jönköping University unique? What are its defining characteristics? 

Jönköping University is a young professional-oriented university characterised by a high degree of internationalization, an entrepreneurial spirit and extensive collaboration with surrounding society. It is one of three Swedish private, non-profit institutions of higher education with the right to award doctorates.

In your opinion, what most distinguishes higher education in Sweden from other countries?

Swedish society has an informal and non-hierarchical structure and this is reflected in the Swedish university culture. Students are expected to participate actively in classes and make their voice heard. There is a high emphasis on the development of critical thinking and collaboration skills. Quite a lot of independent work and reading is required.

Sweden is ranked as one of the world’s top nations when it comes to innovation, and higher education supports this in education, research and collaboration.

The Swedish higher education system is highly ranked in international studies. For members of the European Union, there is no tuition fee.

What is the biggest debate/discussion currently taking place within higher education in Sweden?

Research ethics is something that have been discussed at length this autumn, primarily because of the so called Macchiarini case. This has spurred further discussions, similar to those in other countries, regarding the responsibilities of faculty and administration in university governance and the effects of increased international competition between higher education institutions. Perceived problems in Swedish primary and secondary education are also debated vigorously, as well as the effects on higher education.

How are universities' roles and relevance changing in a globalized, digital world? Why do they still matter when everyone can access so much knowledge in the palm of their hand from the time they can read (or watch)?

The digital development is affecting society profoundly, and the forms and methods to teach and learn are changing, both within and outside the university. However, what you can access on the internet is basically merely information. To acquire useful knowledge you have, among other things, to learn how to process information, draw conclusions and use what you know in order to achieve you goals. In many cases, this very hard to accomplish on your own.

Distance education will continue to grow, not the least in further education, but still I think that campus based university education will remain relevant in the future. To be part of a university community, interacting in real life with other students, faculty and working life professionals, gives a young person a rich and formative learning experience as well as good opportunities to build professional networks and make friends for a lifetime.

How 'international' is Jönköping compared to other universities in Sweden? Describe some concrete measures.

Swedish universities have recently been evaluated by the Swedish Foundation for International Cooperation in Research and Higher Education (STINT). Jönköping University was found to be one of the top universities and got 4 out of 5 stars.

Jönköping University has 10,000 students whereof 1,500 are international.We are currently expanding our international program portfolio at all schools, as well as offering preparatory foundation education for international students.

At JIBS, over 30 percent of the faculty is international and on some business 90 percent of our students study a semester abroad. Engineering students may even do their mandatory internship at a Swedish enterprise abroad, for example in South East Asia at Electrolux or Husqvarna Group.

Why are international students important to the Jönköping University community?

Even though Jönköping is a small city, we can offer a rich and diverse study experience in an international community of students and faculty from around 80 countries all over the world. This helps all our students to be well prepared to launch an international career.

The international students bring their experience and competence to the university community as well as to the local community at large. By using English as the language of instruction we also broaden our basis for the recruitment of faculty which is important to sustain the quality of research and education.

Any advice/tips on how international students on how to get acclimated quickly?

Jönköping Student Union has one of the best kick offs in the world according to the International Student Barometer and I highly recommend all students to take part. You will get to know other students and learn a lot from the student mentors or “faddrar” as we call them in Swedish. They are  students that are trained by the Student Union to take care of the new students. Swedes can be a little shy but are in general friendly so be curious and ask questions.

Describe one must see or must do thing for students studying at Jönköping – can be on or off campus. What should international students not miss?

Take some time to do weekend travel! Stockholm is very beautiful, only a few hours away by train, as are the capitals of Norway and Denmark.  For those of you who like the outdoors, Sweden has a lot to offer. The Swedish and Norwegian alps are worth a visit.  In Jönköping, don’t miss the sandy beach, just a short walk from campus in the very heart of the city. Enjoy a picnic, a stroll or a refreshing swim!