Uppsala University, Sweden

Month: March 2017 (Page 1 of 2)

Alumni – our best ambassadors and friends

Guest blogger: Noelia Ollvid, Alumni Coordinator.

Uppsala University has thousands of alumni all over Sweden and around the world. Hundreds of thousands, even. Anyone who has ever studied or worked at the University, all our exchange students, honorary doctors and visiting researchers – all are welcome in our  alumni family. So it goes without saying that we want to take the opportunity to meet as many of our alumni as possible when we are out travelling.

Every evening, after university visits and meetings, we have met alumni and other friends of our University. In Los Angeles we met at a gastropub. Kristina Edström gave a presentation on super batteries. One of the people we met was a former student who had studied wind power design at Campus Gotland and now works in business development at a company that designs wind power farms all over the world. We also met several people who had been undergraduates or PhD students at our University and are now at UCLA, Caltech and California State University.

Jennings Segura from the Swedish–American Chamber of Commerce in Los Angeles (SACC LA) welcomes us to LA. Jennings grew up in New Orleans and first came to Uppsala as an exchange student and returned to read economics.

Kristina Edström talks on the subject “When Will the Super Battery Be a Reality?”

We have a very active alumni chapter in the San Francisco Bay Area. The Chapter’s president, Lars E. Johansson, a partner at K&L Gates, was our host on Tuesday evening when the topic was citizenship.

Becoming American? Becoming Swedish? – a conversation on citizenship. Lars E. Johansson welcomes everyone. Panel: Dag Blanck, Charlotte Danielsson from Silicon Vikings and Louise Linder from the Church of Sweden in San Francisco.

The Uppsala Lawyers’ Alumni Foundation took the opportunity to establish their own foreign chapter in the Bay Area. A question discussed at the meeting was ways in which alumni with law degrees from Uppsala University can help the Faculty of Law, for example by giving guest lectures via video link.

Participants at the meeting included Mattias Dalberg, Dean of the Faculty of Law, and Magnus Ödman, Deputy Administrative Director at the Office for Humanities and Social Sciences.

There were many discussions on Swedishness, identity and belonging at the mingle that followed.

Yesterday, after the delegation’s visit to Stanford University had ended, we walked to Palo Alto and Nordic Innovation House, where the topic for the evening, quite appropriately, was innovation.  Innovation – The Love-child of Structure and Serendipity?

Deputy Vice-Chancellor Anders Malmberg. Panel: Karl Mellon – Business Sweden, Susanne Forchheimer – Institute for the Future, Arne Tonning – Nordic Innovation House, and alumna Maria Ingelsson, Hansoft Group

During the pizza mingle that followed, we met several alumni who work in Silicon Valley, both at start-ups and big companies like Google and Facebook.  One of the alumni who came to the event was Franz Mayrhofer. Franz studied in Uppsala in 1967 – a genuine jubilee alumnus, so to speak.

The last alumni event of the trip took place at Nordic Heritage Museum in Seattle, where we were welcomed by both Eric Nelson, Chief Executive Officer of the Nordic Heritage Museum, and Honorary Consul Lars H. Jonsson. Here we presented a cross-section of current research at Uppsala University. Dag Blanck – Transnational Dreaming;  Mats Larhed – Microwaves: New Tricks from an Old Dog; and finally Peter Lindblad – Green Cell Factories: Future Fuel and Chemical Producers.

Peter Lindblad

The atmosphere was relaxed with plenty of laughs and a lively mingle afterwards. Some of the participants are now at the University of Washington or work at big companies in the rapidly growing tech industry in Seattle. Perhaps the seed was sown for the next US alumni chapter, since some of the participants were interested in starting their own chapter here.

Uppsala University’s alumni network is naturally very useful to alumni themselves: it gives them access to contacts all over the world, a means of broadening their career networks and obtaining good advice.

But they are at least as valuable a resource for us at Uppsala University. Besides being good ambassadors and spreading the University’s knowledge and values throughout the world, alumni can serve as advisors on committees and inquiries or give guest lectures to our students and help with placements and independent projects. When we travel we can contact our alumni and foreign chapters for advice and introductions to companies and universities. Many alumni remember their time at Uppsala University with gratitude and are keen to do something for us in return, and to contribute to our goal of disseminating knowledge for the benefit of humankind and for a better world.


