Uppsala University, Sweden

Month: August 2013

New semester about to start: housing shortage and management retreat

You can see signs that a new semester is starting here in Uppsala. More and more students are returning from summer break. Some “old” students are taking make-up exams and preparing for the semester. Other “entirely new” ones are here to get to know their new hometown, find their nation, and get their bearings. For many of our new students, their first period at Uppsala will unfortunately be marked by a housing shortage.

To resolve the acute situation for our students, we all need to help out to make them feel at home, both in the town itself and with their studies, as soon as possible. Even a temporary place to stay for a one or a few weeks can be of great help in giving our new students a good start with their Uppsala experience. Check out the Uppsala Student Union website .

It has long been known that there is a housing shortage in Uppsala, especially at the beginning of a semester. It is therefore gratifying to see that new construction is underway; in Artillerigatan you can see more than 200 new student flats being created. We have excellent collaboration with the city of Uppsala and other actors in this matter, but it is obvious that both the rate of construction and the supply of housing need to increase. Until this can be achieved, we all have to help out in resolving the acute housing situation.  We appeal to all of you who have an extra room or some other form of housing to rent it to a student.

UNT has written about the student housing situation, and last spring we wrote an article, together with the Vice-Chancellor of the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences and the Chair of the Uppsala City Executive Board, to spark a debate about the housing situation as a key to the growth of Uppsala.

During the week we have been able to see that the University is back in full swing.  Weekly routines with the Vice-Chancellor’s Management Council and the Vice-Chancellor’s Executive Meeting are starting to fill the calendar. We have had an intensive and inspiring retreat with the Vice-Chancellor’s Management Council. To start with, the Management Council had the opportunity to meet the new Chair of the University Board, Carola Lemne, who told them, among other things, how she views the role of the University, especially stressing collaboration: within the University, between universities, with business and the wider community, nationally and internationally. Collaboration and cross-disciplinary cooperation became something of a theme, setting the table for much of the ensuing discussion.  We received a report about ongoing work with goals and strategies from the working group’s chair, Göran Magnusson, and deputy chair, Coco Norén. We discussed the workflow within the University and how we can work together more efficiently. Our discussions also addressed what challenges the University is facing and how we should tackle them. The management retreat provided both inspiration and guidance for the coming year.


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Welcome back for a new semester!

Some of you are returning now in August to the workplace you have had for decades; others are freshmen and are about to start your first semester as Uppsala students. Regardless of which you are – you are all cordially welcome to Uppsala University for a new autumn semester.

We hope you have had a fine summer and that you’re eager to get started. It might be a bit sluggish the first week, and you may not remember your password for logging in.  Don’t let that bother you; in fact, that’s a sign that you’ve had good holidays and managed to relax during the break.  At this time of year we recognize your expectations – a new semester, a new academic year, new opportunities. It’s fun and exciting to get going again!

Eva has just returned from Istanbul, where she participated in committee meetings and a conference and where she visited Boğaziçi University in order to deepen our collaboration. Anders has been back on the job for about a week, holding the fort.  Quite a lot has happened since we wrote the blog about Almedal Week and the inauguration of Campus Gotland.


Several requests for the University to comment on various matters have arrived. One has to do with practice-teaching schools for future teachers, another with separate admissions for fee-paying students. Both of these arrived in July with deadlines for comments in August. We are not pleased with this modus operandi – enough said about that.

In July we reported out interest in educating police officers, as you may have seen in the news during the summer. Today police officers are trained at the National Police Academy in Solna (300 candidates admitted per year) and at Umeå University and Linnaeus University in Växjö (150 each). Now the Swedish Police Service wants to shut down the training in Solna and instead move it to some higher-education institution in the Mälardalen area. We have said that we are interested, that we have both specialist and broad competence regarding the theoretical subject areas in the programme (law and behavioural sciences, etc.); we have a great deal of experience in providing professional programmes, and we can establish a structure for all aspects of police education. If we are granted this programme, it will involve the equivalent of a total of 600 full-year students, who would undergo this training in the form of contract education. During the autumn we will find out if Uppsala University or some other institution will be providing this programme.

