What is ULF?
ULF is a national pilot project commissioned by the Swedish government from 2017 to 2021. The project will develop and test sustainable collaboration models between academia and the school or school system regarding research, school activities and teacher education.
Why is ULF needed?
According to the Education Act, education is to “rest on a scientific grounds and proven experience” (Section 5). This means that teachers are to base the exercise of their profession on research and that school development is to be permeated by a scientific approach. The extent to which this currently happens is too limited. There is also a perceived gap between theory and practice, which means that research in educational sciences cannot always be applied in school activities. As a result, there is a great need to develop sustainable collaboration models between the school system and academia.
What is the goal of ULF?
The goal is to develop an infrastructure with long-term sustainable collaboration models between academia and schools to strengthen the disciplinary foundation and the disciplinary approach in schools. The collaboration models are to result in research that is relevant to schools by enabling professional groups within schools to initiate research, not just researchers within academia. After the pilot project ends, it should be possible to make successful collaborative models permanent and start using them nationally. The vision is for the collaboration models to serve as the basis for professional practice in schools and for teacher education.
How is the goal to be attained?
By systematically testing different models for collaboration between academia and schools, learning from these experiences and laying the foundations for collaboration that will endure. All participating higher education institutions sign local ULF agreements on collaboration with schools, both municipal and independent. The agreements send important signals that both parties are prepared to create the conditions necessary for researchers and teachers to collaborate on research and development in their day-to-day work. Various collaboration models are then tested within the agreements.
Which collaboration models are to be tested within ULF?
ULF will develop and test long-term collaboration models. Examples of collaboration models might include:
- Establishing research environments at both the school or school system and the higher education institution where teachers and researchers meet to formulate research questions jointly.
- Researchers and teachers jointly conducting development and/or research projects.
- Through what is called combined positions, creating the potential for teachers with degrees and school heads to have both research and teaching in their position.
- Developing opportunities at the higher education institutions for researchers to work both at the higher education institution and at the school.
- Increasing collaboration with teacher education, such as by more clearly integrating research with education and internship or by linking students’ independent work (degree project) with practical research and school development based on a scientific foundation.
Why is it called ULF and the ULF agreement?
The Swedish acronym ULF stands for Utveckling (Development), Lärande (Learning) and Forskning (Research). The ULF agreement is a concept reminiscent of the physicians’ ALF agreement, which exists in the health care and medical services sector and has been a model for ULF. For example, the ALF agreement provides doctors with the opportunity to combine their clinical work with research and medical students the opportunity to do their internship in environments where clinical research is conducted.
What is the difference between ULF and previous collaboration between schools and academia?
An important way ULF differs from large parts of previous collaboration is the emphasis on collaboration between schools and academia on an equal footing. This means, for example, that professional groups within schools should also be able to initiate development and research projects, not just researchers. Another difference is that ULF will create long-term sustainable collaboration models for research and development. These collaboration models may take different forms, such as a joint research environment or a shared job.
How is ULF organised?
Four universities have been given the main responsibility for the pilot project: University of Gothenburg, Karlstad University, Umeå University and Uppsala University. Each responsible educational institution conducts the work in a node. These nodes include additional higher education institutions. The nodes mainly work with collaboration models, overall operational planning, allocation of funding and knowledge exchange within the node. The nodes have advisory bodies with representation from both academia and the school or school system. A total of 25 universities are participating in the pilot project, including the node universities. Cooperation within ULF takes place in several ways:
- Collaboration among the higher education institutions within the four nodes.
- Collaboration at the national level among participating higher educational institutions. At the beginning of the pilot project, most of the collaboration involves the four universities that have the main responsibility.
- The collaboration between the higher educational institutions and the schools is organised through agreements in the form of local ULF agreements.