Read more about alumni activities and join the alumni network here: http://www.uu.se/en/alumni/

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Medicine and Pharmacy on the right road?

(Original Swedish post.)

Guest blogger: Mats Larhed, with the Vice-Chancellor in Stanford

Is the Disciplinary Domain of Medicine and Pharmacy on the right road? Now and then we need to ask ourselves this question, and one way to check is to study and visit world-leading universities, such as Stanford University, just south of San Francisco.

Stanford has enjoyed cooperation with the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation for more than 20 years and has established a much-appreciated programme to support Swedish postdocs at Stanford.

Anne Lidgard from Vinnova shows us into Wallenberg Hall at Stanford.

Professor Arthur Bienenstock talks about Stanford’s development and gives Uppsala University pointers for the road ahead.

In Uppsala and Sweden we have built up SciLifeLab Drug Discovery and Development to guide, support and facilitate pharmaceutical development in the academic sector. Stanford has also started several initiatives in this area and we therefore decided to meet two of the most notable examples, SPARK and ChEM-H, and learn more about how they work.

SPARK is a virtual organisation that has no labs of its own. Instead, SPARK focuses on supporting research teams that are seeking to develop new drugs, new drug therapies and new diagnostic methods by educating, identifying potential partners, offering advice from experienced people in industry and providing hypereffective project management. We were particularly impressed by the regular seminars they arrange on ongoing projects for all researchers at Stanford to spread knowledge about the development of pharmaceuticals, which can often be a long and winding road.

Professor Nancy Anne Federspiel of Stanford SPARK Translational Research Program and Mats agree entirely about how academia can help in new drug development.

ChEM-H (Chemistry, Enginering & Medicine for Human Health) had a quite different, very ambitious interdisciplinary design. Here, a bunch of medicinal chemists are working on future health challenges with a number of specially recruited professors and selected doctoral students.  We were amazed after just 5 minutes, began to pinch ourselves to make sure we weren’t dreaming when they showed us the plans for their new 5-storey Yin and Yang-shaped building, and nearly fainted when we saw the building site outside and realised the plans were serious. ChEM-H has a lot to teach us about how clinical researchers can work with pre-clinicians and engineers in patient-oriented projects that cut across department and faculty lines. No question about the right road here.

Stanford’s Campus is big. Eva shows the Medicine and Pharmacy delegation the way to the next meeting.

Stellan, Eva and Mats have found the best spot to take a photo at Stanford

Professor Bob Harrington, Professor Erik Ingelsson and their colleagues at the Department of Medicine were interested in working with Uppsala University. Linking up our quality registers and biobanks with Stanford’s strengths in large data set analysis and methods development feels absolutely like the right way to go. As does starting up an Uppsala–Stanford Fellows Program and exchanging visiting researchers as soon as possible. Perhaps we can invite the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation to take part?

Erik Ingelsson would like to start an Uppsala–Stanford Fellows Program.

The final stop on the road was Nordic Innovation House for a concluding discussion on  “Innovation – The love child of structure and serendipity?” at which Stanford’s former President Professor Gerhard Casper, who has an honorary doctorate from Uppsala University, was a guest participant.

Paula Salomaa and Katarina Chowra from UIC present Nordic Innovation House at Stanford.

After today’s reality check, we feel quite convinced that Medicine and Pharmacy’s GPS is set on the right road. So let’s keep going on the highway – but let’s not forget to turn aside now and then to explore the byways.

Mats Larhed

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Management Council at Berkeley, San Francisco, 28 March

(Original Swedish post.)

