An eventful week comes to a close

Last week was eventful. The public debate was dominated by intense reporting on the Macchiarini affair. Reports have now come in from three out of thirteen investigations. Many lessons need to be learned, much needs to be discussed. We haven’t seen the end of this story yet.

But so many other things happened as well.

The week began with ABB’s centenary celebrations in Västerås. ABB became one of Uppsala University’s strategic partners about a year ago now. These days it’s a global company, but it remains an important part of Swedish industrial history with a tradition of innovation and new ideas. ABB is a future employer for many of our students and we have research cooperation in several areas, mostly in engineering and technology, though we also discussing other fields.

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This week I also had the pleasure of welcoming around 150 delegates to Uppsala and the SANORD Conference. Academic leaders from a total of 44 universities in southern Africa and the Nordic countries gathering to discuss common issues. The organisation was founded in 2007, former Deputy Vice-Chancellor Kerstin Sahlin played a major role in its formation. The theme of this sixth conference, which lasted for three days, was Beyond Public Management. One of our alumni, now President of Mauritius, gave the opening address, followed by Kerstin Sahlin. I have the honour of chairing SANORD during the coming two-year period. We in Uppsala have reason to feel satisfied and pleased to have hosted a good event.

On Friday the Government announced a Research initiative on major challenges for society. The areas of priority are health and life sciences, the challenge of climate change, digitalisation and building a sustainable society. Themes that very much match Uppsala University’s priority areas. Between 2017 and 2020, the appropriations for this initiative will gradually increase to SEK 680 million. The funds will be subject to competition and will be distributed by the Swedish Research Council, Formas (the Swedish Research Council for Environment, Agricultural Sciences and Spatial Planning), Forte (the Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare) and the Swedish National Space Board. Needless to say, increased appropriations are pleasing, but it’s difficult to assess the whole package yet. The Government is presenting its proposals little by little. More information is expected in the Budget Bill on 20 September and further clarification will come in the Research Bill.

On Saturday the whole city opened up in glorious late summer weather for Uppsala’s annual Culture Night. A plethora of activities from early morning till late at night. And we opened the University’s doors too. There’s so much going on you want to be in several places at once. One of the highlights this year is the comic strip exhibition KABOOM!! at the University Library, Carolina Rediviva. An exciting and surprising exhibition has been put together, drawing on the Library’s ample collections. There, you  and I can learn loads about the history of comic strips, modern comic strips and the Uppsala connection. I’m particularly pleased that this is a joint project between the Department of Literature and the University Library. Did you know that the Phantom – the ‘Ghost who Walks’ – has been in Uppsala twice? His last visit was during the Linnaeus jubilee in 2008. The exhibition is on until 4 January, don’t miss it!

Another recurring highlight of Culture Night is awarding the Disa Prize at Studentbokhandeln. This year’s prizewinner – the sixteenth – is Professor of Astronomy Bengt Gustafsson. He wins the prize for his book Svarta hål (Black Holes). I can really recommend it, it stimulates your curiosity, it’s exciting, it gives you new perspectives and new knowledge. In accordance with tradition, he then gave a lecture at Museum Gustavianum. If you missed the lecture – read the book. The prize was established by my predecessor Bo Sundqvist at the initiative of former Chief Librarian Thomas Tottie. Both of them were present in the crowd at the bookshop. The aim of the prize is to honour and encourage popular science writing. And to make the world more understandable.

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Welcome back!

Welcome back to Uppsala University after a hopefully enjoyable summer holiday. Some of us have already worked a week or so and have got back into the swing of things, others are just returning.

Together, we are now about to welcome the students, particularly the new students who are starting their first semester here with us. As the beginning of the semester draws near, newly arrived students can be seen wandering the streets with curiosity in their eyes. Welcoming the new students here in Uppsala and in Visby is one of the most enjoyable tasks of the academic year.

Some things never change about the beginning of the semester, and one of those things is the difficult housing situation. Once again, I urge anyone who has the means to sublet a room for short or long term use to do so. Getting off to a good start to one’s studies is critically important for one’s future, and having a roof over one’s head goes a long way in this context. Contact Studentboet!

