Students are a reflection of their time

At the conference Current Priorities and Future Challenges: Higher Education in the Nordic Region, organised by the Swedish Higher Education Authority, the discussion covered subjects such as digitisation, quality and gender equality linked to higher education. Student representatives from the Nordic countries gave their views on what higher education needs and what it is lacking.

It was inspiring and thought-provoking and was also to a certain degree recognisable to anyone who has ever been a student.

In Sweden today, 400,000 people are studying and 40 years ago, that number was around 10,000. The fact that increasing numbers of people are gaining access to higher level studies is naturally positive. But a recurring view was that both resources and status in education have been undermined, and that expectations are not matched with the relevant resources or tools.

Doing something about this is a matter of urgency.

The student panel painted a fairly gloomy picture of reality, where today’s students are rushing through their respective courses and study programmes with the aim of adapting to the demands of the labour market, and are viewed more as products.

There is a lack of resources for both the programmes themselves and for students in terms of lower purchasing power for those living on student loans. Several panel members thought that all the fine words about education being inclusive, sustainable and available to all were insufficient if they lack substance in the daily life of the various campuses.

Some of them saw a risk in quantity becoming more important than quality.

Many exciting and thought-provoking views were presented. It’s clear, however, that each generation has its own particular challenges while having similar experiences.

Having a lack of money as a student, needing to work alongside your studies so that you have enough money to last the month – these problems seem to be timeless and something that every generation can recognise.

A higher pace in the form of the wealth of platforms available to offer information and knowledge is in itself a stress factor. This is something that people such as I, a student 40 years ago, do not recognise. At the same time, some people are saying that Swedish students take too long to complete their higher education (https://www.svensktnaringsliv.se/fragor/ett-utmanat-sverige/langliggare-pa-hogskolan-ett-vaxande-problem_713201.html in Swedish). A lot can be said about this.

However, I get many reports from international colleagues that students from KTH Royal Institute of Technology who travel out into the world for degree projects, for example, are highly appreciated. This is because they have greater knowledge and are better at independent projects compared to students who admittedly are younger but have not managed to acquire as much expertise.

Several of those on the panel saw how digitisation can change, and is already changing, how learning manifests and takes place. But many of them pointed out the importance for universities of developing learning in the digital learning environment. It’s not simply a matter of replacing paper with a mobile phone or tablet. The fact that face-to-face, whole-group lectures can be replaced by online lectures seemed to be embraced by many panellists, but on the other hand these can never fully replace meetings with a teacher.

Exchanging ideas, receiving encouragement, being challenged and deepening your knowledge in a meeting with a teacher is, and most likely always will be, crucial to knowledge acquisition. Perhaps we can draw inspiration from the English tutor system, where the pedagogical method varies but the teaching is based on recurring face-to-face meetings.

The challenge here is that, with 400,000 students in the Swedish system, more time is required for learning and teachers. More money for courses and study programmes, in simple terms.

Research has witnessed an increase in resources over the past ten years. It’s now time to do the same with education.

An increase in basic grants is required; competitive research funding is welcomed but it does not fund the crucial meetings between students and teachers. Because today’s students are tomorrow’s researchers, today’s researchers are ensuring that the students are receiving what is currently the most relevant knowledge, laying the foundations for competitive and innovative research tomorrow.

Soon it will be time to hit the hammock, and I hope everyone has a really pleasant summer! It’s a time for relaxation, but for many people, particularly teachers and researchers, it’s also a time of conferences and planning for the next semester. The university doesn’t shut just because the semester is over!

 

 

Lifelong learning requires resources and commitment

Now, during the last few intense days of the semester, it seems like a good time to think for a while about the concept of learning. Learning takes place every day throughout life, on a major and minor scale. Being a university, we have learning at the centre of our activities: learning through research and learning among our students. The knowledge produced by KTH Royal Institute of Technology is turned into something beneficial through close dialogue and cooperation. More often than not, KTH learns from society and vice versa, and that’s how it should be.

