Semester kick-off for Management Council

(Original Swedish post published 19 January, English version posted 20 January.)

Every semester, the Management Council starts up with an overnight conference. The Vice-Chancellor, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, University Director, vice-rectors, deputy vice-rectors, and some students and officials gather to discuss issues of general relevance. On this occasion, we spent 24 hours together at Krusenberg Herrgård.

In the autumn, we devoted the Management Council overnight conference and deans’ meeting to strategic intelligence and foresight. This time we turned our attention inwards to focus on what’s going on in our organisation and discuss our strategic priorities.

 

I kicked things off with an account of the external factors governing our activities – the Higher Education Act and Ordinance and our appropriation directions. Sometimes it’s useful to recall what they actually say. For example, sometimes people talk about ‘third stream activities’. These are no longer mentioned in the legislative text – it talks about education, research and collaboration. It also explicitly mentions the obligation to promote gender equality, broader recruitment and sustainable development. We also went over our own governance documents – our Mission and Core Values, other statements of goals and strategies, programmes and action plans.

The first Management Council overnight conference with the present Vice-Chancellor and Deputy Vice-Chancellor took place in August 2012, also at Krusenberg Herrgård. It was then that we formulated our strategic priorities: quality, internationalisation, skills and careers, and infrastructure. The Vice-Chancellor and Deputy Vice-Chancellor went over what we had done about these issues up to now, how we had gone about it and how we intend to continue. Wednesday’s programme continued with the vice-rectors, students and administration presenting how they are putting the priorities into practice in their particular area and the challenges they foresee in the future.

It all added up to an impressive survey of everything that’s going on. It’s interesting to see that there is substantial agreement, though there are differences as well. Our conclusion was that we had come a long way in several areas but that the priorities generally still hold, though the emphasis and nuances vary.

We need to carry on working on some key issues. Perhaps the University needs an education strategy that encompasses the entire range of quality, internationalisation, careers and skills, and infrastructure? A strategy that takes a holistic approach and includes both educational development and study environments. Should we conduct a Quality and Renewal exercise for collaboration to map the University’s collaboration activities?

The second day’s exercises focused on social media. We learned about how the University is currently using social media for news coverage, strategic intelligence, research communication and student recruitment. During this session David Nygren and Joachim Ekström from the Communications Division were with us. The discussion after their presentation focused on what more we can do.  What sort of presence should we have in social channels? When should we not use social media? What is our responsibility as a university in a time of fact resistance? What sort of support do we need to develop for researchers, teachers and the management?

We had 24 hours of intense discussions which underlined how important it is to meet, discuss, learn more about one another’s areas and activities, and get to know one another a bit better. This will make it easier for us to work together in the Management Council moving forward. And it does no harm that we had a good time together.

Quality Advisory Board conference

(Original Swedish post published 15 January 2017, English version posted 17 January.)

The Quality Advisory Board held its annual overnight conference on 11–12 January. This is when the Board has the chance to dig deeper into certain issues, discuss its working procedures and plan its activities. In addition to some progress reports – the Quality Advisory Board functions, for example, as a reference group for Q&R17 and for the self-evaluation component of the Swedish Higher Education Authority’s evaluation of Uppsala University’s measures to promote sustainable development – the focus this time was on two topics.

The topic for the first afternoon was “Quality and skills provision”. Some aspects discussed were the ongoing work on skills provision plans, how to further develop our recruitment processes to ensure that we succeed in recruiting teachers and researchers who will make the greatest possible contribution to quality enhancement at the University, and how we can use career support to enable our young teachers and researchers to develop professionally.

Day two was mainly devoted to “Evaluation and development in education, research and administration”. To begin with, Åsa Kettis described the changes in the Swedish evaluation landscape from 1993 (the higher education reform) to the present day. After that we discussed how to ensure that development and evaluation are more of a benefit than a burden, how to coordinate internal and external evaluations, and how to balance local and joint initiatives in the University. The discussion produced the following (among other) recommendations:

  • Give departments support in the form of background material and compilations of data, etc., to enable self-evaluations to focus on reflection and analysis.
  • Create a positive attitude towards evaluation and quality enhancement by clarifying the benefits and reporting results, spreading good practice, etc.
  • Take a research approach to evaluation, see it as part of academic activities.
  • Make sure to optimise the evaluation process over time by ‘evaluating the evaluations’, so as to only keep the elements that really ‘give something’. Avoid time-consuming data collection.
  • Think about how often to evaluate – on the basis of need, developments, continuity and resources. Don’t overuse the evaluation instrument and link it more clearly to measures in response.
  • Inform staff and plan well in advance on the basis of the known timetables and purposes of external evaluations, and avoid internal evaluations of things that are evaluated by other actors.

