President Astrid Söderbergh Widding
Astrid Söderbergh Widding, President of Stockholm University. Photo: Anna-Karin Landin

For my part, the autumn kicked off with the Association of Swedish Higher Education Institutions Presidents Forum, which gathered more than thirty of the country’s presidents from higher education institutions across Sweden. The forum was completely informal; we set the agenda ourselves, which included issues we believed needed to be discussed.

Many of these issues come up year after year – autonomy, academic freedom, research ethics, quality control – while others are more topical in nature. Of course, the pandemic has dominated the conversation over the past 18 months, but we have once again set our sights on the future. We can now jointly reflect on what we want our education programmes to look like in the years ahead, while taking the best of what we have learned from our rapid digital development, considering, in particular, what we can do better to make our programmes more flexible and to ensure that we meet our students’ needs.

The forum has been followed by a series of other meetings in smaller, equally informal networks; the Wallenberg Foundation’s Principals’ Council, the Stockholm–Uppsala University Network (SUUN), SLUG for the “big four” – Stockholm, Lund, Uppsala, Gothenburg – and of course, the Stockholm Trio.

Higher education institutions often find themselves in competition – for students or research grants – but we are also partners who depend on each other, whether it be our consortia concerning our national research infrastructure – which is currently highly relevant due to Tobias Krantz’s investigation – joint research centres or educational collaborations. Truly effective collaboration is not something that happens by itself. It takes tireless effort; it needs to be nurtured and developed. But effective collaboration is a necessary component if individual higher education institutions and research undertakings in Sweden are to realise their full potential.


This article is written by Astrid Söderbergh Widding, President of Stockholm University. It appears in the section ”Words from the University’s senior management team”, where different members of the management team take turns to write about topical issues. Words from the University’s senior management team appears in every edition of News for staff which is distributed to the entirety of the University staff.