Erasmus Policy Statement
Mälardalen University’s Strategy
Mälardalen University (MDU) was founded in 1977 with initiative and support from companies and organisations in the region. Since then coproduction with the surrounding society has been a leading star for us. Today, MDU is recognised as one of the leading universities in Sweden when it comes to close coproduction with industry, society and the public sector. Large international companies like ABB, Volvo and Bombardier have identified MDU as their preferred partner for research, education and coproduction, creating a platform for cooperation that permits knowledge exchange around the world within a defined group. We also coproduce with the public sector. The community contract, which started in 2009, is one of the most comprehensive cooperation agreements in Sweden when it comes to agreements between municipalities and regions in the immediate area and higher education. MDU have been one of the major drivers for promoting the value of coproduction in Sweden, which we consider to be a third part along the University’s core missions education and research. Coproduction is integrated in almost everything we do.
Being of an outmost importance for regional and national development, we also strongly believe in coproduction’s international value. MDU has coordinated and participated in several international projects on global-regional cooperation, both within EU and other parts of the world, e.g. India in 2012 and currently in Latin America, supported by the Swedish Foundation for International Cooperation and Research in Higher Education (STINT). Together with academic and industrial partners, we have coproduced internationally in several disciplines such as engineering, social responsibility and health and welfare. One good example of such collaboration that MDU is currently participating in is HUBLinked Knowledge Alliance for University-Industry linkage by creating a sustainable strategic network of major European ICT hubs. The goal of HubLinked is to strengthen Europe’s software innovation capacity by learning from regions of proven ICT strength and sharing that knowledge with all regions. Another good example is the research and education collaboration with the Health Ministry of Thailand, which resulted in several joint PhD degrees and common master education.
Above-mentioned projects are creating a very strong basis for a sustainable long-term collaboration with partner countries. Hence, another outspoken strategy of MDU is to focus on developing strong, strategic international partnerships with selected partners so that deep, broad and varied collaboration can emerge, providing a platform for numerous international activities and projects. In recent years, MDU has participated in several Erasmus+ Strategic Partnerships projects and aim to extend this to many subjects and areas of cooperation. Strong strategic partnerships can also lead to joint activities that are purely subject oriented and selected from their capacity to deliver education relevant for the students they are intended for, such as Double-degree and Joint Master Degree programs, which we aim to extend.
Another important strategy that emerged more recently and has grown strong at MDU is virtual mobility and internationalisation at home, something that proved itself very useful in the current, world-wide Covid-19 crisis. In previous years, we have developed several flexible educations for the professionals working at companies, to support their lifelong learning through adequate course modules not bound to a certain place and time. We aim to offer those distance courses even to our international partners. Moreover, joint courses with students from different countries, working together using virtual tools and with a short get together at the end of the course, is a good alternative for students to widen their international perspective without a mobility. The University therefore plans to introduce more cooperation of this kind, for which we will need to use some instruments from the ECHE such as partnerships for cooperation and exchanges of practices.
The University offers its students a possibility to study abroad at all levels: bachelor, master and doctorate. However, not all academic subjects are equally covered, and we lack adequate exchange in some programs, mostly those that require professional licensing such as healthcare and teacher training. Moreover, the number of incoming students is good and increasing for each year, but we need to increase the number of outgoing students as well. Hence, we need to develop internal strategies to make sure that all research and education areas at MDU shall have mobility of students and staff in both directions, for example by having at least one semester appropriate for international exchange and at least three strategic international partnerships. Moreover, each area shall provide relevant scholarships, international projects and thesis work.
Our long-term goal is comprehensive internationalisation by infusing international perspectives throughout all our education and research, as well as our service missions. Staff exchange is important especially between faculty staff since that brings a lot to the non-mobile students and also helps to develop the inter-institutional partnerships. We have initiated actions to propose how international experience of staff can be evaluated and awarded upon career building and new employments. This calls for organisational and structural changes that will infuse the internationalisation in all aspects of our core missions, as we once did with the coproduction.
Following the requirements put on institutions of HE in the EU – 2020 agenda, in Horizon 2020 and in the Modernization agenda for higher education in Europe, it becomes clear that MDU has already reached a number of those requirements. With the possibilities offered by being part of the new Erasmus Programme, our University will fulfil even more requirements. The University has the opportunity to demonstrate that its concept focusing on global-local coproduction is a valuable addition in the much-needed diversity among HE institutions.
Our International Cooperation Projects and Erasmus+
The cooperation with companies and public sector is vital for a university with our kind of profile and we look forward to exploring this possibility. It will facilitate for the joint cooperation with universities and companies that the University has established and wants to develop further. For this purpose, we will need to use several mechanisms of the ECHE, such as student and staff mobility, partnerships for cooperation and exchange of practices as well as partnerships for innovation.
