Uppsala University, Sweden

Month: October 2017

Association of Swedish Higher Education annual conference: internationalisation

On Tuesday and Wednesday last week, the Association of Swedish Higher Education held its annual conference and assembly at Stockholm University. Anders Malmberg and Katarina Bjelke represented Uppsala. Erika Dabhilkar and Kay Svensson (who co-authored this blog post) also took part in the conference.

This year’s conference discussed the current inquiry on internationalisation from various perspectives. Stockholm University’s Vice-Chancellor Astrid Söderbergh Widding reminded the listeners in her introductory address that the universities stem from an international project that dates back to the Middle Ages. Alongside the Church, the academies are the oldest institutions that are still active in Sweden. In the Middles Ages, internationalisation was driven by needs. Now times have changed and a national strategy for internationalisation must primarily serve to support our own strategies at institutional level. It is also important that a national strategy speaks more about the spirit than the details.

The Minister for Higher Education and Research continued with reflections on different levels of ambition in international respects. She mentioned her recent visit to Singapore, where she learned that 100% of the students in the teacher education programme are expected to have read some part of their programme abroad. She also emphasised that a clear goal runs through the government’s education and research policy objectives: high quality higher education and research throughout the country and throughout life.

Agneta Bladh, chair of the inquiry on internationalisation, talked about the concept of integrated internationalisation and hinted that possible new legislation could state that the international activities of higher education institutions, taken as a whole, must contribute to the enhanced quality of education and research and to sustainable national and global development.

During the afternoon panel debate, Jonas Hafström, former Swedish ambassador in Washington DC and now chair of Lund University’s board, pointed out that by far the greatest part of research and development in the world takes place outside Sweden. International cooperation is essential if we are to maintain an innovative, high-tech society that offers its citizens good opportunities in life. Internationalisation concerns all of society, not just the universities. State Secretary Karin Röding stressed that we must stand up for our values, such as human rights. Having said that, we must not hesitate to cooperate with countries where these rights are contested. It is through cooperation and contacts that we can influence their development and support the fundamental academic values that we ourselves, as higher education institutions, must defend and nurture.

Share this post

Matariki meeting at Dartmouth

(Original Swedish post published 25 October.)

I (Eva Åkesson) have just returned home from Dartmouth and a meeting of the Executive Board of the Matariki Network of Universities. Matariki – the word is the Maori name for the Seven Sisters star cluster (the Pleiades), chosen to reflect the seven founding members of the network – has existed for seven years and is beginning to take more definite shape. We are engaged in the Global Citizen Program and various research themes, Uppsala University is lead university for the peace and conflict theme. Several years ago we established Matariki Fellows, a programme that enables our staff to spend some time at one of our sister universities, and this scheme will now be expanded to include doctoral students. I think this is a good thing, the need for better opportunities for doctoral students to spend time abroad is one of the issues that has emerged from the Quality and Renewal 2017 (Q&R17) project.

I particularly appreciated the opportunity to hear about what’s going on at the other universities and the challenges they see ahead. This gives us a quick analysis of international developments around the world. A few samples: We heard from the University of Otago that New Zealand is going to abolish tuition fees in the New Year – free fees. There was great interest in how the Swedish funding model works, with its funding caps and price tags. The University of Western Australia has undergone major reorganisation and introduced a new budget model that has taken a lot of time and effort. At the national level, the threat of funding cutbacks looms and discussions are in progress about international students. Tübingen University is in the midst of the selection procedure in the German Excellence Initiative and is happy to have done well in the first round. Durham University – which the Management Council recently visited – has a new strategy for the next 10 years that is attracting a lot of attention. At the national level the big issues are REF, TEF and KEF, the evaluations of research, education and collaboration. And at the international level there’s Brexit, of course. Student fees are also in focus here, the maximum fee is currently £9,000. Across the Atlantic, Queen’s University in Canada has undertaken a similar research evaluation to Uppsala University. The host university, Dartmouth College in the United States, raised the issue of mental ill health among students, which became a recurrent theme in our conversations and is noted at all the universities. The President of Dartmouth, Phil Hanlon, who is the present Chair of Matariki, raised the issues of politics and Trump, and the consequences for education and research. Regarding news from Uppsala, I told them about Q&R17, the ongoing government inquiries at national level, infrastructure issues, and the increasing number of allegations of research misconduct. To sum up, we agreed that politics is having an increasingly obvious impact on our universities, we have many challenges in common and we can learn from one another in different ways, which is one of the purposes of the network.

