Opening remarks from Linn Svärd at European Students’ Convention 45

Dear fellow students, distinguished guests, and esteemed faculty members,

It is with great pleasure that I would welcome you all to the 45th European student convention. This gathering of student organizations from across the continent, is a testament to the power of international cooperation and the importance of higher education in shaping the future of our societies. 

This European student convention is arranged by The Swedish National Union of students, SFS and the European Student’s Union, ESU, in collaboration. As the president of SFS, I would like to especially thank Lund university and Lund municipality, for the close partnership we have on arranging the conference. The support and efforts of Lund University and Municipality of Lund is a great contribution to the student movement on all levels: local, national and international.

I would also like to thank the Swedish minister of higher education, Mats Persson, for joining us here today. Your presence is an expression of the Swedish government’s valuation of the student voice, also during the Swedish presidency of the council of the European union.

This conference provides us with a unique opportunity to come together, share our experiences, and learn from one another. Through the exchange of ideas and perspectives, we can broaden our horizons, challenge our assumptions, and gain a deeper understanding of the issues facing our world today. I am so glad that we are able to meet here in Lund, partly since it was here that my own student engagement began. And that tomorrow we will visit Malmö, also a city I used to call home.

It is, however, not the first time we have gathered for an international student meeting here in Lund. 46 years ago, the ”International Student Seminar” was held in Lund. The front page of their program looked like this. You can see the silhouette of the two towers of the cathedral of Lund. The theme for the meeting was the issue of internationalization of education, where we, the students, advocated for its importance in higher education.

In many ways, their meeting was held in a completely different world. It was a world of the cold war, and the iron curtain was dividing europe. They did not know that the Berlin wall would fall, only 13 years later. They did not know what their future would look like, or what they could expect. But – they were certain of one thing – that education builds bridges. They were also sure about the fact that education can only do so if it is conducted freely, that the main aim of higher education is to seek knowledge about ourselves and our world, even when we don’t know what we are looking for in advance. This is why higher education is international to its core. Knowledge knows no national borders. 

This doesn’t mean that higher education is not a national matter, as well. We would not have any of our national student organizations if this was not the case. One of the main influences on higher education lies in the hands of our national governments through the funding from our state budgets. Even though higher education is an expense in the budgets, it is never a mere expense. It is an investment: an expense today, by which we will gain the return of tomorrow.

The investment in higher education is an investment in our communities, ourselves and our future. In this regard, education is not just a personal asset; it is a public good.

As students, we must advocate for continued investments in higher education, both at home and abroad. Only by ensuring that all students have access to quality education can we build a brighter, more equal, and more sustainable future for all. 

In 46 years time, I would like the next generation of the international student movement to be able to look back at us with pride. I want them to say that we knew that we were living in a decisive time. Like Ursula von Der Leyen said recently, and I quote: “we are now in the decade that will decide on whether we are going to be successful in fighting climate change, or not.” I would like the students of the future to say about us, that we did our share, and made the most secure investment: in a quality higher education for all.

So let us use this conference as an opportunity to come together, to learn from one another. Together, we have the power to shape the future of our societies, and I have no doubt that we will rise to the challenge.

Thank you.