The conference was Anders’s last as chair of the Quality Advisory Board. The new chair, starting immediately, will be Professor Torsten Svensson, Vice-Rector of the Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences. Torsten, of course, previously led the work on developing the model for Uppsala University’s new quality assurance system for education. Good luck with this important and exciting responsibility, Torsten!

Welcome back!

(Original Swedish post published 10 January, English version posted 11 January.)

Welcome back after the holidays – and Happy New Year! We will soon be welcoming new students, the traditional reception will take place this Friday. As in the autumn, many new students have a hard time finding a place to live, so we appeal to everyone who has a room they can rent out to help the new students get off to as good a start as possible.

Today we (Anders and Eva) visited Uppsala Business & Economics Students Association (Uppsalaekonomerna), one of the new student unions at our University. Now there are six student unions in total: Uppsala Student Union, Rindi (Gotland’s Student Union), the Pharmaceutical Student Association, the Uppsala Business & Economics Students Association, the Law Students’ Association in Uppsala and the Uppsala Union of Engineering and Science Students. Afterwards Eva met the University officials who will be conferring doctoral degrees at the Winter Conferment Ceremony. It’s always a pleasure to look forward to honouring our graduating doctoral students, honorary doctors and prize winners. Everyone is welcome to the ceremony in Uppsala Cathedral on 27 January.

Now we’re summing up 2016 and busy putting the annual report together. I recently received a report on Uppsala University’s cooperation with Drivhuset Uppsala, which I would like to share with you.

Uppsala students have lots of exciting business ideas and the non-profit foundation Drivhuset Uppsala seeks to support and inspire them to dare to try to put their ideas into practice. In the course of 2016, Uppsala University contributed commitment and valuable funding to boost contributions from the business sector and the Swedish Agency for Economic and Regional Growth. The funding enabled Drivhuset to organise inspirational and educational activities for 1,340 participants and offer individual business development support at 401 meetings with 276 unique individuals. 105 business ideas came from 72 students, 26 alumni and 7 researchers from Uppsala University.

2016 at Uppsala University – in retrospect

With Christmas and the New Year drawing near, it feels natural to look back over the past year. How well have we lived up to the University’s slogan – a tradition of renewal since 1477? Pretty well, we’d be inclined to say.

We’re preserving and building. The University Main Building is undergoing a thorough renovation, while the Segerstedt Building and the Humanities Theatre are nearing completion. After alterations and extension, the Rudbeck Laboratory is ready to reopen in the New Year. Work has begun on a new premises supply plan looking towards 2050. We are laying the groundwork for the University’s future campus structure in a rapidly growing Uppsala.

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We’re renewing our research. The University’s new research strategies, adopted during the autumn, foreground some of our areas of strength and show how we are meeting various societal challenges through targeted research initiatives in important areas such as antibiotics, racism and medical technology. As always, we emphasise that there is no opposition between striving for academic excellence and our equally important striving to benefit society – on the contrary, these objectives are mutually reinforcing. The concept of useful research must not be trivialised or ruled by short-term business sector interests or political preferences. The way to maximise the long-term contribution universities make to society is to defend our distinctive nature, integrity and autonomy.

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We’re taking responsibility for quality. This year Uppsala University has launched a third university-wide research evaluation through our project Quality and Renewal 2017 (Q&R17). This time the focus is on analysing how the processes driving quality and renewal function in our research environments. A large-scale questionnaire survey has been conducted as well as bibliometric analyses. During the winter the departments will work on their self-evaluations and when spring is at its best in May international panels of experts will visit Uppsala. Turning to educational quality, a new system is being implemented in which we will evaluate all our programmes over a period of six years, including external review. The first pilot evaluations are already in progress.

