Completed research projects


Political ambitions meet scientific capital. Sustainable Development in higher education

Description in English will be available soon

Ida Lidegran, Department of Education

Theme 2: The universities and their relations to Swedish democratic institutions

Collaborating with society: the university as a referral body 1968 – 2022

One of the central, but probably somewhat overlooked, roles the university has is to formulate advisory opinions on various government investigations. In its role as a referral body, the university can contribute with its expertise to ensure that well-founded democratic decisions can be made on various issues. The project intends to review Uppsala University's referral statements on the investigations that concern democracy and higher education with the aim of identifying trends in the university's self-understanding over a longer period of time. A study of the university as a referral body can also give us knowledge about how the relationship between the university and the surrounding society has developed historically and in the present. The specific questions that the project seeks to answer are: 1) What image of the university's role in relation to the surrounding society emerges in the advisory opinions that Uppsala University has given on government investigations concerning the university system during the period 1968–2022? 2) What trends and stances can be identified in this self-understanding over a longer period of time?

Jakob Evertsson, Department of History

Theme 2: The universities and their relations to Swedish democratic institutions

The independent role of research in society and the primacy of the will of the people

All research policy is characterised by a balance between what an independent role of science expressed as academic freedom means, and the opportunities available to let the will of the people exercise the ultimate decision-making power over how public funds are used. The project focuses on how different perceptions of academic freedom and the primacy of the will of the people impact the organisation of our research councils. What ideas about academic freedom and democracy characterise the governance of the research councils? For example, does the current formal representation of researchers on the councils' boards indicate an intention that the research councils should have a more independent position in relation to the government compared to other government agencies? Are there solutions that can better reconcile the value of science free role in society with the democratic principle of primacy for the will of the people?

PerOla Öberg, Department of Government.

Theme 2: The universities and their relations to Swedish democratic institutions

The language workshop’s role in the pursuit of increased democratisation?

Today, higher education is often regarded as a natural step for many students after high school. Today’s society that places higher emphasis on knowledge acquisition, and political ambitions about equity and gender equality, have been contributing factors to this trend. The government's intention to broaden recruitment to higher education means that university teachers encounter students whose educational and personal background vary to a greater extent than before, which can challenge traditional patterns for teaching and examination. One of the few initiatives implemented to meet the increased demand for democratic representation, broadened recruitment and diversity at universities is the establishment of language workshops. However, few studies have taken an interest in the work and knowledge area of language workshops. The purpose of the research project is to deepen our knowledge about the language workshop's ability to function as a balancing force in the university's democratisation efforts, based on the experiences of students and university teachers. University teachers and students at Uppsala University, who have experience of the university’s language workshop, will be interviewed.

Gunilla Lindqvist, Department of Education.

Theme 1: Democratic processes at the universities

Students' abilities, thinking, attitudes, and democratic ideals in a world of fake news

Especially in an era of fake news, the importance of critical thinking in higher education is emphasised. This project aims to investigate how different orientations in higher education are related to people's ability to deal with misleading information and democratic challenges. Through a survey with measures of knowledge and attitudes related to democratic ideals and digital literacy, we make it possible to see new correlations and to analyse with better precision how different orientations of higher education can contribute to promoting digital literacy and democracy. Our project will provide new insights into how higher education relates to key issues in the theme Universities and the democratic institutions of Swedish society.

Thomas Nygren, Maria Rasmusson och Malin Tväråna; Department of Education

Theme 2: The universities and their relations to Swedish democratic institutions

HT2022- VT2023

Universities at Risk: Explaining Organized Student Violence at African Universities

Improving access to higher education is heralded as a central component of promoting democracy and peace. Despite this, universities are often fraught by organised violence in many African countries. This constitutes a serious problem. Not only does the militarization of campuses risk degrading the quality of higher education, but also foster a new generation of leaders who use violence as a tool for political contestation. There is currently a lack of studies investigating universities as sites of violent mobilisation. The purpose of this project is therefore to generate new knowledge about why some universities are more susceptible to violence, than others. I propose that university violence is the result of interactions between student grievances, militant socialisation and inter-elite competition to control the mobilisation capacity of campuses. In a pilot study, I plan to assess this argument by tracing the levels of violence at universities in Liberia and Sierra Leone during 1989-2021.

Anders Themnér, Department of Peace and Conflict Research.

