SFSFUM 2021: summary of the meeting, decisions made and SFS policy going forward

It has now been a few days since the SFS council meeting (FUM21) ended and we want to thank everyone who participated for a very good meeting with exciting and rewarding discussions. Even though we would have preferred to be seen physically, it became a very successful SFSFUM that took place completely digitally. In this blog post, we will summarize what happened at SFSFUM, what decisions were made and what SFS will pursue for policy and operations in the coming financial year. 

Inauguration and new members 

FUM21 began on April 15 when the meeting opened up for claims and a number of initial formalities were dealt with asynchronously over the weekend. Among other things, we voted in and welcomed three new member unions: the Newman Institute's student union, Malmö doctoral student union and the Student Union in Sundsvall. This means that SFS now has 52 memberships. On Monday, April 19, it was time to start FUM21 for real and we met synchronously. We showed one inauguration film where we were taken on a trip to a number of student cities and student unions around the country. 

New presidium and board 

On Monday was elected new presidium to SFS and it was clear that Linn Svärd and Oskar M Wiik will lead SFS during the financial year 2021/2022. During FUM21, a new board was also elected. Congratulations to: Paulina Samuelsson, Timmie Hansson, Sofia Holmdahl, Sandra Magnusson, Johanna Mikkelsen Strömstedt, Jacob Färnert, Gustav Ekström, Cornelia Lindgren, Anna Larsson, Johan Heder and Emelie Björkman. 

New business plan 

This weekend it was time to pick up the discussions again and open up for a plenary debate. The first to be discussed was SFS's business plan 2021/22. The business plan points out the political and organizational orientation for SFS's coming financial years. Among other things, a decision was made on a new political three-year focus issue and a number of one-year issues where the political issues are categorized according to conditions for the academy and conditions for studies. 

New three-year political focus issue: Prerequisites for high quality education

SFS's political focus issue 2021/2022 up to and including the financial year 2023/2024 is: Prerequisites for high quality education. SFS's political focus issue runs over three years in order to enable solid and long-term advocacy work.

High quality education is a right for all students. There are many different aspects that constitute quality of education, such as the competence of teachers and supervisors, the design of courses and programs, access to complete research environments and the usefulness of education. Common to all aspects of educational quality is that there needs to be good conditions for achieving a high quality. This focus issue identifies key areas where conditions need to be strengthened. 

The two overall ambitions that SFS will work from are:

  • Stop the underfunding of higher education
  • Better conditions for higher education pedagogical activities

Prerequisites for the academy 

Within the conditions for the academy, FUM21 decided to focus on two issues: dimensioning of education at the undergraduate and advanced level and the design of the degree program. 

Dimensioning of education at undergraduate and advanced level

Dimensioning is about planning the size and focus of the educational offer. Today, there are several examples where the government has allocated more training places solely with regard to the needs of the labor market. SFS believes that such measures have no point if they are not of interest to prospective students and may even be detrimental to quality. SFS therefore needs to counteract this worrying development. 

SFS shall work to ensure that it is the students' demand and conditions for high quality education that govern the issue of dimensioning education at the undergraduate and advanced level.

The design of the degree program 

A degree scheme determines what constitutes a university degree, for example based on study subjects and credits. The degree objectives are decided today at the national level by the government and can then have local adaptations. The fact that the degree objectives are decided by the government is problematic, the degree system becomes a way of implementing political measures that risk undermining the quality of education. When the number of degree objectives is increased without the higher education institutions being given proper support, the higher education institutions receive an impossible assignment in practice. SFS therefore believes that the responsibility for deciding on the degree scheme should lie with an authority that can anchor them with both the sector and stakeholders in a good way.

Prerequisites for studies 

Within the conditions for studies, FUM21 decided to focus on three issues: mental health, disciplinary matters and a more flexible study tool. 