We’re enhancing our internationalisation. We provide unique opportunities for our students to venture out into the world through some 500 agreements in more than 50 countries. The number of fee-paying students from countries outside Europe is increasing and we’re beginning to approach the levels we had before the tuition fees reform. If Sweden, as we have advocated in various forums during the year, succeeds in creating an effective scholarship programme for international students, the situation will improve further. We have co-founded a strong new European university network, the Guild of European Research-Intensive Universities, with 18 members to date. For several years, we have been working systematically to develop our international research partnerships, these days often arm in arm with other Swedish research universities. One example is the Swedish Academic Collaboration Forum (SACF), in which we are one of six Swedish universities together building relations with researchers in South Korea, Singapore, China (Shanghai), Indonesia and Brazil. In the Mirai project, we are one of seven Swedish higher education institutions jointly building up cooperative relations with leading Japanese universities. Our representation in Hanoi is being restaffed. Those of us in the University management have travelled a good deal during the year. The Management Council has visited universities in Germany and Switzerland, and in Oslo. Eva participated in the delegation of the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering visiting Japan and in a vice-chancellors’ tour of South Africa and Botswana organised by the Swedish Higher Education Authority and the Swedish Foundation for International Cooperation in Research and Higher Education. Anders headed the Uppsala delegation on the SACF tour of Brazil.

Opening Symposium for the Guild of European Research-Intensive Universities.

Opening Symposium for the Guild of European Research-Intensive Universities.

Emphasis on sustainable development in education and research. During the year, we adopted our first programme and action plan for sustainable development. We also appointed an Adviser to the Vice-Chancellor, Anna Rutgersson, with special responsibility for these issues. Sustainable development is also a central theme in one of the three MOOCs that Uppsala University launched during the year: Climate Change Leadership. The other two are about antibiotic resistance and financial crises.

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Anna Rutgersson, Adviser to the Vice-Chancellor for Sustainable Development.

Unprecedented external collaboration. During the year we adopted a new programme and action plan for external collaboration. Following our strategic partnership with ABB in 2015, we have entered into several equivalent or similar collaboration agreements in 2016, with Uppsala Municipality, NCC, Region Gotland and RISE Research Institutes of Sweden. We have organised AIMdays both at home and around the world. We have taken part in Vinnova’s pilot evaluations of higher education institutions’ collaboration strategies and their implementation, results and follow-up. Vinnova’s panel was not overly impressed with our work on collaboration and we are not impressed with how Vinnova and its panel work on the evaluation of collaboration. The debate will no doubt continue, particularly since the government has announced that it intends to make the quality of collaboration one of the parameters in its model for distributing the resources allocated for research, on a par with publications/citations and the ability to attract external research funding.

Infrastructure issues are increasingly prominent. Apart from the issue of premises for the University’s activities and housing for students and staff, we are wrestling with the issue of how to organise – and finance – our absolutely vital research infrastructure in the longer term. Here Kristina Edström is now taking over from Joseph Nordgren as Adviser to the Vice-Chancellor. Joseph has done a fantastic job making the entire University across the board aware of the importance of these issues and has made a great contribution to the emerging national system for addressing issues of coordination and prioritisation. Now we are beginning to see the dimensions and complexity of the challenge, which means that it ‘only’ remains to find the solutions. Thank you, Joseph, and good luck, Kristina!

Focus on skills provision. The targeted investments the University is making in increasing the number of career-development positions appears to be yielding dividends – the cost for the Vice-Chancellor’s strategic funds may be high, but we think it is worth it. A similar initiative to increase the number of international visiting professors has been launched this autumn. The old ‘professor programmes’ are being phased out and replaced with skills provision plans that apply a broader perspective to recruitment needs and recruitment strategy.

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Uppsala University continues to be a local, national and international meeting place for knowledge, culture and critical dialogue, just as we set out in our Mission and Core Values. This year’s Uppsala Health Summit was about childhood obesity. The SANORD conference in Uppsala gathered participants from around 40 universities in the Nordic countries and southern Africa, including the President of Mauritius. The Dag Hammarskjöld lecture this year was delivered by Ban Ki-moon to a full house in the Blue Hall at Stockholm City Hall, as the University’s Grand Auditorium was closed for renovation. During Almedalen Week, Campus Gotland is probably the hottest meeting place in the country, and the Nobel lectures in December filled our lecture halls at Ångström, BMC and Ekonomikum to overflowing.

