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Democracy and Equity

There is a considerable body of research showing that effective, sustainable, high-quality learning is dependent on a social environment that works well. In particular, democracy and equity have been shown to be important in strengthening the social environment for learning and are something that researchers at the University have been studying and specialising in for many years.

Conditions for learning need to be highlighted so that people can work with learning in depth. For instance, someone who has no support at home, is hungry, experiences prejudice and is fearful and worried is highly unlikely to perform as well as others with better conditions. Research into equity shines a spotlight on learning processes, conditions and environments with a view to achieving a balance between the distribution of resources and knowledge and the recognition of differences.

However, learning is not just about the individual: it also focuses on social issues and people’s involvement in working towards common goals. Skills that are central to a democracy – such as influence, cooperation between people, critical and scientific thinking and peaceful relations – need to be encouraged if we are to resolve today’s societal challenges such as COVID-19, refugee crises and destruction of our environment.

Purpose and overall research question

The aim of this programme is to use innovative ideas and ways of working to study lifelong learning, with emphasis on democracy and equity in the public and private sectors, based on the following overall question:

How can sustainable learning environments be created that ensure democracy and equity for people now, as well as future generations?

Description of the research area

Current research

Our research projects focus on issues related to democracy, equity, justice, power and ethics. In particular, attention is focused on issues relating to living conditions and learning conditions for individuals and groups so as to promote social sustainability in learning environments. The Democracy and Equity programme is strongly linked to the research group SEEDS

A selection of our ongoing research projects is presented here:

The Gävle Model – a successful strategy to combat bullying

People who are bullied find it more difficult to learn and are at risk of poor health. Compared to the country as a whole, the Gävle Model has a lower percentage of bullying, due not least to consideration for research, long-term commitment, high attendance, an 80% response rate among children and students and an ability to think along innovative lines. The successful project is continuing with new initiatives and is funded by the Municipality of Gävle.

Gävle Model receives award from Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention

The Municipality of Gävle and the University of Gävle are this year’s winners in the Swedish crime prevention heats of the European Crime Prevention Award (ECPA). They have worked together to develop the Gävle Model, which has reduced the numbers of people being bullied in schools. Figures in the municipality are now around 40 per cent lower than the national average.

Why is ethics important when teaching history?

This four-year project is based on current societal challenges such as terrorist attacks on mosques and churches, hatred and fear of dissent and the dismantling of basic democratic principles. This project asks whether – and how – teaching history can address issues of right and wrong and good and evil, based on young people’s understanding of and research into historical consciousness.

Article: Why is ethics important in history education?

Monitoring research into equity for Swedish National Agency for Education

Skolklass som ivrigt räcker upp händerna

Equity is now seen as an important social strategy in order to achieve a more sustainable society in the future and includes everyone residing in Sweden regardless of their age, place of birth, gender and social, cultural and religious backgrounds. To reach out with a complex issue, research on equity is collected systematically and presented in an accessible way for all those with an interest in equity research.

Preventing threats and violence in the workplace

Tjejer som pratr om en person bakom ryggen på honom

Violence in the workplace is a social problem that has received increasing attention. Increased awareness of the risks we face at work can influence how actions are valued. This project studies how tacit knowledge has the potential to reduce threats and violent behaviour in the workplace. The recipe for success is not to do the same thing all the time, but to keep changing.

BrightAct supporting victims of violence

Illustration till appen

BrightAct is a Swedish company that has developed a digital application that aims to make available and coordinate support for victims of domestic violence and raise awareness about violence. BrightAct has received numerous awards for its innovation, including one from the European Commission. A pilot study is currently in progress which aims to investigate whether the BrightAct app can help to provide more accessible support and information to victims of violence, and if so, how.

Find out more about the digital application

What happened in Sweden over the last 40 years – crime trends, ethnicity, gender and social class in Sweden over the last 40 years

This project links research into current societal challenges that require an interdisciplinary research approach due to their complexity with consideration of both gender and diversity perspectives. One starting point is provided by UN Agenda 2030 and Sweden’s action plan and priority areas, where one of the goals is to ensure a peaceful and inclusive world. This study addresses classic issues that were of relevance even a hundred years ago. However, the dramatic societal changes that have taken place over the last century mean that these theories need to be re-examined.

ROCIT research school

ROCIT – Research on Interaction in Teacher Training – is a partnership involving six higher education institutions which aims to develop a greater understanding between experience-based knowledge and scientifically based knowledge in the world of schools.


Some examples of publications produced within the framework of Democracy and Learning are presented here. A selection of books and articles.


Fritidshemmens pedagogik i en ny tid

Brottsligheten och samhället

Inkludering - möjligheter och utmaningar


A small selection of articles from members of the research programme.