Mental Health 

SFS concludes the focus question “Students' psychosocial health and work environment” fiscal year 2020/2021. However, the issue of students' mental health is far from over, and the government announced in July 2020 that a number of authorities will submit documentation for a forthcoming national strategy regarding mental health and suicide prevention. SFS shall work to ensure that the government in its work for mental health and suicide prevention includes students in a clear and prominent manner. SFS will also work to ensure that recommendations from surveys on mental health and work environment for students and doctoral students are implemented and implemented.

Disciplinary matters 

The number of disciplinary cases has increased drastically, the reason for this is unclear. At present, there are large differences between the higher education institutions' handling of cases, not least in terms of the outcome for different typical cases. The procedure at the higher education institutions may differ, but the assessment and sanction should, as far as possible, be equivalent regardless of which higher education institution the student works at. SFS must therefore operate for disciplinary matters to be handled and assessed in an equivalent and legally secure manner.

Flexible study grants 

The student financial aid system that exists today is good because support can be secured during the study period and the student financial aid system becomes a basic prerequisite for an open and equal university. However, there are parts that need to be developed that primarily concern lifelong learning. The student grant system has not followed the development in higher education when educations have been extended, and therefore a general increase in the number of searchable student grant weeks is needed. SFS will therefore work for a more flexible study grant. 

Strengthening the research student's perspective 

In many cases, postgraduate students have challenges that differ from undergraduate and advanced level students. During FUM21, SFS sharpened its policy in this area. “SFS position: Higher education scope, range, funding and admission” and SFS's principle program were updated to be able to provide a stronger perspective for postgraduate students. Some of the parts that were added were: 

  • There should be a broad access to postgraduate education throughout Sweden to ensure a strong connection between research, education and society, and to make postgraduate education widely available.
  • The higher education institutions shall not be dependent on external funding to maintain the necessary scope of doctoral education.
  • Doctoral student places must be advertised publicly and assessment must be made against a clear description of the program and the position and be available to all prospective doctoral students. It is important that higher education institutions actively work to counteract the existence of so-called “shadow doctoral students”, individuals who are active as doctoral students but who are not admitted to postgraduate education.

SFS adopts the position: The sustainable academy 

During Extra-SFSFUM in the autumn of 2020, it was decided that SFS would develop an opinion in sustainable development. As a result, FUM21 SFS adopted its position: The sustainable academy. The position focuses on economic as well as social and ecological sustainability. However, as economic and social sustainability are touched on in other of SFS's opinion documents, the ecological aspect is more prominent in the current version. The position clarifies SFS's views on the academy's role in a sustainable world where education and research have a prominent role. 

Other decisions and events at FUM 

During FUM, SFS also has 

  • decided that SFS's board shall investigate how students in commissioned training can be represented by the student unions, as this is not the case today. This applies, for example, to police training.  
  • strengthened the perspective of students with children. Students with children are today a vulnerable group financially. There must therefore be a satisfactory system for student parents to be able to receive grants to cover the extra costs that come from being a student parent. It is important that all student parents who have extra costs are entitled to the supplementary allowance, regardless of the family situation in general. Other circumstances, such as where the child is registered, should also not affect the possibility of receiving the allowance.
  • Listened to speech from the Minister for Gender Equality and Housing Märta Stenevi. 
  • Elected Nomination Committee for SFS. The Nomination Committee 2021/22 consists of: Karl Kilbo Edlund, Sophia Fröberg Liljenberg, Axel Andersson, Mårten Andersson, Marcus Bäcklund, Araz Farkosh and August Goldhahn. Lucas Ravens was the replacement. 
  • Elected John Lindskog and Joel Cevey Tärnholm as SFS's auditors for the financial year 2021/22. Alexandra Billett and Anton Berglund were elected as replacements. 

We would also like to thank our exemplary meeting presidium: Anna Bergkvist and Erika Darljung from Styrelsepost! who did a fantastic job throughout the meeting.

Many thanks again to everyone who participated for a well-conducted council. We are now looking forward to the coming financial year.

Simon Edström, Chairman 
Linn Svärd, Vice Chairman