Greetings from Almedalen

Eva Wiberg and Mattias Goksör in Almedalen 2019

The University of Gothenburg is in Almedalen to participate in many seminars, ours and others. As media has reported, there are fewer activities and seminars this year’s week, compared to the all-time high last year. But maybe that figure doesn´t tell us much, since this year is the third largest week in size since the start of Almedalen week 51 years ago.

For us, focus is on contributing with research, knowledge and content that can be the basis for political decisions or development in our society and the world. In the planning for our participation this week, we decided that our shared seminars would focus on some of the important issues that concern people today. Since we are a broad university, we also want to express that in the Västsvenska Arenan’s programme.

Pro-Vice-Chancellor Mattias Goksör’s and I had prepared some tactics for this week, and that was to visit a range of seminars to bring back different ideas and approaches to our work. Mattias has, for instance, visited a number of seminars covering the AI area. One of these seminars was held at Västsvenska Arenan, and can be seen on their Facebook page (in Swedish): Sweden should be best in the world to utilise AI, but how do we deal with AI ethics? During the seminar, AI was described as something that continuously are moving boundaries and pushing us forward. The seminars concerning AI has this year often pointed out the importance that directors and leaders have an understanding on how their organisations are affected by AI.

Many meetings, discussions and round table conversations are happening here in Almedalen, and it is a fantastic opportunity to listen actively to one another and to hear what others have to say. The Vice-Chancellors have a reoccurring occasion to meet at a Vice-Chancellor’s breakfast organised by UKÄ (Swedish Higher Education Authority) and SUHF (The Association of Swedish Higher Education Institutions). The big topic this year was the reports that are to be sent to the Government’s research bill, and this issue has been recurrent during many of the seminars that I have visited. We have noticed that the Government hasn’t taken the question of research infrastructure into enough consideration. Other important areas of the bill are the need for research about professional education and training, particularly for schools and prospect teachers. This was highlighted in the seminar (in Swedish) “Sweden as a Knowledge Nation – How do we strengthen the school system’s scientific foundation and the desirability to become a teacher” .

Today, University West organised the intriguing seminar “Can you say whatever you like within academia?”, where two of our employees participated as a moderator and a panellist: Ulf Dalnäs, Head of Department at HDK, and Marie Demker, Dean at the Faculty of Arts and a professor in Political Science. Martin Hellström, Vice-Chancellor at University West, and Erik J Olsson, Chair of Academic Rights Watch, also participated. The panel raised different threats and risks that the academic freedom stands before, such as how the Vice-Chancellors are appointed, and threats that affect researchers. Interesting, and maybe controversial, viewpoints were presented, and worth watching if you missed.

The Higher Education political debate in Almedalen mostly takes place at the SUHF seminars. Today, the most well-visited was a political debate about the question “Do the Swedish Higher Education need a large reorganisation?”, which was visited by our minister for higher education and research Matilda Ernkrans (S). She emphasised the need for both a short term, but also a long term, planning when it comes to the higher education institutions’ task to contribute with competence to the Swedish labour market.

Debate in Almedalen 2019

Many meetings remain in Almedalen, but after that it is time for a few weeks of recuperation. I therefore take the opportunity to wish you all a pleasant and relaxing summer leave!

Eva Wiberg