It started with the union compulsory disappearing and ended with the university's governance and resources being on everyone's lips. A decade is coming to an end. Before it is time to start the new decade, we think it is time to sum up the 2010s. A lot has happened and it is of course impossible to include everything. But we have chosen to start from some issues that SFS has worked on a lot during the decade. Some have been revolutionary, most have happened gradually.
The academy is characterized by inequality. In the early 10s, 60 percent of novice students were women. Nevertheless, women were in a strong minority among the professors. As many as four out of five professors were men. At each step in the transition from undergraduate to postgraduate education, on to junior postgraduate positions and all the way up to professor level, increasing proportion of men. The women seemed to be given worse conditions to merit, or were valued their work not as high as that of men. In any case, women were screened out.
When the 10s began, there was a delegation for gender equality in the university. The delegation was tasked with supporting initiatives and proposing measures that promote gender equality in higher education. They had been appointed in 2009 and finalized their work in January 2011. The delegation proposed, among other things, that the university should be commissioned to integrate gender equality activities, and to increase gender equality among teachers by each university having a goal for the proportion of women in recruiting professors.
At the end of the decade, the proportion of women is still in the majority among novice students and there are no signs of change. On the other hand, the proportion of professors who are women has increased, from 20 percent to 30 percent. Perhaps it is due to the recruitment goals, perhaps to a higher awareness of how women are systematically disadvantaged, among other things when allocating tasks and when assessing merits. Men are still in the vast majority among professors, but it is possible to see a positive and ongoing development towards increased gender equality.
The study medium
For many, the study aid is a necessity to be able to study at all. But even if it makes it possible to study, many still have problems getting the study grant to cover all living costs.
During the 10s, the study grant has increased. At the beginning of the decade, the basic grant and the loan amounted to a total of SEK 8 for four weeks. In 958, that amount has increased to SEK 2019. The increase has taken place in three steps: the student loan was increased twice, in 10 and 676, and the student grant was increased in 2011. Although SFS has often been critical of the grant component not increasing at the same rate as the loan component, many students have found it easier financially.
However, it is important to remember that many students have higher-than-average expenses. Especially in terms of housing costs, there can be very large variations, where some pay two to three thousand kronor in rent while others pay more than half the study grant in rent. The fact that the study grant has increased does not mean that all students have a sustainable financial situation. On the other hand, we believe that the discussion over the next decade may be more about how the study grant should be adapted for an increasingly heterogeneous group of students, where the students' age, housing and life situations differ to an increasing extent.
Housing for students
During the 10s, the housing shortage has become a recurring topic of conversation. The generation of young people who have tried to enter the housing market during the decade have often encountered major difficulties. The queue times for student housing and other rental apartments have become longer and longer. At the same time, the price of condominiums has soared. Entering the housing market has been difficult, especially for students who often have scarce incomes. Many students are therefore forced to live indoors or move around on temporary or expensive subleases.
Every year, SFS has mapped the housing situation in all of Sweden's university cities in connection with the start of the semester. The situation in each locality has been classified on a three-point scale:
Green, means that all new students can count on getting a safe home with a reasonable rent within a month
Yellow means that all new students can expect to find a home within six months, but not necessarily with a reasonable rent
Red means that some new students will have to make do with temporary and insecure housing solutions for more than six months.
After following the development, we can state that some cities have actually taken the housing shortage for students seriously. They have worked to build more housing, either student housing or ordinary rental apartments that students can afford to live in. The number of cities where the housing market for students actually works has increased during the 10s.
Unfortunately, there has also been an increase in the number of cities where the housing shortage for students is really serious. It is often the larger cities that have the biggest problems with housing shortages, but some smaller towns are also affected. The fact that the housing shortage generally seems to have become more difficult in the larger student cities means that the number of individual students who face a difficult housing situation has probably also increased even more in the cities that were marked in red from the beginning.
Resources for education and research
University funding became a hot topic during the decade. As early as 2007, the Resource Inquiry submitted its final report with a proposal for a new funding model for the university. However, the government did not go ahead with the proposals, but the resource allocation system introduced twenty years earlier was allowed to remain throughout the 10s.
