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Sweden to strengthen educational ties with the UAE

New Sweden-UAE partnerships established in a recent visit to the UAE

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Sweden has named the UAE as a key site for academic cooperation and development in an official visit to the region last month.

Meeting with a number of Emirati institutions and officials, the board of directors of the Swedish Foundation for International Cooperation in Research and Higher Education (‘STINT’) visited universities across Abu Dhabi, Ras Al Khaimahand and Sharjah to identify new opportunities for international education and cultural exchange.

‘We’d like to have a sort of more regular cooperation between universities [in the UAE] and in Sweden,’ STINT chairman Olle Wästberg explained, addressing the growing need for a more globalised education sector.

‘We chose the UAE because it’s a country that’s going towards globalisation in terms of education, which makes it interesting to study,’ he said. ‘Education for us is a primary goal but we’re also discussing programmes with scholarships with Swedes that we want to send here in order to learn more.’

Student exchanges, scholarship options and joint study programmes with UAE institutions were touched upon as initiatives to internationalise Swedish higher education.

With a sharp decline in the amount of international students in Sweden, the visit couldn’t be timelier. Since the introduction of tuition fees for non-EU students, there has been an 80% drop in foreign enrolments at Swedish universities. Calls to remedy this slump have seen proposal of a new scholarship model, and a push to revise visa laws regarding student residency after completion of their study programmes. Under the current system, students must leave the country within ten days of finishing their studies.

But, STINT director Andreas Gothenburg insists, this was not the reason for the visit.

‘We’re interested into getting even more international students to Sweden because it’s a benefit to us and to partner universities abroad,’ he said. ‘The specific situation of these countries implies unique opportunities for building new systems.’

‘This situation leads to new opportunities but also challenges for Swedish universities and companies. Aside from new domestic universities, there are also many foreign universities setting up campuses in the UAE and Qatar.’

Sweden and the UAE have long enjoyed steady academic ties. In November 2013, STINT participated in organising a joint conference to promote academic cooperation, whilst many Swedish universities undertake joint research programmes with UAE institutions. Uppsala University has produced 68 UAE-joint publications in the last five years, with Karolinska Institutet (KI), Lund University and Stockholm University each producing around 13. The nations are also key trade and economic partners.

Swedish students and professors are hoped to arrive in the UEA from as early as late September.


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Monica Karpinski received her BA (Media and Communications) and Diploma in Modern Languages (French) from the University of Melbourne, Australia. An art and culture aficionado, in her spare time Monica enjoys film, reading and writing about art.