The Equality Commission handed over its report "A common concern (SOU 2020: 46)" to the government in August 2020 and since then it has been under consultation. The purpose of the inquiry was to propose measures that will reduce the gaps in Swedish society in the long term, and one of the directives was to propose measures that can contribute to good education and work with good working conditions. That is, how measures aimed at the education system and working life can contribute to greater equality in society as a whole. SFS is one of the consultation bodies and in this blog we will summarize and go through the most prominent parts of SFS 'consultation responses.
To understand what efforts are required for higher education to be able to contribute to a more equal society, we need to start with what higher education looks like today. The university has expanded sharply in recent years. In addition, society has become increasingly high-tech and advanced, which means that more and more professions require a university degree. With the expansion of the university, groups that were previously underrepresented, such as women, have to some extent increased in the student population and today constitute a majority within the university. However, the University Chancellor's Office, UKÄ, showed that the impact of social background is still significant.
UKÄ estimates that just over 5000 people with good high school grades in each cohort opt out of higher education. It would benefit both the individual and society if they were educated to a greater degree. At the same time, work is needed to ensure that everyone who is qualified and admitted to the university is given good conditions to complete their education. Today, the appropriations for higher education are neglected and this affects the quality of the business. Therefore, SFS wants to emphasize that the proposals made in the inquiry on, among other things, broadened recruitment also need to provide sufficient resources.
To reduce the distance between country and city
The inquiry has an overall purpose to propose measures to reduce the differences between country and city and between regions / municipalities. SFS is basically positive about this, but believes that there are other aspects of equality that can also contribute to broadened recruitment and broadened participation and thus a leveling out of living conditions. Factors such as parents' educational background, gender and ethnicity also need to be taken into account in the work on equality.
The inquiry proposes that:
- "The higher education institutions are provided with funds to design the distance education programs that the regions, via their competence supply platforms, have identified a need for."
SFS is negative to this proposal as education should not be used as a labor market measure but primarily dimensioned away from students' demand. This has also been confirmed by research to be the best way to control the range of education.
The inquiry also proposes that:
- "The higher education institutions are provided with funds to develop digital pedagogy and support systems with the aim of increasing the throughput in distance education."
- "UKÄ is tasked with investigating how the accuracy of distance education can increase, in order for the throughput to increase."
- "UKÄ should also be tasked with investigating the contribution of distance education to the broadened recruitment to the university."
SFS is positive to these proposals, as most distance education mainly has digital elements and thus SFS believes that increased investments in raising the digital higher education pedagogical competence are needed. This is crucial to increase throughput and ensure that participation is broadened.
SFS also stands behind UKÄ's proposal current higher education pedagogy in order to create strategies and structures for better teachers in the longer term, for example:
- A national strategy for higher education pedagogical work
- A national strategy for the digitization of higher education and research
- Broaden the University and College Council's, UHR, promotion assignment
- Strengthen the Swedish Research Council's, VR's role and give them the task of establishing a graduate school.
It is not enough to ensure that the recruitment to the university is broadened by making it available throughout the country. We also need to ensure that students pass their studies by all teaching staff having good knowledge of pedagogy, especially for digital distance education where the throughput is lower.
How do we solve the problems with competence supply?
The inquiry proposes that:
- Investigate an annual education premium for those who have graduated from a municipal shortage and move into one of the municipalities that have extra large challenges with the supply of skills. It should also be possible to give a premium to those who are resident in the municipality but who are graduating in one of the professions that have been defined as the shortage in the municipality. ”
We understand the willingness to solve the problem of skills shortages and welfare challenges in those parts of the country that have particularly great challenges, but are negative to the proposal as we do not see that it is the right solution to solve the problem.
SFS believes that collaboration is important in order to overcome the supply of skills and attract shortages, but that a combination of measures is needed that together can achieve the change that is desired. SFS mainly wants to highlight that:
- The resource allocation system needs to be reformed so that students are offered a high-quality education and which attracts students to apply for the educations in which there is a lack of competence.
- The educations that are mainly relevant when we talk about the shortages - school, care, nursing - have Work-Based Education (VFU) as part of their education. Therefore, SFS wants to see a national VFU administration, a new funding system for VFU that is similar to what the nursing educations have and more and better trained supervisors. UKÄ's evaluation of practice schools showed that practice schools are a successful concept, therefore SFS views the idea of practice schools positively.
- Remove the housing shortage to make students able to apply for educations throughout the country. For example, by safeguarding investment support, the public good and shortening the lead time between decisions and the shovel being put in the ground. In addition, we want to see a neutral taxation before the form of lease so that the rented accommodation does not continue to be disadvantaged compared to the owned.
