Meetings in English at students’ request

Lund University Students’ Unions (LUS) has now received a hearing for its demand that the meetings of the University’s internationalisation committee should be held in English. The meetings will be held in English for a trial period, while minutes will be taken in Swedish to fulfil the legal requirements placed on public authorities.

Kristina Eneroth

“In the long run, you can’t speak Swedish at a university that markets itself as international”, says Kristina Eneroth. Photo: Apelöga

LUS has pointed out that international students who don’t speak Swedish feel excluded when they cannot serve as representatives on boards and committees at the University. The internationalisation committee’s meetings will now serve as a pilot for how integrated meetings can be held in both Swedish and English.

“In the long run, you can’t speak Swedish at a university that markets itself as international – that is misleading advertising”, says Chair Kristina Eneroth, Pro Vice-Chancellor with responsibility for international affairs.

However, the issue of the language of meetings must be solved pragmatically, she says. A balance has to be found and it is important to see in what areas it is most important to translate and to use English as a working language. Alongside this, the University needs to offer more courses in Swedish international students.

LUS representative on the internationalisation committee Marco La Rosa is very pleased with the decision. He understands that everything cannot be in English, but it isn’t possible to market the University as international if this isn’t reflected in reality. He compares the situation with a number of Dutch universities, where English is the working language.

“That isn’t possible here – such a step requires consensus and that doesn’t exist yet. However, the language issue needs to be discussed further.”

Marco La Rosa is taking a Master’s in European Studies and has lived in Sweden for 18 months. To learn Swedish, he had to apply for a standard SFI course, with participants from around the world, not just students.

“The pace of the course was very slow and it was very frustrating. As far as I’m aware, I’m the only person on my Master’s programme who has carried on with Swedish.”

Now there are SFI courses specially for Master’s students, thanks to Lund University raising the issue with Lund Municipality, explains Marco La Rosa. It is a big step forward, but the waiting time is often three months, by which time most international students have lost their motivation and decided to try and manage with English, he says.

“In the long run, it benefits neither the University nor Sweden if international students don’t learn Swedish. If you invest in offering higher education for international students, it’s a good idea for them to be motivated to stay and give back to society. It is also very important to offer free courses in Swedish for staff at the University. I have heard that the faculties currently have to pay for these courses”, says Marco La Rosa.

BRITTA COLLBERG

“In the long run, you can’t speak Swedish at a university that markets itself as international”, says Kristina Eneroth. Photo: Apelöga