AN INTEGRATED MINDSET
At just over 20 years of age, Södertörn University in Sweden is not bound by tradition. Where older universities sit with centuries of history and ways of doing things, Södertörn has the freedom to reinvent the wheel. Take its Culture Management programme, for instance. It combines business administration with a study of arts and culture to produce a graduating cohort that is one step ahead of the competition. Students on the programme study the history of ideas, concepts of culture and art, the media, and the history and theory of aesthetics.
“People are very impressed with their level of knowledge,” says Professor Moira von Wright, Vice Chancellor. “It’s thanks to them having these two ways of understanding life: business administration and economics on the one hand and culture on the other.” Meanwhile, the university’s journalism faculty is known for producing critical thinkers with scientific knowledge. “Their success is in this closeness between the building of their knowledge and the needs of the profession,” she says.
CULTURE AND COMMERCE
Another success story is Environmental Sciences. “It has a natural science base,” says Professor von Wright, “but it also places all the research questions in a societal context, always asking questions such as ‘what does this mean for the quality of human life?’ or ‘what does this mean for sustainable development?’ and so on.”
In the university’s Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Markets programme, commercialisation knowledge is combined with a Bachelor of Arts or a Bachelor of Science: “We continually try to get a sense of what it is that society needs,” says Professor von Wright, “and then we try to give it something even better.”
Only 20 minutes from the centre of Stockholm, Södertörn offers more than 150 bachelor’s and master’s degree courses across its four schools: social sciences; historical and contemporary studies; culture and education; and natural sciences, technology and environmental studies. Of these, around seven programmes and 100 courses are taught in English. The university also offers doctoral programmes, including Baltic and East European Studies; Environmental Sciences; Critical and Cultural Theory; Historical Studies; and Politics, Economy and the Organisation of Society.
A NATIONAL INSTITUTION
Södertörn aims to be a leader in interdisciplinary research and education, one that connects with society, is open in spirit and encourages individual formation. “To deliver an outstanding university experience means providing an excellent education – and our teaching staff are consistently ranked highly nationwide,” says Professor von Wright. “However, it’s so much more than that. A university should be respectful of each students’ prior knowledge, and also be a means for attaining awareness, life experience and critical thinking. And our students really enjoy the lifestyle here, too. It is safe, open, and there’s access to a lot of interesting places and activities.
Above all, the university’s strength is its comprehensiveness. “We have all four fields of research and education,” says Professor von Wright, “and key to everything is a high degree of interdisciplinary work. People come together around themes that interest them. We find a question that is relevant to our time and different researchers address that question.
“It makes the research we do very relevant, gets the students to think outside of the box and, at the same time, makes their education valuable in society. Our graduates are employable and confident.”