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We have much to be pleased and proud about. We are consolidating Uppsala University’s status as a top-100 university – despite increasingly tough competition. Our programmes continue to attract many applicants, the most in the country in terms of total number of applicants to the autumn term’s courses. We continue to be successful in the tough competition for allocations from the Swedish Research Council; 16 per cent of the total funds granted were awarded to Uppsala. We continue to grow, albeit more slowly than over the past five-year period, and now have nearly 7,000 members of staff. This gives us good reason to celebrate properly on special occasions: our doctoral degree ceremonies in January and May, the inauguration of professors in November (this year, for the first time in history, with more women than men) and the various degree ceremonies are happy occasions when our hard-working students, doctoral students, teachers and researchers receive richly deserved recognition for their efforts.

The national arena affects us. In November, the government presented its research bill for this electoral period. It received (plenty of) criticism and (some) praise. It specifies certain important parameters for our activities in the years ahead. The government has announced special inquiries to examine the management and resource distribution systems, and internationalisation. Both of these inquiries are important and welcome. Two ongoing inquiries are examining the issues of admission to higher education and the treatment of research misconduct. The latter question has recieved a great deal of attention during the year following the tragic and shocking Macchiarini affair at Karolinska Institutet. During the past year, several other inquiries have delivered their reports: on career paths (Ann Fust), university management issues (Kåre Bremer) and development issues in the Gotland region (Peter Larsson). These are all inquiries in which we take an active interest in one way or another.

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We live in an unsettled world. The year 2016 has been a distressing year at the international level. The horrific war in Syria continues. Refugee flows are increasing and reports of shipwrecks with tragic outcomes continue to reach us from the Mediterranean. The attempted coup in Turkey and the subsequent counter-reaction have demonstrated not least that academic freedom and the independence of the universities are fragile things. Europe has been shaken by terrorist attacks. The Brexit referendum and the presidential election in the United States show that the global openness we have associated with Western democracies cannot be taken for granted. All these developments place a responsibility on universities to stand up for the freedom of thought and not least to insist and seek to ensure that discourse on the development of society rests on respect for knowledge and facts.

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Now we look forward to a well-deserved holiday, which we hope you will be able to spend with family and friends. We meet again in the New Year, for a new term when we will welcome new students to our University. Our best contribution to a better world is to continue to conduct research and education of the highest academic quality – in close collaboration and interaction with all other forces for good in society.

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!

Eva Åkesson, Vice-Chancellor
Anders Malmberg, Deputy Vice-Chancellor
Katarina Bjelke, University Director
Stellan Sandler, Vice-Rector
Torsten Svensson, Vice-Rector
Johan Tysk, Vice-Rector

Festive week with overtones of Christmas

(Original Swedish post published 17 December, English version published 20 December.)

We’re happy to say that six Nobel Prize winners accepted our invitation and honoured Uppsala University by giving the traditional lectures here on St Lucia’s Day (Tuesday). Full houses in the lecture halls in the morning, and festive spirits at lunch at the Castle. This tradition dates back to 1902, when we first had a Nobel laureate visiting us. Chemistry laureate Ben Feringa comes from the University of Groningen, which of course we cooperate with closely in the U4 Group and the Guild. The President of the Board of Groningen University, Sibrand Poppema, and Rector Magnificus Elmer Sterken accompanied their laureate to Uppsala and ended the day by attending a traditional St Lucia’s Day student party (‘Lussegasque’) with Anders. A great success!

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More Christmas events: We’ve already blogged about the University Board’s last meeting this year, followed by Christmas lunch, in a separate post.  On Monday the Vice-Chancellor’s Management Council looked back at the past year and then had Christmas lunch together, the Disciplinary Domain of Medicine and Pharmacy had its traditional Christmas party on Wednesday and on Thursday the staff at Campus Gotland had their Christmas party. St Lucia’s Day fika at the Uppsala University Student Union is another of our traditions. And Eva spoke at the universities’ Christmas service in Uppsala Cathedral on 15 December. This duty alternates between the vice-chancellors of Uppsala University and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, and this year it was our turn. The week ended with an awards ceremony for students active in the student unions and nations, at which Anders gave a speech thanking all the students for their commitment and presented well-deserved diplomas.

