Opening Ceremony for SIHE
On Tuesday the 7th of November, Uppsala University's Vice Chancellor Eva Åkesson inaugurated the Swedish Centre for Studies of the Internationalisation of Higher Education (SIHE), in connection to the celebration of the ERASMUS-programme's 30th anniversary. The centre is intended to act as a node for research and analysis, both on a local, national and international level. It is also meant to be a platform for collaboration with external actors such as government agenices in posession of relevant data and in need of analytical expertise.
The opening ceremony was preceded by an internationalisation fair and a series of lectures on the internationalisation of higher education and opportunities for students to study abroad. Professor Mikael Börjesson, André Bryntesson and Ashley Haru, who make up the permanent staff at the centre, presented preliminary results from an ongoing research project on Swedish ERASMUS+-students in collaboration with the Swedish Council for Higher Education (UHR).
– Research on the internationalisation of education is for some reason lacking in Sweden, despite the intense efforts to internationalise Swedish universities and trying to make them attractive in the competition for international students. Much of the research that is conducted, however, stems from Uppsala University, and we also have collaborations with several government agencies dealing with the issue. Therefore it feels natural to gather this research and these collaborations within a more formal centre, says Mikael Börjesson, Professor in Sociology of Education and Scientific Leader at the new centre.
The Aim of SIHE
SIHE was established in the autumn of 2017 in order to coordinate, carry out and disseminate research and knowledge. While Swedish higher education institutions and student mobility to and from Sweden constitute the main objects of interest, analysis of global trends and comparative studies are also conducted.
The centre is intended to work at different levels. It will be a node locally, analysing internationalisation at Uppsala University. On the national level it aims to contribute with knowledge and analysis of streams of students and teachers to and from Swedish higher education institutions. Finally, on the international level, it aims to relate the Swedish findings to the structure of the global space of higher education.
Organisation and operation
SIHE is located at the Department of Education. Professor Mikael Börjesson is responsible for the centre's scientific management and organisation. Basic research resources are guaranteed in the faculty funds that are linked to the professorship of Sociology of Education. Personnel and financial responsibility lies with the Head of Department.
The centre's activities relate to the areas of research, education and collaboration, and it will make use of various types of activities and resources such as seminars, conferences, reports and a dedicated website to spread research in the field.
Higher education in Sweden has been heavily internationalised in the last three decades. Among the more important events within this internationalisation was the introduction of student financial aid for studies abroad in 1989, which led to a tenfold increase in Swedish students studying abroad over the course of a decade. Yet another important event for Sweden was entry into the EU and participation in EU exchange programs, especially ERASMUS which expanded academic exchanges significantly.
The inflow of students was significanly affected by the introduction of tuition fees for third-country students in 2011. The change led to an 80 percent decrease in the number of incoming students from the affected countries, but the number is on the rise again. Finally, the adaptation of the entire Swedish higher education system to the European Bolognese model in 2007, in conjunction with Swedish higher education reform and the New World, New Higher Education Bill, has also been intrinsic to the internationalisation of Swedish higher education.
In view of these major changes in the Swedish university, it is surprising that the internationalisation of higher education is so little researched. The research that has been carried out has been largely carried out at Uppsala University in the field of Sociology of Education, as well as within the fields History and Business Administration. Several research projects and dissertations have focused on outgoing and incoming students as well as the organization and finance of internationalization.
However, there is a great need for further research. Development is fast and international flows of students can change in a short period of time. How students move across borders and how they look at their studies and their future careers is important to analyse more comprehensively. Extensive resources are required to rely on the increasingly competitive global market for higher education, and higher education institutions develop different strategies in relation to this market. Here too, we need more research to understand the conditions and opportunities that higher education institutions have with regards to internationalisation.