Uppsala University, Sweden

Month: April 2016

Spring is in the air

The countdown for 30 April has begun, and the clock has been set up by Carolina Rediviva. These last days of April are truly brimming with activity.


Last Monday, the admission statistics for the autumn were announced. Uppsala University has the largest number of applicants out of all Swedish seats of learning, even if the total amount has decreased slightly. That is mostly an artefact of smaller batches of students and a strong labour market. We hope to admit more students and open our courses to more applicants in the future. That is how we wish to contribute to life-long learning.

Last Tuesday, we made several important decisions. Antibiotic resistance is one of the major global healthcare challenges of today, and the University formally established its new Antibiotics Centre. In addition, an implementation decision was made for the reconstruction of Carolina Rediviva’s entrance. It achieves our ideals of an open, accessible university library, a new meeting place, and an asset for both the University and the city. Work is set to begin in autumn 2016, and I hope both the Segerstedt Building and the renovated University Main Building will be completed by then.

The spring sun was shining as the Uppsala University Consistory (the University Board) gathered at the Krusenberg Manor around lunchtime last Wednesday. The April meeting provides an opportunity to discuss more strategic future issues at the University. This time, we begun by addressing the digital revolution taking place within education and research. Input for the discussion of ongoing affairs in the outside world, but also within the University, was provided by chief librarian Lars Burman, David Blanck-Schaffer from the Department of Information Technology, and Mats Cullhed, who works with pedagogical development. The digital development affects everything from publication patterns and Open Access to pedagogical development and education forms. It is also plays a large role in the sort of environment we are able to offer, and how we will be able to compete about both students and researchers in the future.

The second major future issue discussed on Wednesday was the dimensioning of PhD studies programmes. There is a trend of downsizing all throughout Sweden, and we are no exception. The vice-rectors Torsten Svensson, Johan Tysk, and Stellan Sandler presented the general tendencies of each Disciplinary Domain. Sara Andersson, PhD and board member, also described a day in the life of a PhD student. What is the optimal ratio between post-docs and PhD students? What happens to teaching if the number of PhDs decreases?

Thursday saw the more formal part of the Consistory play out. It began as usual, with a Vice-Chancellor report where I presented current issues, both updates since last time around and upcoming events.

The Internal Audit has a mandate directly from the Consistory, and chief internal auditor Gunilla Liljeroth gave an annual report for the auditing work carried out in 2015. Last year was spent particularly analysing the plan for equal opportunity, facility assets, and IT infrastructure. They noted that good work is being done within the University, but also that follow-ups are sometimes lacking. Even so, the Consistory could conclude that the internal management and control generally works well.

The Student Health Centre is an important part of the University, and provides a valuable and appreciated service. Pursuant to the Higher Education Act, the University is responsible for providing students with healthcare. At Uppsala, the organisational form has been different than that of other seats of learning. For this reason, the University is establishing a healthcare centre for students as a unit of the Student Division and offering the Board of the Student Health Centre a period of transition starting 1 July. Our aim is to create a holistic solution and also to offer students preventative exercise alternatives. To that end, we have applied for government funding – we await the answer. It is important that students continue to be involved to a large extent in the running of the services, which was emphasized by the Consistory as part of the decision.

The Consistory adopted the Programme for Collaboration, which is based on the Mission and Core Values of the University. The draft has been referred for consideration within the University and heavily debated by the Consistory at previous meetings. The Programme will be published online soon.

The Programme for Equal Opportunities, on the other hand, had its first round of discussion. The Adviser to the Vice-Chancellor Anna HögLund and Mikael Landsten from the Human Resources Division presented a draft for revision. Particularly emphasised issues were the relationship to the government’s demands for a plan for gender mainstreaming, and the importance of including the Equal Opportunities perspective in Q&R17.

Thursday’s meeting continued with a discussion of the University’s research strategies, ’Preparation for the unexpected’, which was presented by Kristina Edström and Margaretha Andersson. With our breadth and depth, Uppsala University can rapidly deal with contemporary societal issues. Which is an asset not only to our University, but also to society as a whole. Finally, Henrik Pompeiius was brought in to talk about his evaluation. He has been tasked with drafting proposed ways to raise our level of ambition in fundraising and alumni relations, and consolidating our efforts in external relations.

After the meeting, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor hosted an international delegation from Vietnam, and another from Gothenburg. For my own part, I went on to participate in an academic ceremony at Gävle University College.


