Uppsala University, Sweden

Month: December 2019

The year behind, the year ahead

2019 is drawing to a close – another eventful year in the world and at Uppsala University. The January Agreement gave us a government and has influenced politics in Sweden ever since. The climate crisis, Brexit and growing political unrest in various parts of the world have dominated the news. For the first time, we urged students on foreign exchanges to come home, because of the reports from Hong Kong.

Yet, though overshadowed by the headlines, progress is being made around the world, often on the basis of science. Every day at Uppsala University, new knowledge is created that helps to make the world a better place.

A great deal happens at our large University in the course of a year. Our research remains at the forefront. We have done well in the competition for research funding. As usual we were successful when the Swedish Research Council shared out project grants. Particularly in technology and natural sciences, and in humanities and social sciences, Uppsala received a high proportion of the available funding. We also did well in the Swedish Cancer Society’s call. Recently, three new Wallenberg Academy Fellows were approved. At international level, we received several large EU grants during the year. It is particularly pleasing that Europe’s research and development on future batteries is led from Uppsala University in the Battery 2030+ initiative.

At home, we are seeing more multidisciplinary environments develop, for example in research on sustainability, antibiotic resistance, artificial intelligence, digital humanities and women’s mental health. CIRCUS offers a platform for interdisciplinary research on culture and society. The opportunities for cross-disciplinary initiatives are almost unlimited at our broad University. On Campus Gotland, we are getting underway with a multidisciplinary graduate school.

The internationalisation of education continues and we have an increasing number of students from other countries. The number of applications from fee-paying students increased more than at any other Swedish higher education institution – by all of 50 per cent. More new international Master’s programmes will be starting next autumn, so the expansion is likely to continue. Uppsala University won the Erasmus+ Actor of the Year distinction for systematic and successful work on international exchanges. One measure that attracted special attention from many quarters was the climate scholarships, which enabled exchange students to travel to their destinations by climate-friendly transport.

The students’ unions and nations are important for Uppsala University. We are pleased that the unions have formalised their close mutual cooperation – this will further strengthen student influence. We support the students’ efforts to draw attention to the erosion of resources for higher education. We are also pleased that the cooperation between students’ unions and nations is progressing well following the joint investigation that was presented during the spring.

Work on the new Ångström Laboratory has continued and the first part, a new wing, is due to open next year. In this context, the Development Plan 2050 project is important for the future development of our city. The report that has been produced will now be discussed within the University to benefit from everyone’s thoughts. Consultations are due to be completed in March, after which the roadmap to the future can hopefully be finalised. The investments in our campus environments continue. Hardly had the partially remodelled Carolina Rediviva reopened before Gustavianum closed for much-needed renovation.

The main entrance after renovation Photo: Magnus Hjalmarsson

Our task in the University management is about creating conditions for the continued success of our University. This year we have benefited from the valuable advice of our newly established International Advisory Board, which visited us in the summer. Two major projects have just crossed the finishing line. After a process that started three years ago, the University Board has approved the University’s new rules of procedure. This document sets out the structure of the University’s governance – with management based on collegiality and active student influence – and clarifies roles and responsibilities in the University. At the same meeting, the University Board also adopted Uppsala University’s new mission statement (Mission, Goals and Strategies). The University’s overall goal of course remains unchanged: to conduct education and research of the highest quality and relevance. One change is that a number of medium-term development targets are formulated; another is that the strategically prioritised areas that were previously described in separate programmes – for Campus Gotland, collaboration, equal opportunities, internationalisation, quality and sustainable development – are now integrated in the Mission, Goals and Strategies.

Another important activity this year was to formulate Uppsala University’s proposals and comments on the government’s upcoming research bill. In our input, we particularly highlight the need for enhanced funding for vital but increasingly costly research infrastructure.

We have also started a review of our Appointment Regulations – the document that governs the forms of employment that exist at the University and arrangements for recruitment and career paths. Now we are taking the opportunity to move forwards when it comes to attracting the best researchers and teachers.

