Responsible international collaboration enriches our university

Karolinska Institutet is an international university and it is our fundamental belief that we should promote democratic development and academic freedom through diverse international collaborations. These collaborations must take place responsibly and be evaluated based on both opportunities and risks.

As a leading medical university, Karolinska Institutet (KI) attracts students and staff from around the world to study and work in Stockholm, and also local, national and international partners through a variety of structured collaborations. The purpose of these collaborations is intended to be mutually beneficial – students, researchers or other staff learning from each other, building new capacities within research and educational activities, and benefiting personally from these exchanges.

Whether our collaborations occur within KI itself, or together with other universities/organizations, nationally or internationally, the same basic rules of engagement apply. Mutual respect, freedom of speech and inclusivity, with national ethical principles providing a firm base. KI will always condemn abuses and threats to human rights and work for academic freedom and institutional autonomy. Responsible internationalization must thus be conducted both at home and away.

Internationalisation board

Within international partner interactions it is sometimes a challenge to merge different views and national policies, which might differ greatly from perspectives in Sweden. The Internationalisation board  at KI assesses the opportunities and risks for all university-wide collaborative arrangements. As part of the quality assurance system all partnerships are periodically reviewed by the board, and decisions are made about continuing, modifying or terminating the partnerships. This assessment reflects current world events, and security policy issues have become more emphasized during recent years.

Responsible internationalisation

This constant re-evaluation of both new and ongoing collaborations is vital in order to continuously take responsible actions. In this aspect, recommendations from the Swedish foreign ministry as well as dialogue with the SUHF advisory group for global relations (that KI initiated during 2022) and regular contacts with relevant authorities, provide important input to support that we act in an internationally responsible way. Furthermore, KI offers staff, students and researchers resources and tools to raise awareness and practice of responsible internationalization: Resources for responsible internationalisation.  

The reality of the world is that there is a lot of room for improvement, as is clear from the latest World Democracy rankings. If KI would only collaborate with international partners from countries which have the same level of democracy as Sweden, we would have very few of our existing collaborations intact. It is important that KI safeguards and promote academic freedom and freedom of speech, and that KI does not accept any type of personal persecution or discrimination. Through collaboration we have the possibility to inspire people and actors to develop, to reflect on their situation and to expose them to alternative ways of thinking.  It is therefore KI’s opinion that we should continue to promote democratic development through our diverse international collaborations, but that we must do this based on a critical approach and with a readiness for conditions and conditions to change quickly - and that this can affect both ongoing and upcoming international collaborations.

Bob Harris, Chairperson of the KI Internationalisation board

Robert Harris

Chairperson of the KI Internationalisation board
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