Building bridges and broadening horizons through student influence
Student influence (studentinflytande in Swedish) on higher education is a right firmly established in Swedish law. Students are entitled to be represented on the boards of higher education institutions as well as the bodies that plan or decide on issues that are significant for the situation of students and their studies. Hilda Hardell, a third-year bachelor student studying Business and Economics, has always had a passion for representing the student voice. As early as elementary school, Hilda was already active as student representative.
“Ensuring that the students’ opinions are heard in decision-making processes that affect the students themselves has always felt extremely important to me,” she says.
Born in the Stockholm suburb of Hässelby, Hilda chose the Stockholm School of Economics for its solid reputation and well-established connections to Swedish and international business.
At SSE, Hilda channelled her enthusiasm into the Student Association (SASSE) and spent a year working full-time representing students on educational matters. When SASSE members were asked in early fall 2019 if they wanted to contribute to the development of CIVICA, Hilda jumped at the chance. She was joined by fellow student Jakob Ringberg.
Hilda was formally hired by the External Relations Department to work with CIVICA a few hours a week. She is on the SSE team that has been working on issues tied to work package three. Work package three centres around the bachelor programmes and how the different universities can cooperate to strengthen their BA offerings for incoming students across the alliance.
Together, the universities are designing a multi-campus interdisciplinary bachelor track with a focus on civic engagement, called the CIVICA Engage Track. The track will provide students with a strong sense of European identity and civic responsibility. Students admitted to the track will tackle social challenges hands-on through interaction with community-based organisations, study specific CIVICA Engage courses, and share their experiences with other CIVICA Engage students through short regular immersion programmes called “CIVICA European Weeks.”
“Something to aspire to”
Hilda is enthusiastic about student influence in the process. At the end of the day, they are the ones who will benefit from all the hard work currently being done across the alliance to develop new approaches to European education. She is grateful for the trust that has been placed in Jakob and her.
“In June I participated in a meeting organised by the European Commission with student representatives from all the other European Universities. The subject was student involvement, and it was very inspiring to get a glimpse of what everybody else is doing in this massive undertaking. It made me feel like we are doing good work – but also that there is still potential for improvement from a student perspective. It gives us something to aspire to.”
Now that the autumn semester is kicking off in Stockholm, Hilda sees new – and interesting – challenges.
“We’re now at that stage where we need to get the information out to the students about all these amazing CIVICA opportunities we have been working on. We need to synchronize what we have done in the work package with internal and external communications as well as our CIVICA Ambassadors on all campuses.”
Building bridges and broadening horizons
When it comes to hopes and dreams for CIVICA, Hilda says hers are very much in line with those of the alliance itself. She envisions building bridges and enabling mobility for many more students to come, giving everybody an opportunity to meet people they might otherwise not have met, offering experiences to broaden horizons, and tackling societal challenges together.
“All universities have something unique to offer that adds to the whole experience. I think that’s definitely something that the students will appreciate,” she says. “It’s just a matter of finding a way to present it to the student body in a manner that is easy to grasp. This is a big project and for students it can be just as important to understand the concrete benefits as it is to understand the mission and vision of it all. It’s a really cool experience to be a part of all of this.”
This piece was originally published on the website of CIVICA – The European University of Social Sciences.