In recent years, lifelong learning has re-emerged as a key issue in Sweden and most likely throughout the rest of the world. Rapid social development involving new technological solutions requires new knowledge and expertise. Sweden can delight in the fact that it has a generally well-educated population, but knowledge is not a finite thing, so none of us should become complacent and think: “I now know everything there is to know.”

Last Monday I took part in a lunch seminar organised by the Swedish Entrepreneurship Forum and the Swedish Confederation of Professional Employees (TCO) on the theme of lifelong learning (click here for the TCO blog in Swedish). Universities and institutes of higher education are responsible for providing education based on scientific principles and best practice. To do this, we receive direct government funding for first and second cycle education; our main task is to use these resources to provide such education to those who have not received it. This means educating engineers, nurses, economists, students of literature and so on.

This funding has been undermined for several years. At the same time, a productivity deduction applies to all government agencies, universities and institutes of higher education, which in short means that the organisation’s productivity must be boosted by improving efficiency. In practice, this means that students have to work faster and researchers have to produce research more quickly. An impossible equation.

Where KTH is concerned, this has meant that it has gradually become increasingly taxing to maintain the crucial practical part: the infrastructure, which is absolutely necessary for the engineering profession. That’s why it is most unfortunate if the Swedish Government and Parliament think that our mandate can be expanded to include an increasing number of tasks for the same sum of money. This also seems to be the thinking when it comes to lifelong learning.

KTH is happy to take responsibility for lifelong learning; we believe that the step involved in becoming proficient in all aspects of digitisation, AI and more is smaller for engineers who have already been educated. Such engineers are not required to take a further MSc programme in engineering. But their knowledge does need topping up. Who is responsible for making this happen? Resources will be required, but so will commitment and energy!

The responsibility is shared by many parties, including the politicians who decide on the resources that should be allocated to universities and institutes of higher education to enable us to take part in lifelong learning. But resources are also needed among employers: resources in the form of time and money to be used for developing the skills of their employees. Each individual also needs to constantly review their skills and spend time and energy on replenishing them. This is a complex puzzle that we need to work out together.

Learning methods and techniques are being developed all the time. Flexible solutions that provide many people with access to education and the opportunity to better themselves are positive, but at the end of the day, there needs to be scope in daily life for the individual to top up their knowledge through lifelong learning. Regardless of the structures we build.

Teachers who reach out

Many people have had one or more teachers who they will never forget: someone who perhaps saw their potential, awakened their thirst for knowledge and opened the door to a new world – at any level of education whatsoever.

This is why it is so deeply worrying that far too few people want to become teachers today when there is such a great need for them – particularly in the natural sciences, which lay the foundations for anyone eventually wanting to apply to KTH Royal Institute of Technology.

This information comes from the Swedish Higher Education Authority’s annual report, (in Swedish) a 222-page document which provides an outline in figures of daily life at university as well as the changes that have taken place over time, including the numbers of applications made for this understaffed profession.

The role of the teacher at university level is naturally highly significant too, and the art of providing educational stimulation to students to enable smart intellectual achievements and critical thinking is a skill to be proud of.

There is a tendency at research universities – which particularly applies to KTH – for research to be more highly valued than teaching. But as I have mentioned previously, I think that researchers at KTH should work as teachers too, and vice versa. A mix of diving deeper into your research and sharing your knowledge in an accessible way is both educational and stimulating for all parties concerned. Encountering inquiring minds that question things and challenge you to explain complicated phenomena in a new way is a fun aspect of being a teacher.

But the skills required for teaching – just like those needed for many other areas – need to be updated continuously and kept alive in order to remain relevant. This is especially true considering how our entire learning environment is being digitised and the platforms used for teaching are constantly being developed and changed, such as courses and seminars available online as MOOCs. Lifelong learning applies especially to teachers at universities.