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But we have found time for other things this week too. Alexander von Gabain, who is Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Innovation and Commercial Outreach at Karolinska Institutet, visited us and met representatives of our innovation system. We see good potential for enhanced cooperation between Uppsala and Karolinska on support for innovations. Eva opened the Association of Swedish Higher Education conference on “Admission to Higher Education” with a presentation on broader recruitment, newcomers in Sweden, validation and lifelong learning. The conference examined issues relating to admission to higher education from various angles. Inquiry chair Jörgen Tholin briefed the participants on the thoughts and ideas of the Higher Education Admissions Inquiry. The current regulations for admissions to higher education are difficult to understand and unpredictable and we have great hopes that this will be remedied by the inquiry, which will deliver its report in March 2017.

Report from the University Board meeting

(Original Swedish post published 15 December, English version published 16 December.)

On Tuesday the University Board convened at Scandic Hotel for its last meeting before the holidays. As usual, the meeting began with the Vice-Chancellor’s monthly report (pdf, in Swedish). The December report was mainly about the government’s research bill.

The meeting also gave the University Board an opportunity to go through the University’s risk analysis, which we have worked on in various constellations in the Management Council during the autumn. We also had a preliminary discussion on the University’s budget input – the points we want to bring to the government’s attention and that we want them to take into account when they draw up the government budget in coming years. As the government has just presented its research bill, which focuses on research issues, it is only natural that our budget input now emphasises education issues. One issue under discussion is increased resources for basic (undergraduate) education, where we would like more places to be available and higher compensation levels. In recent years, the humanities, social sciences, theology and law have benefited from quality increases but now it’s high time that laboratory-based programmes also received a boost.  We had a good discussion. Both the risk analysis and the discussion on the budget input are preparation for the University Board meeting in February, when the budget input and the annual report have to be finalised and sent to the government.

One important decision was that the University Board gave me a mandate to begin a review of the University’s Rules of Procedure. This document describes the responsibilities and roles of all the different parts of the University and work procedures at the University. For example: What decisions does a faculty board take? What are the responsibilities of a dean? How do we appoint heads of department, deans and vice-rectors at the University? The current Rules of Procedure are beginning to show their age. A year or so ago Kåre Bremer’s management inquiry addressed a number of issues that are now up for discussion. The consultation responses on the procedure for appointing a Vice-Chancellor also highlighted various issues that the review may address. It is important that the process is allowed to take time, that the entire University can get involved – students, teachers, researchers and other employees. I will have more to say about this in the new year.

I myself was not present for one of the main items on the day’s agenda. This item concerned procedures for appointing a vice-chancellor. I informed the University Board back in October that I am available for a further period if this is what the University wants. But the most important thing is to have good procedures and I hope that Tuesday’s decision will make that possible.  The final wording will soon be published on the University’s website.

The University Board is also the governing board of Uppsala University’s Foundations Management. Kent Berg from Uppsala University Foundations Management of Estates and Funds gave a thorough presentation of the arrangements and routines for managing 601 foundations. Every year, the foundations contribute more than SEK 220 million towards the University’s activities. The money goes to research, PhD students, scholarships, premises, pensions and much more besides. Moreover, the foundations pay for our historic environments, gardens, music, museums and academic ceremonies. They make it possible for the University to do many things that we would otherwise not have been able to do. So now and then we should spare a grateful thought for King Gustav II Adolf and our other donors.

Better opportunities for internationalisation

(Original Swedish post published 9 December, English version posted 12 December.)

On Thursday the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences (IVA) had a breakfast meeting on internationalisation at which the IVA project Research Outlook presented a report on “Better opportunities for internationalisation of research and higher education”. (Swedish version here.) The project has analysed Sweden’s situation and potential for international cooperation and exchange, identified challenges and put forward a number of recommendations:

  1. Create a national internationalisation strategy
  2. Use broad bilateral research agreements to greater advantage
  3. Coordinate education and research
  4. Remove legal obstacles hindering higher education institutions
  5. Clarify responsibility for promotion and support
  6. Establish a national scholarship foundation for foreign students.