While world leaders face increasing expectations to agree on climate measures, we as a university are working to reduce our own climate footprint. The University’s environmental plan is under revision to ensure that our environmental ambitions are at the cutting edge. We welcome the great interest and commitment from staff and students. As usual, though, we would like to recall that the best contribution the University can make to a sustainable world is our research on climate leadership, energy technologies, battery storage, democracy, integration, antibiotic resistance and many other areas. Equally important are the many young people who graduate every year and leave the University to contribute by their expertise to the development of society.

The University can look back on yet another successful year and forward to an exciting 2020. We look forward to the research bill towards the end of the year, which we hope will give us even better conditions for long-term development and for helping to create a better world.

Many thanks to all of you – staff, students, friends and partners – who together contribute to the University’s success. We now wish you all an enjoyable and relaxing break over the holidays.

Eva Åkesson, Anders Malmberg, Caroline Sjöberg

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Promoting sustainable health at the Nobel festivities

This evening (10 December) we will be at the Nobel festivities in Stockholm. I (Vice-Chancellor Eva) will be wearing jewellery lent by Médecins Sans Frontières to draw attention to the global health challenges of antibiotic resistance and drug-resistant tuberculosis. The jewellery is part of a collection created by alumni of Beckmans College of Design and exhibited at the Nobel Museum. The assignment was to give visual form to the lack of access to vital medicines in certain parts of the world.

Several of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals have to do with health. Achieving these goals requires both multidisciplinary research and goal-oriented cooperation between different actors. Uppsala University is heavily involved in this area, notably through Uppsala Antibiotic Center, the international network ReAct and the annual Uppsala Health Summit, which next year will focus on antibiotic resistance.

Antibiotic resistance is a serious problem affecting all types of modern healthcare, including cancer therapies, transplantation and prematurely born children. It is a complex issue. While we need to use antibiotics as restrictively as possible to limit the development of resistance, in poorer parts of the world many people are dying because they lack access to antibiotics.

Research to develop effective new drugs takes a long time and costs a lot of money, and as a result the medicines are expensive. If, on top of that, they have to be sold restrictively, the companies either have to set very high prices or sell large quantities. Neither of these options is desirable. Tackling these problems requires a combination of research, behavioural change and a solution to the issue of profitability.

This means knowledge is needed from various disciplines: medicine, economics, behavioural science. Uppsala University has research in many areas, from new drug development and knowledge about the development of drug resistance to research on new business models and behavioural change. Uppsala Antibiotic Center, which is a strategic initiative at the University with doctoral students from several different disciplines, takes an interdisciplinary approach to the issue. This generates new questions, which can lead to new answers as to how to solve the problems.

Uppsala University also has a leading role in COMBINE, a multinational EU project in which 11 partners from academia and industry together seek to pave the way for more effective antibiotic development. Anders Karlén, Professor of Computer-Assisted Drug Design, has the important role of project coordinator. The six-year project has a budget of EUR 25 million and is backed by the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) – a partnership between the EU and the EFPIA (European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations).

Read more about the challenge of antibiotic resistance on www.uu.se.

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Enhanced student union cooperation

This week we have celebrated the formalisation of cooperation between all the students’ unions at the University. This means better conditions for our students to remain actively involved in the affairs of the University – which is good. A university must listen to its students to keep up with the times and adapt the programmes and courses it offers to meet new needs. Those who represent the students have an important role to play and should be involved in as many contexts as possible.

This year we celebrate 100 years of democracy in Sweden. A lot has changed since Uppsala Student Union was established in 1849. At that time, there were few students and they came from the upper echelons of society. The first woman student, Betty Pettersson from Gotland, for example, was only admitted in 1872. These days we have tremendous breadth in our student body, and this is a great advantage. Our University is open and international. Naturally, that makes demands on us as a University and on the unions that represent the entire student body. We need the help of the unions to pick up issues from across the entire student body, not least our international students, who bring experience from other countries that is important and useful for us. The unions also face challenges channelling issues that engage many students, such as the climate issue, into arenas for student influence, as well as issues associated with students’ wellbeing.

Meeting students and the students’ unions gives those of us in the University management new perspectives on how best to approach the future. This inspires us and helps us to develop. We hope that the cooperation now established between the unions will give all students a stronger voice.

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