Guest blogger: Adam Sabir, Chair of the Doctoral Board

The Management Council arrived in San Francisco in the morning. The day’s business began with a meeting with representatives from Berkeley. The Uppsala delegation was met by Tsu-Jae King Liu, Vice Provost for Academic and Space Planning, Jeroen Dewulf, Director of the Institute of European Studies, and Pat Schlesinger, Interim Associate Vice Chancellor for Research. The Memorandum of Understanding between Uppsala and Berkeley has expired and needs renewing, which gives both parties a reason to identify new fields for future cooperation.  Berkeley likes to underline its student-friendly approach as a pillar of its success. The favourable student-teacher ratio certainly reflects this approach. New recruitment focuses on future promise and applies a long-term perspective. Berkeley considers it natural to be a catalyst for social mobility and wants its international partners to share its basic values and its pursuit of excellence. Pat Schlesinger told us that of the USD 700 million that Berkeley allocates to research each year, 60% is federal funding. This makes Berkeley one of the universities, alongside Johns Hopkins and others, that may be hit hard by the Trump administration’s proposed cutbacks. The areas on which the administration has taken a particularly sceptical position include environmental and climate research, as well as parts of the NASA research conducted at Berkeley. However, Schlesinger believed that larger cutbacks would affect all the university’s areas of activity. One consequence of the proposals is that Berkeley has looked further afield and established cooperative arrangements in Asia in particular. There is also some interest in finding ways to collaborate with European universities and projects co-financed by the EU.

After this, the delegation had an internal meeting to follow up our impressions from the discussions before dividing into groups. The programme included a visit to the Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI), where possible cooperation in specific areas could be explored. The Vice-Chancellor had a chance to meet some of the alumni organised in Uppsala University’s Bay Area Alumni Chapter. The chapter is chaired by Lars E. Johansson of K&L Gates. The Vice-Chancellor also had time to discuss important issues with philanthropist and Consul-General Barbro Osher. As for me, I joined the group that visited the Institute of European Studies. Deputy Vice-Chancellor Anders Malmberg and Vice-Rector Torsten Svensson were also in this group. The Institute’s Director, Jeroen Dewulf, described the work of the Institute as promoting interest in Europe and studies with a European focus. The Institute would be happy to serve as a node or ‘clearing house’ for contacts between Uppsala and Berkeley. Agreements between Uppsala and Berkeley were discussed on some of the more specific proposals, as well as a Sweden programme modelled on a successful France programme involving many disciplines at Berkeley. The potential and requirements for doctoral student exchanges and exchanges under Uppsala’s visiting professors programme were also discussed. Another popular trend at Berkeley has been for undergraduates to visit a host country in the summer for eight weeks of work experience and summer courses. The possibility of Uppsala becoming the first Scandinavian higher education institution to host such exchanges was a set item on the agenda.

In the evening it was time for all members of the delegation to gather at K&L Gates for an alumni event. Many alumni and guests had registered to attend and everyone described the discussions as very fruitful and rewarding. Professor Dag Blanck lectured during the evening on the meaning of citizenship and the differences between Sweden and the United States in the way this issue is seen. During the panel discussion that followed, Louise Linder from the Church of Sweden and Charlotte Danielsson from Silicon Vikings shared their views on American Swedishness.

Adam Sabir, Chair of the Doctoral Board

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I would see all as I saw it then, and I would have nothing changed

(Original Swedish post.)

Guest blogger Johan Tysk

There’s something special about coming back to UCLA: this was where I took my PhD in mathematics in December 1986. When I arrived, I didn’t recognise the campus: many new buildings have sprung up, particularly in medical sciences. The day was dominated by meetings with leading representatives of UCLA who told us how their university is managed. Here, the individual departments don’t have to worry about rent, as these costs are borne centrally. Many initiatives are pursued at university-wide level, such as sustainable development and cooperation with the local community – the metropolis Los Angeles. We identified some shared ‘grand challenges’ in the fight against depression and work to promote sustainable cities.

We took a break at a table under a parasol fitted with solar panels connected to an electricity outlet by the table. This equipment had been donated by a student whose name and graduation year were clearly marked on the outlet. Finally, there was time to visit the Department of Mathematics. On the way, we passed Kerckhoff Hall, with its coffee house where I spent many hours. The teaching staff has changed since ‘my time’ and now includes a Fields medalist, but the buildings looked just as they did in the 1980s. In the midst of this changed world I felt a moment of sentimentality and recognition. This happy sense of nostalgia made me think of the words of the poet Erik Axel Karldfeldt, “I would see all as I saw it then”.

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Management Council has landed – going west

(Original Swedish post.)

