Almedalen – A Transition to Summer

This year’s Almedalen Week and the West Swedish Arena, co-hosted by the University of Gothenburg, have now started. This time, we have focused our seminars around the role of universities in society. I was unfortunately not able to make it to the University’s first seminar – Tvärvetenskap är framtiden, men hänger universiteten med?   (‘Interdisciplinarity is the future, but are the universities keeping up?). It was organised by Mistra Urban Futures and, luckily for me, it was filmed and is available online. The discussion was based on the sustainability goals in Agenda 2030 and on the Swedish Higher Education Authority’s evaluation from 2017 of how well Swedish higher education institutions provide education about sustainable development, which found that only one quarter of the evaluated universities covered this area well enough. Although our University was one of those that received a passing grade, I do realise that more can be done. During the seminar, Louise Jansson, coordinator of student participation in the University’s sustainability work, pointed out that Swedish universities could become more innovative and create structures for tighter links between education and practice. I agree completely with her point that students should not merely be seen as consumers of education but also as important actors in society and producers of knowledge.

The University management represented in Almedalen: Fredrika Lagergren Wahlin, Deputy Vice-Chancellor in charge of issues related to outreach activities, Eva Wiberg and Mattias Goksör. Photo by Johan Wingborg.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Olof Palme’s first Alemdalen address, given from the back of a lorry. 2018 is an election year in Sweden, which will most likely add some heat to the week in Visby. At least when it comes to the debates and speeches that will be held. Other than that, the weather has been a bit chilly, despite the abundant sunshine.

I have several expectations of this year’s Almedalen Week. I’m looking forward to hearing what other people have to say about the role of universities in society. I have never felt a greater need than now to actively participate in the public debate, where our research can contribute to new perspectives and solutions. And doing so is fully in line with one of our most fundamental tasks, namely to reach out to and collaborate with other actors for the benefit of society. The Almedalen Week is a great arena for reaching out with research communication.

I also expect many informal discussions and exciting meetings. Despite a rather intense seminar programme, I consider the week in Almedalen a refreshing break from the everyday work at home and an opportunity to get a healthy injection of thoughts and ideas in preparation for the autumn semester. For me, the week will be a nice transition from the intense daily routines and tight schedule at the University to my more relaxed summer calendar. What I mean is that the Almedalen Week offers an opportunity for reflection, unrestricted thinking and a few days of collecting various perspectives and ideas that will then be left to marinate during my days off later in the summer. Later on, after the summer, my thoughts from Almedalen will be used as fertiliser in my work with plans, directives and projects.

I plan to attend several of the University’s seminars. And I particularly look forward to the Swedish Research Council’s seminar Hur kan vi främja vetenskapens bidrag till samhällets utveckling?  (‘How can we promote the contribution of science to the development of society?’) and the Association of Swedish Higher Education’s ditto titled Var går gränsen för vad vi bör forska om? (‘What are the limits of what we should do research on?’). In addition, we will of course get to hear more about higher education policy and the Swedish government’s inquiry on the governance of and resource allocation to Swedish higher education within the framework of several seminars.

Today was the Moderates’ day in Almedalen and the West Swedish Arena opened its doors.

This is so much fun!

Eva Wiberg

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