Remaining at the forefront and developing new methods for learning helps to ensure that the quality of courses and study programmes remains high. There are many committed teachers at KTH who are constantly developing the courses and programmes to ensure that they are relevant and useful.

The fact that fewer students graduated from Swedish universities last year, and that there are still too few who take the opportunity to study abroad during their programme – these are just a couple of the phenomena emerging from all the statistics that reflect the situation Swedish universities currently find themselves in.

It is clear from the figures in the report that having a university education pays when you want to enter the labour market – particularly for those with a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in engineering. At the same time, the figures show that it takes a long time to graduate from an engineering programme. Studying on a full-time basis and being committed to your studies increases the likelihood of graduating within the allotted time. Even if it’s tempting to start working before you graduate, the ability to complete what you’ve started is also something that will help you in your career.

The fact that more women continue their studies after upper-secondary school and perform better than men is another current trend that applies in most OECD countries. Among recent graduates, 64 percent were women and 36 percent men, for example.

This provides food for thought for KTH. Gender equality is, as I say, a quality issue.

High grade in internationalisation

“I did it! I got my degree!” It’s always as delightful to see the happy and justifiably proud faces of new graduates at their degree ceremony at the Stockholm City Hall. It’s also really good to know that our students are ready for the increasingly globalised labour market. In a borderless knowledge society, internationalisation is an opportunity and a must for a country such as Sweden.

It’s pleasing to see that working consciously, strategically and with a long-term approach to internationalisation issues (just as KTH Royal Institute of Technology is doing) generates good results. Recently this could be seen in STINT’s (the Swedish Foundation for International Cooperation in Research and Higher Education’s) survey of the work of 28 Swedish universities on internationalisation. Along with Chalmers University of Technology and Stockholm School of Economics, KTH once again received top marks: that is, five stars in STINT’s internationalisation index.

You can generate an index by looking at research, students, research students, courses and study programmes, faculty and leadership in terms of internationalisation. International co-publications and the international academic background of staff are two of six key elements that were surveyed, with KTH being among the foremost universities in these areas.

By October 31, the final report of the Internationalisation Commission appointed by the Swedish Government will be published. I blogged about the interim report.

We will then have official guidelines regarding how the collective work is to be structured.

Where KTH is concerned, we welcome an overall approach and new ways of thinking in this area. To further highlight the issue, share different aspects of it and exchange ideas, we are organising an Internationalisation Seminar (and one on the theme of the digitisation of higher education) at Almedalen this summer, asking: “Do Swedish universities dare to step out into the world, and are they permitted and able to do so?”

I hope that opinions will be challenged, truths questioned and new ideas will lead the way on our panel, in which several interesting and well-informed individuals will be participating. I particularly hope for a discussion on issues that currently make it more difficult for Swedish universities and institutes of higher education to be global actors.

Where KTH is concerned, internationalisation is constantly in focus and, as mentioned in an earlier blog post, it is one of our three pillars.

As the poet John Donne wrote, “No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main…” I would argue that just over 400 years later, the same thing applies: no researcher or university for that matter – or even nation – is complete in itself, but rather a part of the whole.

Cooperation, exchanges and skills transfer are crucial to creating a healthy academic sphere that makes a positive contribution to social development.

Research that reaches out

Is it possible to talk to a 12-year-old about your research without compromising on seriousness and scientific validity, and without being scared of doing so?

Yes, I think you can and I hope you can. Otherwise, that is something we need to practise. In any case, I think it is important to aim to make yourself understood, and in that way make your research accessible to more people than just those who are like-minded.

Research communication is a crucial part of our mission to collaborate with society around us. It not only justifies our existence since we are funded by tax money and are therefore obliged to show a broader, tax-paying public what we do with the money; it also gives us a voice in the debate and highlights the role that the research being carried out at KTH Royal Institute of Technology plays in terms of social development. Regardless of the form it takes, communication boosts our results – in terms of both reaching out to society and providing benefit.