Furthermore, one suitable ECHE mechanism to build upon our existing strategic partnerships is European Universities. MDU has already started to look into this type of partnerships for excellence and we are currently participating in two applications for European University submitted at the beginning of 2020. If accepted, these will institutionalise our existing cooperations making them systematic, structural and sustainable and also expand them to several subjects and collaboration areas.
To increase the number of outgoing students and to implement mobility in all our subject areas, the ECHE action on Learning mobility of higher education students and staff will be necessary to use. The mobility opportunities will give possibilities to have exchanges in organized networks that extend outside of the EU (as well) which before was difficult to arrange.
We also look forward to work with the Joint Master Degree mechanism of the Programme, which is suitable for subject-specific strategic partnerships. Some of the double-degrees that are currently running at MDU are ready for that next step and we aim to submit an EMJMD application in Computer Science together with a partner in Ireland.
For the structural changes at the University strategic level, Erasmus Key Action 3, Support to policy development and cooperation can be used. We have already some good experience on implementing structural changes together with international partners through both national (STINT) and international (EU HUBLinked) projects. There is an internal support structure in place for advice and help with both the content and on the financial side.
Participation in the Erasmus+ Programme and its impact on Mälardalen University
One clear goal for MDU is to increase the outgoing mobility in total. At the end of the current ECHE period, MDU had an imbalance between incoming and outgoing student mobilities, for example we had 600 incoming and 140 outgoing students for the academic year 2019-2020. Our objective is to increase both numbers in the next period. However, we aim for a better balance, which will require more efforts to be put on outgoing students. We aim to at least double the numbers of outgoing mobility in the next period. This will therefore be carefully monitored each semester and discussed at the MDU International Council.
In addition, we aim to implement mobility in all our subject areas to make it available for all MDU students; hence we will follow up on a yearly basis the number of internationalised study programs in terms of mobility windows, courses for international students, number of exchanges and scholarship possibilities. All study areas should also have at least three suitable strategic international partners and we will follow up on this as well on a yearly basis.
With its longstanding tradition of coproduction/cooperation with society, trade, industry and public sector the University has the platform for knowledge exchange. There is ample proof of its value for regional development and the University will continue together with its partners to work in this way, further develop the methodology and look for new opportunities. In developing the concept and taking it abroad in cooperation with international partner universities, involving companies and organisations in their regions, the contribution and impact will become even larger. Here we aim to follow up annually both the quantitative indicators (number of new projects, international theses and internships, etc) and the quality of the implementation (long-term sustainability).
Faculty mobility, cooperation in projects and joint/double/multiple degrees give insights in how others work and the opportunity to learn as well as to compare working methods, education content, choices of literature, pedagogy etc. This kind of exposure often leads to amendments and changes, which usually have a positive effect on quality. With focus on working in depth with selected strategic partners, at least three per study area, the University aims in at least doubling the number of close co-operations in the coming ECHE period and thus having more opportunities to reassess its internal procedures.
Virtual mobility efforts include further development of distance and flexible education at MDU and partner universities. We aim to teach students how to participate in distributed global-regional projects with participants from different countries and disciplines, preparing them to work in a global environment. We will also offer lifelong distance learning to partner companies in Sweden and abroad, aiming at least 20 such courses in the coming three years. Some indicators related to these activities include the number of developed and offered distance courses and joint modules, number of participating students and company employees, new admission and examination routines, etc.
International cooperation in general enhances quality since the comparison that the education and the procedures suddenly are exposed to often leads to changes and amendments. We aim to develop new strategies and policy documents supporting comprehensive internationalisation, increased interdisciplinary collaboration, internationalisation at home, decreased conflict between internationalisation and sustainable development and more systematic integration of new arrivals with academic background. This calls for a set of organisational and structural changes at the University level. Expected results include updated internal documents and policies and, in the long run, the research and education strategy document. We also expect new strategies and action plans for internationalisation as well as guidelines for sustainable development considering internationalisation. Indicators, in terms of outcomes (impact on institution, education, research and community) will be the long-term effects of the updated strategies, such as a more visible, attractive and internationally recognised university and significantly increased opportunities for staff and students to benefit from internationalisation, including at home. The updated policy and strategy documents are expected to be finalised latest by 2022.
The extra funding from the EU for international cooperation is very valuable. It allows projects and cooperation that otherwise would be unlikely and that can have impacts on governance and give access to additional funding. The EU funding also gives the University the possibility to contribute to development on a national level, on the EU level and internationally.