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Senior Project Manager Martin Wikström presented the report and Deputy Director-General Kerstin Jacobsson from the Ministry of Education and Research commented on the presentation. To begin with she mostly talked about the Research Bill that was presented last Monday, but after that she focused on internationalisation. Jacobsson summarised impressions and questions that came up at the hearings the Ministry organised in autumn 2015 – mobility, tuition fees, promotion of Sweden, migration, whether or not we need an internationalisation strategy. An inquiry on internationalisation is planned, and Jacobsson stated clearly that it will include both education and research. And she welcomed the report as a constructive contribution to the work ahead. I was particularly pleased to hear that points 4 and 6 will be addressed in a fast-track process. Although we welcome the inquiry, it will take a long time and some issues are ripe for tackling immediately. So it was pleasing to hear that the issues of legal obstacles and scholarships will be addressed more quickly. I participated in the panel that discussed the report on Thursday morning, as a member of Research Outlook’s steering group.

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Second Sunday in Advent

(Original Swedish version posted 4 December, English version posted 5 December.)

The weeks before Christmas speed by, and we’ve already reached the second Sunday in Advent. On Monday the long-awaited Research Bill was presented. Having heard others’ reactions, it’s fair to say we’re not the only ones to give the bill a lukewarm reception. For our own comments, see the last blog post.

The Vice-Chancellor spent all day Wednesday at a conference on the theme of ‘Equal education’ arranged by the Institute of Education Law at the Faculty of Law. The purpose of the Institute is to inspire and support research and education in the area of education law in Sweden, in the broadest possible way. Setting out from the broad academic environment offered by the University, the Institute’s brief is to promote the study and analysis of jurisprudential and related issues surrounding education at all levels, in a manner that is beneficial for Sweden. Read more about the Institute here. The conference on ‘Equal education’ certainly succeeded in this. Thank you for an inspiring day!

On Thursday Friends of Uppsala University had invited PhD alumni in and around Uppsala to an evening event. For many of them, the event was a fond reunion with their Alma Mater. We intend to step up our alumni activities and fundraising in the coming years. The Friends presented merit scholarships to six very deserving students now concluding their Master programmes.

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On Friday we signed an agreement of intent on enhanced collaboration with RISE Research Institutes of Sweden. The aim is to strengthen Swedish competitiveness and growth through increased collaboration between universities and industrial research institutes. Read about the agreement here.

In the coming week we would like to recommend ‘Åsikt Uppsala’ (‘Uppsala Opinion’) on Wednesday 7 December. The University and local newspaper UNT are holding an open panel discussion on newly arrived immigrants and the labour market. For the many people who have recently come to Sweden to create a new life for themselves, getting a job is key – both for their own self-esteem and for integration. The discussion will be held at Missionskyrkan, starting at 19:00.

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And then this weekend it was time for OD’s annual Caprice concert at the IFU arena. We’d like to thank OD and their guests for a successful concert and look forward to next year’s Caprice in the newly renovated University Main Building.

The Research Bill: right rhetoric but wrong practice

(Original Swedish post published 28 November, English version posted 29 November.)

So there it is at last, the Research Bill. The title this time is “Collaborating for knowledge – for society’s challenges and strengthened competitiveness”. Where the money is concerned, most of the contents were familiar after the Budget Bill and various signals earlier in the autumn. However, it’s interesting to see the government’s line of thinking on the conditions for research and the role of research in society, and the systemic changes discernible in and between the lines.

It’s easy to agree with the government’s overall objectives: “The goal of research policy is for Sweden to be one of the world’s foremost research and innovation countries and a leading knowledge nation, where high-quality research, higher education and innovation promote the development and wellbeing of society, enhance the competitiveness of the business sector, and respond to the challenges facing society in Sweden and globally.”

The basic appropriation will increase by SEK 1.3 billion in the period up to 2020. This increase comes with great expectations on the part of the government.  Higher education institutions are to make improvements in gender equality, external collaboration and practical applications, education and career opportunities for researchers, mobility, the link between research and education, and – not least – our responsibility for increasingly costly research infrastructure and participation in EU programmes.

At the same time, the government evidently wishes to spread the new appropriations among more HEIs rather than investing in the research universities that are home to most of the leading research and heavy infrastructure. If we also take into account that the basic appropriation is usually eaten away by about one per cent per year as a result of the system of incomplete salary and price indexing, it is extremely unclear whether Uppsala University, for example, will experience anything more than marginal real increases in the size of its basic appropriation over the next four years.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t add up – the increase in the share of basic appropriation funding that we considered essential to be able to take increased responsibility for career opportunities and infrastructure won’t materialise this time either.

