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The Swedish Research Council’s official comment on the Governance and Resource Report

We have now submitted our official comment on the report “En långsiktig, samordnad och dialogbaserad styrning av högskolan (SOU 2019:6)” (“Long-term, coordinated and dialogue-based direction of higher education”). The report proposes, among other measures, an increase in the direct government grant at the expense of unrestricted external funds, which is not a change in the right direction according to the Swedish Research Council.

The purpose of the inquiry is to develop the direction of higher education, so that it effectively and appropriately supports the goal of making Sweden one of the world’s foremost research countries and a leading knowledge nation. As submitted by the Swedish Research Council before, the quality of research has taken a back seat in the inquiry.

– Sweden still have some way to go to reach the goal of being one of the world’s prime research countries,” says Sven Stafström, Director General of the Swedish Research Council. On the other hand, we are top-ranked in terms of the number of researchers. We must now aim for quality instead of quantity, by limiting the number of researchers, and give better prerequisites and resources to the very best researchers. External research funding in the form of open calls, where applications are peer-reviewed and funds allocated in competition is a very important part of this.

One of the proposals in the report is to increase the direct government grants, which are the funds the government pays straight to the universities. These increased funds are to be taken from external research funding that the Swedish Research Council and other government funding bodies allocate. Swedish Research Council considers that such a redistribution risks having major negative consequences for both the quality of research and research focus.

The Swedish Research Council’s views in brief:

  • The quality-enhancing effect of peer review of research applications in national competition is undervalued.
  • Fewer opportunities to apply for external funds from funding bodies with differing aims and mandates limits the dynamics and development of Swedish research.
  • The inquiry has not taken into consideration the system with full cost cover of indirect costs. As far as the Swedish Research Council is concerned, this amounts to 1.2 billion SEK, which are spent each year on funding the indirect costs of the higher education institutions.
  • The report disregards the major need for national funding and coordination of advanced national research infrastructure, and for Swedish participation in international research infrastructures.
  • The report does not take into consideration how research funds are distributed internally within the higher education institutions. Nor does it consider the limitations that exist in the follow-up of the use of the direct government grant, in terms such as quality, utilisation, gender equality, career opportunities and composition of the personnel.

Read the official comment in full (in Swedish) External link.


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