After ending our meeting yesterday, Tuesday, we travelled to Boston for a joint alumni event. This is the third such occasion, the previous alumni events were in Auckland and Beijing. The presentation to our alumni focused on Matariki and our global engagement. During the previous meeting, we had gone over our partnerships and involvement in Africa, which make up an extensive and impressive list. We are going to investigate whether there is potential for further cooperation in that area as well.

Does the network make any difference? One way of measuring this is joint publications, and within Matariki these have increased by close to 150% in 2011–2016, compared with the previous period 2005–2011. A quibbler might object that the total number of publications has also increased during this period and that’s true. That increase is 40%, so these measurements show clearly that the network makes a difference. But there are also qualitative measures and values that shouldn’t be forgotten, we often act as critical friends, provide support and advice and exchange experiences with one another in a spirit of trust that is mutually appreciated. We university heads will next meet in this constellation in 2019, in Tübingen. In between, we speak via Skype, video or telephone. Anna Ledin is contact person for Matariki at Uppsala University and if you would like to know more or have any questions about anything, you can contact her at anna.ledin@uadm.uu.se.

Share this post

Sponsor a chair – the Humanities Theatre

(Original Swedish post)

A few weeks ago, the Humanities Theatre was officially opened. This new facility at the English Park Campus is a modern amphitheatre, designed as a limitless arena for education and innovative thinking, based on open conversation. The inauguration really showed off the theatre’s potential. The sound system and acoustics are impressive. The merest whisper from the floor can be heard by everyone in the theatre and in the course of the evening we experienced film, song, theatre, music and lectures with a greater intimacy than ever before.

The audience at the opening ceremony was a mixed crowd. Some of those there had heeded the opportunity to contribute to the unbounded dialogue by sponsoring a chair. I’ve also done this. If you would like to join in and contribute, you can read more at http://www.uu.se/en/support/humanities-theatre/.

Now I look forward to many exciting activities and conversations in the Humanities Theatre. The doors are open, now we’re inviting the world.

Share this post

Deans’ meeting on Q&R and STRUT

(Original Swedish post pubhlished 18 October.)

On Tuesday and Wednesday, the Vice-Chancellor, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, University Director, vice-rectors, deans, administrative heads and others gathered for the autumn semester deans’ meeting, this time at Lejondal Castle. The overnight format provides time for in-depth strategic discussions.

The Vice-Chancellor began with a report on ongoing developments at the University and more broadly. Otherwise, the main topic on the first day was how best to use and address the many recommendations emerging from the Quality and Renewal 2017 (Q&R17) research evaluation. With the final report on the way to the printers in a week or so, Deputy Vice-Chancellor Anders Malmgren and Head of Evaluation Åsa Kettis were able for the first time to give an overall presentation of the many observations, insights and proposals offered by the ample material in Q&R17. The ensuing discussion revolved around questions such as: Do we recognise ourselves in the descriptions and conclusions? What attitude should we take to the recommendations made by the international experts? What should we work on across the University and what is best dealt with by departments, faculties and disciplinary domains?

Several issues were identified that will have top priority for further action across the University. This applies in particular to career and recruitment issues, and how the role of heads of department can be strengthened. The discussion on how best to implement the findings of the Q&R project will continue in various forums and forms, most immediately in the University Board in connection with the presentation of the final report in mid-November.

The first day concluded with information about the government inquiry on governance and resources (STRUT), which concerns the principles and models to be applied by the government in governing and funding research and education at universities and other higher education institutions in Sweden. The inquiry focuses on three areas: principles of governance, range and scale of education provided, and allocation of resources. Anders Malmberg and Planning Director Daniel Gillberg went over the inquiry’s terms of reference and the position Uppsala University has so far taken on the various issues. It will be interesting to follow the inquiry’s progress when its preliminary proposals are revealed round about New Year, and next spring we will have a chance to discuss the issues and proposals directly with inquiry chair Pam Fredman.

On the second day, Daniel Gillberg and HR Director Eliane Forsse gave a progress report on the ongoing work on the skills supply programme, which generally speaking has turned out very well and become a valuable initiative for encouraging strategic thinking on recruitment issues at different levels in the University. We also had a briefing on the new EU data protection regulation that enters into force in May 2018, and finally, Academy Treasurer Kent Berg gave a much-appreciated overview of the activities of Uppsala University Foundations Management of Estates and Funds.

