Uppsala University, Sweden

Month: December 2018

Christmas letter and year in review 2018

An eventful 2018 is coming to an end. Fires, climate crisis, Brexit and elections to the Riksdag have dominated the news. Uppsala University has engaged in discussions in various ways and has contributed perspectives and facts.

Our task in the University management is to create conditions that enable the University we are all part of to become even better. The University Board is in the process of revising the University’s rules of procedure. This document sets out the basic principles of the University’s management and governance, in which it goes without saying that the responsibility shared by the faculty and strong student influence are essential elements. We hope that the new version of the University’s Mission and Core Values that is now being prepared will enable us even more clearly to identify strategic challenges and areas in which the University needs to push forward. The Development Plan 2050 project focuses on our vision of the University’s future spatial structure and physical shape.

In a Swedish context, we are proud that our University was the most successful in this year’s Swedish Research Council calls. We have done particularly well in natural sciences, engineering and technology, and in the humanities and social sciences. We are also competing well in the international arena. In medicine and pharmacy, for example, we can take particular pleasure in our successes in ENABLE – a European project coordinated from Uppsala that focuses on developing future antibiotics. We have also received several new grants from the European Research Council (ERC).

The internationalisation of our educational programmes continues apace, and our international Master’s programmes attract steadily increasing numbers of students. The number of students admitted for the 2018 autumn semester was nearly 20 per cent up on the previous year, and the number of paying non-European students is increasing at a similar rate.

At Campus Gotland your duties may include riding – if you’re the Vice-Chancellor. The picture is from this year’s welcoming event for new students. Photo: Mikael Wallerstedt

Campus Gotland continues to develop. This year we celebrated the fifth anniversary of our merger and we have more students than ever. We are particularly pleased that so many international students have found their way to the island. Research activities are increasing and many actors in the region are keen to work with us.

We have conferred new doctor’s degrees, 105 in January and 166 in June. During Inauguration Week in November, the 45 new professors gave well-attended lectures and the week concluded in the traditional way with the inauguration ceremony in the Grand Auditorium and dinner at Uppsala Castle.

Our various networks underline the role of the University in the world. In 2018, as part of the U4 network enlarged by the University of Tartu, we prepared an application for the pilot round of the European Universities Initiative. We see this as an important strategic venture to establish our position in Europe. The year has also featured constructive meetings in the SASUF and MIRAI networks. We have been represented at conferences, meetings and fairs in every corner of the world, and the world has come to us as well. One notable visitor was UN Secretary-General António Guterres, who gave a well-attended Dag Hammarskjöld Lecture in April.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres signs the University’s guest book. Photo: Mikael Wallerstedt

In connection with the celebration of 150 years of diplomatic relations between Sweden and Japan, the Uppsala exhibition “The Art of Natural Science” was shown at Tokyo University Museum. It was opened in the presence of the King and Queen of Sweden and the Emperor and Empress of Japan. The focus was on three well-known Uppsala figures – Olof Rudbeck, Carl Linnaeus and Carl Peter Thunberg.

At the end of April, a ship reached New York bearing the exhibition “The Vikings Begin”. This was the start of an exhibition tour in the United States presenting a selection of pre-Viking Age artefacts. These objects are usually kept at Gustavianum (Uppsala University Museum) but now the world of the early Vikings will be revealed to a wider audience in the United States.

During the year a series of critical dialogues on topical issues was launched at the Humanities Theatre. Here, researchers in the humanities and social sciences have treated a keen audience to many important insights into matters of public debate.


Hayar Gohary, Project Director at Akademiska Hus, Vice-Rector Johan Tysk, Vice-Chancellor Eva Åkesson and Charlotte Thelm, Deputy Head of Division at NCC Building Sweden. Photo: Mikael Wallerstedt

In October, the ground was broken for the extension of the Ångström Laboratory. This building project covers 30,000 square metres and aims to enhance the creative interdisciplinary environment for research and education in natural sciences, engineering and information technology. This is the biggest project that Uppsala University and Akademiska Hus have ever undertaken together. The new wing of Ångström will be opened in 2020 and the new main building in 2022.

