Internationalization of academia is an important ingredient for advancing research quality and for the renewal of ideas, perspectives, and methods within the research system. Furthermore, mobility – especially for younger researchers – is a key ingredient for advancing your career.
While internationalization and academic mobility undoubtedly are beneficial to the research community, individual researchers may encounter obstacles when moving to a new country and trying to navigate a foreign academic system. One discovers many formal and informal structures and traditions, and questions like How is my university governed? Where can I get funding for my research? How is undergraduate teaching organized? will likely arise. In addition, one is faced with a number of practical everyday issues such as how to set up a bank account, where to go to get health care, and much more.
All of these aspects add up, and can take a lot of time and energy when arriving in Sweden as a researcher or student from abroad. To make things easier, the Young Academy of Sweden (YAS) has developed a guide – A Beginner’s Guide to Swedish Academia for international researchers – to help navigate Swedish academia and remove time-consuming obstacles.
The guide, authored by ten members of YAS, is primarily written for faculty who are newcomers to the Swedish research system. Still, it is likely also useful to those who have been a little longer in the country, and perhaps even researchers native to Sweden. The guidebook contains useful information regarding the academic system, research, teaching, research funding, as well as unwritten rules divided into six chapters:
- The guide begins with an overview that covers the basics of the Swedish research system –Swedish academia in a nutshell, if you will – including information about the various academic positions available within the Swedish system.
- In the following chapter, the organization of higher education and research in Sweden is covered in more depth, and the reader is introduced to the governance of the sector and the shaping of Swedish research policy.
- Chapter three introduces teaching and degrees at Swedish universities, including degrees and programmes at the undergraduate and graduate level, as well as doctoral studies and important rules and regulations regarding the supervision of PhD students.
- Chapter four of the guide deals with the practicalities of how to carry out research projects. It provides important advice on application processes and information about research funding sources in Sweden, including private foundations which play a prominent role in the Swedish research funding landscape. This aspect is particularly relevant to researchers within the biomedical fields, where research can be especially expensive.
- This chapter provides an overview of employee rights and benefits in Swedish academia, such as salary, social insurance, family support, gender equality, and hands-on practical information for newcomers (e.g., make sure to apply for your personal identification number on day one!).
- Although English is widespread in Swedish society, and particularly within academia, it’s a good idea to learn Swedish. The last chapter deals with language use at Swedish universities, and gives some useful tips on how to learn Swedish.
The idea to write the guidebook came when YAS visited the Young Academy in the Netherlands in 2018. They had developed a similar guidebook for Dutch academia which has proven to be of great use for newly arrived younger researchers. When the members of YAS saw it, they immediately thought that this would be very useful for international researchers coming to Sweden.
Lucie Delemotte, Associate Professor of Biophysics at KTH Royal Institute of Technology, operating at SciLifeLab, a national centre for life science research, is one of the authors of the guide:
“When I heard about the Dutch beginner's guidebook to academia, I immediately thought that the Swedish equivalent would have been extremely valuable to have when I first took up my first position in Swedish academia as an assistant professor in biophysics in 2016.
Indeed any academic system has a culture associated with it, and you mainly become familiar with it through personal connections and informal networks. For those coming to Sweden from abroad it can take a long time to get the same level of understanding as for people who have studied and began their academic career in that system. I was lucky enough to have a mentor who was very generous with their time and experience, and helped me understand many aspects of the system that are far from obvious.
This guidebook is thus an opportunity for me to pay it forward, and to disseminate information to all interested in an open way. I hope this will facilitate the integration of foreign scholars in Sweden, thereby also strengthening the Swedish academic landscape.”
The Young Academy of Sweden is an interdisciplinary academy for a selection of the most prominent younger researchers in Sweden. The academy is an independent platform that provides young researchers with a strong voice in the policy debate and that promotes science and research, often focusing on children and young adults. Within the academy younger researchers meet across university and disciplinary boundaries. The Academy was founded in 2011 at the initiative of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and has between 35–40 members elected for five years.
The authors of the guide are:
- Linda Andersson Burnett, Researcher in the History of Science at Uppsala University;
- Frida Bender, Associate professor of Meteorology at Stockholm University;
- Lucie Delemotte, Associate professor of Biophysics at KTH Royal Institute of Technology;
- Mia Liinason, Academy chair and professor of Gender studies at Lund University;
- Sofia Lodén, Associate professor of French at Stockholm University;
- Ewa Machotka, Associate professor of Japanese art history at Stockholm University;
- Sigrid Schottenius Cullhed, Associate professor of Literary studies at Uppsala University;
- Janina Seubert, Associate professor of Psychology at Karolinska Institutet;
- Ylva Söderfeldt, Associate professor of History of science and ideas at Uppsala University;
- Philippe Tassin, Professor of Physics at Chalmers University of Technology.
The guidebook is a result of a collaborative work of several YAS members with diverse expertise and experiences. YAS has also obtained ideas and comments from reference persons with knowledge and insight into the academic system.