Fifteen engineers from Syria have enrolled as students at the Lund Faculty of Engineering (LTH). For one year, they will top up their degrees with Swedish university credits and take an intensive language course in Swedish. The idea is to create a shortcut to employment for people who are relatively new in Sweden.
This one-year contract education programme is one of the measures that LU decided to implement to support newly arrived academics (see LUM no 4, 2015).
“This is an excellent initiative, I only wish it would have been sooner”, says Mohammad Sammak who, for two years, has tried to receive validation for his previously earned credits from Syria. There he studied all the required courses, but didn’t have time to obtain his degree certificate before the war started.
For Mohammad Sammak, the wait has been long and involved a lot of frustration. Sweden and its higher education were not ready to receive such a large number of scholars among the refugees who arrived in 2015.
“Everything takes so long. I am 28 years old and, by Syrian standards, I should have obtained my Master’s by now and started working. But here they tell me that I’m young, and that many students are my age.”
People at LTH feel that there has been too little time to develop this contract education programme together with the Swedish Public Employment Service. However, through hard administrative work they managed to squeeze it through.
“Now we’ve started, although we’ve been pressed for time. We managed to take advantage of the commitment among our staff who want to help scholars who’ve been forced to flee”, says Annika Mårtensson, Pro-Dean at LTH.
The programme is funded by Region Skåne and the Swedish Agency for Economic and Regional Growth. The Public Employment Service selected certain people and reviewed their qualifications with the help of LTH. Every student gets to choose which courses they want to study. At the Centre for Languages and Literature, their Swedish skills are tested and they are then offered a course adapted to their level of proficiency.
“I will be taking a few highly advanced courses in mechanical engineering. I hope this will demonstrate my knowledge to Swedish employers. This spring, I will combine it with a fairly advanced Swedish language course”, says Mohammad Sammak.
Will you stay in Sweden or return to Syria?
“I love my country, so I have to go back to help out and rebuild Syria. Every year we think that the war will be over and that life can return to normal. I hope that this will soon be true.”
Text: Jenny Loftrup
Photo: Maria Lindh