Other things do change: in a break with tradition this semester, we are welcoming the students in UKK instead of the University Main Building. The renovation of the University Main Building is still underway, and is expected to be completed by the spring conferment ceremony next May.

The same, or different – no matter what, a warm welcome is in order!

Brexit

In light of the UK’s decision to leave the European Union, the members of the Guild of European Research-Intensive Universities affirm the importance of the free movement of students and researchers across Europe. Our current societal, cultural, scientific and economic challenges can only be met through collaboration in the creation and application of knowledge. The Guild and its members stand for the free flow of ideas determined by academic freedom which must not be compromised by regulations or boundaries. And we stand for principles of inclusiveness, cultural respect and freedom of debate within our campuses and our communities. We appeal to the UK government, the European Parliament, the Commission and the European Council to ensure that any political settlement supports the free movement of ideas, open boundaries for staff and students within Europe, and uninhibited exchange of knowledge between university researchers and public and private partners wherever they may be.

Editor’s note: This statement is endorsed by the Guild of European Research-Intensive Universities, and the Presidents of its members: the University of Bologna, the University of Glasgow, the University of Göttingen, the University of Groningen, Jagiellonian University, the University of Oslo, the University of Tübingen, Uppsala University, and the University of Warwick.

Summer is here again!

Looking back at this semester, it is impressive how many things have happened at Uppsala University in just a few months. You have all contributed outstanding efforts. Thanks to all of you – skilled staff and ambitious students – the University can be an important driving force in the development of society. Our students can get a first-rate education, and in research we work together with universities and institutes around the world. No wonder we are globally recognised and ranked among the leading universities. This is something to keep in mind while you get some rest over the summer.

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Conferment Ceremony in Uppsala Cathedral, May 2016. Photo: Mikael Wallerstedt

When we look back at the spring there are many different events that deserve to be mentioned.

At the beginning of the year we took a stance on the issue of national research evaluations in Sweden as suggested by the Swedish Research Council. We said no – due to matters of principle, quality and efficiency. The proposed system would undermine the higher education institutions’ ownership of quality matters, have limited value as basis for quality management and research renewal, and be a costly and inefficient system for resource distribution.

Instead we think the institutions themselves should have – and take – the responsibility for quality. We are proud that Uppsala University once again leads the way with its own quality evaluation – Quality and Renewal 2017. The evaluation will be completed next year, and this time we put particular emphasis on the processes that give rise to quality and renewal in our research environments.

Campus Gotland.

Campus Gotland

The issue of dimensioning remains an important one. We are forced to continue our incremental cuts to the number of student places, which means that fewer of the motivated students who apply actually get to study. Even so, we welcomed 4,781 new students this spring and the number of students located at Campus Gotland has increased from 715 to 935 in two years. This is a great outcome, but we still have some way to go in order to reach our goal of 1,500 students in Visby.

The matter of dimensioning is also related to the challenges that Europe is currently facing. The University wants to, and can, contribute knowledge, creative solutions and innovations if we are given the right prerequisites. In today’s situation in Sweden, Uppsala University could contribute towards integrating newly-arrived refugees through targeted educational efforts and complementary teacher training.

Eva Åkesson, Peter Wallensteen and Ban Ki-Moon, Dag Hammarskjöld lecture 2016.

Eva Åkesson, Peter Wallensteen and Ban Ki-moon at the Dag Hammarskjöld Lecture 2016.

Uppsala University must be internationally competitive. We work with people all over the world and are enriched when international students and researchers join us. Sadly, though, we don’t have enough scholarships to offer the non-European students who want to study here. We are pushing for both increased room for manoeuvre in internationalisation and a strong Swedish scholarship programme. While we wait for the Swedish government, we are doing what we can with the resources we have.

Those of you who read the Vice-Chancellor’s blog regularly have seen that we have travelled across the world and taken part in meetings on every continent during the spring. We do so because we know that staying in touch with our friends and alumni around the world is an important part of the equation in succeeding with our internationalisation efforts. Through international networks we make sure Uppsala University is represented in all the right forums, collaborating with those best suited in all areas.

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Brazil–Sweden Excellence Seminar, 17 May 2016.

