MF meets the Minister for Higher Education and Research Matilda Ernkrans

The Minister for Higher Education and Research Matilda Ernkrans visited Karolinska Institutet today for discussions with KI’s leadership, education responsible, healthcare staff and students. Visits from ministers are not a new phenomenon, but this visit was different in many aspects, not least because it was shortened and adapted according to the prevailing pandemic. On the agenda was the university’s adaptation to the current covid-19 pandemic within research and education, where digital solutions in education are one of the major challenges.

Matilda herself had specifically asked to meet students to talk about how they experience the pandemic. The students’ opinions were represented by Jessica Härtell, President of Medicinska Föreningen, Puck Norell, Vice President of Medicinska Föreningen, Jesper Ruda, President of Odontologiska Föreningen, Ida Dahlgren, Vice President of Odontologiska Föreningen, Leo Ziegel, Medicinska Föneningen’s student representative in Konsistoriet, and Joachim Vist, student representative Medicinska Föreningen who also took pictures of the meeting.

During the discussion with Matilda, the importance of investing more resources to ensure that students’ mental health does not suffer more than usual during the pandemic was highlighted. Students’ well-being has long been a matter of the heart for student unions as well as universities around the country, which in the current circumstances has been strained even more. This may be due to the lack of physical meetings, distance learning and financial problems when summer jobs are withdrawn and teaching extended. Work will be done to map out how the country’s Student Health Centres work, and the government is already proposing within the budget for 2021 to invest 25 million SEK to strengthen Student Health Centres.

MF also emphasised the importance of giving the student unions resources to adapt to digitalisation in order to be able to strengthen student influence as the pandemic has put us in a completely new way of working. During these times, students are required to provide input on how the education should best be adapted, which requires increased influence. MF as a student union must be able to offer good digital events to help students and members get a better network of contacts and increase their well-being. In the budget for 2021, it is also proposed that the student unions should receive strengthened support for increased student influence, also with 25 million SEK.

Finally, MF emphasized that resources to digitalization in education is of the utmost importance for quality education. Digitalisation has worked well in most programmes at KI, but there is still room for improvement and development within online teaching. Karolinska Institutet has worked hard with this during the ongoing pandemic, and resources should be provided so that all programmes have the same conditions for quality education.

Karolinska Institutet has shown great commitment and interest in listening to the students. This is something that the Presidium has experienced at weekly reconciliation meetings, KI leadership meetings and at meetings with program directors and education responsible teachers who have shown genuine interest in knowing but, what do the students really think?

After the meeting, we hope that Matilda can go back to the government with useful feedback to ensure that the quality of education and students’ study situation during the pandemic will not suffer. We are very grateful that MF got to meet Matilda and that she also offered further discussions on the subject, where she is at disposal for the students.