Share this post

Enhanced research cooperation between Sweden and South Africa

(Original Swedish post)

Last week (2–3 October), representatives of seven Swedish and 22 South African universities met at the University of Pretoria in South Africa to plan the contents of the internationalisation project South Africa–Sweden University Forum. This forum is coordinated by Uppsala University and is a cooperation project that will bring together researchers and other actors from Sweden and South Africa through activities in both countries from 2018 to 2020. The project has a budget of approximately SEK 18 million, with the funding coming from both countries via STINT (the Swedish Foundation for International Cooperation in Research and Higher Education), the participating Swedish universities and the National Research Foundation and Department of Higher Education and Training in South Africa. Apart from Uppsala University, the Swedish universities participating are Lund University, the University of Gothenburg, Karlstad University, Umeå University, Malmö University and University West.


During the meeting, the participants formulated research challenges that are common to both countries in preparation for the South Africa–Sweden Research & Innovation Week that will take place in Pretoria on 14–18 May 2018. The meeting was opened by Karin Hernmarck Ahliny, Deputy Head of Mission at the Embassy of Sweden in Pretoria. The participants in the discussions were deputy vice-chancellors, researchers and internationalisation officers from universities in both countries. During the Research & Innovation Week in May 2018, Swedish and South African researchers, research funding bodies, business representatives and senior university officers will meet in research seminars, guest lectures, workshops and network meetings with other actors in society.

Researchers at Uppsala University will be able to seek funding to participate in the various activities under the following six challenges:

  •  Climate change, natural resources and sustainability
  • Transforming higher education curricula: the nexus between academia and society
  • Social transformation through change: knowledge and social development strategies for society
  • Understanding the burden of disease in Sweden and South Africa and its impact on the health systems of the two countries in future
  • Urbanisation and cities in the 21st Century
  • Digital technologies, big data and cybersecurity

The participants from Uppsala University were Adviser to the Vice-Chancellor for Internationalisation Leif Kirsebom, Ashleigh Harris from the Department of English, and Erika Dabhilkar, Gustaf Cars and Erika Andersson from the International Office. For more information about the project and cooperation with South Africa, please contact Project Manager Gustaf Cars at the International Office, Gustaf.cars@uadm.uu.se.

Share this post

Congratulations and celebrations!

There are a lot of celebrations just now. The University’s 540th birthday is being celebrated with a two-day party, which also marks the re-opening of the University Main Building after extensive renovation. At the festivities on Friday afternoon, Vice-Chancellor Eva Åkesson symbolically received the keys to the building from Birgitta Böhlin of the National Property Board. The Royal Academic Orchestra played, the choir Allmänna Sången sang, and so did soloists Alexandra Büchel, soprano, and Fredrik Zetterström, baritone. Carl Frängsmyr gave a splendid lecture on the role played by the University Main Building, and in particular the Grand Auditorium, in the course of its 130-year history, as a meeting place for knowledge, culture and critical dialogue, both within the University and in society at large.

In addition, the Alumnus of the Year Award was presented to Anita Falkenek. She is CEO of KRAV and has long worked with environment and sustainability issues, after studying ecotoxicology and biology at Uppsala University.

On Saturday, the celebrations continued in the University Main Building, with an open house, lectures and concerts. And as if this weren’t enough, on Saturday evening Eva Åkesson is taking part in the doctoral degree conferment ceremony at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, which coincides with our dear neighbour’s 40th anniversary. Many congratulations! Meanwhile, Deputy Vice-Chancellor Anders Malmberg is off to Västgöta nation student association, where the week’s celebration of Gunnar Wennerberg’s bicentenary will culminate with a seminar and a Wennerberg gasque.*

* Gunnar Wennerberg (1817–1901) was a Swedish composer, poet and politician who wrote many songs about student life in Uppsala, some of which are still traditionally sung at student dinners (gasques).

Share this post

Positive feedback on our efforts to promote sustainable development

(Original Swedish post published 3 October.)