The Management Council has just landed on the West Coast of the United States. About once a year we broaden our international outlook together. Last year we stayed in Europe and visited universities in Germany and Switzerland. Previously, we have visited our neighbours – the universities in Helsinki, Copenhagen, Tartu and Oslo. This time we’re travelling far to the west.

For a university that wants to strengthen its position, international contacts are essential. Uppsala University cooperates with several of the world’s top universities. Now we’re going to visit some of them: Berkeley, Stanford, UCLA and the University of Washington. We’re looking to enhance our cooperation in both teaching and research. We’ll be presenting our new visiting professors programme and renewing and reinforcing exchange programmes for undergraduates and doctoral students.

We hope to develop new cooperation in some of the areas we emphasise in our research strategies, such as migration and energy. But we’ll also focus on some of our other strengths, such as political science, law, and innovation and external collaboration. So for example, this time we also have representatives from the Faculty of Law and the Department of Government with us for parts of the trip. The agenda for our meetings also includes the role of universities in society in a new political reality, as well as governance, management, collaboration and innovation.

The United States is prioritised in the University’s international strategy. We have much in common but also major differences. It is always instructive and inspiring to see how other universities work. To be inspired by one another, discuss with one another, learn from one another, reflect together. We have had thorough briefing material and other reading matter to prepare us for the journey.  This has included texts from Lars Engwall, Mats Brenner and Anna Ledin, and reports from the Swedish Agency for Economic and Regional Growth.

Planning in progress.

We have a very busy schedule – when we travel so far we want to use the time well. We will be visiting Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle in five days. Some points on the programme involve us all, but there will also be meetings in different constellations at each university. For example, the political scientists will meet political scientists at Berkeley, the medical scientists will meet medical scientists, and the university management will meet university managers.

At each place we are visiting we are organising meetings with alumni and friends of Uppsala University, four events in all. These will include seminars on migration, energy and innovation systems. Professor Dag Blanck and Professor Kristina Edström will be among those participating. We have had an active alumni association in San Francisco for several years, and we are particularly looking forward to meeting them.

We will also visit the Bill and Melinda Gates think tank. They are working for a better world and have many activities related to global health and innovative technology. These issues are close to Uppsala University’s fundamental values – for a better world. It’s going to be very exciting.

I am still Vice-Chancellor even when we are out travelling. But if anyone needs to act as Vice-Chancellor and head of the University while the Deputy Vice-Chancellor and I are away, Professor Anna Singer is acting Vice-Chancellor in Uppsala and Per Abrahamsson is acting University Director.

If you want to follow our trip you can do so here on the blog, which I will share with a few guest bloggers, and on the University’s Instagram account. /Eva

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Congratulations to Ghent University on its bicentenary!

(Original Swedish post published 26 March.)

I (Eva) visited Ghent University at the end of the week to join in the celebration of their bicentenary. Vice-Chancellors from their partner universities were invited to a conference entitled “Shaping our Common Future: Universities in a Global Society”. There were three topics:

  1. The social impact of universities
  2. The digital revolution hits universities
  3. Strategic academic partnerships in times of increased competition

We had lively discussions on the present and future role of universities. The issue of rankings came up – their increasing importance and the risk of being controlled by the various rankings. The issue of digitalisation and a provocative opening speaker who asserted that the universities have had their day got us talking. But we managed to reassure one another and convince ourselves that the universities do indeed have a future. I participated in the panel on internationalisation. Eva Egron-Polak, Secretary-General of the International Association of Universities, spoke first and provided a good general picture of the situation, including the risks associated with internationalisation.

I tried to emphasise the variety and diversity involved in internationalisation, which is now far more than just student mobility. Various types of integrated internationalisation are increasingly common, such as joint programmes, joint degrees, a range of sandwich models in doctoral education, co-tutelle arrangements, etc. We have major, complex cooperative projects in the Knowledge and Innovation Communities, in Nanjing and the Hanoi office, for example. Higher education institutions in Sweden have got better at joint international collaboration; a few examples of this are the Swedish Academic Collaboration Forum (SACF), Mirai (Japan) and the upcoming project in South Africa that we hope the Swedish Foundation for International Cooperation in Research and Higher Education (STINT) will support. Although the heading for the panel pointed to increased competition, I underlined the need for increased international collaboration these days – sceince diplomacy may assume an increasingly important role in future and universities around the world have a responsibility to contribute to a better world – which is something we can best do together.

