This post is an update to my preveus entry “Non-swedish-speaker students cannot be enrolled into groups that discuss education projects. karolinska institutet”.

The previous episode: Months ago, an animated discussion in our Campus was trigged by a couple of infamous emails spread through Karolinska Institutet mailing-list. These emails announced the possibility to cover vacant positions within the Student Medical Association Medicinska Föreningen (MF): from the Institute Senate to working-groups that discuss education quality. Unfortunately, these position were apparently devoted to Swedish-speakers only. A formal justification for this was actually given: there are laws that indicate that documentation in such meeting must be written in Swedish language.

Interestingly, these emails started with the frightened headline: Information only of importance to Swedish-speaking PhD students. Reason why they attracted so much attention.


Few day later posting about this, I received in cc (I don’t really know from whom, yet!) some mails of other students complaining for this situation. I would like to acknowledge the work of Indira Chivukula, PhD student at CMB, that took the time to compile a detailed letter to give voice to those students. The letter was sent to the attention of the Head of PhD Education in Karolisnka, Prof. Anders Gustafsson.

Prof. Gustafsson briskly replied to Indira to confirm that “there are no specific rules that excludes non-Swedish speaking students in the working groups“. He also promise to initiate a discussion within the student body about this.


I have been told (but I failed in tracking a good reference) that KI official language is English and that numerous efforts are currently done to ensure that all the essential-for-campus-life annotations and signs will be written in English. Funny enough, someone in my department noted that instructions for using emergency tools and first-aid kits are in Swedish. If something/someone get on fire, I best take first my Swedish Dictionary and then the extinguisher.

What happened since then?

Today, MF spread another Swedish email to urge the nomination of candidate for vacant positions within MF. The nomination deadline is 27th of March, for who’d be interested. So, MF did it again.

I was ready to jump on my keyboard to write a deadly post to the attention of the association, when I noticed that on the MF homepage there is the same announcement, but in English!

Sorry, guys, I don’t get this: why didn’t you include an English copy to the mail, too? Do you really what me to think that you put up the English text on the web because someone told you that you HAVE TO? No such matter for the mailing list, right?

Scrolling MF homepage (activity that I regret I don’t do often) I noticed that the Association received some notification about their not-too-committed international engagement. Indeed one post (no dated) states that “One of the major concerns that was named several times [during a panel discussion] by students is that Medicinska Föreningen does not integrate international students well enough and that the language barrier is often a problem”. It seems that association took the problem seriously and an “international council/Internationella rådet” meeting has been scheduled for Thursday the 29th of March, 17.00 “to plan what can be done for international students and to discuss how to activate international students to take part in the discussion about all kinds of study and leisure related question”. (“activate international students”?! “leisure related question”?!).

I must say the act is noble and international student should now step on. BUT, I would like to underline that I bumped into this post by pure chance, meaning that not too much efforts has been done to spread the word among international students to join this meeting.

An email would have been enough, guys!

Again, in English, please.

4 Responses

  1. Riccardo,

    I totally agree with you that both MF and KI has a long way to go when it comes to better include international students. But we are working on it! Internationalization is actually part of this years operational plan of MF! So it is definatly something we have on the agenda. I would really like to encourage you, and all of your friends, to come to the meeting tomorrow at 17:00! The host Daniel Holl is an international student himself and is currently occupying a chair in the MF board. Now, to the part about KI and why they do like they do…

    The reason why KI “don’t want”, or rather cannot handle, non-swedish speaking persons in ex. the board of research, the board of phd education, the board of higher education or the university senate is because KI, by law, has to write the protocols in Swedish. In turn, the reason for this is because KI is not only a university but actually an official administrative authority under the Swedish government. By law, all official documents affiliated with the Swedish government should be written in Swedish. Maybe this explanation is not 100 % correct in every part but the underlying message is: some parts of KI has to handle the protocols in Swedish because of the way the Swedish law system is designed. On the other hand, protocols can be written in Swedish while the discussion is in English. I know that this is the situation in other parts of KI.

    However, as Anders Gustafsson writes, the language spoken in the working groups can be switched to English. Hence, we have no problems at all appointing international/non-swedish speaking students there. But for other positions where we know that the protocols will be in Swedish or the spoken language is in Swedish we have up until now choosen to select Swedish candidates.

    Personally I don’t like this either. It is wrong to exclude people like this, especially since KI is such an international univeristy and claims that it want to become even more so. So I think that we, as students, should try to change it. It would be kind of interesting to select an international student for a position like this! I mean, its not like KI can exclude a student that has been selected by the student union…? Or would they have the nerve to do so?

    There is only one way to find out, right…?

  2. Dear Johan,

    Thank you very much for your reply.
    It really means a lot both for me and for the entire student body to receive feedbacks about this discussion directly from MF.
    I do understand and it is clear to me that MF is putting efforts trying to solve the “international issue” within KI and the union (which, btw, I thank you for putting down in clear words that these are two DIFFERENT things). I sort of agree with you that some particular spots in KI are very difficult to cover if you don’t manage Swedish language (Senate, for instance), so I think that for the moment just an “open” workshop is a great great job. I am aware that now some non-Swedish students are suppose to attend some of the workshops you mentioned. Again, another good step in the right direction.

    Your point of view speaks very positively for the entire student union, and the meeting you are arranging today (29th March) is, as I sad, extremely positive. Unfortunately, and believe me I am very sorry for this, I am not able to attend the meeting. A couple of days ago I sent an email within my department towards all PhD students, begging them to join your council today (find a copy of the email in the bottom of the reply).

    Part of my concern about your initiative rose from the absence of a spread information about the meeting itself. It would be a pity if, after all the work and the commitment, students doesn’t come just because they didn’t know about it. I asked around and at least in my department (CMB) (which doesn’t mean the whole campus!) people were unaware of this initiative. From this, also my interest in sending an email to all of them and to write this post.

    Your provocative idea of appointing an international student for a key KI vacancy sound very tempting. Again, if international student were more AWARE of all of this, they would possible do something along with you.

    I may completely disclose now that I think that “internationality” and the scarce foreigner involvement it’s not necessarily a problem of MF or KI itself. I realized, working in my environment, that often international students feel simply no responsible for what’ going on in KI. A sort of “we” vs “them”. Absurd.
    This behavior can arise from the fact that KI gives very high credit to all students. While Swedish students know their power to change the system, most international students are not used to a such open-mind approach and call themselves off even before trying.

    I wish that your intentional meeting succeed and I look forward to talk to you and other members of MF board soon.

    Thank you for your precious engagement.

  3. Here comes the copy of the mail:

    Hej everybody,

    This is a message for all PhD students. Please read, it’s very important!

    I would like to direct you attention to the next council organized by Medicinska Föreningen.

    MF has recently been questioned about their scarce commitment to engage non-swedish-speaker students in the association life. To address these concerns (brought up by many, students and not) the association invites all students to an international council (Internationella rådet) on

    Thursday the 29th of March, 17.00
    at Medicinska Föreningen, Kårexpeditionen

    The complete info here

    The meeting aims to involve everyone who thinks that internationality is an added value for Karolinska and that foreigner voice within the association should be listen and considered.

    If you wanna change things and/or feel inside the Campus life, this is the chance. This is a VERY IMPORTANT step taken from MF and now the student body (international and not) should feel the responsibility to answer this call.

    The notice is very short, but I strongly encourage everyone commitment.


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