Theme 3: The universities and the global democratisation of nations

Student Organisations, Democratisation and Higher Education in Belarus: the understanding, function and implementation of human rights

The human rights situation in Belarus has long been catastrophic with repressive legislation, oppressive mechanisms and interventions regularly exercised by state actors and bodies (Frear 2019, Bedford 2021). Until 2020, democratisation, social criticism and human rights were primarily issues that engaged opposition actors and organisations. Belarusians have been seen as apolitical, generally unconcerned with politics. This drastically changed after the 2020 election, when a significant part of the Belarusian population protested and demonstrated against the election results. This created a momentum for change, yet we know very little about how various actors have been able to utilise this shift – and the repressive measures that followed. Previous research indicates that students and student organisations have played a crucial role in democratic change, connecting democratisation, students and higher education. Exploring this further based on interviews with Belarusians in exile, this project aims to explore how Belarusian student organisations understand, use and implement human rights, both strategically and in their daily work, and if and how this is related to higher education.

Johanna Ohlsson, Institute for Russian and Eurasian Studies (IRES)

Theme 3: The universities and the global democratisation of nations

The rise of university democracy

More information can be found on the Swedish page (in Swedish).

Johan Boberg, Department of Education.

Theme 1: Democratic processes at the universities

Democracy, Higher Education and Feminism: The Case of Mary Wollstonecraft

Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797) is a profoundly significant figure for the history of democratic rights and of education. She was one of the earliest advocates for co-education, theorising it as a main driver of socio-political progress. In addition to writing treatises in political philosophy and works on education and contemporary history, she published journalism, a Scandinavian travelogue, and literary fiction promoting ideas of social justice to the broadest possible audience. This project addresses, with Wollstonecraft, the key place of women’s access to education as part of the process by which democratic rule is achieved and sustained. Wollstonecraft was instrumental to the development of a field of enquiry – feminism - that began outside the walls of the university but has transformed it, and in doing so created the aspiration to make it more inclusive, restructured on the principle of gender equality. These developments are less than a century old and have yet to be fully realised.

Emma Clery, Department of English

Theme 3: The universities and the global democratisation of nations

Just the facts, please. History as Politics on Digital Forums and Among Students

The past evokes different forms of emotions – nostalgia or disgust. The past can be something that we want to return to, or a deterrent that we want to move away from. Political slogans demonstrate how history is used actively to form the future. This project aims to investigate the politicisation of history with a focus on historical education at Swedish universities. The project aims to increase our knowledge about which historical periods or themes that become politicised and seen as controversial and compare these to an idealised view of history that claims that descriptions of the past shall be neutral, unbiased, and based on facts. Subsequently, this will allow for a discussion of what a democratic education entails and a deeper understanding of how different views of history can be handled in higher education. The project will study discussions of history in digital forums as well as how students view their history education.

Christine Ekholst, Department of History.

Theme 2: The universities and their relations to Swedish democratic institutions

The Democratisation of Medicine: Universities, Democracy and Ethics

The purpose is to initiate research about the establishment of research ethics and bioethics at Swedish universities from around 1960 onwards. It takes as a starting point that this kind of ethics represents a field of knowledge where notions of science, democracy and the proper relationship between them are constructed. Overall research questions are: What problems have research ethics and bioethics been seen as a solution to? What role has been attributed to science and what conceptions and values about democratic representation have been advanced? What has changed over time? A pilot study is conducted that focuses on how democracy was defined by medical students and teachers during the 1960s, as well as what changes within the university that these historical actors demanded in order to create a better democratic order. This debate was national in character but linked to international movements, which means that it can provide a broader understanding of public criticism of medical research, education and care in Western democratic societies at the time.

Solveig Jülich, Department of History of Science and Ideas.

Theme 3: The universities and the global democratisation of nations

Top ranked universities’ models of funding and forms of governance

One ambition of higher education policy has been to promote democracy. Public investments in higher education has aimed to encourage admission of students regardless of background. While higher education has become a mass phenomenon that lacks social exclusivity, a number of elite universities have maintained a preeminent position. In the last decades, this position has been confirmed by the spread of international ranking lists. Many of the elite universities on these lists rely to a large degree on private funding while in for example the Nordic countries they are mainly publicly funded. With a focus on Europe and the USA, the project aims to investigate the connections between top ranked universities’ models of funding, forms of governance and academic performance. Forms of government refers to who wields the ultimate power to appoint the university board, for example alumni, the collegium, or the government. An ambition is to find patterns in how forms of governance and funding models interact in creating high quality education and research, and in driving costs.

Janne Holmén, Department of Education.

Theme 1: Democratic processes at the universities