During the year, we have worked systematically to boost the support we provide to education and research. We have developed our support to research issues at University-wide level and raised the level of ambition in our fundraising activities. IT coordination is another prioritised project that has taken great strides forward in 2018.

At the time of writing, the climate meeting in Katowice has just ended. The University’s primary contribution to sustainable development lies in our education and research. Looking ahead, we see a need to further increase our focus on sustainability issues – we will all have to make this our New Year’s resolution.

Many thanks to all of you – staff, students, friends and partners – who together make Uppsala University so successful. Well done! We wish you all an enjoyable break over the holidays.

Eva Åkesson

Anders Malmberg

Katarina Bjelke

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Nobel Week and last University Board meeting of the semester

(Original Swedish post published 14 December.)

This week we have celebrated science. During Nobel Week, the eyes of the world are on Sweden. And of course, the prize ceremony and banquet are fantastic. But above all, it gives us a chance to focus on the contributions of science and research to our world.

In general, universities aim to make the world a better place through education, research and new knowledge. At Uppsala University, we express this ambition explicitly in our vision statement: “for the benefit of humankind and for a better world”. Through their discoveries, this year’s Nobel Laureates have made substantial contributions to a better world – new treatments for cancer and other sicknesses, new medicines, new ways of calculating the consequences of climate change. But their discoveries also lay a foundation for new research around the world and future discoveries. Perhaps even new Nobel Prizes. I also hope that all the attention and visibility for research inspires our young people and students to go into research.

Professor Donna Strickland, Professor Sir Gregory P. Winter, Vice-Chancellor Eva Åkesson, Professor George P. Smith and Professor Frances H. Arnold.

One of the highlights of Nobel Week is the Laureates’ visit to Uppsala to lecture to our students, researchers and others who are interested. They have done this, with almost no exceptions, as long as the Nobel Prizes have been awarded. This year, four of the Laureates drew a full house in the Grand Auditorium: the three Chemistry Prize winners George P. Smith, Sir Gregory P. Winter and Frances H. Arnold, and Physics Prize winner Donna Strickland. I was particularly pleased that the two women Nobel Prize winners this year were here. Before the lectures began, one of our students, Sofia Lindblad, received Uppsala Chemistry Society’s prize to an outstanding student. She received the diploma from the hands of the Nobel Prize winners. It warmed my chemist’s heart to see it.

One innovation this year was that all the Laureates gave their lectures in the Grand Auditorium, instead of being spread out around the University. In the past, we had to choose one lecture to listen to, now we were able to listen to them all. We were treated to four really splendid lectures. The Nobel Laureates left the Grand Auditorium to a standing ovation.

After the lectures, the programme continued with the traditional Nobel Lunch at Uppsala Castle, for the Laureates, researchers, students, and partners and friends of the University. Deputy Vice-Chancellor Anders Malmgren hosted the lunch, while I carried on to Gotland for Campus Gotland’s glistening Christmas party.

On Friday afternoon, the University Board held its last meeting of the semester. The meeting discussed internal governance and control. Internal Audit is entrusted by the University Board with auditing the University and reports directly to the Board. This time, one of the topics was registration. The audits performed help us to clarify and improve our routines and information.

At its December meeting, the University Board usually always decides on adjustments to the budget after the Budget Bill. But not this time. We want our departments and faculties to have long-term and robust conditions for planning. Consequently, no changes are being made ahead of 2019. The budget decided on in June applies. Any adjustments that are needed will be made ahead of our work on the budget for 2020. We also had a preliminary discussion on the budget documentation to be submitted to the government (however that turns out) at the end of February.