There are some positive aspects. Several of the societal challenges that the government focuses on link up well with the areas that Uppsala University highlighted in our input and in our research strategies. This is emphatically the case for the ten-year research programmes planned in the areas of climate, building a sustainable society, migration and integration, antibiotic resistance, applied welfare research, and research on working life. Uppsala University can make substantial contributions in all these areas. It also applies to the initiatives for a stronger academic foundation for teacher education and schools, even if we would have liked to see more than a modest pilot project for combined appointments in academia and schools.

Otherwise, the key word in the government bill is collaboration. The planned initiatives linked to societal challenges such as the climate, digitalisation, health, building a sustainable society, and schools take collaboration as their starting point. The performance of HEIs in the area of external collaboration will have an increased influence on the distribution of the basic appropriation. We are seriously concerned about this last point. External collaboration is important – for the universities, the business sector and society alike. However, attempts in recent years to develop models to evaluate performance and quality in the area of external collaboration, under the auspices of Vinnova, have not generated data that can reasonably justify decisions on resource distribution. There are no good indicators for collaboration, and the assessment risks being arbitrary. The proposal to make the Swedish Higher Education Authority responsible for continued work on research quality assurance is interesting, but entails a drastic change in the Authority’s duties – and the skills it needs.

The government mentions a number of issues in the research bill that it plans to come back to. We had expected some clarifications regarding internationalisation and the possibility of participating in international cooperation. Resource distribution and management are other issues that will be examined in special inquiries.

Given the current state of government finances, we hardly counted on the government being able to manage major new initiatives. From that perspective, the overall level of the initiatives announced in the bill are in line with expectations. Having said that, the relatively modest investment in augmented basic appropriations, particularly combined with the distribution pattern announced, gives cause for disappointment and concern if we want to defend the ability of Swedish research universities to hold their own in the upper echelons of the global ranking lists. Perhaps it is significant that this is the first research bill in modern times that does not contain the word ‘research’ in the title.

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Review of management systems and resource allocation

(Original Swedish post published 24 November, English version posted 25 November.)

According to an article in the newspaper Svenska Dagbladet yesterday (in Swedish), the government is planning to conduct a review of management and resource allocation to higher education institutions. This is a good thing. The government has previously shown an interest in increasing basic appropriations and giving policies a more long-term perspective, and has also indicated that new management models are needed beyond the New Public Management model, which is increasingly criticised. This is in line with what Uppsala University has long been calling for so there is reason for optimism.

Having said that, the article hints that HEIs are not behaving properly and that firmer management is needed. The Minister says the government wants to give higher education institutions the conditions they need to meet the major challenges facing society, and talks about giving them incentives to develop their activities “in accordance with the laws, ordinances and objectives that the Swedish parliament and government have established for higher education and research.” Here it is important to recall another quality mentioned in the article – trust.

We by no means question the validity of checking that we perform our duties as a government agency in accordance with the rule of law and that we focus on quality in our activities. It is misdirected to suggest that Swedish higher education institutions are not doing their job properly and not following laws and regulations. We are doing so – even when it has absurd consequences and obviously gets in the way of our external collaboration and internationalisation, for example. But what the right conditions are for the best possible development of research and teaching must primarily be a question for the the higher education institutions to decide – in trust-based dialogue with partners in the business sector and public sector. Mutual respect for roles and integrity creates trust and confidence within a higher education institution and thereby the right conditions for development.

Regrettably, in recent times we have seen initiatives that tend in the opposite direction. Dalarna University has recently been forced to conduct education and research in two new locations – without the support of the higher education institution or its board being secured for this (Swedish article). Here, the institution’s own situation and strategic considerations were disregarded, which does not benefit development and quality. What we need is a well-rooted understanding of the factors that promote success in the academic world.

The Minister talks about the outcome of the relatively extensive investments in excellence and strategic research areas over the past decade in terms of unwanted effects such as the concentration of resources to a few higher education institutions. From the perspective of Swedish research universities this is disturbing. If Sweden is to be a knowledge nation with leading research universities, we must dare to concentrate our efforts around the environments where the conditions for conducting world-leading research are best.