But we also have a supportive roll for all those who want to develop and grow in countries with a weaker educational tradition. All over the world, universities play an important role in the democratic work. In collaboration with the international network Scholars at Risk we try to help create a sanctuary for intellectuals when given the opportunity. In an increasingly troubled world with severe conflicts, where freedom of speech and academic freedom are under attack, these issues become all the more important.

In research, several cross-border initiatives are being prepared and launched. Medical technology, antibiotic resistance, migration, racism, and the new working life are examples of areas where our research and knowledge can make a difference. The common denominator is that several faculties and disciplinary domains are involved.

Leading such a broad and complex organisation as a university is a privilege, but has its fair share of challenges. How to best steer and lead a university is something that has been discussed in one shape or another for as long as universities have existed. Recently the discussion was revitalised by Kåre Bremer’s inquiry, which has led to many discussions and has been a good starting point when discussing leadership matters in different forums. Is our system for leadership and management transparent and easy to understand? How can we vitalise collegiality and student influence while also creating the necessary means for clear leadership at all levels of the University? Do we need to make adjustments anywhere? Mid-spring, we handed in our comments on these issues to the government.

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Conferment Ceremony in Uppsala Cathedral.

But all has not been work – we have had occasion to celebrate, too. Since the new year we have held two conferment ceremonies. The winter conferment ceremony became the last to be held in the Main University Building before the renovations started. The spring conferment ceremony later took place in Uppsala Cathedral, which was at least as festive as our ceremonies in the Grand Auditorium. The conferment ceremony is such a strong and important tradition that it can survive being physically moved, even if only temporarily.

We have also had several interesting meetings and conferences on housing, trafficking, and reproductive health, among others. We have welcomed many visitors to our beautiful Uppsala University. When famous people visit us, such as UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, we receive international attention. This is great to see, but most pleasing of all is the reason they want to come here: They want to be connected with Uppsala University and the things we stand for.

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Now we would like to wish everyone a great summer and hope you all come back after the holidays, eager to accomplish many great new things!

Eva Åkesson, Vice-Chancellor
Anders Malmberg, Deputy Vice-Chancellor
Katarina Bjelke, University Director
Johan Tysk, Vice-Rector of the Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology
Stellan Sandler, Vice-Rector of the Disciplinary Domain of Medicine and Pharmacy
Torsten Svensson, Vice-Rector of the Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences

AIM day in Belo Horizonte (3)

This is the third and last report from the SACF event in Brazil.

After the programme in the capital Brasilia, the participants went on to other activities in other Brazilian cities. A large part of Uppsala University’s delegation travelled to Belo Horizonte, where an AIMday was arranged.

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The AIMday concept, which was developed at Uppsala University and first tried in 2008, has attracted widespread attention, first in Sweden, but in later years also from universities all over the world. Around 45 AIMdays have been arranged in total, almost 30 of which have been located in Uppsala, some ten at other Swedish seats of learning, and another ten in other countries. The goal of AIMday is to expose researchers to questions formulated by (in this case) companies within a specific technological field in order to stimulate both new research and new industrial collaborations.

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The meeting in Belo Horizonte on that Thursday was the first time that Swedish researchers had attended an AIMday arranged outside of Sweden. Under the thematic heading of Smart Industries, the discussion revolved around aspects of automation, such as intelligent machines, self-regulating systems, self-driven cars, etc. Among the companies in attendance were Akaer, Atlas Copco, Ericsson, SAAB, Valourec, and Volvo. In order to further promote the initiation of new partnerships after the meeting, SSF contributed advance study means and Vinnova and FAPEMIG provided project funds and travel grants for researchers.

In tandem with the AIMday-sessions, the managements of KTK, Linköping University and Uppsala University met with the Vice-Chancellors and Heads of Departments at the Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais (UFMG).

Meanwhile in Uppsala

Deputy Vice-Chancellor Anders Malmberg recently visited Brazil as part of the SACF, as I’m sure you have read about on this blog. Now, I thought I would bring you up to speed on what happened that week in Uppsala.

