The current covid-19 crisis has had far-reaching consequences for humanity and the world. It has led to economic turmoil, but there is also the risk of greater isolationism and the weakening of democracy. At the same time, current circumstances again demonstrate the importance of understanding each better and promoting academic cooperation when other communication channels disappear due to geopolitical friction, and also highlight the need for international collaboration to address global social challenges. Such contacts have become harder to establish for different reasons, including the pandemic, the climate crisis and trends of decreased globalisation.

Recent months have therefore been difficult for the internationalisation of research and higher education, with closed borders and decreased mobility for everyone. The advantage has been the rapid development of online interaction and possible ways of facilitating broader international participation in the future, for example in doctoral thesis defences, seminars, courses and similar activities.

However, one should not underestimate the importance of meeting in real life and across borders as well as the role such meetings play in fostering mutual understanding. Education and research are vital in this respect. Contacts created across borders between students and between researchers build trust and understanding between people and are important in understanding other countries. This is particularly central when there are considerable cultural differences or icy political relations between countries.

The impact on international student flows in the coming years is at present still uncertain. Internationalisation has often been seen as a goal in its own right or has been pursued for financial gain only, as can for example be seen in many countries’ student recruitment strategies. There are now stronger reasons to take a more strategic, sustainable approach to internationalisation at all levels as well as a more responsible approach to all international academic cooperation. It is also vital that international perspectives permeate all university activities. International cooperation promotes excellence and facilitates the flow of new ideas and perspectives and it is therefore positive to see concrete examples of the benefits of international research cooperation to meet global challenges during this time.

We are not planning on making any changes to this year’s calls for applications because of covid-19. Information on how we handle extensions of ongoing projects and delayed project starts due to covid-19 is available on our website.

As usually at this time of year, we are now launching STINT Internationalisation Index. Six different dimensions of internationalisation are taken into account for the index that rates 28 higher education institutions (HEIs). The results launched now are based on 2018 data; any effects of covid-19 will only be reflected in the index in a few years. Chalmers University of Technology, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, and the Stockholm School of Economics are again at the top as the most international HEIs in Sweden. Concerning the remaining HEIs, the University of Skövde climbed to four stars. Just a few years ago, Skövde was on the verge of only being awarded a single star, but it has become increasingly internationalised since. Örebro University and Halmstad University have also been awarded more stars than last year. There is more information on STINT Internationalisation Index on our website.

Finally, I would like to remind readers that applications for Initiation Grants are currently open, as are nominations for the Teaching Sabbatical programme.

Andreas Göthenberg