This report from the Swedish Research Council, which presents the views of some researchers regarding research communication and open science, makes for interesting reading: link

It makes it clear that one of the reasons researchers choose not to prioritise the process of communicating about their research is the lack of time available, and a second, perhaps more decisive reason is the lack of a reward system for anyone choosing to talk about their research and make it accessible to a wider audience in this way. This means that this kind of communication is not regarded as worthy of merit – but that said, it is increasingly sought after during the process of applying for grants.

The point that research communication has been considered to do little for the researcher’s academic merit rating has also been made repeatedly in several different studies over the past 15 years. Since both resources and commitment are required to carry out research communication, and because time is limited, people tend to prioritise the research they are doing for obvious reasons. This is the case despite the fact that everyone at the same time is aware of the significance of the communication – particularly from a democratic point of view.

Another interesting matter highlighted in the above report is the will not only to talk about the results of research, but also the role of research in a broader perspective as well as the whats, the whys and the hows.

Communication is worthy of merit, and more researchers should view the process of sharing their findings as a natural and integral part of their research. Many research funding bodies make communication a specific part of each project. This is especially true in the case of major research programmes. So it cannot be avoided.

When a researcher engages in communication, it is important for them to maintain a balance and present both sides of an argument. As researchers, we all know that there is always another side to the results of our research. A researcher will gain credibility if they themselves discuss this side as well.

KTH benefits overall from the research we conduct being made visible. Raising the profile of our research leads to greater awareness of KTH and boosts the attractiveness of the university as an educational, research and collaborative centre of learning.

 

Foundation year programme paves the way to KTH

A motion has finally been presented regarding higher education access programmes  (http://www.regeringen.se/remisser/2018/05/remiss-av-promemorian_behorighetsgivande-hogskoleintroducerande-utbildningar/ in Swedish. Where KTH Royal Institute of Technology is concerned, it is primarily courses known as foundation year programmes that are of interest and that we are working hard to retain.

For many years we have offered such preparatory programmes aimed at students lacking special admission requirements or who wish to repeat chemistry, physics and mathematics prior to embarking on an engineering programme. I have already previously discussed this form of education  that we deem important. The memorandum now being circulated also presents the opportunity of combining courses that offer access to higher education with courses that meet general and special admission requirements.

The fact that the opportunity to offer foundation year programmes is here to stay is excellent news. It gives individuals the chance to choose – not only young people coming straight from upper-secondary education, but also those wishing to change their specialisation later in life.

According to the motion being circulated, students will not apply for and commit themselves to a subsequent programme, but will have a place that is guaranteed for two years. This gives universities greater flexibility in terms of planning. There is an associated risk that KTH will lose foundation year students who were previously bound more closely to KTH. But the situation is similar to that at other universities, where they have seen that foundation year (foundation semester) students apply elsewhere instead.

In KTH’s earlier motion responses in which the issue has been addressed, we referred to the fact that this may mean that students make more discerning choices when they have completed their year and know more about what they are getting into and wish to apply for. During their foundation year programme, students have the chance to see that there are many different engineering programmes at KTH, which is perhaps less obvious before spending some time here.

The question KTH needs to consider is whether we should also arrange courses that enable students to meet general admission requirements. This may apply, for example, to courses in Swedish and English that train students in academic literacy skills. For some students, it is a lack of linguistic knowledge in particular that causes difficulties at the start of a programme. So being able to focus on Swedish and English prior to demanding engineering and architectural studies is not a bad idea. The same may apply to students on Master’s programmes, with them needing to become more proficient in English.

Those on the new programme are afforded student status, which is good. At the same time, this may entail greater costs for certain universities. As far as I can see, no new funding will be provided in support of the now expanded possibility of providing preparatory programmes and foundation year programmes. This means that KTH needs to carefully analyse the proportion of such programmes in relation to our regular programmes.

It is initially difficult to see that the motion is in line with lifelong learning. I think mainly younger people who have been away for a few years after completing upper-secondary education will take advantage of the opportunity to refresh their knowledge. But this is lifelong learning too!

