Published: 29-02-2024 14:52 | Updated: 29-02-2024 15:01

KI’s language policy settled – guidance on language awareness

KI's president talks with students in an open space indoors.
KI is an international university with staff and students that use Swedish, English and other languages in their everyday communication. Photo: Erik Flyg

A decision taken on 20 February has given KI its first language policy, which will provide guidance on general matters relating to language and its use for all Karolinska Institutet employees.

The 2009 Language Act stipulates that the language used by Swedish public authorities must be civil, simple and comprehensible. At the same time, KI is an international university with staff and students that use English and other languages in their everyday communication.

“The challenge lies in balancing KI’s vision as set out in our Strategy 2030, which states that the university shall strive to be a global player, with our mission as a Swedish authority,” says KI president Annika Östman Wernerson. “A language policy helps us to achieve this balance and guides the way we communicate and use language to achieve our goals.”

The project to produce a language policy was instigated in the autumn of 2022 by the University Director and has been led by a steering group led by director of communications Peter Andréasson and comprising Mats J Olsson, head of the Department of Clinical Neuroscience; Miriam Nauri, head of the Karolinska Institutet library; Bob Harris, academic vice president of doctoral education and Tea Genberg, student representative.

Parallel use of Swedish and English

The policy was drafted following a thorough internal status analysis based on a preliminary study and the advice of a focus group, and informed by the experiences of other higher education institutions and expert support. The proposed language policy was then anchored with the cooperation of committees, the Faculty Board, students and relevant unions.

KI’s language policy rests on four pillars: 

  • Greater language awareness – staff are urged to be aware of their language choices and their consequences. 
  • The parallel use of Swedish and English – the policy promotes the use of both side by side. 
  • A focus on equal opportunities – language must be inclusive and non-discriminatory. 
  • The strengthening of KI as a global university – the policy balances KI’s global ambitions with its national mission.

“We need to reflect on our use of language and do all we can to include everyone in KI’s everyday working life,” says Professor Östman Wernerson. “The use of English and Swedish at KI varies and we should be sensitive to these differences and adapt our choice of language to the context. I call on all managers and staff to make an active contribution to this adaptation in order to support KI’s goals and create an even more inclusive and conducive working environment here at KI.”