Seven ways this Swedish university is at the heart of the global fight against climate change

The devastating impact of climate change and the need for positive solutions is increasingly apparent all around the world. Sweden is recognised for its progressive approach to many issues, including sustainability.

Seven ways this Swedish university is at the heart of the global fight against climate change
Photo: Linköping University

At Linköping University (LiU) in southern Sweden, scientists and engineers are working across an impressive range of areas to tackle climate change and create a better future. LiU also collaborates closely with the business world and wider society to help ensure its research has the maximum possible impact.

The Local takes a closer look at seven ways this Swedish university is leading in the global fight against climate change.

A tradition of innovation: see the full range of international degree programmes taught in English at Linköping University

1. By taking a collaborative approach to the climate crisis

LiU’s Centre for Climate Science and Policy Research (CSPR) aims to develop knowledge and methods that can help societies manage climate change in Sweden and overseas. Researchers at CSPR are involved in everything from the adaptation efforts of local municipalities through to the global UN climate conferences.

CSPR is a platform for collaborative international efforts involving experts from many fields – political scientists, geographers, environmental scientists and physicists to name just a few.

2. By contributing to landmark UN reports

Experts at LiU also contributed to the landmark climate report by the UN’s IPCC published in August. Björn-Ola Linnér, LiU’s professor of climate policy, said the report made “sombre reading” but marked “a proud day for science”.

Professor David Bastviken, at the Department of Thematic Studies – Environmental Change, is conducting important ongoing research on how we measure greenhouse gases. He has already identified lakes as a large emitter of methane gas and believes we have too few measurements of methane in natural settings. LiU’s Environmental Change initiative is a platform for strategic research into our impact on the natural world.

Photo: Linköping University

3. By improving energy efficiency

Industry accounts for a huge amount of global energy usage and about 40 percent of all energy used in Sweden. LiU’s Division of Energy Systems has been researching ways to improve Swedish industrial energy efficiency for four decades. 

In Sweden, the research group works to find solutions in areas including the aluminium industry, the pulp and paper industry, and cooling processes in the steel industry. It also contributes to international research projects on vital issues such as helping small and medium-sized industrial businesses to cut their energy usage.

This research has a direct benefit for companies by reducing their environmental impact, and has also led to new methods and tools for improving energy efficiency.

A tradition of innovation: see the full range of international degree programmes taught in English at Linköping University

4. By understanding the power of start-ups

The concept of the circular economy has become well-known in recent years and many companies are keen to embrace it. But achieving change can be difficult in practice. 

Universities have a key role to play in providing expert knowledge and this is another area where LiU excels. The agility of start-ups means they may be able to embrace circular systems that save resources, energy and water quicker than older companies.

That’s why a research project at LiU focuses on sustainable entrepreneurship and gaining the scientific knowledge needed to support start-ups that want circular business models. “Environmental problems are also business opportunities,” says project leader Wisdom Kanda, a senior lecturer in the Department of Management and Engineering.

Photo: Linköping University

5. By engineering tomorrow’s energy solutions 

Engineers are crucial to many of today’s biggest global challenges. The transition to more renewable and sustainable energy systems is no exception. Students on LiU’s two-year Master’s Programme in Sustainability Engineering and Management (available in both English and Swedish) are learning how to contribute on the frontline of this exciting transition.

Says Niclas Svensson, head of the programme: “Modern engineering within the sustainability area to me is a lot about turning today’s environmental problems into future business opportunities. To be able to do that we need proactive engineers with broad system perspectives who can see the connections between the environment, technology, and business.

“At Linköping, we try to bring our broad and extensive experiences from collaboration about and cocreation of sustainable solutions with our surrounding society to our engineering students. They learn how to develop, manage and evaluate future sustainable systems in courses which uses real cases from our collaboration partners.”

Several renewable energy solutions have been implemented in the region, giving students the chance to see environmental technology in action.

The university also administers Sweden’s national Biogas Research Center. Biogas has a key role to play in meeting the UN’s sustainable development goals. 

6. By reimagining forestry and agriculture

Few things matter more to sustainable development and climate change than forestry and agriculture. LiU is known for its high quality research in developing new materials from forestry products.

And it’s no mere coincidence that it’s the host university for the VinnVäxt programme Agtech2030. Vinnväxt is a competition, run by the Swedish government’s innovation agency Vinnova, which allows regions to win ten years of funding for long-term innovation initiatives. Agtech 2030 aims to build up innovation to create a new age for agriculture by using digital technology, AI, the Internet of things, and more.

7. By promoting the ‘circular economy’

Linköping University is committed to promoting the notion of the circular economy – one in which materials and manufacturing equipment are recycled, repaired and refurbished for as long as possible, so as to promote sustainability and innovation.

The university chiefly does this through its participation in the MISTRA REES research program, a collaboration between manufacturers and academic institutions to steer Swedish manufacturing towards a sustainable future. 

Professor Mattias Lindhal, of the university, says: “It works to create solutions that are, from an economic, environmental, social and life cycle perspective, resource efficient and effective, while maintaining the positive value within the overall system.”

Interested in creating a more sustainable world? Linköping University has 32,400 students across four campuses in Sweden. Discover the full range of international degree programmes taught in English that it offers.

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English-language programmes at Danish universities face cuts

Denmark's government has agreed on a plan to significantly reduce the number of courses offered in English in the country's universities.