A clear benefit is KTH’s ability to work to an even greater extent on widening recruitment and participation by now being able to provide a foundation year programme (or foundation semester) along with courses that enable students to meet general admission requirements, even for groups that are perhaps afraid to choose a prestigious education at KTH. When approached wisely, a course, semester or foundation year can give a student a taste for studying and the courage to submit an application, even if neither of their parents is an engineer, architect or graduate.

KTH gains broader opportunities to show how exciting and rewarding an education in engineering or architecture can be. Also, in KTH’s experience, students who have completed a foundation year programme are more motivated and have better study habits, which leads to greater success in terms of finishing their studies within the time limit. And this is essentially good for everyone!

 

 

The importance of inspiring role models

Being an international university means maintaining good relationships with other universities around the world. Last week, the Deputy President, the University Director, heads of schools, KTH Senior Advisor International Strategies and I visited Munich.

The purpose of the visit was to strengthen our relationship with the Technical University of Munich (TUM). A lot of collaboration with TUM is already underway in many areas of research, and around 10 students from KTH Royal Institute of Technology go there on short or slightly longer exchanges every year. KTH also hosts several students from TUM.

Global relations involve maintaining close contact and cooperation with our peers, but also being a role model for universities that want to improve as well as interacting more with international universities that serve as role models for KTH.

Today KTH has five international partner universities, and we are currently in discussion with Queen Mary University of London about the possibility of it becoming a sixth such partner to us.

There are numerous European universities in networks such as CESAER  and CLUSTER , so we already have many collaboration contacts in Europe.

But TUM is of particular interest for a number of reasons, not least because it is ranked No. 1 in Germany. TUM has a faculty of medicine that contributes to the university’s high position in international ranking lists.

Otherwise, TUM and KTH are similar in terms of their respective technology domains. But there are also differences, as Germany’s federal states have an independent role and they also strongly support their universities. Our impression is that TUM is a relatively rich university. This is apparent in the way professors are recruited there and then granted access to numerous associated services and laboratories when they take up their positions. That’s hard for KTH to match.

The systematic work being done to ensure worldwide visibility is very interesting. TUM has offices in every part of the world, which are usually staffed by locals. To them, being represented in Brussels is a given. These offices around the world are mainly used to recruit students, but also to help establish research contacts.

TUM has a fully-developed international campus in Singapore .TUM is present there as an independent company, because just as in Sweden, state funding cannot be used outside the home country’s borders. But via this company structure, TUM provides both first cycle and second cycle courses and study programmes. In Singapore, the organisation is funded by tuition fees and by German companies located there.

The students come primarily from Asia, and companies tend to provide resources because of their need for educated staff. The TUM company was established 15 years ago and our impression is that it is doing well. TUM in Singapore is located in the same building as MIT and other international centres of learning. Having a company that operates as an international campus is an interesting set-up, but is not something that Swedish universities like ours are allowed to do – at least not yet. Over the years, various initiatives have been taken at KTH that could be likened to having a campus outside Sweden.

Establishing outposts abroad can be risky and must, of course, provide the university with clear added value. The basic principle that state funding must remain in Sweden is self-evident. And if a different setup is to work at all, it is important that it can be financed locally on-site – where the campus is located.

We also visited TUM’s innovation unit, the Entrepreneurship Center, which is located just outside Munich, in Garching. An impressively large area is set aside there for MakerSpace, where all manner of workshop equipment is available. KTH also has many such workshops. The inspiring thing was discovering that companies (both large and small) can become members by paying a fee, which gives them access to all the equipment. This secures funding for the activities, which of course benefits TUM as a university.

And, as the icing on the cake, KTH organised an alumni event one evening. The Munich Alumni Chapter is celebrating its fifth anniversary this spring. There are approximately 380 KTH alumni in the Munich area, which makes them the largest such group in Germany. It was enjoyable to meet former students who all really value the education they received at KTH. This time, we also invited KTH students who are currently participating in exchange programmes in Munich, as well as German exchange students. This proved to be very popular.