The week came to an end of sorts with a government dialogue at the Ministry of Education and Research. Such a dialogue is held every year at this time. There, we addressed the challenges facing the University, and ways of strengthening Sweden as a knowledge nation. The basis for the budget which we submitted earlier this spring formed the groundwork for our conversation, but also our input on the upcoming research proposition, due in late October this year. They were also interested in our efforts to assist newly arrived refugees and increase social inclusion, and questions on how to manage fraudulence were also brought up.

The day was topped off with festivities for our Gustafsson awardees. Congratulations Andreas Hellander, Tove Fall, Jens Carlsson, and Haining Tian!


Yet the week was still not complete. Deputy Vice-Chancellor Anders Malmberg spent the weekend in Brussels to discuss our participation in a new European network.

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UN Global Colloquium of University Presidents – Preservation of Cultural Heritage: Challenges and Strategies

There are many admirable initiatives taken by universities in various parts of the world. One of these is the UN Global Colloquium of University Presidents. It is a series of thematic meetings alternately hosted by the universities of Brown, Princeton, Columbia, Pennsylvania, Yale, and New York, and they gather Vice-Chancellors and special experts for workshops and dialogue. This year’s theme was the preservation of cultural heritage, and hosting the meeting this year was Yale University. I was invited along with Tor Broström from Uppsala University. We enjoyed a few intense days in the US together with colleagues from 28 universities from various parts of the world. The proceedings were opened by the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon. He gave a passionate and frank speech, where he emphasised the role and responsibility of the universities in preserving cultural heritages, but also in many other important issues for the days ahead. The challenges are complex and recurring. I found the meeting rewarding and instructive, questions of cultural heritage and the preservation thereof have clearly taken centre stage after the events of Syria and Mali. In the final session, we agreed to found an open network for universities and organisations that are interested in deep collaboration on this issue. The engagement was great, and I came away impressed with how much is already being done. We can truly learn a lot from each other. On twitter: #unite4heritage


After traveling so far to get there, we were fortunately also able to meet with some of the driving forces behind our New York Alumni Chapter, and friends of UU. It is always inspiring to hear about people taking an active interest in our University despite not having studied there for many years. So to anyone who is about to graduate, or is leaving us after an exchange semester, do not forget to register as an alumnus and try to keep in touch with us and other alumni, wherever you may roam in the future.


Back home, we had our work cut out for us plotting the overall course of the University for 2017. The preceding week, we had held our domain dialogues with the three Disciplinary Domains, and the following Monday, the University Management debated certain questions concerning Campus Gotland. As part of Haikola’s evaluation this autumn, and the 17 recommendations and proposals we received, these questions are particularly emphasised this spring. The Planning Council for Campus Gotland has had its mission to deliver recommendations to the Vice-Chancellor for the Consistory’s decision on the operational plan this June made clearer. We will be holding meetings with UUI, libraries, and students on the plan. This week, we have a seminar with the Consistory, an IVA workshop on financing, a dialogue meeting at the Department. In between, I have a soccer game, Gävle University’s academic ceremony, and an award ceremony with the Göran Gustavsson Foundation. Full speed ahead is one way to put it, being Vice-Chancellor of Uppsala University is both fun and varied!

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Politician forum, Friday 8 April

We meet with Uppsala politicians on a regular basis, and on the morning of Friday 8 April, we enjoyed this spring semester’s breakfast meeting with representatives of Uppsala Municipality, Uppsala County Council, and the Swedish parliament. Current issues were addressed, and our input on the upcoming research bill was a natural topic of conversation. SciLifeLab and the SFO:s (Strategic research areas) were also given items on the agenda. Kristina Edström told us about how the work on research strategies was coming along, and Elisabeth Nilfors reported on our efforts concerning newly arrived refugees and social inclusion. Several of our initiatives piqued the interest of our guests. We have several cross-boundary initiatives on the way: medical technology, antibiotics resistance, migration, racism, new labour market conditions, to mention but a few.


Stellan Sandler giving a presentation on Scilifelab

The other day, I received an e-mail entitled ‘From the heart of a student’, written by one of our students, Andaç Baran Cezayirlioğlu, a Master’s student from Turkey. Andaç is a blogger and has written Olle’s story: Uppsala University, a highly recommended read!

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Management Council on track

The Management Council spent this week travelling through Germany and Switzerland, visiting some of Europe’s most prominent universities. The purpose of the trip was to draw comparisons, learn, gather inspiration, and find out what the most pressing issues of our hosts are. Processing and reflecting on all our impressions will take a few days. We have been graciously received at every part of the journey. Everyone has been generous and open in sharing experiences, challenges, problems, and reasons for joy.

