Dr. Deborah Kittrell-Mikell, Director of Academic Support Services on East Georgia State College’s Augusta campus and Astraea Thigpen, Academic Advisement Specialist on EGSC’s Swainsboro campus, had the unique opportunity to spend their 2018 spring break in Sweden. Although it was snowing and cold upon their arrival, the two had an opportunity to tour and meet with academic advisors at Lund University and Malmö University.
Lund University is a research university founded in 1666. According to literature the advisors were given, Lund is one of the oldest learning institutions in Scandinavia. The institution has very rigorous programs and gaining an acceptance as a freshman is equivalent to attending Georgia Southern University or the University of Georgia. Approximately 15% (6,300) of the students who attend are international students representing over 70 countries. The advisor that Kittrell-Mikell and Thigpen spoke with also serves as a professor of English and is originally from Australia. She reminded them that Sweden is home of the Nobel Prize, which is considered the world’s most prestigious academic distinction. That might explain why Lund is considered to have many revolutionary discoveries in research. The faculty advisor explained that one of the most interesting things about higher education in Sweden is, unlike the United States, there is no graduation ceremony for earning a bachelor or master’s degree. A student would not have a graduation ceremony until they earned a doctoral degree.
Malmö University, however, was founded in 1998 and was named Malmö Högskola. The advisors were proud to announce that it has recently been upgraded to Malmö University. They told the EGSC advisors that there are approximately 24,000 students who are considered non-traditional and 15% are international students. Malmö has a direct connection with the community and targets students who are 30 – 40 years old, rather than typical college-aged students. Before 2009, there was no tuition fee for international students, and one of the senior advisors mentioned the difficulty some international students had in their classes because the high level of comprehension of the material was difficult. In other words, some students from different countries arrived with little proficiency in the Swedish language as well as English.
Nevertheless, the most pressing issue that Malmö University is dealing with involves how to place and educate refugees from Syria. Due to the war, many refugees from Syria are now in the southern part of Sweden looking for jobs with no paperwork to verify credentials. Many of the refugees had professional or skilled jobs in Syria, but escaped the country and it has been difficult to provide equivalent jobs in Malmö without proof of qualifications. The advisor explained that the career advisors at Malmö have joined a partnership with the employment office to address the problem. Presently, Malmö offers free language comprehension classes for anyone who wants to learn Swedish. Working directly with the refugees from Syria is a prime example of how interconnected Malmö University is with the community. Other topics in higher education were discussed, including recruitment efforts, retention endeavors and early alert undertakings.
The advisors at Malmö allowed East Georgia State advisors Kittrell-Mikell and Thigpen to share some of the practices and procedures to help students stay on track for college completion.
“Overall, it was a phenomenal educational experience,” said Kittrell-Mikell.