Shared challenges with other northern universities

15 March 2024

Over the last few weeks, the University Management and I have met and discussed several shared and pressing issues together with our colleagues at Luleå University of Technology and Mid Sweden University. Placed in the north of Sweden, we share both opportunities and challenges, and I feel confident that we have good opportunities to strengthen our collaboration.

One challenge we share in north Sweden is the very expansive transformation of society that will change the needs in both public and private sectors. The transformation also comes with a heightened need for new talents and skills as well as professional development. At the same time, the number of people in the north who can and want to acquire an education is in steady decline. Statistics also show that the students with the highest grades from upper-secondary school choose to take their higher education in the south of Sweden. This leads me to believe that these three universities must collaborate to a higher degree to retain young people in the north, as well as to attract more students from the southern parts of the country to our courses and study programmes.

Hans Adolfsson, Vice-Chancellor.

Photo: Mattias Pettersson

Talent acquisition and student attraction are two issues that have been discussed in the University Board. At their 2023 December meeting, the Board assigned me – as Vice-Chancellor – the task to investigate possibilities of intensifying our collaboration with northern universities regarding education offering and format.

Since all three universities offer courses and study programmes in partly the same domains, there should be good opportunities for collaborating more. Particularly since, as mentioned above, the population is reducing in the north, and that there is always a low incentive for higher education when unemployment is low. Instead of fighting for the same students regardless of where they come from, we should find new ways to collaborate on education. That would help us stabilise each university's chance to plan their operations better and provide space for using our strengths to offer specialised courses and programmes.

This is a far cry from simple. Neither is there an obvious solution. But I'm pleased that we've started discussing these matters. There have been some exciting and fruitful initial discussions on how we approach each other on certain educational issues.

In addition to education, we have other common challenges and opportunities to collaborate on. One example is how we talked about advancing the Arctic Five when we visited Luleå University of Technology. But also how both universities work with security issues as we geographically face a changed security situation in connection with both Sweden and Finland joining NATO. That is likely to influence changes to security policy in the Arctic.

During our visit to Mid Sweden University, we discussed how the two universities can better position ourselves in the EU and better utilise the opportunities offered by the North Sweden Office in Brussels. That was a fruitful discussion and a good example of how beneficial it can be to work more closely with one another.

I'm looking forward to continued good collaboration with our neighbouring universities. If we work proactively with shared challenges and opportunities, I'm convinced that we can use our individual strengths to make tomorrow even better.

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