We just submitted our financial report for part of the year to the Ministry of Education and Research. This report shows outcomes for the first six months and provides a prognosis indicating that the University’s turnover, on a full-year basis, will increase by SEK 400 million, ca. SEK 100 million of which Campus Gotland will account for during the autumn semester of 2013. The rest of the increase in income is above all on the research side. In other words, the University’s rapid growth continues: a billion crowns in increased turnover and ca. 1,000 new employees in just three years.

Our operational growth shows that we are putting our new income to work – which is good – but our capital as a government authority is not decreasing as planned. Nor does our educational volume seem to be declining as planned, which means that we will be “over-producing” in relation to our “commission” from the government.  That may sound good – that more students than planned will have the opportunity to study here – but at the same time it means that the quality reinforcement that was planned and budgeted, primarily in the humanities and social sciences, will not have an impact. Something else that has us wondering is that our admissions of third-cycle (research-level) students seem to have dropped during the spring.

The number of extra-European students is rising, but not at the pace we would like to see. We need to work even more with this in future, and it’s a priority area for the Internationalisation Council. On the positive side, we are participating in several Erasmus Mundus programmes this year as well; six partner projects were approved during the summer. But we are somewhat disappointed that our application to coordinate HELIX (South Africa) wound up on the reserve list, though we’re keeping our fingers crossed that it will be granted.


This week the Management Council will be on retreat; we will spend an entire day discussing overarching strategic priorities for the coming year. At last year’s retreat, the four strategies were chiselled in stone: internationalisation, quality work, career and in-service training, and infrastructure. Pernilla Björk will be leading a discussion about the University Main Building. University Director Ann Fust will be launching an analysis of our work modes.  Project leaders Göran Magnusson and Coco Norén will be soliciting input for their work with proposing revisions to our Goals and Strategies. The retreat will be a good kick-off for management work.

The government’s budget bill is coming in September. The dimensioning issue continues to be important to us. The application pressure on some of our study programmes is growing with each passing semester, at the same time as we are being directed to reduce the number of student places. We have repeatedly debated this matter in various fora – in newspaper articles, in budget platforms, and in this blog.

In June the Ministry of Education and Research presented its – long awaited – proposal for a possible new legal form for universities and university colleges: the higher-education foundation proposal . According to the Ministry, the proposal would enhance the freedom of action of higher-education institutions and provide them with “prerequisites to deal with today’s and tomorrow’s changes in the surrounding world in a more flexible manner”. Although the window for submitting comments on the proposal is somewhat wider than for the other proposals circulated for comment this summer – here it’s October – we feel that this is far too little time for such an important and fundamental question. We, like other higher-education institutions through SUHF (Swedish Association of Higher Education), have asked to have the response window extended to December.

We are to state our opinion about the form and regulation of the new foundation form, not about whether Uppsala University would like to become a higher-education foundation. At the same time, it’s obvious that the latter question will be “looming in the background” during our work with our response. Uppsala University has previously supported increased institutional autonomy in various contexts, so it is natural for us to study this proposal with interest, though not to commit ourselves to one side or the other at present.

Our visits to departments will continue, and most of these are already booked for the autumn. We will hold a meeting for heads of departments this autumn, extending the practice we initiated last spring. We are also planning meetings with and reviews of all of our strategic research areas, the research commitments that came to Uppsala following the last research bill in 2008. Meetings and dialogues are important, both for us in management and in terms of bringing together this broad University. We are eager to develop arenas for dialogue within the University and with the wider community. Uppsala Views, which we run together with the newspaper UNT, was a success last spring, and we will keep it going.

As is only to be expected, Uppsala University will be welcoming many prominent guest this autumn. Don’t miss Kofi Annan and Jan Eliasson on 2 September and Margot Wallström a week later.

Once again, we wish you a heartfelt welcome to a new autumn semester in which we will all continue to move Uppsala University forward and to help make this world a better place.

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