On Monday, we visited the University of Tübingen. It is one of our sister universities in the Matariki Network (‘the Seven Sisters’). Tübingen has many similarities to Uppsala. Both universities were founded in 1477 – in other words, we are twin sisters – yet remain modern, expanding seats of learning to this day. We had an open conversation focusing on the German initiative for excellence, Tübingen’s strategies for internationalisation and recruitment, ways to develop our already quite extensive research collaborations, and ways for us as universities to contribute to the social inclusion of newly arrived refugees. This October, possible research collaborations will be made concrete as a delegation of researchers from Tübingen will arrive in Uppsala.

The next morning, we arrived by train to Zürich, where we set off for ETH Zürich in brilliant spring weather.


With 21 Nobel laureates, this primarily science-and-technology-centric university is ranked among the top ten academic institutions of the world. The focus of the conversation was management and governance, funding, international recruitment, and career paths. There are many similarities, but also differences. We are envious of their large amounts of direct funding, which is an important reason for their long-term and consistent recruitment strategy. Already this May, more people at Uppsala University will learn how ETH do things in regards to recruitment and career paths. Then, Madeleine Lüthy from ETH is set to visit Uppsala University to hold a seminar for our recruitment groups, and stop by our welcome reception for researchers at the Human Resources Division.


After an intense day, we had a new train journey ahead of us, this time to Bern. Together with the Swedish embassy in Bern, we arranged an evening seminar related to EIT Health. Following a presentation by the UU coordinator for EIT Health, Professor Mats Larhed, we held a panel discussion with representatives of two of our Swiss partner universities, ETH Zürich and EPFL, as well as two representatives of the industry (Roche Diagnostics and ThermoFisher). The topic of discussion was how EIT Health can contribute to innovations and better health in Europe by fostering collaboration between universities and companies.

After the seminar one of our successful alumni, the Swedish ambassador to Switzerland, Magnus Hartog-Holm, hosted a reception for other alumni and friends. The reception was attended by more than 80 people. Tired but very content, we returned to the hotel.


The next morning saw us embarking on our last visit, to the EPFL (École Polytechnique Féderale de Lausanne). We arrived after yet another punctual and beautifully scenic train ride, with vistas including both Alps and lakes. The EPFL are universities that through determined investments in international recruitment and an American-style tenure track system have established themselves as some of the most prominent European universities in the 2000’s. They have 10 000 students, around 400 professors, a campus that has been incrementally constructed by the shoreline of Lake Geneva since the 1960’s and onward. EPFL too has a science-and-technology-centric profile. Our conversation here also touched on internationalisation, governance, and international recruitment, as well as the working conditions of researchers. We were also treated to a walking tour of the campus, with visits to various laboratories. Here, researchers share common platforms and infrastructures. One of their more recently erected buildings, the Rolex Centre, has received an international design prize for its architecture, with a deliberate lack of right angles and flat floors – it was rather spectacular. We also enjoyed a fond reunion with Professor Anders Hagfeldt, who moved to EPFL about a year ago, but who keeps in touch with Uppsala. He disclosed some similarities and differences from his perspective.

Following a final train trip to Geneva, we were homeward bound by flight. Three universities and an alumni event in three days. Intense, with several meetings, plenty of time spent on both airplane and train, but also highly instructive and inspiring.

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Uppsala University on Tour: Dag Hammarskjöld Lecture in Stockholm City Hall

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon recently gave this year’s Dag Hammarskjöld Lecture, with the heading: Evolving threats, timeless values: the United Nations in a changing global landscape.

This year’s lecture was held in the ‘Blue Hall’ of Stockholm City Hall for invited guests and students, including H.R.H. Crown Princess Victoria and Prime Minister Stefan Löfven, among others. For those who were unable to make the proceedings, the lecture can be watched online.

The Dag Hammarskjöld Lecture has been given every year since 1998 in commemoration of Dag Hammarskjöld, the second UN Secretary-General, and the values that Dag Hammarskjöld championed through his work: engagement, humanism, and international solidarity and cooperation. The event is arranged jointly by the Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation and Uppsala University. Read more about the lecture.

We naturally miss the Grand Auditorium now that it is undergoing renovations, but the Blue Hall in Stockholm City Hall lined with the massed standards of the Uppsala students proved a suitably grand replacement. Thank you for having us.


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