Speech by Helene Hellmark Knutsson, Minister for Higher Education and Research, at the Meeting of Nordic Higher Arts Educations

Stockholm, April 18th 2018.

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Thank you for the opportunity to say a few words about Nordic collaboration in education and research.

As you know, Sweden holds the Presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers in 2018. During our Presidency, Sweden wishes to work for an inclusive, sustainable and innovative Nordic region. A Nordic region that is both secure and open. Based on our Nordic model with three pillars: an economic policy focused on full employment, a universal and generous welfare system, and an organized labor market.

In achieving those goals, education and research have a crucial part to play. Education and research represent hope for the future. To enable individuals and societies to develop, education must be inclusive and accessible to all. The education we provide must be sustainable, but also capable of responding to the changes taking place in society.

And research is one of the areas that need to be most innovative and dynamic of all, to offer answers to the major challenges which our societies face and which we share across the Nordic countries.
At the present time we face a troubled world and major challenges to our societies. Fake news and disinformation travel fast and contribute towards distrust, insecurity and tensions.

In many parts of the world we see challenges to the fundamental values of higher education, such as academic freedom and institutional autonomy. We have had reports about universities being closed based on political conflict, and universities facing new legislation aiming to stop their operations.

In the Nordic countries, we share a belief in academic freedom and institutional autonomy. This is important to highlight and work for in times like these, when such fundamental values are threatened elsewhere.

As countries, we have seen how the expansion of our education sectors has helped transform our societies into knowledge economies. However, to us higher education is not merely about providing instrumental skills. It is also about promoting fundamental values.

Arts education and artistic research – the areas which you represent – have a crucial role to play in this context. Art and culture are integral to vibrant, democratic societies and can act as counterforces against undemocratic tendencies. The education and research that you provide, can help build strong, democratic societies inhabited by curiosity driven and critically reflecting men and women.

In times like these, it is more important than ever to continue to invest in Nordic cooperation. The similarities between us are greater than the differences, and working together on issues we are agreed on gives us an even stronger voice than we would each have on our own. Nordic co-operation is also something that our students and citizens appreciate, an appreciation we must safeguard.

During the Swedish Presidency of the Nordic Council, two topics dominate. Both are considered crucial to the future and are discussed at the Council of Ministers for Education and Research (MR-U). The first is our common Nordic research policy, the second is the future of Nordic co-operation in education. I will say a few words about each of these topics.

About research policy co-operation, this is one of the most extensive and oldest areas of collaboration within the Nordic Council of Ministers.
The aims of this co-operation are to help the Nordic region develop into a leading knowledge region. And for the research undertaken to promote the advances in knowledge that are fundamental to the development of society, and policymaking, across a wide range of fields and sectors.

Most Nordic Council of Ministers research initiatives are channeled through NordForsk, which primarily is a platform for collaboration between national research funding agencies. During its Presidency, Sweden has set out to further clarify the role of NordForsk and further develop its work in terms. For example, of Nordic added value, improved collaboration and a greater focus on quality.

When it comes to education, the Swedish Presidency is focused on the agenda for future cooperation. The work that we are now undertaking builds on a report from 2017 by a High Level Group appointed by the Nordic Council of Ministers to carry out a strategic review. The report provides recommendations on how future Nordic co-operation in education could be strengthened and renewed. During the Swedish Presidency, the ambition is that, based on the High Level Group's report, it will be possible at to adopt clear guidelines and priorities for further work by the Council of Ministers on educational issues in the coming years.

Both topics – strengthening our common Nordic research policy and setting out the agenda for our future collaboration in education – will be important in many respects. Nordic collaboration in research can provide real added value to the work that is undertaken in each of our countries. This probably holds true not least in a developing field such as yours. And I note that you have embarked on a number of joint Nordic actions such as a new research journal.

Nordic collaboration in education not only gives the individual student an opportunity to take part in high quality education in a neighbouring country – it also strengthens development in our home institutions.
I am sure that this is something that you are highly aware of in your field. I note, for example, that there are dynamic and ambitious Nordic networks under the Nordplus umbrella, in the fields of fine art and music pedagogy and many others.

The Nordic countries are region in the far north. We need to draw on our joint knowledge and skills, research and innovative capacity.
We also need to build on our common understanding and fundamental values.

It is by working together, that we can achieve a Nordic region that is secure, strong and open. Based on our successful Nordic model.
Let us continue this joint venture, with the goal to secure the Nordic region as a strong, sustainable and innovative knowledge region.