It reminded me of how important our alumni are as ambassadors for KTH. The focused efforts made over the past few years to build this up are beginning to pay dividends. One of the alumni mentioned to me that we are fairly unique in working with this concept in the Nordics, but that universities in our neighbouring countries are starting to turn to KTH to learn more about it.

It is always appreciated if you inform the KTH Alumni Office when you travel abroad to conferences or on exchanges of various kinds. You are always more than welcome to hold a lecture for one of the 20+ alumni associations around the world, for example. Most of these associations hold around 4-6 meetings a year, and a visit by a “KTH-er” is always appreciated.

 

 

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The elusive time

The pace of the academic world is fascinating – and paradoxical. Initially, time is short and the margins are small. But later on, processes really seem drawn out.

Take applications for direct government funding, for example… Having been awarded a grant, a researcher then has to get a research group together as soon as possible. Meanwhile, the recruitment process – which is meant to be quality-based and legally-compliant – takes time.

In order to make the best use of research funding, matters should really be handled swiftly – but the rest of our set-up can’t always keep up. Conflicts of interest and recruitments that take time pose a significant problem – not least from an international perspective.

Another example of the contradictory nature of the pace at which things happen is that it may take years of study, laboratory experimentation and hard work with little outcome for results to suddenly start pouring in.

Besides this, once direct government funding has finally been secured and it feels possible to get down to focusing on the actual work, it’s already high time to skim through the latest published material and make fresh applications.

This is a situation that most researchers learn to live with – but that does not make it ideal, since it can also be the source of stress.

A researcher might have been working methodically and purposefully in their room for years, when suddenly – owing to sheer coincidence, current trends or a particular breakthrough – their research is highlighted in the media and the work suddenly has to be summarised and reduced to fit the required format: just a few minutes in the limelight.

In the case of certain particular research initiatives, such as those relating to AI (artificial intelligence), a research domain may suddenly pop up and develop within a very short period, while others require a long time to mature.

Gender equality and sustainable development are two of the areas that are prioritised at KTH. Diligence and conscious effort are both required here, as well as systematic work over time. Then suddenly, the results become discernible or perhaps even clearly apparent; not only in terms of there being more female applicants at various levels or because KTH has established an Equality Office; but also in terms of the top marks awarded last autumn during the Swedish Higher Education Authority’s (UKÄ’s) review of the integration of sustainable development in higher education.

Reorganisations are another case in point; it can take time to analyse and investigate the present situation. It can be a comprehensive process that tests one’s patience: tedious in parts and uncertain in others. Then all of a sudden, a new organisation is in place offering a totally new perspective. I hope that after KTH’s organisational change – involving a shift from 10 schools to five since January 1 this year – things have begun to settle down, and that more efficiency and uniformity might already noticeable.

Teachers and students working on a project that has been hard to get going… A rapidly approaching deadline… Everything seems hopeless. And yet the project – whether it involves a poster exhibition or the construction of a fuel-efficient racing car – will be completed on time.

At KTH, patience co-exists with both speed and temperament, and it’s a great melting pot of tradition and innovation. The scope of it: what could be more compelling?

European networks in joint appeal

At the end of last week, I took part in the CLUSTER network’s meeting. CLUSTER stands for Consortium Linking Universities of Science and Technology for Education and Research and is a network of 13 technical universities in Europe that KTH Royal Institute of Technology has been part of since the start.

Over the years, a number of different projects have been carried out within the network. At present, for example, KTH is coordinating a project that aims to map existing courses in entrepreneurship and offer a Master’s programme with this specialisation. Seven of the 13 members of the network are included in this particular project.

The focus of the network is courses and study programmes, the goal being to offer students attractive exchanges between the best institutes of technology in Europe, along with dual degree partnerships at second- and third-cycle level, joint funding applications for courses and study programmes, exchanges for benchmarking purposes and approaches to policy issues at EU level.