Today we heard from the Swedish Higher Education Authority (link in Swedish) that Uppsala University has well-developed procedures for its work on sustainable development in education. This is the first thematic evaluation in the quality assurance system for the period 2017–2022. The Authority’s report reveals that only 12 of the 47 higher education institutions evaluated receive the assessment “The higher education institution has a well-developed procedure for its work on sustainable development in education”, i.e., a passing grade, in all three of the evaluation’s aspect areas. The other 35 higher education institutions receive the assessment “The higher education institution’s procedure for its work on sustainable development is in need of development”. Naturally we take pride in this positive assessment and are happy at the recognition of these efforts, to which so many have contributed. Well done! This will energise and inspire us in our ongoing work.

Share this post

Management Council visits Durham University

(Original Swedish post published 2 October.)

The Management Council has spent a very busy day visiting Durham University and now we’re on our way home to Uppsala.  Durham and Uppsala already cooperate in several areas and forums, and we are both members of the Matariki and Coimbra university networks.  Staff can travel to Durham as Matariki Fellows.

Durham University has taken stock of its cooperative arrangements around the world and has then chosen a few universities in Europe and a total of ten worldwide that they want to enter into strategic partnerships with. Uppsala University is one of the higher education institutions they have asked to be a strategic partner. We do not have such a clear strategy when it comes to choosing who to cooperate with and how, but there are a number of universities that we can identify relatively easily as prioritised or strategic partners with whom we cooperate extensively across all three disciplinary domains. The Advisory Board for Internationalisation is making a survey of the cooperative arrangements prioritised by the disciplinary domains. The idea is to obtain a clearer picture of our map of the world based on this.


Durham University has recently produced a strategy for the period 20172027 that includes their work at local and global levels, education, research and the ‘wider student experience’. We particularly noted how clearly they have laid out a roadmap for the period with well-defined milestones, and also how they have set out criteria for success in terms of international students, ranking, percentage of women, income and contactable alumni. On the way home we discussed how our Mission and Core Values function, with the structure of programmes and action plans. Perhaps the next version of the Mission and Core Values should include the programmes to create a better whole. To sum up, it was an instructive visit and we intend to draw up an agreement that builds on existing cooperation but also shows that we want to develop more joint summer schools, programmes and various types of exchanges, including the students’ unions. The fact that students are represented in the Management Council at Uppsala University made a big impression it’s a palpable expression of the strength of student influence here.

Share this post

From risk analysis to Durham via Tartu

(Original Swedish post published 30 September.)

I’m penning these lines in Tartu, where I’ve been a member of the council of the university since the spring, which means being in Estonia a couple of times each semester. Apart from the council meeting, we had a joint meeting with the senate. Under the university’s rules of procedure, the council and senate must have at least one joint meeting per semester. Our own Academic Senate has held the first meeting of its new term of office and selected a new presidium: Charlotte Platzer Björkman, Jenny Eriksson Lundström and Josef Dahlberg. We look forward to many exciting and interesting debates in the Senate in the time ahead.

Charlotte Platzer Björkman, Jenny Eriksson Lundström, Josef Dahlberg

The University of Tartu was the second university in Sweden, as I’m sure you know, and Johan Skytte was its first vice-chancellor. Tomorrow the Johann Skytte Prize will be presented to Professor Amartya Sen. Don’t miss his lecture on “New Dangers for Democracy” at 17:30 on Saturday in the University Main Building.

The big event on Wednesday was the inauguration of Upptech (Uppsala University School of Technology), which has been established by the Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology to raise the visibility, profile and strength of the University’s research and education in technology. World-changing tech takes more than just Tech – a good slogan that emphasises the importance of breadth.

Director Mikael Jonsson

A delegation of around 25 people from China and Kangmei Pharmaceuticals visited the Disciplinary Domain of Medicine and Pharmacy on Thursday to discuss future initiatives. At the same time, the management of Glasgow University was here for a study visit to compare ways of working on various strategic issues. Glasgow was one of the co-founders of the Guild of European Research-Intensive Universities, so this is an example of how the network draws us closer to other universities in Europe.

We started the week with an enlarged Management Council meeting, at which we carried out the annual university-wide risk analysis. It’s interesting to conduct this analysis together and to draw on everyone’s combined wisdom to try to identify and evaluate risks so that we can achieve the goals we have set ourselves as well as possible. The risk analysis made it clear that infrastructure is an emerging issue. The week ended with the Vice-Chancellor’s Management Council travelling to the UK on Sunday to visit Durham University to discuss strategic partnership and exchange of experience on Monday.

Reception for international researchers at Gustavianum

Share this post