  • Silvia Edling, Heather Sharp, Jan Löfström & Niklas Ammert (2020) Why is ethics important in history education? A dialogue between the various ways of understanding the relationship between ethics and historical consciousness, Ethics and Education, 15:3, 336-354, DOI: 10.1080/17449642.2020.1780899
  • Sturup, J., Rostami, A., Mondani, H. et al. Increased Gun Violence Among Young Males in Sweden: a Descriptive National Survey and International Comparison. Eur J Crim Policy Res 25, 365–378 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10610-018-9387-0
  • Linda Vikdahl & Johan Liljestrand (2020) Conditions for identity development among religious immigrant youth, Journal of Beliefs & Values, DOI: 10.1080/13617672.2020.1836785
  • Georgieva, I.; Lepping, P.; Bozev, V.; Lickiewicz, J.; Pekara, J.; Wikman, S.; Loseviča, M.; Raveesh, B.N.; Mihai, A.; Lantta, T. Prevalence, New Incidence, Course, and Risk Factors of PTSD, Depression, Anxiety, and Panic Disorder during the Covid-19 Pandemic in 11 Countries. Healthcare 2021, 9, 664. https://doi.org/10.3390/healthcare9060664
  • Francia, G.; Neubauer, A.; Edling, S. Unaccompanied Migrant Children’s Rights: A Prerequisite for the 2030 Agenda’s Sustainable Development Goals in Spain and Sweden. Soc. Sci. 2021, 10, 185.https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci10060185
  • Wikman, S. & Rickfors, U. (2017). Att förebygga hot och våld i statliga myndigheter - en jämförelse mellan två perspektiv på säkerhet. Arbetsliv i omvandling (2), 1-52.
  • Geraldine Mooney Simmie & Silvia Edling (2016) Ideological governing forms in education and teacher education: a comparative study between highly secular Sweden and highly non-secular Republic of Ireland, Nordic Journal of Studies in Educational Policy, 2016:1, DOI: 10.3402/nstep.v2.32041
  • Cresantus N. Biamba, Obioha N. Chidimma, Ogunji V. Chinwe, Mezieobi C. Kelechi & Nwajiuba A. Chinyere | Michael William Dunn (Reviewing editor) (2021) Assessing democratic classroom practices among secondary school civic education teachers in the global south: case study of South East Nigeria, Cogent Education, 8:1, DOI: 10.1080/2331186X.2021.1896425
  • Daniel Pettersson, Thomas S. Popkewitz & Sverker Lindblad (2017) In the grey zone: large-scale assessment-based activities betwixt and between policy, research and practice, Nordic Journal of Studies in Educational Policy, 3:1, 29-41, DOI: 10.1080/20020317.2017.1316181
  • Edling, S., & Liljestrand, J. (2018). Student teachers’ task perceptions of democracy in their future profession – a critical discourse analysis of students’ course texts. Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 43(7).
  • Johan Liljestrand (2018) The Place and Conditions for Democratic Education in Interreligious Encounters, Religious Education, 113:1, 38-48, DOI: 10.1080/00344087.2017.1384970

Facts about Democracy and Equity

About Democracy and Equity


The aim of this programme is to use innovative ideas and ways of working to study lifelong learning, with emphasis on democracy and equity in the public and private sectors.

Target group

The programme is aimed at all types of teachers, headteachers and municipalities, as well as major corporations in the Gävleborg region. Civil society organisations and politicians at a local, regional and national level are another important target group.

This programme has a workgroup and a group of associate members.


Silvia Edling, professor, curriculum studies
Guadalupe Francia, professor, education 
Daniel Pettersson, professor, education
Erika Björklund, senior lecturer, education 
Björn Haglund, senior lecturer, curriculum studies
Sofia Wikman, docent, criminology
Sara Skoog Waller, Doctor of Philosophy, psychology 
Lars Hillström, senior lecturer, biology 
Birgit Lindgren Ödén, senior lecturer, religious studies 
Britt Johanne Farstad, senior lecturer, Swedish
Hanna Kusterer, senior lecturer, psychology 
Maria Fregidou-Malama, senior lecturer, business administration
Liya Kalinnikova Magnusson, docent, education
Cresantus Biamba, senior lecturer, curriculum studies

Associate members

This group also includes all members of the workgroup.

Iulian Cananau, senior lecturer, English 
Peder Thalen, professor, religious studies 
Iiris Attorps, professor, mathematics education
Eva Kellner, senior lecturer, biology 
Lena Svennberg, senior lecturer, sport science 
Sarah Ljungquist, senior lecturer, gender studies
Henrik Kaatari, senior lecturer, English
Signe Jernberg, senior lecturer, business administration
Lena O Magnusson, senior lecturer, art education 
Ulla Forinder, professor, social work
Gloria Macassa, professor, public health science
Maria Randmaa, senior lecturer, nursing science
Lars Westfelt, senior lecturer, criminology
Amir Rostami, docent, criminology
Malin Jordal, senior lecturer, nursing science
Stefan Sjöberg, docent, social work 
Nina Begovic, doctoral student, Nordic languages
Kerstin Bäckman, curriculum studies

Programme officer

Please contact us if you are interested in participating, or for more information about the Democracy and Equity research programme.

Silvia Edling, professor i didaktik vid Högskolan i Gävle.

Silvia Edling

Professor, curriculum studies

E-post: silvia.edling@hig.se
Tel: 026-64 82 60

Research presentation Silvia Edling

Guadalupe Francia

Professor, education

E-post: guadalupe.francia@hig.se
Tel: 026-64 85 00 (växel)

Research presentation Guadalupe Francia

Published by: Camilla Haglund Page responsible: Veronica Liljeroth Updated: 2023-10-05
Högskolan i Gävle
Box 801 76 GÄVLE
026-64 85 00 (växel)