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Broader recruitment a must for increased quality

Right now the Swedish Higher Education Authority is engaged in a thematic evaluation of the work being done by universities and colleges to broaden recruitment. One important result of this investigation will be the good examples universities are able to present. We can all learn from each other.

According to the Higher Education Act (1992:1434, 1 chap. 5 §), universities are to actively promote and broaden recruitment to their university. This is not merely a question of fairness and democracy, it is above all a matter of quality.

Research shows that universities have a big potential to recruit even more suitable students by broadening their recruitment. For example, surveys show that students with very good grades in upper secondary school from non-academic home backgrounds are far less likely to continue to higher education than students with less good grades from academic home environments. There is still a considerably large social distortion at KTH and we have a great deal to gain from evening out recruitment. The same applies to other underrepresented groups.

Our current development plan states that KTH should be perceived as open and welcoming to outstanding individuals, irrespective of gender, gender expression, ethnicity, religion, disabilities, sexuality or age. Furthermore, students and personnel at KTH ought to be representative of society in general with regard to factors such as gender, socio-economic background and ethnic origin. And we are far from that today. Not least when it comes to the proportion of female students and professors. But also the proportion of male administrative support personnel.

Broader recruitment is quite simply working to recruit individuals regardless of their background. If we success with such equalising efforts, KTH will better reflect the groups in our society. Bearing in mind the fact that there are numerous groups that are underrepresented at KTH, this can seem like an impossible task at first sight. Fortunately, the structural barriers are often generic. If we manage to remove one barrier, this will help several underrepresented groups.

If such broadened recruitment is to be successful we also need to broaden participation. This means that KTH must adapt its educational activities to also suit individuals from broader student groups. This can concern, for instance, accessibility for people with disabilities, scheduling during normal working hours and eliminating implicit, unspoken entry requirements. The latter can for example, be language requirements and structures for reports, things that students from academic backgrounds often get feedback on at home. The entry requirements needed for a course should quite simply have been part of earlier education. Plus teaching in different types of study techniques. Another important aspect is the need for role models.

If KTH were to reflect society in general, our students would find their role models, someone they can identify with. Even if you are the first person in your family to go to university, a wheelchair user, or non-binary. Very important.

Will we succeed? Definitely. The good examples we are already working with, the new lessons we learn from the thematic evaluation and the intensified work moving forward will pave the way for this. What’s more, the intensified work we are doing with gender equality, diversity and equal terms and conditions at KTH, is laying a good foundation for this.

The high quality at KTH will become even higher.