Now the university management is on its way to the United States where we will spend a week visiting UCLA, Berkeley, Stanford and the University of Washington. In Los Angeles, San Fransisco and Seattle we will take the opportunity to hold events for alumni and friends in the evenings. Upcoming blog posts will have more news about the trip.

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Association of Swedish Higher Education

(Original Swedish post published 22 March.)

Once a semester, the vice-chancellors and heads of administration of Swedish higher education institutions (HEIs) gather for a meeting of the General Assembly of the Association of Swedish Higher Education. The agenda this time was packed with topics for discussion, information and decisions and kept us busy all day in Kristianstad. As usual, the Assembly began with a seminar, this time under the heading Trust-based governance and reform of resource allocation.  This is a topical subject in view of the inquiry on governance and resource allocation that has been announced. Björn Brorström, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Borås, presented a preliminary report. The key issues were how to develop and establish an effective and efficient higher education landscape, HEI autonomy, and increased confidence and trust-based governance of public organisations. Compared with other countries, Sweden stands out for its high proportion of external funding, performance-based funding for education rather than basic funding, and separate appropriations for education and research. A single, combined appropriation is highlighted as an important tool and a desirable change. I am not convinced this is the right way to go, and definitely not before thorough analysis.

Swedish HEIs have similarities and differences. The sector includes many vocational education and training programmes that are not necessarily defined as higher education in other countries, e.g. nursing, teaching, engineering. Applied research is also more common at HEIs in Sweden. I think it’s a good thing that the sector embraces all these dimensions. We often point out that dividing up pure and applied research is inappropriate, and this is one of our arguments in favour of a single faculty for engineering and technology and natural sciences. The Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences had a seminar on Monday at which the report “Four higher education institutions – four roles?” (document in Swedish) was presented. I took part in the panel commenting on the report. To some extent, the discussion today touched on the same theme. On both occasions, the issue of development contracts and/or enhanced dialogue with the Ministry came up. Both development contracts and a combined appropriation are two-edged swords and further analysis is needed of the intended effects and the means of achieving them before it is possible to conclude that this is the right way forward to achieve a long-term perspective, increased decision-making authority, a desirable differentiation between roles and respect for the responsibility of HEIs for the quality of their education, research and external collaboration.

The day was filled up with information about Ladok, SUNET, career paths and scholarships, Sweden’s national qualifications framework, the universities’ reference group on infrastructure, open science, open access and ongoing negotiations with Elsevier. Decisions were taken on recommendations and a code of conduct for agents dealing with international students. The much-appreciated administrative leadership programme will continue and we received the final report of the higher education teaching group, which has investigated the position of HEIs on higher education teaching courses – are they required to qualify for a teaching position or not? The answers are not very impressive.  Charlotta Tjärdal from the Swedish National Union of Students talked about their ongoing work – resources for education are a focus issue.

On Tuesday I had time to briefly join the Ambassador of Uganda who was visiting us. The Forum for Africa Studies and the International Science Programme presented their impressive activities.

After the busy Association of Swedish Higher Education day in Kristianstad, I took the train to Kastrup, from where I flew to Ghent. Ghent University is celebrating its bicentennary and I am participating in a vice-chancellors’ conference to mark the occasion. “Shaping our coming future: Universities in a global society” is the name of the conference, and I will be participating in a panel on Friday: “Strategic academic partnerships in times of increased competition”. Ghent University is an important partner for Uppsala University and a fellow member of U4 and the Guild of European Research-Intensive Universities. / Eva

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Fantastic lectures

(Original Swedish post published 19 March.)

Last week I had the privilege of listening to two really fantastic lectures. The first was by Trita Parsi, 2016 Alumnus of the Year, who spoke on the subject: “The US and Iran in the Trump Era – Back to the Warpath?” The United States and Iran have a long history of ambivalent relations and their governments have treated one another as enemies for decades. However, the historic agreement in 2015 appeared to be the beginning of the end of their enmity. The agreement imposed severe limitations on Iran’s nuclear energy programme in return for lifting international sanctions and increased dialogue between the two nations. Now President Trump is threatening to tear up the agreement with Iran. What will be the consequences for relations between the US and Iran? If you missed the lecture, you can see it here.

