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Freedom worth its salt must be allowed to cost money

The national elections are just around the corner, and every day there are all kinds of political antics around different important issues. This needs looking at, that needs investing it. But so far I haven’t heard anyone mention universities, the academic world. So here’s my wish list in case anyone needs it.

It should be attractive to work in academia. The teachers are incredibly important and an asset worth investing in – there are no two ways about it – which is to say that they are absolutely vital if we want an internationally competitive university that attracts people with different backgrounds and areas of expertise.

So yet again I repeat, at the risk of sounding like a parrot, that the basic funding needs to increase. Any freedom worth its salt must be allowed to cost money. Pin money awarded to the high-profile areas will simply not suffice.

The infrastructures must be protected. The international infrastructure yes, but also the local infrastructure that makes it possible for our students to learn the craft.

Assignments from the government  often only span one or two years. As well as many of the calls, where time is short and the funding short-term. Advance notice is needed, and the courage to let research take time to generate useful, and perhaps revolutionary, results.

Research funding is of course a chapter in itself, especially the stress and pressure that many researchers feel in almost constantly having to apply for money and resources.

The funding system itself should also be more durable and sustainable, and stimulate greater collaboration between universities. Another aspect of that lies in allowing us to have differentiated assignments, where each academic body can do what it is best at, to the benefit of Sweden both nationally and globally.

Greater self-governance is a separate item on the wish list. Politicians seem sometimes to be living with a medieval notion of what a university actually is, and prefer to look back rather than forward.

My wish list could of course go on, but I’ll leave it there. The important thing is that Sweden’s largest public sector, the guarantor of Sweden’s welfare and an engine for social development comes to the attention of politicians – not just in passing, adorned in fine wording like the party manifestos, but as something that’s genuinely worth nurturing and allowing to grow.

Wishing you a wonderful, restful summer!