Passing on the experience: How to influence doctoral student education at KTH?

KTH has many international doctoral students, many of them are even foreign to the idea of education influence by students. Often there are gaps in understanding the system. Doctoral students are represented in almost all central level forums. The structure of these forums changes over time. At the moment, the main forums include the faculty councilthe board of educationthe employment board, the council of strategic affairs, and the university board. Similarly, doctoral students are represented at the important decision-making bodies of the five different schools of KTH. Through this blog post, I will give a three-step process from my understanding of how to influence education at KTH.

Background: Swedish Laws

The Swedish laws on education are very supportive of student influence. I would further go on to add that one of the most supportive clauses for student influence ever written on a piece of paper exists in Swedish laws.

The students shall have the right to exert influence over education at the universities. The universities shall work to ensure that the students take an active part in the work to further their education.

The above clause has two parts, first, the students have the right to influence, and second, the universities need to make sure that students can actively exercise this right. The question often arises, what are the ways in which students can appropriately use these rights. It is one aspect to be a passive representative in a board/committee/workgroup and another to actively influence decisions using the rights.

Three Step Model

I present a three-step model for active student engagement to change the policies. This should be done by deliberation within the student body and picking policies of importance. Once, you have decided on your set of issues, you could follow the three-step process.

  • Actively influence the agenda. It is the most important step. If your issue is not brought into the agenda, it will never be discussed. To bring the issue to the agenda, raise it in the preparatory meeting or the other questions point (often the last point of the agenda) to be included in the next meeting’s agenda.
  • Formation of workgroup. Once the issue is included in the agenda, actively inform the meeting regarding the issue. If no decision could be made, suggest the formation of a work-group (be prepared before-hand about the names). In the workgroup, discuss the policy matter and suggest changes/new addition be brought.
  • The decision by the board. Once the workgroup provides its recommendations the respective board shall decide on the policy. Be prepared for different kinds of questions that could be raised. One must not take the questions or remarks against the suggested policy negatively but instead on a positive note. If the board decides to accept the policy measure, then it’s a win-win situation. If it rejects, suggest the policy matter to be returned to the work-group.

What student representatives should not do?

Student representatives should only exercise the interest of students. They must not let anyone else’s interest be exercised by renting their shoulders; even if the matter is presented and molded in a way to masquerade as students’ interest. One needs to be watchful. It must be said, that this is not a very Swedish style, so such issues will be rare. Also, student representatives should not be pedantic and raise unnecessary doubts on the matters discussed. Instead, they must find a balance.

This blog was posted by Mohit Daga, Vice-Chairperson of DR for the year 2020.

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