The University Board has expressed a desire for presentations on research at the University. The day’s meeting therefore concluded with a mini-lecture on sleep by Professor Christian Benedict from the Department of Neuroscience. He lectured on “Why we sleep”, from the perspective of the brain. Sleep is good for our memory and our creativity, and helps us manage our emotions. Sleep is good for our overall health and wellbeing. The lecture was very much appreciated and I think we all learned something.

Outside the University Main Building, a thin layer of powdery snow covers the ground. It’s beginning to feel like Christmas.

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Management Council in London

Once a year, the Management Council goes on a trip. At the beginning of this week, we visited London. The UK is one of the countries Uppsala University cooperates most extensively with – and we want it to stay that way even after Brexit.

Our programme started on Monday morning with a tour of King’s College. This is a university in the heart of central London with which we cooperate widely on research and education. We received an introduction to King’s and to the work they have done in recent years on their vision. This has led to a new strategy and a vision statement that coincides almost exactly with our own. The process of change has been led by the President and Principal of King’s College, Professor Edward Byrne, who has agreed to join Uppsala University’s Advisory Board. Naturally, we are delighted about this. I took the opportunity to give him the Quality and Renewal 2017 report, so he will be well prepared.

King’s works intensively with the local authorities and politicians. It was particularly interesting to hear about the education and research projects they have conducted in partnership with the city in the London Stories project. Our students visited the King’s College London Students’ Union, of which all students at King’s are automatically members. The agenda included student involvement and mental health. Deputy Vice Rector Mats Larhed and Vice Rector Johan Tysk also met their counterparts at King’s.

The afternoon was devoted to a focus discussion on Brexit at the Swedish Embassy, together with our three British partners in the Guild network of universities. Apart from King’s College, Glasgow University and the University of Warwick were also represented. During the 25 years that Sweden has been a member of the EU, we have enjoyed close partnerships with British universities, where many Swedes study and work. The session was introduced by Dr Julie Smith, member of the House of Lords and Director of the European Centre in the Department of Politics and International Studies, Cambridge University. She told us about the uncertain situation and the difficulties ahead of the vote in Parliament next week. About the consequences of Deal or No Deal. Many questions remain. How will we work after Brexit? What will happen to tuition fees? What will happen to research cooperation? What will be the consequences for Swedish researchers at British universities? As yet, there are few answers.

Brexit was in the air wherever we went in London. We got the sense that our hosts were rather tired of the question. But there were also creative solutions in reserve for keeping cooperation with Sweden and the EU alive.  Or, as they put it: “Why waste a good crisis?”

In the evening, Uppsala University organised an event at the Swedish Residence. Many alumni, honorary doctors and other friends had responded to our invitation. The Ambassador of Sweden to the United Kingdom, Torbjörn Sohlström, welcomed the guests. After my introductory words and brief presentation of Uppsala University, Professor David Sumpter from the Department of Mathematics gave a much-appreciated popular lecture on “The Dangers of Algorithms”. We are very grateful to Ambassador Torbjörn Sohlström for allowing us to be at the Residence.

On Tuesday we visited the Science Gallery at King’s College. The Science Gallery is a new arena for confronting issues that present a challenge to society, with artists drawing on research to explore the problems. The theme of the debut exhibition is addiction. It took up various types of addiction and related problems, ranging from mobile phones, sugar and gambling to the consequences for families when a family member has problems with addictive behaviours or addiction. The purpose of the visit was to see how the concept worked, with a view to perhaps starting something similar in Uppsala.

The last item on our two-day agenda in London was a visit to University College London (UCL). They gave us a presentation on UCL’s Grand Challenge Programme. This is a programme at the University involving cooperation across faculties and subject areas. One example was a project on HIV involving literary studies, technology, behavioural science, economics, medicine and pharmacy. It was extremely interesting. At UCL too, we could identify shared interests.

We returned to Uppsala satisfied after a few busy and inspiring days. I am sure our cooperation will survive and indeed develop, but obviously the conditions will be affected by the vote on Tuesday. We are following the situation with great interest. Deal or No Deal?

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