The new Swedish migration law drives research talent to other countries

20 September 2021

On 20 July, changes to Sweden's migration legislation were implemented. Among other things, the new rules mean that there will be greater requirements for everyone who applies for a permanent residence permit, and that the maintenance requirement for relatives has been tightened.

Hans Adolfsson, Vice-Chancellor

Photo: Malin Grönborg

I am concerned about how the perception of Sweden as an attractive country for research and education will be affected when the international research community becomes aware of the changes to the law. This type of tightened rules creates major challenges for Swedish universities and foreign academics from across the globe. The terms and conditions within academia are often based on fixed-term employment and project employment. What does this mean for a young doctoral student or postdoctoral researcher, who may have or is thinking of starting a family? Will Sweden and Umeå University actually be an attractive alternative?

The fact that people study and work all over the world contributes to important perspectives and in-depth knowledge development. For institutions of higher education, national and international mobility is an equally central and natural issue. When Swedish universities work to attract highly competent international talent, it takes place in a competitive global arena.

I am worried about the international students and researchers who are currently active in Sweden and who foresee a future here, but also because the university will find it more challenging to attract and retain research talent from other countries. The risk is that the university's skills supply will be negatively affected, which has consequences for research, education and the development of knowledge in society.

Umeå University is a member of the European EURAXESS network in Sweden, together with several other Swedish universities. Through this collaboration, efforts are now being made to clarify and provide support to managers and employees in dialogue with the Swedish Migration Board about what the change in the law means in practical terms. I have also commissioned the Human Resources Office here at the university to organise more detailed information about what applies to our international employees, because all this is naturally quite concerning for all of us.

The changes to the Sweden Aliens Act go in the opposite direction from what is stated as an intention in the government's research bill. In this proposition, there is a heightened focus on internationalisation in that the international activities at each university are a contribution to increasing the quality of the university's education and research.

I will ensure that Umeå University follows this matter closely, because I see a risk that the law will affect Swedish universities' international recruitment for education and research.

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