We will promote quality

High quality in higher education is a key factor for social development, public confidence and for the continuous growth of higher education, according to Anders Söderholm, the new Director General of the Swedish Higher Education Authority, UKÄ. 

Anders Söderholm, Director General of UKÄ.

Anders Söderholm, Director General of UKÄ. Photo: Eva Dalin

UKÄ’s newly appointed Director General Anders Söderholm has closely monitored the intense growth of Swedish higher education over the recent decades.

All university activities have grown substantially, such as the number of universities, students, doctoral students, programmes and courses, professors and research funding. UKÄ has the privilege of being part of this politically prioritized and important function for the society.

The higher education sector is the largest government sector, with a turnover of almost 70 billion and engaging more than 400 000 people.

Whatever societal challenge, higher education can contribute to finding solutions. Climate threat, migration issues, challenges in health care and primary and secondary education, and the provision of skills in the public and private sector are some examples. Universities and colleges have a crucial role to play for a positive social development.

Many aspects of quality

Politics change with governments, but the question of high quality in higher education and research is timeless, according to Anders Söderholm.

UKÄ’s different analysis assignments, giving a correct picture of the sector, as well as our official statistics, which also other actors can use, are driving quality. Today, there is, in my view, no other authority or organization with such a complete analytical capacity concerning the higher education sector.

However, Anders Söderholm would like the UKÄ to develop its cooperation with the Swedish Council for Higher Education and the Swedish Research Council, in order to strengthen the overall analysis of the higher education sector.

We also regard our legal supervision as a quality issue. It is not only an important check for the institutions to comply with laws and regulations, but in the long run trustworthy supervision strengthens public confidence in the HEIs. Thereby the sector will have a greater chance to achieve an even greater and more complex assignment, which is a prerequisite for continuous growth in higher education, says Anders Söderholm.

Another important piece of the puzzle in terms of quality is that we become full members of ENQA again.

Quality assurance of research – a new assignment

Our traditional audits of the quality of education of HEIs also have a decisive effect on securing Sweden as a knowledge society. The system we have now launched means, in some parts, a major shift in perspective, as it now also includes quality in research. The new assignment of quality assurance of research has become a new area of responsibility for UKÄ.

Anders Söderholm hopes that the new system will guarantee and trigger that HEIs will better control their own activities and address their shortcomings.

This is a new way of looking at quality assurance and how it is organized, and affects our whole agency. It makes the UKÄ more complete but also stresses the importance of establishing new relationships with the outside world. Moreover, it will affect how we decide to develop our competency within the agency.

The UKÄ will now create an overall framework of principles for the quality assurances issues. In April next year, the framework will be reported to the government. After that, detailed methodology will be developed.

Anders Söderholm also believes that the management of the higher education sector is becoming more trust-based, where the UKÄ has a decisive role to play.

We go from having had responsibility for evaluation of activities covering a total turnover of about SEK 25 billion to quality assurance of all the HEIs – in education and research, which accounts for almost 70 billion SEK. We become an even more important government agency for the HEIs, which means an entirely different relationship to the management teams of the HEIs.