Loftier goals for gender equality

Minister Helene Hellmark Knutsson speaks of the government placing greater demands of gender equality on universities and higher education. The ratio of female professors was particularly emphasized, and she says the improvement has plateaued. Next year will see the gender equality target raised, she also tells the press. It’s worth noting that we haven’t had any specific gender equality targets from the government or the minister for 2016. As for Uppsala University, we reached our goal of 36 percent women among newly recruited professors during the period of 2012-2015. I am fully convinced that we will reach the new goal of half of all new professors being women in 2030, but I naturally hope we can reach the minister’s goal well in advance.

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Drivhuset held its annual meeting early in the week. Drivhuset helps students start or run companies or in other ways bring their ideas to life and it is impressive to learn about how many students Drivhuset reaches and how many companies are started by students. To many within the University, it might be important to have a reminder of the importance of including the teaching and students when one considers innovation and entrepreneurship.

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Research infrastructure

Wednesday was a meeting day in Stockholm. In the morning, the headman board met – the Vice-Chancellors of the 12 major universities. We meet a couple of times per semester, and this time research infrastructure was one of the more important questions. Many people say that research has become more and more a question of funding, and this is true in certain respects. Sweden will see large investments in national research infrastructure made in the days ahead, and important work is being done prioritizing the funding allocated by the Swedish Research Council. The host universities of national facilities are taking on increasingly large responsibilities, and this is one of our arguments for demanding increased basic grants for research.

Misconduct

That afternoon I, University Director Katarina Bjelke, and Deputy University Director Per Abrahamsson participated in a hearing regarding misconduct. Professor Margaretha Fahlgren is tasked with analysing the need for a new procedure for handling matters of research misconduct. She is also to draft proposals for ensuring a clear and orderly handling of suspected misconduct. The investigation is due to be finished on 25 November. But here in Uppsala, we cannot wait for it to be completed, and to that end, we have already reviewed our guidelines to ensure better handling. The decision on these will be unveiled soon as part of an upcoming Vice-Chancellor conference.

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Thank you’s and other events

It seemed to be the season of thank you’s and celebrations. Eva Ställdal, director-general of Formas, had her farewell ceremony on the Wednesday, and on Monday evening, many people including myself gathered to thank Linus Tunström for his years spent as the head of the City Theatre here in Uppsala. On Friday, we congratulated the Deputy Governor of the Swedish National Bank, Henry Ohlsson. I was fortunate enough to be able to listen to Henry earlier this week as I welcomed the participants of the Residence Meeting 2016. The following week, Chancellor Harriet Wallberg was also congratulated.

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I also discussed leadership both on #Addher and within the Help programme. I try to be generous with my time for this type of requests. It is good to have the opportunity every now and then to reflect on one’s motivation and driving forces, and it is fun to share experiences from successes and stumbles. The next lecture was held on Rotary the following Monday, and I made sure to share current events within Uppsala University – of which there are always quite a lot!

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The week came to an end in Stockholm, as I together with others from the SUHF expert panel on internationalisation met with Minister Helene Hellmark Knutsson to discuss study fees. The media had discussed the fees previously, as had I on this blog. It was good to meet in person, as gave us a chance to straighten out a few misunderstandings.

University network formed in Brussels: Uppsala forced to stay on the side-lines

At a meeting in Brussels on 1 June, eight European universities signed a document forming an important new university network in Europe: The Guild of European Research-Intensive Universities. The founding universities are Glasgow and Warwick (UK), Tübingen and Göttingen (Germany), Bologna (Italy), Oslo (Norway), Groningen (the Netherlands), and Jagiellonian (Poland).

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The Guild was founded with the aim of providing European research universities with a stronger voice in Brussels, but also of increasing the visibility of important research with the potential to inform European policy, as well as through benchmarking and collaborations developing the member universities’ management functions and innovation support, among other things. In addition, negotiations are in progress with another group of highly ranked European universities, with the aim of having the network encompass some 20 universities within a year. Read more about the Guild here.