In 2017, directives came to a new inquiry, and at the beginning of 2019, the Control and Resources Inquiry submitted its final report. The inquiry received a great deal of attention, not least because it proposed replacing the current division between resources for research and resources for education with a single grant. A total allocation would mean that the higher education institutions would have to redistribute resources between the two branches of activity. The government has not yet gone ahead with that proposal.
When we summarize the decade, the division between research and education funding is one of the most interesting aspects to follow. If one does not take into account price and cost developments, it can be stated that both appropriations increase. The higher education institutions' revenues for education have increased from just over 25 billion in 2010, to just over 30 billion at the end of the decade. This is an increase of 18 percent. During the same period, research funding increased from just under 32 billion to 43 billion, an increase of 36 percent. Research was thus the largest branch of activity already at the beginning of the decade, and almost ten years later it is clear that it is research that has been prioritized and expanded.
But talking about the resources of higher education institutions cannot be done without mentioning the erosion at the same time. At the beginning of the decade, Sweden's university teachers and researchers (SULF) published a report with calculations showing that the costs of higher education institutions increased at a faster rate than appropriations. Even if there are no direct cuts in funding, the funding each year is enough for a little less activity. This phenomenon is often referred to as erosion. A follow-up came in 2018, there SULF was able to establish that the erosion was still ongoing. In 2019, more people started hooking up on the erosion debate and highlight the problem that teachers are forced to increase the pace more and more. What we can see is that even if the higher education institutions' grants increase in kronor and ören, it is not about any real expansion. The graph thus only shows the difference between how much money is spent on research and education, that the research has deducted.
The student unions!
A review of the 10s will hardly be complete without saying anything about the autonomy reform, which came into force in 2011. It had a major impact on the universities' internal organization, where the universities could decide more themselves. Among other things, it affected the students 'opportunities to be represented and participate in decisions that are important for the education or the students' situation. Some were worried that the student influence would not work as before.
It was no wonder that many were worried that the autonomy reform would have a negative effect on student influence. The autonomy reform came as a shock to another reform: the abolition of the compulsory compulsory education. The autonomy reform came into force only six months after the abolition of compulsory schooling.
For several hundred years, students had had to join a student union to have the right to study and graduate. It had been investigated several times if it was a desirable arrangement. There was not least a criticism that a compulsory membership restricted the free right of association.
On July 1, 2010, the requirement for compulsory membership in a student union for all students ceased. The students were instead given the opportunity to choose for themselves whether they wanted to organize in student associations and, if so, in which ones. Different associations could now coexist and compete for status as a student union.
The University Chancellor's Office was commissioned in 2016 to follow up the reform. In the report Student Influence - Mapping and analysis of the conditions of student influence after the abolition of the union obligation, UKÄ stated that many unions had problems with a declining degree of affiliation and difficulties in recruiting student representatives to pursue a desired influence. The student unions' income was also significantly lower than before. This was partly due to the loss of membership income. But one reason was also that the state subsidy that was introduced to finance student influence was much lower than what had previously been recommended.
The inquiry Freedom for students - on how unions and the national bond can be abolished (SOU 2008: 11) proposed that the grant should be paid at SEK 310 per student. In fact, it was not much more than a third. Now in 2019, ie ten years later, the state grant amounts to approximately SEK 120 per full-time student.
We look forward
There is a possibility that 2020 will be a year that puts a positive mark on the next decade. This autumn, the Government's research bill will be presented, which will present the direction for a large part of research policy in the coming years. We also look forward to seeing what happens with the Control and Resources Inquiry.
Of course, we hope for a development towards better educations that as many as possible can take part in. This presupposes quality investments in higher education, in combination with eliminating unnecessary obstacles. The housing shortage for students needs to disappear. We hope to develop the student support system so that everyone can afford to focus wholeheartedly on their studies.
An important issue that has received increasing attention concerns students' mental illness. Students are overrepresented in mental illness compared to other groups. Some things have happened, but much remains to be done to reverse the trend.
But the future offers uncertainty. It is still difficult to predict how the increasingly polarized political landscape will affect higher education. The increased automation raises new questions about skills supply, what we are actually training for and what is a relevant education. We also see that issues of climate and sustainability have become increasingly relevant also within the student movement and the debate about the university. Our ambition is for SFS to continue working based on the rapidly changing conditions in society and bring about important changes for students and society at large.
See you in 2020.