Internationalization idea 2: Establishment abroad

This is the second part of SFS's blog series about the Internationalization Inquiry. Read it first post here.

The inquiry's proposal: That the Swedish universities' ability to establish themselves abroad should be analyzed, clarified and, if necessary, strengthened.

Today, it is difficult for higher education institutions to establish operations in other countries. Higher education institutions are authorities, and authorities cannot conduct business abroad in any way. There are also ambiguities about the regulations and who should actually make the decisions, which is not least evident in last year's story of how Karolinska Institutet established a branch in Hong Kong. Neither KI nor the government really had a say in who would approve the procedure. In addition, it will be difficult to determine which country's regulations are to be followed with regard to, for example, admission, labor law and quality assurance.

The inquiry therefore wants to review the regulations and continue to develop the possibilities for establishing a foreign country. SFS wants to raise some questions such a survey would have had to answer:

Why establishing a foreign country? An important part of internationalization is about experience of other educational cultures. The exchange can be at least as good at a foreign higher education institution compared with a Swedish higher education institution abroad. It is possible to ask why it would not be enough to promote mobility for individual researchers and students.

Admittedly, the inquiry highlights some advantages of Swedish higher education institutions being able to establish operations in different countries. It would promote collaborations and make it easier to recruit research and teaching staff. The opportunity to apply for research funding would be broadened. Students could complete their education in several countries without having to move between universities. Researchers could spread knowledge in more contexts. But these aspects should also be promoted in other ways. Before higher education institutions start investing in establishing branches abroad, it must be clear that this is really the best way to increase international exchange..

How would students' rights be secured when Swedish higher education institutions established themselves abroad? Would they be part of the same student unions and have the same right to influence as at the university's Swedish campus? Student influence plays an important role at Swedish universities, not least to drive the development towards higher quality of education. In addition, it is a way to secure students' rights. This is something we should cherish.

Would it be possible to open branches in other countries without having foreign universities set up branches in Sweden at the same time? There are no clear international regulations on this, so the issue is far from obvious. Perhaps the most critical point concerns tuition fees: Many foreign higher education institutions have tuition fees, and the risk of allowing foreign higher education institutions to open branches in Sweden is that they would like to charge fees from the students. However, we want to protect the right to free higher education. Increased internationalization must not under any circumstances lead to the introduction of tuition fees at higher education institutions in Sweden.

As long as these risks can be managed, however, the idea of ​​foreign branches is interesting. There is much to be gained from a mutual exchange of knowledge between countries. Establishment abroad may possibly promote that exchange.


The next post is about internationalization at home, official language and proposals for student organizations.