The other lecture was by Professor Emeritus Christopher R. Browning from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, who gave the fifteenth annual lecture in memory of Hugo Valentin. Professor Browning spoke on: “Surviving Slave Labour: The Camp Complex of the Starachowice Factories.” His story moved us all deeply.

These were two of last week’s public lectures. Every week we offer public events that you can attend. My recommendation is to check the events calendar – Uppsala University has a steady stream of dialogues, seminars, debates and conferences with visiting speakers from all over the world.

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Eventful Wednesday: Inquiry on admissions, University Day and deans meeting

(Original Swedish post published 15 March.)

Today the inquiry chair appointed by the government, Jörgen Tholin, presented his report, “Admissions for new students – a more transparent and comprehensible system for admissions to higher education”. See the press conference here (in Swedish) and read the inquiry report here (in Swedish). The review is much needed. The current regulations on higher education entry requirements, admission and selection procedures are unclear, complicated and difficult to understand. At a first glance, the proposals look good. The situation will become simpler and more consistent. Choices made in upper secondary school will have a less decisive role, and an entrance examination will be introduced for applicants who do not meet general entry requirements. It’s a good thing that the Swedish Scholastic Aptitude Test will become less important and that a lower age limit will be introduced for the test. The abolition of credit increments and field-specific entry requirements is positive. Some work remains to be done and further clarifications are needed before the proposals are put into effect.

Today over 1,200 upper secondary school pupils visited us to learn about studying at Uppsala University. We rolled out the red carpet for them and flew the flags. They got to meet students and study advisers, heard student orchestras and got masses of information about studies, student life, the student nations and much more. We look forward to seeing them again when it’s time for university.

Once a term we have a deans meeting, often as a lunch-to-lunch meeting at a residential conference centre, but this time in the form of a full day at Blåsenhus. Apart from an introductory survey of ongoing developments at the University and in the higher education sector, the agenda featured two future-oriented items.

The morning was devoted to the the University’s comprehensive plan, Development Plan 2050, on which work has now begun. Previous premises provision plans – put simply – have come about as aresult of the Buildings Division asking the departments about their needs in the years ahead and planning new premises based on their responses. Now we’re raising our sights and adding a more long-term strategic planning perspective by setting the development of the University’s premises, buildings and resources in relation to our ambitions as expressed in our Mission and Core Values. What must we do to maintain our control over expansion areas so that we can develop, raise new buildings and plan not just in the short and medium term, but also in the truly long term? What will the University need 100 years from now?

We had a lively discussion about housing for students and employees, flexible premises for research and education, study areas, and cooperation with the municipality, the city and other actors outside the University. The discussion also extended to the question of what kind of university we are. Our identity embraces the modern and the medieval alike. How should we use our flagship buildings – the University Main Building, Carolina Rediviva and Gustavianum? Should we build new ‘landmarks’? What can we do to enhance our attractiveness so as to maintain our relevance for students and employees – nationally and internationally? The same questions also apply to development of the Campus Gotland environment. This was the first of a series of discussions that we will have in the course of producing the development plan.

The afternoon was devoted to a quite different question – the ongoing revision of the University’s rules of procedure. These rules formalise the University’s governance and management. The deans meeting was visited by the University-wide working group that is taking stock of the issues that need to be regulated in the document. After an introduction from the chair of the working group, Professor Lena Marcusson, the deans meeting was put to work. Group discussions tackled questions such as: What do we mean by collegiality? Which issues should be regulated in the rules of procedure? Who decides, about what, when and how? How are we to get people involved so as to ensure democracy and broad support? How are the vice-chancellor, deputy vice-chancellor, deans, heads of department to be appointed? The deans meeting passed on its views to the working group. Now the stocktaking process and discussions on the rules of procedure will continue. Other types of meetings are planned so there will be many opportunities for people to state their opinions. The working group will submit its proposals in September. The proposals will then be circulated for comment before the University Board makes a decision at the end of the year.

