Union activity is perhaps not the sexiest word in the dictionary – but the unions fight for the students’ best interests, after all. Therefore, we put the same question to all student unions:
What is the most important thing that you have succeeded in carrying through for your students this year?
Lund Doctoral Student Union
All around the University, there are hundreds of doctoral students who have significantly worse conditions, as compared with their colleagues’. The Lund Doctoral Student Union, LDK, has focussed on improving the situation for doctoral students on scholarships, from which they get their salary, rather than from the faculty.
Even though the University today is obliged to offer these doctoral students parental leave and sickness benefit, many problems still remain.
“They do not have the same social safety-net or the right to a vacation, which we think everyone should have. Moreover, the salary level is significantly lower, about half of what an employed doctoral student receives,” Fredrik Hanell, vice chairperson of LDK, says.
The issue has been raised in the University’s Education Board that will soon reach a decision. According to the union, it looks as though a flexible solution will be possible, one that could increase the feeling of security for the doctoral students studying on scholarships.
The Student Union for Humanities and Theology
More clear grading criteria in all courses. That is what the Student Union for Humanities and Theology, HTS, has aimed for this year. At the moment, the grading criteria are a bit too arbitrary. The intention with the new grading criteria – which will be implemented within a near future – is to make it clearer for both students and staff what the actual aims are.
“Now, there are often only learning objectives, for example that ‘the aim of this course is that the students reach these knowledge requirements and this level of understanding’. With the new guidelines, the intention is that the grading criteria should be more tangible,” Filippa Wieselgren, chairperson of HTS, says.
In the future, it should be more evident within which areas students are supposed to have deeper knowledge and be able to argue their case. At the same time, the lecturers will have clearer guidelines concerning what they should assess in their exams. The plan is that all courses within the faculty should implement the new form of grading criteria by 2017.
The Social Sciences Student Union
In the Social Sciences Student Union, nothing revolutionary has taken place in the last year that is palpable for the students. The constant lack of educator-supervised time for the students is at a higher political level, and the coming move from the present student union building in Helsingborg is going smoothly for the union section Agora.
If you are deaf, are struggling with dyslexia, or some other diagnosis that demands pedagogical support, the union is now fighting for you to get the same types of support, irrespective of what subject you are studying.
“This will lead to a policy that should apply to the Faculty of Social Science. If you have received a diagnosis of some sort, you should be treated in the same way, regardless of whether you study Political Science, or if you switch to Sociology,” Pal Olsson, vice-chairperson of the Social Sciences Student Union, says.
The Student Union at LTH
The engineering students should become better at ethics. As an engineer, today, you get wide knowledge that can be used in a variety of situations; everything from manufacturing pacemakers to nuclear warheads. But the ethical parts in the different programmes have, thus far, been few, something that at least the LTH alumni have felt, once they have gotten out into employment. Therefore, the students, together with the union, have been driving forces with respect to the issue of getting more parts of the undergraduate courses to concern ethical issues.
“It says in the requirements for receiving a degree that civil engineers should learn about ethics. We do not feel that the sporadic contributions of ethical issues in the programmes live up to today’s demands,” Alexander Theofanous, vice-chairperson of the Student Union at LTH, says.
LTH will now investigate how ethics can be implemented in their courses on a more general level. The Student Union at LTH is hoping that the new ways of teaching ethics is implemented across the whole of LTH within a few years’ time.
The Law Student Union at Lund University
Bring your computer to an exam? For the students of Law, there is nothing strange about that proposition anymore, ever since the Law Student Union at Lund University carried through the question concerning digitalised exams. Now, the students can choose to take their exams on their computers, as an alternative to pen and paper.
“Such a wish has existed for a long time among students, mainly because our exams are so heavy in text and because they are often taken for several hours,” Rasmus Ringström, chairperson of the Law Student Union at Lund University, says.
Earlier, the problem was of a technical nature, but when the students are taking exams, a special software is now used that can freeze all other activity on the computer. After a test-run this spring, the Faculty of Law chose, in the beginning of September, to introduce digital exams for all semesters and courses with immediate effect.
The Student Union for Science Students in Lund
At the Student Union for Science students in Lund, LUNA, nothing big that the students are aware of has happened. Above all, the union has focussed on structuring the organisation in the best way. Communication in English has increased, and the union has acquired more active members, who can help with supervising the education.
Presently, LUNA aims to improve its contacts with the industries, something that is missing, according to students.
“An education gives you competence to make you attractive in the labour market. But, if you do not get any insight into what the labour market looks like, then how do you know where to turn,” Jesper Sjöström Strobel, chairperson for LUNA, asks himself.
At the moment, the Medicine- and the Biomedicine programmes are in the process of being restructured. Therefore, Medicinska föreningen, MF, has put its effort in partaking in the process, since the two programmes are the two largest of the faculty. The union has got student representatives who affect, for example, syllabi and how the programmes are to be changed to benefit the students the most.
“For example, in the new Medicine programme, it now seems that a course will be added which prepares the students for the clinic placements, so that they have a better understanding of what being in a clinic entails,” Malin Fredén Axelsson, chairperson of MF, says.
The new Biomedicine programme will commence next autumn and hopes are high that the new Medicine programme will start a year later.
At Lundaekonomerna, no significant changes can be seen, as compared with last year. The work with making the union a more welcoming place for international students has continued and the homepage is now presented completely in English.
The lack of study places for the students remains, but the union has representatives who affect the development of the new School of Economics and Management building, where new study places is an important issue.
Whilst they wait, the union now wants to adopt the idea of having digital exams.
“The aim is to try digital exams in a course in the coming spring semester, evaluate them, and see whether it has worked as well as we and the faculty hope it will. Then, digital exams will be introduced in some of the bigger courses,” Felix Blanke, vice-chairperson of Lundaekonomerna, says.
For several years, nurses have struggled for higher commencing salaries, among other things, through the Student Union Vårdvetenskapliga studentföreningen, Våvs. Although the demand of 25,000 SEK is yet to be fulfilled, the struggle has brought some results in its wake. By the end of November, Region Skåne announced that, following the protests, they would increase the commencing salaries for nurses who have just passed their final exams to 23,500 SEK – an increase of 1,500 SEK per month.
Other than that, the union has not done anything that a regular student will notice in any direct way in their studies. Instead, Våvs has worked with becoming more visible and making sure the students know where they should turn with questions concerning their studies.
“I might be a bit biased, but when I have asked students, it seems that they think it is clearer who they should contact,” Dennis Brodelius, the chairman of Våvs, says.
*All unions that were asked have at least one full-time salaried student who works for the union, apart from the Lund Doctoral Student Union, where the chairmanship receives a salary corresponding to half-time.
Text: Kenneth Carlsson
Photo: Jonas Jacobson
Translation: Richard Helander