Not much is the same in education this year. The circumstances are drastically different given the coronavirus pandemic, at the same time that the objectives and the content of our courses are largely unchanged and to some extent difficult to carry out without gathering students.

In the spring, we saw rapid changes, with a more or less immediate transition to online teaching to then be able to open up gradually for practical elements and then also other teaching. Even if we now gather students this autumn, we must indeed still adhere to the Public Health Agency’s recommendations, which of course drastically affect how many students we can have on campus and how we conduct teaching and exams.

Even though the coronavirus pandemic put many people’s creativity to the test and placed major demands on quickly finding solutions, most things seem to have functioned relatively well nonetheless, which, for example, was shown in the survey that CeUL conducted of teachers and students in courses that were held in the second half of the spring. The survey shows, however, that the new situation places new demands on both students and teachers. Students speak of less motivation and a lack of social contact and some find it harder to handle online teaching than on campus, at the same time that there are students who are more comfortable with online teaching than on-campus teaching. Among the teachers, a greater workload is mentioned and that there is less teacher-student interaction with online teaching. Exams are also an area that gives rise to many questions. Looking ahead, however, it can be said that many teachers (80% of those who participated in the survey) feel comfortable with teaching online. I do not believe that this number would have been as high if this question would have been asked in February. The question is how we make use of these new digital skills to develop our educational programmes in the future? I know that there are a lot of discussions being held at the departments and it will be exciting to see what long-term changes we can conceivably make with our programmes.

In addition, the Government announced in the spring and summer multiple new coronavirus-related investments in education (summer courses, the preparatory year, professions in short supply, lifelong learning and remote learning/MOOCs). I am impressed by our departments and teachers, who not only handled our regular programmes, but also presented several good initiatives in response to these investments. For example, it’s enjoyable to see that the preparatory year was off to a running start, even from a distance, and now has registered around 160 students. In the Budget Bill announced on 21 September, there are several investments in education in the future, both long and short term. The more long-term investments include increased funding for professions in short supply, teacher education and distance education. The more short-term investments include the preparatory year and an investment in graduate courses.

There is of course also concern for finances in this situation, where we are dependent on students both registering, but also graduating. However, looking at the 15 September forecast that was recently completed, one sees that, for the faculty as a whole, both the number of full-time equivalents, as well as the number of annual performance equivalents have increased markedly. Registrations for our bachelor’s and master’s programmes also increased in autumn 2020 by 18% and 13%, respectively, compared with autumn 2019. These are pleasing figures even if we of course would have liked to see larger increases, perhaps above all in bachelor's programmes, which are now the entrance future subject teachers are expected to take.

How, then, should we think moving forward? The spread of infection in the Stockholm area shows worrisome indications of an increase, but it is probably a little too early to draw any far-reaching conclusions from this. However, we will soon need to decide on the spring’s courses and I am counting on us being able to come back with information on this in the near future.

Last, but not least, remember the new investment; the faculty has funding for special educational initiatives (around SEK 3.3 million), which can be applied for no later than 9 October. Information has previously gone out to the departments.