Independence in higher education: A comparative study of Sweden and Russia


The Foundation for Baltic and East European Studies

Project type


Independence is a concept that has gained increasing attention within higher education ever since the Bologna declaration was established. Not least in relation to the degree projects which students normally write during the course of their education. This is evident for instance in how independence, or the students’ ability to work autonomously, is frequently mentioned in steering documents on different levels. At the same time, independence is an ambiguous concept that may be understood in a variety of ways in various contexts. How we understand and use the concept within higher education may, furthermore, affect both how we assess the students’ accomplishments and the didactic choices made by the teachers.

Differences in how independence is understood and handled in practice may lead to insecurity and may even be an obstacle for international student exchange and international comparability between universities according to the Bologna declaration. The aim of this project is, consequently, to examine how the concept “independence” is understood and used on different levels in two higher education programs: journalism education and teacher education, in two countries, Russia and Sweden.

The project group consists of the project manager Jenny Magnusson, senior lecturer in Swedish, Södertörn University, Jan-Olof Gullö, senior lecturer in journalism, Södertörn University, Greg Goldenzwaig, PhD, Swedish Institute & Södertörn University, and Maria Zackariasson, professor in ethnology, Södertörn University.

This interdisciplinary project is connected to the School of Culture and Learning, the School of Social Sciences and the School of Historical and Contemporary Studies at Södertörn University, as well as to the Department of Teacher Education.

Within the project we cooperate with researchers within and representatives from journalism and teacher education at Moscow State University, S:t Petersburg State University, Herzen University S:t Petersburg, Northern (Arctic) Federal University, Archangelsk, and Malmö University.


Paper at the conference Svenskans beskrivning, Åbo Academy, Finland, May 8-10 2019. Title: ”Oenighet i handledning: Att säga emot sin handledare.” Jenny Magnusson.

Guest lecture at Malmö university, April 10 2019. Title: Självständighet i uppsatsarbete – vad innebär det? Jenny Magnusson.

Presentation at the higher seminar of Teacher education, Södertörn University, Stockholm, April 9 2019. Title: "Självständiga studenter? Handledaruppfattningar och handledningspraktiker – exempel från ett forskningsprojekt".
Jenny Magnusson & Maria Zackariasson.

Paper at the conference NERA 2019 Education in a Globalized World. Uppsala 6-8/3 2019. Title: The role of emotions and valuations in supervision of degree projects.
Maria Zackariasson & Jenny Magnusson.

Workshop: ”Att handleda uppsatser”, Medie- och kommunikationsvetenskap, Södertörn University, February 21 2019. Jenny Magnusson & Maria Zackariasson.


Paper at the conference NU2018 - Det akademiska lärarskapet, October 9-11, 2018, Västerås. Title: "Känslors och värderingars betydelse i handledning av självständiga arbeten – två perspektiv." Maria Zackariasson & Jenny Magnusson. Link: link

Symposium: Undergraduate supervision - National and International Perspectives, September 27-28, 2018, Södertörn University. Presenters from Södertörn University, Malmö University, Nordic Arctic Federal University Archangelsk, Herzen State Pedagogical University St Petersburg, Moscow State University, St Petersburg State University, Stockholm University, Mälardalen University and Finland.

Paper at the 34th Nordic Ethnology and Folklore Conference, Uppsala June 12-15, 2018. Title:
“’You are going to hate me!’ Ethnological perspectives on the role of emotions in undergraduate supervision.” Maria Zackariasson. Link: link

Presentation at the Higher Seminar of Ethnology, Södertörn University, Stockholm, May 24 2018. Title: "Självständiga studenter – vad betyder det? En etnologisk del i ett mångvetenskapligt projekt." Maria Zackariasson.

Paper at the conference Forskning om högre utbildning, Lund, May 15-16, 2018. Title: ”Student independence in undergraduate projects. Supervisors’ understandings and attitudes.” Jenny Magnusson & Maria Zackariasson. Link: link

Presentation at the Higher seminar in Swedish, Södertörn University, Stockholm, April 19, 2018. Jenny Magnusson.

Paper at NERA 2018 Boundaries, Breaches and Bridges, Oslo 8-10 mars 2018. Title: “’They shouldn’t work all by themselves’ Supervisors’ understandings of student independence in undergraduate projects”. Maria Zackariasson & Jenny Magnusson. Link: link


Presentation at Språkbrukskollokviet, Stockholm University, November 29, 2017. Title: "Självständighet i självständiga arbeten". Jenny Magnusson.

