Sweden to lift distance learning recommendations at HEIs

The government agency tasked with spreading information about Sweden outside the country – the Swedish Institute – has welcomed the announcement, made on May 29, as “encouraging news” for current and prospective international students.

It gives them some certainty as to what to expect come September, it said.

“It seems that Sweden is in a good situation in regard to issuing residence permits to students”

“In autumn, secondary schools, specialised colleges and universities and other adult training providers will return to more ordinary activities,” Swedish prime minister, Stefan Löfven said.

The recommendation for distance learning will be taken away on June 15.

As some guidelines are eased, “common sense, great caution and own responsibility still apply”, Löfven emphasised.

The statement increases the chances that international students will be able to attend physical classes this autumn, the SI noted. However, the extent to which courses and program will open may vary in order to minimise the risk of spreading Covid-19.

Universities across the country can plan to return to “normal operations”, provided they can do so in a safe fashion, according to SI.

“It’s a really encouraging signal for universities as they are now allowed to prepare for opening up their classrooms,” Monika Wirkkala, head of Talent Attraction Unit at the Swedish Institute said.

“Safety is still a priority, but universities can now put their energy into planning how they can open their classrooms in a safe fashion.”

Institutions will be able to decide how they will approach the situation, meaning it is possible there will be different solutions at different institutions – some moving toward blended learning and others adopt different approaches – Wirkkala continued.

Additionally, it has been encouraging that many Swedish foreign missions have remained open through the pandemic, resulting in some issuing residence permits to students.

“While there may be some delays, and the situation can vary by country, it seems that Sweden is in a good situation in regard to issuing residence permits to students,” Wirkkala explained.

Despite the coronavirus, applications from students outside the EEA increased in the last year.

A barrier remains, however; the travel ban to Sweden – at the moment in place until June 15, she added.

“We still have quite a bit of time until the start of the semester, which is in late August, so we are hopeful the ban will be removed by then.”

Universities are advising students to wait to purchase flights, as the majority of institutions have not yet notified students how classrooms will be arranged for autumn.

“It makes sense for students to wait for more information from the university they are accepted to before purchasing any airline tickets,” Wirkkala noted.

Our opinion is that these sorts of logistical details will be able to be sorted out and that students should just focus on staying in touch with their university.

It’s been really encouraging to see the Swedish Migration Agency, the Swedish government and the Association of Swedish Higher Education Institutions come together during this crisis and work hard to allow international students to hopefully start their studies in Sweden this autumn.”

According to news organisation Aftonbladet the Swedish foreign minister invited diplomats to a meeting to “cleanse the image of Sweden” globally.

The chief scientific advisor has also said that the country’s approach to the Covid-19 pandemic had “absolutely” resulted in too many deaths.

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