Uppsala is meant to be the ninth founding member, but was unable to sign due to the fact that a Swedish university, as a government agency, is unable to join a ‘non-profit organization under Belgian Law’ without an official decision from the Swedish parliament, which normally takes up to six months. This weakens Uppsala’s prospects of helping to shape important initiatives like this one, and clearly underlines the need for increased institutional autonomy and freedom of action to be afforded to Swedish universities in one way or another. We now hope the parliament comes to a quick decision this autumn, so that we are able to participate fully when the network launches this November.

network2This image shows a pleased Ole Petter Otteerson, Vice-Chancellor of Oslo University and recently appointed chair of the network board, signing the document.

The Brazil-Sweden Excellence Seminar is underway (2)

The well-attended seminar began this Tuesday morning with a good deal of ceremony, including national anthems and introductory addresses. Speakers representing the Swedish side were ambassador Per-Arne Hjelmborn and Helen Dannetun, Vice-Chancellor of Linköping University. The Brazilian side fielded Hernan Chaimovich, chairman of the research council CNPq, Jailson Bittancourt de Andrade, from the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation, as well as Carlos Afonso Nobre, chairman of CAPES, a Brazilian government agency in charge of promoting high standards for post-graduate courses in Brazil.

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This was followed by a session outlining various research collaborations between Brazil and Sweden, with an introduction by Enrico Deiaco, of the Swedish Ministry of Growth Analysis. Among these is the SEK 40 billion deal between Sweden and Brazil on the acquisition of 36 Gripen aircraft, which will serve to strengthen the ties between the countries over the next 30 years with regards to research and innovation.

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The researchers will now attend two days’ worth of seminars split across five themes:

  • Imagining & Visualization in Life Science
  • Novel Functional Materials & Nanotechnology
  • Inclusive Education – Gender & Ethnicity
  • Sustainable Development: Energy, Environment & Biodiversity
  • Machine Intelligence & Autonomy

For the university managements and research financiers, three so-called Top Level University Sessions will be held:

  • Internationalisation & Collaboration in Higher Education
  • Funding for Promoting World Class Research Collaboration
  • Brazil – Sweden: Importance of University & Industry Collaboration

Arriving in Brasilia

The Swedish Academic Collaboration Forum, SACF, is a joint strategic venture between six Swedish universities (Chalmers, KTK, Linköping, Lund, Stockholm, and Uppsala) with the aim of stimulating international collaborations with a number of countries in Asia and South America. Following meetings in South Korea, China (Shanghai), Singapore, and Indonesia, this week will see a fifth and final Excellence Seminar held in Brazil’s capital city Brasilia. This meeting is jointly hosted by Uppsala and Linköping. Attendance is record-breaking. All in all, more than 100 Swedes have arrived: University researchers, University managers, and research financiers. Monday has been a day of preparation with sightseeing in Brasilia, a unique city planning project from the 1950s. Since 1987, the entire city is included in the UNESCO World Heritage list.

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After this, we were treated to an introductory lecture by the Swedish ambassador Per-Arne Hjelmborn who brought us up to speed on the country, the current political situation (an extreme one, as the president is being impeached), and the bilateral relations between Brazil and Sweden. Then we attended a reception in the ambassador’s residence.

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For the evening session, the Uppsala delegation met with the Deputy Vice-Chancellor at the helm. This get-together afforded us a chance to get to know each other in preparation for the meeting itself which was held this Tuesday. An exciting time!

Spring has arrived!

Indeed, spring has well and truly arrived. We could not have hoped for a better Walpurgis Eve. Beautiful weather, record-breaking attendance figures, and few incidents according to the police. Many people have requested making a tradition out of OD’s concert on the steps of Carolina Rediviva following the Donning of the Caps – and I am in favour of this as well. Saturday was a busy day, starting with the Running of the Falls of the Fyris River where I selected one Vice-Chancellor’s favourite, followed by herring lunch, the Donning of the Caps, OD’s concert, the choir Allmänna Sången, and Kuratorskonventet’s delightful speech next to the Gunilla Clock in the evening, as well as a few nation visits. Our recommendation to ‘go one for one’ and having a serving of water for every serving of alcohol was heeded by many celebrators, and the bottles of water we distributed for public consumption ran out. On Sunday, I enjoyed a May dinner at Norrlands Nation.

A great big ‘thank you’ to everyone who helped make the weekend’s festivities a good time for all!

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