Quality in higher education - the investment that the government forgot

The Government's budget proposal for 2016 contains a starter package for housing for students. However, the Swedish National Union of Students (SFS) regrets that the government has chosen not to contribute any new money to increase the quality of the university. 250 million a year is not enough when the universities' resources continue to be eroded.  

Starter package for students' housing shortage
Despite the fact that the student movement has sounded the alarm year after year that the housing shortage is a national crisis, neither the current nor the previous government has presented any measures to speak of. We therefore welcome the investment support for small, sustainable and cheap rental apartments, which amounts to SEK 1,9 billion in 2016. The support was already presented before the spring budget.

The budget for 2016 also contains a bonus of SEK 1,85 billion that will streamline the municipalities' construction processes and a point contribution of SEK 300 million earmarked for student housing. Given the prevalence of the housing shortage, 300 million is not enough, especially if the support does not continue in the coming years. Nevertheless, the effort is proof that the government has finally taken the students' housing shortage seriously.

Unfortunately, there are still several underlying problems that the government has not addressed. Among other things, it is high time to coordinate education and housing policy and ensure that rental apartments are taxed in a fair way. Only when tenancies and condominiums are taxed at the same level would investment support have full effect.

More people will have the opportunity for university admission
The good news is that it will once again be possible for everyone to read in both basic and special qualifications via Komvux. This means that more people will have the opportunity to study further and choose the educations they are most passionate about. The investment is part of a reform that will cost just over SEK 537 million per year from 2017.

Already next year, the government's knowledge boost will be expanded with 2500 new educational places at the polytechnic and 3000 new folk high school places. In the long run, the government estimates that the polytechnic will have 30 permanent places. It is a message that suggests that the polytechnic is moving towards becoming more long-term. In addition, the government is continuing the expansion of the university with 000 places, which means that the pace has increased slightly since the spring budget. The goal is for 2 new places to have been created by 900. The places will primarily be created within the teacher, nurse and midwifery educations, but the higher education institutions will also have the opportunity to expand educations that are important based on students' demand and labor market needs.

No new investments in quality at the university
At the same time as space is to be prepared for new students, there are no further investments in quality, despite the fact that it is well known that higher education is already underfunded. In the spring budget, the government allocated 125 million to increase the quality of education in the humanities, social sciences, law, theology. It was also announced that the investment would be stepped up to 250 million in 2016, which is also done in the budget. The only problem is that 250 million is barely enough to cover the ongoing erosion of higher education resources. In addition, the investment does not benefit all educations. What higher education needs is an investment that distributes money in a more efficient way and challenges the current system. One relief is that the government clarifies that the funds that have been used within the criticized system for quality assurance will be returned to the higher education institutions through the regulation letters.   

The promised increase in the study grant is missing
In January 2015, the student loan was increased by SEK 1000. This means that students have more money to move with at the moment, but that their debt burden increases in the long run. The increase also made the distribution between loans and grants more skewed. It seems that both the Social Democrats and the Green Party have forgotten their previous ambition that in the long run there should be a balance between the proportion of loans and grants. Ahead of the election, the Green Party even promised that the study grant would be increased by SEK 300. In the budget for 2016, the level is proposed to remain unchanged.

Welcome investment in validation
Within its efforts to facilitate the establishment of refugees and other immigrants, resources are allocated to the National Board of Health and Welfare and the Swedish Council for Universities and University Colleges (UHR) for the validation of foreign degrees. It is welcome that the government draws attention to the fact that immigrant academics have difficulty establishing themselves in Sweden. It is important that the proposed measures are coordinated and that the assessments are made correctly.  

Five million for coordination of gender equality work
The fact that gender equality is high on the Government's agenda is noticeable, among other things, by the National Secretariat for Gender Research at the University of Gothenburg being commissioned to support other higher education institutions in its gender equality work. The assignment is specifically about gender mainstreaming, ie that a gender equality perspective must be integrated into all processes and decisions. All colleges and universities are obliged to work with gender mainstreaming, but so far there has been a lack of coordination and follow-up of the work. At its disposal, the University of Gothenburg receives five million. It remains to be seen how far the money will go when 44 higher education institutions are to be coordinated.

Strengthening research at colleges and new universities
During the last year of the current research bill, funding of 300 million is proposed for research and postgraduate education. The government proposes a changed distribution model that particularly benefits colleges and new universities. Hopefully, the change can make it possible for more educations to become more research-related.