Presentation at the workshop Lärande under handledning, Stockholms University, Stockholm October 24, 2017. Title: "Handledningens funktion". Jenny Magnusson.

Paper at the 9th International Media Readings in Moscow "Mass Media & Communications 2017", Moscow State University, Moskva, October 20 2017. Title: "How Independent are Journalism Students in the Course of Their Individual Work? Representations of Independence in Two Academic Contexts". Greg Goldenzweig & Jan-Olof Gullö.

Paper at AILA World Congress Rio 2017. The 18th World Congress of Applied Linguistics, Rio de Janeiro, July 23-28 2017. Title: “Different understandings and meanings of the concept independence in higher education in Sweden and Russia.” Jenny Magnusson.

Guest lecture at Linné University, Kalmar, March 22, 2017. Title: “Handledning och handledningspraktiker”. Jenny Magnusson


Invited speaker at the confernce Handledning av självständiga arbeten, Linnéuniversitet, Växjö, 20 okt 2016. Titel: ”Handledning och handledningssamtal”. Jenny Magnusson.

Paper at ECER 2016 Leading Education: The Distinct Contributions of Educational Research and
Researchers. University College Dublin, Dublin. August 22-26 2016. Title: “Independence: Different Understandings and Meanings in Steering Documents in Higher Education in Sweden and Russia.” Jan-Olof Gullö, Jenny Magnusson, Greg Goldenzwaig. Link: link

Paper at NU2016 Högskolan i samhället. Samhället i högskolan. Malmö, June 15-17 2016. Title: ”Hur självständiga är studenter när de genomför sina självständiga arbeten? En jämförelse mellan Ryssland och Sverige.” Jan-Olof Gullö. Link: link


Gästföreläsning vid Malmö högskola, Malmö, 13 oktober 2015. Jenny Magnusson.

Paper vid 14th International Pragmatics Conference. 26-31 juli 2015. ”Asymmetry and independence in supervision”. Jenny Magnusson. Länk:

May 21-23 2017 Herzen University S:t Petersburg,

February 12-14 2017 Northern (Arctic) Federal University, Archangelsk

June 26-28 2016 S:t Petersburg State University, S:t Petersburg

March 13-16 2016 Moscow State University, Moskva

Zackariasson, Maria (2019 fc) “’I feel really good now!’ – A didactic perspective on emotions in undergraduate supervision.” Learning and Teaching: The International Journal of Higher Education in the Social Sciences.external link

Zackariasson, Maria (2019) "Encouraging student independence – perspectives on scaffolding in higher education supervision". JAHRE Journal of Applied Research in Higher Educationexternal link

Magnusson, Jenny & Zackariasson, Maria (2018) “Student independence in undergraduate projects: different understandings in different academic contexts”. Journal of Further and Higher Education. DOI: 10.1080/0309877X.2018.1490949. Fulltext: link

Goldenzwaig, Greg (2018) "Самостоятельность студента в создании ВКР:опыт журналистского образования в России и Швеции" "A Student’s Independence in Writing a Graduation Thesis:the Experience of Journalistic Education in Russia and Sweden". Vestnik MGU: Zhurnalistika.

Magnusson, Jenny (2016) ”Text i samtal: Hur texter används som resurser i handledningssamtal”, Svenskans beskrivning 33.

Magnusson, Jenny (2015) ”Självständighetens praktik – Uppfattning och användning av begreppet självständighet i relation till det självständiga arbetet”, ASLA 2015 (10 s)

Magnusson, Jenny, Sveen Hanna (2014) ”Handledningens effektivitet - En studie av remediering i självständiga arbeten”, Svenskans beskrivning 33 (10 s)

Magnusson, Jenny. & Sveen, Hanna. (2013). ”Topikalitet i handledning.” ASLAs konferensvolym 11-12 maj 2012. Linköping: Linköpings universitet. (10 s)

Magnusson, Jenny. & Sveen, Hanna (2012) ”Handledningens vad, hur och varför - interaktionella mönster med fokus på röst.” Högre Utbildning. (16 s)

Gullö, Jan-Olof - Lektor

Zackariasson, Maria - Professor

Goldenzwaig, Gregory - Projektforskare, Svenska institutet & Södertörns högskola

Research area / geographic area

Historical and Contemporary Studies Culture and Education Social Sciences Teacher Education Ethnology Journalism Swedish The Institute of Contemporary History Baltic Eastern Europe

Project time

2016 — 2019


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