New programme aiming to deepen academic contacts in the Baltic Sea region

A focus on universities’ work with internationalization. That’s what it’s all about in the Swedish Institute's new funding programme, where Swedish universities get an opportunity for new collaborations in the Baltic Sea region, Russia and the EU's Eastern Partnership.
A building next to water

According to Tom Nilsson, senior lecturer at Malmö University, today’s students and teachers need to understand other cultures, and practice their skills in this era of globalization.

– From my perspective, it seems that states and countries are increasingly withdrawing from international cooperation, and that nationalism is on the rise. That is why I think it is more important today than ten years ago to connect countries.

Tom Nilsson has worked on a pilot project that Malmö University ran with universities in Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia and Armenia. Through the project, which was about increased internationalization, he realized that there is a mutual willingness to work across national borders.

– Our partners in the project were truly passionate about strengthening their universities’ work with internationalization. They, like us, strive to provide students with the best education possible and create the best conditions for their researchers, even though they have poorer financial conditions to get there.

Above all, he stresses, the goal of internationalization is to strengthen the quality of education and research.

– It is a crucial starting point. Internationalization should permeate the universities and benefit both students and teachers. It is more than just sending students and teachers on exchanges.

The Swedish Institute has recently launched a new funding programme for academic cooperation between universities in Sweden and countries in the EU’s Eastern Partnership, Russia and the Baltic States. The new funding programme, among other things, will make use of an unused potential at the Swedish universities for international collaborations, says Markus Boman at the Swedish Institute.

– We know that higher education and research institutions in Sweden have many exchanges with different parts of the world, and that their capacity to develop and manage international cooperation is generally good. Still, there are countries in the area around the Baltic Sea where Swedish universities lack broader experience to operate.

At the same time, intensive development work is ongoing at universities and colleges in the Baltic Sea region, the EU’s Eastern Partnership and in Russia. They want to become better at international collaborations, says Markus Boman.

– We see a potential to make new contacts and explore opportunities for real collaborations and exchanges, and also learn important lessons from their development work on internationalization.

When the new funding programme was developed, Tom Nilsson had the chance to make suggestions on the design.

– I think it is important that there is a plan on how the project ideas will be implemented. I think many projects land high up in the organizations but do not have any real impact. The challenge is to achieve a broad impact that benefits teachers and students.

Tom Nilsson strongly believes in this kind of contacts and sees a great value in increased collaborations between universities in the region.

– When I started my work with the Eastern Partnership countries five years ago, this region was something of a blank spot in the university’s ambitions on internationalization. Also, it is a region that is largely struggling to establish and strengthen its contacts with Western Europe. They need all the help they can get for this. So, I would argue that international contacts are very important and especially for the states – and universities – in the Eastern Partnership. Because in this region, support is needed to drive the democratization process, says Tom Nilsson.


The Swedish Institute’s new funding programme “Academic Collaboration in the Baltic Sea Region” is aimed at Swedish universities that want to develop collaborations with universities in the Baltic Sea region, Russia or the EU’s Eastern Partnership on internationalization. Swedish higher education institutions can apply for grants for projects aimed at capacity development in internationalization, either within new or established collaborations.