Foreign Academics in Swedish Working Life

"The project gives foreign academics the opportunity to study Swedish and learn about their new home country", Gunilla E Magnusson, manager of RuC, the regional development centre at University of Borås, says.

The project aim is to take advantage of foreign academics’ competences and introduce them to Swedish working life. Developed from the project, ‘The Shortcut’, the Foreign Academics Project (Swedish: PUA) is more extensive.

"The objective is to have a plan for immigrants with academic background as soon as they arrive in Sweden", Annika Malm, project leader for PUA, says.

"It is important to take care of the immigrants and their competence immediately. Knowledge is a perishable commodity and it is a waste not to take advantage of their knowledge, especially when you consider all the people in our country who are about to retire".

One important difference compared to earlier project is that the participants, chosen by the Employment Services, have studied Swedish as a foreign language equivalent to elementary school level and participate in the project for 26 weeks. The current group has been active since mid October. During the 26 weeks, the participants are to find placement at companies or study additional courses at the University of Borås, including Swedish. In general, as the project finishes approximately half of the participants have a job and the other half continue studying in order to enhance their employment prospects.

Important both for Participants and Society

The current project runs until 2010. The aim is that the project is permanent by then. So far, six universities/higher education institutions participate in the project, but the number is expected to increase. The estimated total of foreign academics enrolled in the project is 800, which makes it an important activity both for the participants as well as the Swedish society. Annika Malm continues:

"One example is a woman from Bulgaria. She had worked as a manager at ministry level but had had little social contact with Swedish society. She told me that she wanted some sort of simple industrial work since she had difficulties communicating. This project helped her with her language skills and raised her ambition level and will to work with tasks in line with what she is trained for".

"This project is going to be important for Sweden. It gives us access to people whose education is more or less for free, since they have already studied on an academic level. As long as we manage to integrate them into Swedish society, they can respond to a part of the need of trained academics facing us in the future", Annika Malm says.