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Published: 02 Mar, 2015

Fewer grants a threat to international profile programme at Umeå University

NEWS The number of aid-funded grants will substantially decrease, starting autumn 2015. This cutback will lead to less non-European students at Umeå University. One of the university’s international flagships – the Master programme in Public Health – is dramatically affected. To highlight the issue the students of the programme recently produced a film.

“This development really worries me, and I think it’s good that our students draw attention to the importance of more grants. Many potential students – particularly those from low-income countries – are depending on these grants to be able to come here to study at all”, says Anders Fällström, Pro-Vice-Chancellor with responsibility for education.

Many of the Umeå University grant holders study at Umeå School of Business and Economics, at the Department of Informatics and at the Master programmes of science and technology. But the programme hit hardest by the cutback is probably the Master programme in Public Health, the only Master programme in public health in Sweden receiving the highest grade in the latest evaluation. The programme focuses on global health issues and recruits many students from low- and middle-income countries.

Problems highlighted by film

To protest against the cutback, but also to emphasise the value of the Master programme, the current programme students produced a film.

“The students want to draw attention to the question and give concrete examples of how the possibility of education influences their future, and the crucial significance it has for their home countries. Until there are alternative solutions for recruitment of non-European students, our opinion is that the grants must remain – and increase”, says Kjerstin Dahlblom, Director of Studies.

According to Klas-Göran Sahlén, chairman of the programme council of the International Master programme in Public Health, the international profile strongly contributes to the high quality of the programme.

“We need the international component our students provide us with. The students’ own experiences strengthens the quality of the programme and contributes to the interesting and enriching study environment. This is also appreciated by our Swedish students, who get a unique insight in public health issues and health systems in other parts of the world”, he says.

Threatened quality

Kjerstin Dahlblom also points out that the cutback does not only affect the programme’s study environment.

“At our department, education and research stimulate each other. We have a number of global health research collaborations with universities in low-income countries, and some of our students continue working in our research projects as PhD students. Many of our students also return to their native countries to contribute within the fields of public health, education and research there”, she says.

Large long-term consequences

In 2011, when tuition fees for students from countries outside EU/EES were introduced, the number of non-European students at Swedish universities decreased with 75 percent. As a compensation, several grant systems were introduced. In autumn 2014, about one half of the Public Health programme’s 58 students were SI grant holders from, for example, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Burma-Myanmar, Indonesia and Syria.

Due to the substantial decrease, Umeå University can only expect one or two SI grants in autumn 2015, at the most, and the grants will only be available for applicants from Syria and South Africa.

“Fewer SI grants means less students from low-income countries. For the long-term development of Umeå University a blend of students from different parts of the world is necessary”, says Anders Fällström.

Photos from the Welcome reception for the university's grant holders autumn 2014. Photo: Mattias Pettersson

The film on Youtube:

The positive impact of the SI study scholarships - part 1The positive impact of the SI study scholarships - part 2

More about the programme:

The Master programme in Public Health at Umeå University

For more information, please contact:

Anders FällströmPro-Vice-Chancellor with responsibility for education, Umeå UniversityPhone: +46 70 493 85 27, +46 90 786 66 28
Email: anders.fallstrom@umu.se

Klas-Göran SahlénChairman of the programme council of the International Master programme in Public Health, Epidemiology and Global Health, Umeå UniversityPhone: +46 70 697 20 11
Email: klasse.sahlen@umu.se

Wossenseged ”Nahoum” JemberieStudent, the Master programme in Public Health, Umeå UniversityPhone: +46 70 315 6368
Email: woje0001@student.umu.se

Link to Swedish version of the press release

Editor: Andrea Gillgren