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EDUCATION

Swedish school told to scrap compulsory uniform

A Swedish school has been told to ditch its uniform after the Swedish Schools Inspectorate (Skolinspektionen) concluded that the policy was in breach of the law.

Swedish school told to scrap compulsory uniform
File photo of students in school uniform; not the school or the uniform referred to in the article. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg / SCANPIX

In the decision published on Monday, the Schools Inspectorate said that the Nordic International School in Norrköping “is not following constitutional requirements regarding the contents of its rules” and that students' clothes “should be seen as an individual expression and determined by the students themselves”.

It went on to say that school rules should only include clothing regulations in exceptional circumstances, for example if they were necessary “for reasons of order and security”.

The Inspectorate emphasized “that it is not usually against regulations to provide students with uniform clothing free of charge. (…) The failure in the case in question is that there is a school rule about uniform clothing and that the school applies disciplinary action if a student violates the clothing code”.

According to information on the Nordic International School's website, uniforms are provided to students for free, and help to “strengthen the international atmosphere of our schools, create a fellowship culture among the students, build a high ambition-focused culture at school”.

Students at the school sign a contract with the headteacher before they enrol, which includes agreeing to school rules including the uniform policy. If they are found to break any of these rules, they could face disciplinary action including warnings and being put in isolation.

However, in a written statement provided to the Schools Inspectorate, the headteacher said this had not yet happened in practice and that no parents or students had complained about the policy.

The agency decided to carry out a review at the school in September, after receiving one report relating to its uniform policy. The controversy was also reported by Swedish media, including the Expressen tabloid and public broadcaster SVT.

It was the first time that the agency has carried out an inspection of a school relating to a uniform policy, and it has ordered the school to take action to change its rules around uniform.

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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