On the third advent, the Santa workshop for blog posts was struck with illness, but here on the fourth advent we have some final wishes in order to improve the working environment for all students.
First of all, we wish everyone a happy Christmas, whether or not they celebrate it. Unfortunately, we know that many students are going to find it hard to relax during the coming weeks.
In two recent surveys, “Studentspegeln” and “Doktorandspegeln”, students and doctoral students were asked about how the pandemic had affected their mental health – and in particular if they had experienced an increase or decrease in their stress levels. Among the students, 71% answered that they had experienced an increase in their stress levels. Among the doctoral students, 60% answered the same. These numbers are worrisome in themself, but combined with the fact that many were already stressed before the pandemic it’s an even more urgent matter to present and secure the students wellbeing and health. We need to improve the conditions for higher education.
And while we would wish to believe all students and doctoral students get the break they so desperately need we know that this will not be the case as many students will use the coming weeks for studying for their exams in January and many doctoral students will feel pressured to catch up for lost time in the laboratory or similar and not take the vacation they are entitled to.
About the student situation
The corona pandemic has only made clearer what was already clear before – that too many students do not feel very well. While it is necessary to look at what can be done to change this, we also need to act now and provide the students the help they need.
The quality and the availability of Student health care (Swedish: studenthälsan) varies from university to university. We believe that it’s important that the student knows what kind of help they may expect and that they get an appointment within reasonable time. For many students this is not the current situation.
This is why we would like to add the following two wishes to our wishlist this year.
- A more cohesive national coordination of student health care, in order to make sure that every student has access to effective student health care
- A digital transformation of student health care
About the doctoral student situation
From the same UKÄ report we know that at 1 out of 2 universities doctoral students on scholarships are covered by neither the Studenthälsan nor occupational health. The solution is simple – we have said it before and we will say it again – employ all doctoral students from the first day. As we know from another UKÄ report we have not seen the increase in cost of the doctoral education everyone seemed to expect to happen – while the cost of research has increased over the last 20 years the cost of doctoral education has stagnated.
But employing doctoral students is in itself not enough. In the spirit of Christmas we recommend that the universities intensifies their work with ensuring that “arbetstids- och semesterlagen” is followed – also when it comes to doctoral students.
Therefore this Christmas we wish that
- all supervisors and managers are educated about their responsibilities on this topic and that they will lead by example – and take care of themselves as well – please remember also to take vacation yourself!
- All new(ly employed) doctoral students are offered an introduction to their rights and plights – such that for Christmas they take a well deserved break.
Merry Christmas to all
To the doctoral students who are affected by the new Aliens Act, and feel a whole new level of stress due to it – we promise to continue to fight for an exception in the law.
While our focus is on the mental health of students and doctoral students, let us not forget that others in Swedish academia work in a similarly stressful environment. We would like to extend our wishes of a merry, happy and stress-free Christmas – to everyone in the higher education sector – whether or not you celebrate Christmas.
PS. If you want to find company on Christmas Eve or during the holiday break, several student unions are organizing their own celebrations! Look up what your student union is planning if you want to share some Holiday cheer.
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