The day ended with reports from the vice-rectors, student representatives and University Director on what’s happening in their various areas of activity. It’s impressive to hear about so many exciting developments – many new buildings, new research initiatives ranging from the Antiobiotics Centre to multidisciplinary studies on racism, and new recruitments of doctoral students and assistant senior lecturers. It was a good deans meeting, characterised by a great spirit of engagement in education and research – and in Uppsala University.

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Brexit – what will be the impact on research and higher education in the UK and Sweden?

(Original Swedish post.)

Brexit will have consequences for research and higher education. How are British higher education institutions preparing for life outside the EU? What will the impact be on cooperation between higher education institutions in the UK and Sweden? This was the theme of a seminar yesterday, arranged by the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences, Division for Education and Research Policy, together with the Swedish Agency for Growth Policy Analysis.

To begin with, Sophia Tannergård (Growth Analysis) presented findings from her new report “Brexit and the universities – an opportunity for Sweden’s increased cooperation”:

– How do people at British higher education institutions see Brexit?

– How are they preparing for life outside the EU?

– What barriers and opportunities will Brexit result in for Swedish and British higher education institutions?

After that, Lesley Wilson, Secretary General of the European University Association, brought up a number of questions relating to Europe, Brexit and Trump. I participated to shed light on problems associated with Brexit from the perspective of higher education institutions, and representatives from the Swedish Research Council and the Swedish Council for Higher Education contributed views from their organisations’ perspectives.

First and foremost, we can say this: we do not yet know what Brexit will mean in practice – there is great uncertainty. There is a great deal of interest among students in visiting the UK. We currently have 31 active agreements with higher education institutions in the UK. Moreover, it is the most popular study destination for Swedish students in the Erasmus Programme. Research collaboration is common, and we see that joint publications with researchers in the UK lead to more citations and enhanced impact. Several times during the seminar, different speakers emphasised the important role played by the UK in research and education. We have a long tradition of cooperation and Sweden and the UK have often been partners in EU contexts. We often have similar views – this has been particularly significant with regard to the more administrative aspects of the EU, in the Commission and the Parliament, and in the working groups and committees that prepare various types of issues and input, such as Coreper (the Permanent Representatives Committee). Many of us are concerned about a significant research country like the UK leaving the EU. Will research issues be less important in the EU in future because of this?

At the same time we can affirm that science and scholarship are international by nature, and will remain so irrespective of the membership of the European Union. It is highly likely that research collaboration will continue, though without EU funding. Not all scholarly exchange with the UK or with other non-EU countries is funded by the EU. But it will require an effort. One obvious risk is that the budget for the next research programme is likely to shrink, as there is no political will at present to raise membership contributions to compensate for the loss of the UK contribution. Uppsala University has many agreements that will continue in effect and some that will need to be rewritten. Presumably we will have to reformulate Erasmus agreements as ordinary bilateral agreements.

Here in Uppsala we have seen more UK actors seeking contact with us since the Brexit vote; vice-chancellors have been in touch with the University and the International Office seeking assurances of continued cooperation. We have had inquiries about strategic partnerships and British higher education institutions are applying for membership of European networks. This Friday, for example, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Liverpool is visiting us. It is important for us – and for British higher education institutions – that our collaboration remains strong. This is in everyone’s interests.

It can also be noted that competition has arisen as to which country will take over the European Medicines Agency (EMA), which is currently based in the UK. So far Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Italy and Spain have declared their interest.

Lesley Wilson (EUA) raised the question of how political, or how neutral, universities should be. My answer to that question was that when facts and knowledge are challenged, it is our responsibility to be the critical and independent voice – regardless of whether or not this is considered to be political. As I have written in this blog before: The best way to meet the trends we are seeing today – political uncertainty, fact resistance and contempt for knowledge – is to strengthen the independence of the universities, defend critical thinking and provide conditions for society to move forward on the basis of knowledge.

I think it was good that the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences organised this seminar, even if there is great uncertainty at the present time, as no general discussion or impact analysis has occurred in the sector. However, the Association of Swedish Higher Education plans to do something this autumn.

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