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Important interchange between education and research

It goes without saying that a university should offer education linked to research, as this can only strengthen the institution and help it to evolve. Our students have a right to knowledge that is up-to-date and relevant, and this can only be guaranteed if the education is closely linked to a scientific, research-based environment.

But the issue that’s generally neglected is what this research should be, and how the quality of research improves when there is a close link between it, education and students. Is it equally obvious that research should be linked to education, as it is that education should be linked to research? It’s never a bad thing to have young, questioning people around, but how does this bolster research, and how can the interchange between education and research be developed in a way that teachers, researchers and students need each other?

These matters were subjects for debate at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences last week, in which I participated, based on a recent report (in Swedish only) presented by the Academy. The report looks at how education and research can be closely integrated in further education in Sweden today – or rather, how this is currently not happening.

One suggestion in the report is that greater efforts in research should also be accompanied by efforts to develop the education environment. This is an interesting and innovative proposal, which would mean that research efforts should also work in favour of education, for example by linking the development of master’s programmes to research funding.

For a research-intensive university like KTH, this would be a positive development. It would mean that we have greater scope to create complete academic environments, and could also better benefit from the advantages that arise from expanded, successful research environments. One pivotal argument in linking education to research funding is that it is through education that we can most quickly ensure that the latest and most advanced research has an impact.

I look forward to continuing this discussion in other forums, and to have further opportunities to emphasise the importance of keeping research and education closely linked. In that context, it would of course be important to once again raise the issue of collective funding for research and education (as is the practice in many other countries, not least in the Nordics) so that the connection between research and education is emphasised also in the governance system. This is, after all, what makes us a university.