- Strengthen study and career guidance so that it is available from early adolescence and throughout life, in order to encourage people from, for example, unfamiliar environments to choose higher education, and to inform about the conditions and future prospects that prevail in the labor market.
Access to housing - crucial for everyone's right to higher education
SFS shares the inquiry's point of departure that housing is a basic prerequisite for the individual's participation in society and that the housing situation affects study opportunities. When the pressure to apply for higher education increases every year, society needs to ensure that the supply of housing follows the demand for education. As the inquiry mentions, many young people give up educational opportunities due to the difficulties of obtaining housing in many university towns. SFS that today's housing market does not sufficiently meet the housing needs of, for example, students, which in turn affects educational choices and recruitment to higher education.
The inquiry proposes that:
- “The government should gradually raise the level of investment support for arranging rental housing and housing for students (Regulation 2016: 881). Level and design should follow the evaluations and changes in the regulation that are made to ensure better goal fulfillment. The government should initiate an evaluation of the investment support with regard to which groups' housing situation is improving and on the regional variation in the allocation of the support. "
SFS is positive to the proposal. The inquiry finds that the apartments that have been built with the help of investment support have not gone to households with financial difficulties, as they with their relatively lower rent are sought after and long queues are usually required to gain access to them. At the same time, there are no incentives for for-profit actors to want to build enough housing for households with lower incomes, and that the public utility may also find it difficult to build in less attractive locations and thus for a less affluent group. In addition, as the inquiry points out, municipalities may have an interest in planning land for housing for more affluent groups, as new construction for groups with poorer economic conditions risks leading to higher social costs and public expenditure. It is therefore of the utmost importance that an evaluation is carried out.
The inquiry also proposes that:
- “There is a need to find methods to stimulate more cost-effective ways of building good housing through procurement and standardization. This does not have to conflict with environmentally sustainable material choices. ”
SFS agrees with the investigation in this matter. There is reason to review construction methods and other processes that increase the pace of construction of housing that can be demanded by citizens who today have difficulty in demanding housing. Of course, this should not contribute to a lower standard of living for students. The sustainability aspect is of course important in this context.
The inquiry further proposes that:
- “Market rents can be a way to improve the use of existing stocks. However, mobility in the housing market is already quite high. An increased element of market rents must be preceded by a thorough investigation of how it would affect different groups and how a compensatory solution would be dimensioned and implemented. "
SFS does not share the inquiry's assessment of the issue of market rents. Today, there is in principle free rent setting in newly produced homes through so-called presumption rent. Although this has existed since 2006, the housing shortage has not been resolved for the groups that have the most difficulty entering the housing market, which suggests that a more market-based rent is not the answer to the housing shortage. In addition, there is evidence that mobility or so-called relocation chains, not increases with market rents. One rapport from 2019, which was developed for Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö, shows that cheaper housing in the old stock will not become vacant when new housing with more expensive rent is completed.
The housing allowance as a housing policy instrument
The inquiry proposes that:
- “An investigation needs to be initiated to determine the extent to which housing allowance is not approved as income among real estate companies. The purpose of such an investigation should be to achieve, either through law or through voluntary agreements, a situation where the housing allowance can be used to demand housing to a greater extent than today. "
- “The housing allowance should be re-established as a housing policy instrument. This requires a resource reinforcement of the housing allowance, with a view to increasing the allowance-based housing cost and the compensation rate. ”
SFS is positive to the inquiry's proposal to investigate the extent to which the housing allowance is not approved as income among real estate companies. SFS believes that housing allowance as part of income should not constitute an obstacle to renting a home. Above all, SFS sees that the availability of the housing allowance needs to increase.
Few students use the housing allowance today, even though they are financially qualified to apply. SFS has previously investigated question and seen that the main reasons why students avoid applying for the grant is the risk of becoming liable for repayment, that it is too cumbersome to apply or that the students did not know that they could apply for it. Other reasons are that several students live together in one and the same home and that the household's total income is thus too high.
SFS wants to see that CSN is given the task of managing the housing allowance for students, as they already collect income information from students today and thereby reduce the risk that students will be liable for repayment.
On the whole, we see that there are several good proposals in the investigation, but also much that can be improved. Above all, a broader view of equality than geographical accessibility is needed. Measures also need to focus more on putting the student at the center. By offering a qualitative education where students' demand can control while it is possible to live on their study funds and get a home in their place of study, the availability of higher education also increases. In the long run, it will contribute to a more equal society.
Linn Svärd, Vice Chairman