Now at the beginning of the semester, I have had the opportunity to participate in several conferences and talk about the education of the future, including at Mid Sweden University's conference "Inspiration day about the education and working methods of the future".
There were many interesting questions raised about how higher education will develop and recover after the corona pandemic. In this blog post, I thought I would take a closer look at the opportunities and fears that SFS sees in the future.
The search pressure increases
Total 452 people applied for one or more educations at the first selection in the autumn term 800, compared with 2021 people by the autumn of 451. Even if we see a slowdown, it is a new record in the number of applicants. The number of full-time students at the Swedish university has increased in the last three years and amounted to 700 in the 2020/2019 academic year. This indicates that higher education is increasingly seen as an opportunity for more people, which is gratifying.
Teaching physically or online
The corona pandemic changed the conditions for teaching, taking part in and completing education. As a consequence of this rapid transition, I believe that there is still a need for increased resources and better conditions for higher education institutions to work with knowledge transfer within and between higher education institutions, in order to spread the best ways of working with high quality teaching after the digital transition. The reality I see in front of me is an education that is combined physically and online, but it places other demands and skills on the teaching staff and the infrastructure of the higher education institutions. There are several who share the view that the changes that have taken place will be permanent and that teaching will take place in combination. This entails a number of new problems and issues, but the key is that the student's learning is put at the center and that the teaching is conducted so that the students will learn and develop their abilities in the long and short term.
Recently, we have also seen more universities and I ask myself the question how does it affect research, the number of doctoral students and doctoral students? It also affects the education of the future. The contact to the research: to having scientifically based teaching staff is important for us students and I believe that this is something that the higher education institutions need to work more actively with. Unfortunately, we see that in several subjects we have a reduced number of teacher-led hours and I believe this will have a negative impact on education. Of course, the quality of education is the most important thing and not the number of hours we meet our teachers, but it is still important that we have a closeness to those who teach - whether it is online or physically.
Internationalization and mobility
Another reconnaissance that worries me is the lack of mobility. We see fewer and fewer people going on exchanges, but the importance has not diminished. Being away strengthens you as a student in meeting others, interacting with hopefully new cultures and ways of learning. Here, too, I would like to be clear that the possibility of exchange exists. Of course, there are some obstacles, but I think we can overcome these. This applies, for example, to mobility windows in the programs. I believe that the education of the future will become increasingly international, and for these we must be present to promote exchange.
Almost one tenth of all students at Swedish universities and colleges are students from abroad. Last year, the number of exchange students fell sharply due to the pandemic. How many and who choose to study in Sweden can be affected by events in the outside world. In the autumn of 2011, tuition fees were introduced in Sweden for so-called freemover students outside the EU / EEA and Switzerland, which meant that fewer students who came from countries outside the EU applied to Sweden for university studies. Until before the pandemic, we have seen a decline, but for obvious reasons it has been scaled down.
More Swedes have chosen to study at colleges and universities, but the number of incoming and outgoing students has fallen sharply. The higher education sector now has the opportunity to take new steps: think new and long-term when the exchange programs are resumed. In addition, Brexit has taken place and the United Kingdom later also chose to stay out of the Erasmus program. The UK is one of the most popular destinations and to continue to be, we need to work on making it easy to study in the UK. The alternative is that other study destinations increase in popularity, but the alternative should not be that fewer people go out.
The need for university graduates
The distribution between the different subject areas has been about the same in the last five academic years and I think we will also see this trend in the future. Certainly we hear about shortcomings in certain professions, but it takes time to build a structure to meet the need and here I see that it is important that what we students learn during the education lasts over time. I also think that the important thing is the generic skills. Then this of course needs to be adapted to society, for example the mission in sustainable development and how we can all help in the adjustment required where higher education is a basis for the knowledge society that takes us forward in development.
University Chancellor's Office, UKÄ, made a forecast for the labor market situation 2035 for 38 educations within seven education groups. The results show that the needs of the labor market are great in many areas and that the forecast for the number of university graduates risks not covering the needs. This means great challenges in the future, not only for the higher education institutions but for the activities concerned. It also means great opportunities for work in these areas. For most educations in pedagogy and teacher education, a risk of an increased shortage of labor is assessed in 2035. The same applies to most of the educations in health care and social care. In technology and manufacturing, a risk of labor shortages is assessed for certain specializations in the Master of Science in Engineering 2035. Last but not least, a risk of continued shortage of veterinarians is also assessed in 2035. The erosion and underfunding of higher education must end so that those taught have real opportunities to take on and complete the education - an education that must always be of high quality.