English-language programmes at Danish universities face cuts
Life sciences faculty hold an open house at Copenhagen University. The university is now expected to reduce admissions as part of a plan to decentralise higher education in Denmark. Photo: Thomas Lekfeldt / Ritzau Scanpix

At the end of June, the plan aims to reduce the number of English-language higher education programmes while also expanding educational opportunities outside of Denmark’s major cities.

The exact number of courses to be cut – and where they will be cut – depends on the future employment of graduates.

Cuts to English-language programmes

The reduction of English-language programmes at institutions of higher education is rooted in an effort to reduce rising costs of state educational grants (SU) in Denmark. Despite attempts to reduce SU expenses, the cost is expected to rise to 570 million kroner by 2025, far above the cap of 449 million kroner set in 2013. 

There are a number of cases in which non-Danish citizens are entitled to SU, from moving to Denmark with one’s parents, marrying a Danish citizen, residing in Denmark for more than 5 years, status as a worker in Denmark, and more.

The reduction is targeted at English-language programmes where few English-speaking students find employment in Denmark after graduation, according to Denmark’s Ministry of Education and Research. 

Among the targeted programmes are business academies and professional bachelor programmes, where 72 percent of students are English-speaking and only 21 percent find work in Denmark after completing their education. 

However, programmes where higher proportions of English students enter the Danish workforce, and those that have a unique significance on the regional labour market, will be exempt from the reduction. This amounts to 650 education institutions around the country. 

In 2016, students demonstrated against cuts in SU. Photo: Emil Hougaard / Ritzau Scanpix

The agreement also establishes a financial incentive for institutions that graduate English-speaking students who remain to work in Denmark.

According to a June 10 analysis from consulting firm Deloitte, EU students who receive higher education in Denmark contribute an average of nearly 650,000 kroner to Denmark’s public coffers over a lifetime. 

However, the report notes, a student’s positive or negative contribution depends on how long they stay in Denmark. Although students who leave Denmark shortly after graduating constitute a cost to the Danish state, the analysis found that the contribution of students who stay in Denmark to work offsets the cost of those who leave.

The analysis expressed concern that reducing opportunities for English-language higher education could “have a number of unintended negative consequences,” including deterring students who might stay in Denmark to work from moving in the first place. There’s also the risk that it will become more difficult to recruit foreign researchers to Danish universities, which could impact education quality, the analysis claims.

The UCN professional school in Thisted is expected to open one new training program as a result of the decentralisation plan. Photo: Henning Bagger/Ritzau Scanpix

Decentralisation of Danish education

The plan to decentralise higher education in Denmark not only expands educational opportunities outside of Denmark’s major cities, but it also aims to reduce enrollment in higher education within major cities by 10 percent by 2030 (but not more than 20 percent).

For example, a law programme will be established in Esbjerg, a medical programme in Køge and a veterinary programme in Foulum.

Minister of Education and Research Ane Halsboe-Jørgensen said the goal was to offer students educational opportunities regardless of where they live within Denmark and strengthen the economy outside of major cities. 

However, the Danish Chamber of Commerce, Dansk Erhverv, expressed concern that the decentralisation plan doesn’t factor in labour demands within Denmark’s major cities.

Mads Eriksen, head of education and research policy at Dansk Erhverv, said it was “unwise” for programmes to reduce acceptance rates to in-demand fields in that particular city. 

“They are trying to solve a problem with labour in the countryside, but at the same time they are creating labour problems in the cities,” Eriksen said. “The English-language programme cuts are far more aligned with the demands of the labour market.”

Denmark has utilised unemployment-based admission for higher education since 2015. Programmes whose graduates experience unemployment consistently 2 percent higher than average are subject to a 30 percent admission cut.

Eriksen thinks it shouldn’t be a matter of reducing admissions across several universities by

“For example, we have five philosophy education programmes in Denmark, each of which have high unemployment rates among graduates,” Eriksen said, referencing a recent Dansk Erhverv analysis

He would prefer to see resources concentrated into making a couple of those programmes the best they can be and closing the rest, versus reducing admissions in all five programmes. “We have to be ready to close programmes that continue to have high unemployment, not just reduce them.”

In 2018, the University of Southern Denmark closed one English-language program and converted two from English to Danish. Photo: Tim Kildeborg Jensen / Ritzau Scanpix

Opposite impacts on provincial institutions

Gitte Sommer Harrits, vice chancellor at VIA University College, shared concern that although the decentralised education aspect of the plan aims to increase the number of students at provincial universities, the reduction of English-language programmes is likely to have the opposite effect.

A report from the organisation Akademikerne in early June found that international students have played a significant role filling educational institutions outside of Danish cities. Nine of the 10 educational institutions with the largest proportion of English-speaking students are outside the country’s largest cities. 

The University of Southern Denmark in Sønderborg has the highest proportion of international students; 40 percent of its 628 students are not affiliated with Denmark or other Nordic countries. 

While significantly larger with nearly 37,000 students, Copenhagen University has 5.2 percent international students.

Already in 2018, the University of Southern Denmark closed one English-language programme and converted two others from English to Danish after the Danish government ordered universities to reduce the number of international students.

Harrits said she found the possible closure of English-language programmes drawing international students to provincial areas to be puzzling when paired with the intention to decentralise education.