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Intensify and diversify

The question of the diversification of Sweden’s universities is always on the agenda, not least for KTH, even though talk of this has been far too quiet in recent years. The idea that Sweden’s level of know-how and competitiveness would increase if we were to have a university on every corner is erroneous thinking.

Not least the experience of digital teaching over the past few months has shown that proximity to higher education is not simply physical. With online courses, it is even clearer that if you live in the back of beyond, you do not need a local university to be able to study or be attracted to studying.

You can go to KTH instead. If you were to choose to do a foundation year in technology  for instance, there can be a mix between  online courses and  campus meetings. Plus, many people would rather not embark on higher education where they live, perhaps preferring to relocate in line with the trend for increasing urbanisation and to gain a degree from a university with an excellent national and international reputation.

The larger universities ought to be allowed to further develop their specialist expertise instead and continue to hone their lead, even in the case of research (link Dagens Nyheter Debate). Digitalisation and online education will radically change the university landscape over the next few years. Maybe, it would be better to concentrate expertise in fewer hands, but have more regional and local campuses? That Campus Gotland gained a real boost when it became a branch campus of Uppsala University, is both a good and a telling example.

A university also needs a certain volume to attain an adequate critical mass that in turn, is necessary to drive and develop education and research of high quality. Having said that, all Swedish universities need to think about their profile and strengths, or their offer, to continue to be attractive. For why study online at a Swedish university when the world is your oyster when it comes to online learning?

The experience I gained from my six years as President of the University of Skövde has been very beneficial for me. It has broadened my perspective and my “Stockholm bubble” view of universities and colleges has become far more balanced. Educated people are needed throughout Sweden, but it is not as simple as thinking that having a local university or university campus in a location is all it takes to persuade more people to want to live there. There are far more parameters that determine where and how people choose to live their lives.