An example of such policy work is: the CLUSTER network which, along with 12 university networks, is supporting an appeal concerning the next Framework Programme, FP9. The appeal is about the European Commission and European Parliament doubling the budget for research, innovation and education.

The arguments are based on this being the only way for Europe to take the lead in higher education, research and innovation. The CESAER network, Conference of European Schools for Advanced Engineering Education and Research,  of which KTH is a member and I am Vice President of the Board, is behind the appeal. CESAER has a significantly greater number of members and is also more of a lobbying initiative, while CLUSTER has a clear educational focus.

European University is a new initiative that is due to become part of Erasmus+. The idea is for it to provide a greater incentive for groups of European universities to work closely together. It is fundamentally about the same thing as many other EU initiatives: in other words, the idea is to make Europe more attractive and elevate its status in higher education and research. The European University Initiative has a vision that this programme can help bring EU Member States even closer together, which is particularly important in these times of Brexit and other forms of discord between member states. The discussion within CLUSTER was about how this instrument will be designed and which benefits it may offer. CLUSTER found that many things were unclear, but it is well worth looking at in more detail.

In order to truly empower the European networks in which KTH is involved, it is essential that KTH’s teachers/researchers contribute in various ways. KTH has a strong position in Europe, with many parties wishing to work with us. International university collaboration helps ensure high quality in education and research.

 

Freedom of thought

Since the start of the year, KTH Royal Institute of Technology has had five schools instead of 10, a reorganisation that has helped to establish a new and more efficient organisational structure. Visiting these schools and being presented with a whole smorgasbord of exciting and relevant research that is contributing to the development of society is amazing – and very educational.

The most recent in a series of visits was to the School of Engineering Sciences in Chemistry, Biotechnology and Health. Finding out about the latest innovations in the helmet development arena, and everything from how to prevent load injuries by using sensors in clothing, to the protein atlas, foundation year programmes and the use of centrifuges for understanding the effect of g-force on people is fantastic. This once again shows how unbeatable the combination of commitment, scientific knowledge and curiosity is in the creation of solutions for future working life and the development of society in general. Our students, researchers and other staff all make every effort to ensure that KTH remains a centre of learning for our times.

It is therefore extremely negative that a matter involving one student’s actions in class has assumed huge, black-and-white proportions in certain circles – a matter that has in fact already been investigated and closed, having been addressed in accordance with standard procedures and guidelines.

As President, I cannot simply let this go unmentioned in order to avoid meaningless controversy. It is utterly nonsensical to suggest that KTH has suppressed the right to freedom of expression, as has been claimed in some social media channels. Freedom of thought and the right to freedom of expression form the very basis of our reason for being.

Even though only a small group of people seem to be encouraging and strengthening each other’s skewed opinions, I would like to quote from KTH’s ethical policy:

“KTH’s core values are based on democracy, the equal value of human beings, human rights and freedom, and a right to free speech and open discussion. Equality between men and women and the dissociation of all forms of discrimination are both a quality issue and an integral part of KTH’s core values. Equality and diversity among employees and students also constitute important resources for KTH.

KTH’s activities are based on the conviction that courses and study programmes, as well as research, can and should contribute to better living conditions and to ecologically, socially and economically sustainable social development. As a university of technology, KTH has a particular responsibility for developing and sharing the knowledge needed to promote such sustainable development. KTH’s activities should be conducted in such a way that enables its resources to be used efficiently, without compromising on quality and service.

The achievement of scientific progress is based on openness and cooperation. KTH actively strives to bring about the dissemination of knowledge, free exchange of information and national as well as international cooperation.”

This might just sound like a string of nice words. But do read them aloud, really get a feel for them and see what meaning they have for you.

For an academic institution that operates within a democracy, this approach might all seem like a given and may appear straightforward, but it should be highlighted and defended every single day.

KTH is helping to build the society of the future.