BM84: Protecting Institutional Autonomy: Resolution on a shortened time period for HEI Board Members in Sweden

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The European Students Union (ESU) is highly critical of the Swedish government’s
decision to change the appointment process for the higher education institution’s
boards. According to ESU, the decision represents a restriction on the autonomy of
the higher education institutions and risks threatening academic freedom, which is
essential for free research and education.
A free academy, independent courts, free art, and free press are all cornerstones of
maintaining democracy and protecting human rights. Neither politicians, interest
groups, nor trolls should determine what can be researched or taught at universities
and colleges.
It is important that the boards of higher education institutions consist of
representatives from different parts of society to ensure high-quality research and
education without being subject to political control or influence. When the Swedish
government disregards established practices and procedures for the appointment
process, it opens up for more direct political interference in the activities of the higher
education institutions. ESU is critical of the Swedish government’s choice to not
respect the processes of the Swedish education institutions and their nominating
persons on new appointments for board members. Moreover, we are critical of the
decision being made with an unusually short timeframe and without student or
education institution consultation.
ESU also urges the Swedish government to carefully consider the consequences of
the changes that the decision entails and wants to remind of the criticism that has
been expressed by several parts of the higher education sector in Sweden against
the latest changes in the appointment process for the educationinstitution’s boards.
The changes introduced since the 1990s have reduced the education institutions’
influence over the process. The changes meant that a majority should consist of
board members from the society and industry. This has, among other things, led to
education institutions being increasingly governed by external interests and therefore

decreased independence. It is worrying that the Swedish government is now
introducing even more far-reaching changes that restrict the education institutions’
The Swedish government has implemented a shortened period for the board
members explained by the current security situation in Europe and the importance of
such expertise being included on the boards. SFS is convinced that the challenges
that education institutions face, in this case of security policy, can be best handled by
the higher education institutions without political involvement.
In the long run, state control of higher education institutions may lead to the
universities losing their ability to freely conduct research and education. Furthermore
there is a risk that short-term political interests will be prioritized over academic
quality and integrity. Therefore, it is important that higher education institutions have
autonomy over their activities so that research and education will be conducted
ESU believes that the academic sector must be free from state control and political
interference in order to carry out its mission. It is important that universities and
colleges can continue to operate based on academic values and that their activities
are carried out at arm’s length from politics. Higher education institutions have a
unique role in society, and in order to maintain their integrity and credibility, they
must have the opportunity to work free from external influence.

Proposer: SFS, Sweden


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