Midsummer means bright evenings and nights, nature in bloom and the prospect of holidays for most. It has been a strange semester for all of us, with completely unforeseen changes both at work and in our private lives. When we see how responsibly teachers, students and other staff at Uppsala University have responded to the situation during the pandemic, we feel proud and grateful.
Even though we have been unable to conclude this semester as usual, with Valborg festivities and the spring conferment and graduation ceremonies, we can congratulate a great many Bachelor’s, Master’s and PhD students on their degrees and wish them all the very best in the future. One thing this spring has taught us is the importance of expertise and collaboration when society encounters unforeseen challenges. Students have taken responsibility, and we have had close and constructive contacts with government agencies, politicians and colleagues at local, regional and national level. We are also proud to note the enormous responsibility shouldered by researchers, at SciLifeLab and elsewhere in the University. They have shifted their focus to the challenge of large-scale testing, initiated vital new research projects, offered the health services both protective equipment and labour, and answered questions and participated in public debate.
The semester started off – in what now feels like another era – with the reception of new students and celebration of new PhDs at the Winter Conferment Ceremony. The Management Council visited Gotland and met staff and regional politicians, who told us how Uppsala University has contributed to the island’s development. In February, the annual report summed up 2019 and confirmed that the University had enjoyed another very positive year. Uppsala University is in fine shape, in both financial and operational respects, which gives us a stable base from which to tackle difficulties arising from the pandemic in the autumn.
One of the last major physical meetings we held was a very constructive deans’ day at the end of February. About the same time, we received a report on the libraries and submitted an EUN application. We expect a decision on this application in the next few days. Implementation of the new Mission, Goals and Strategies document is underway, allowing ample time, and coordination of the internal governance documents is progressing well. Work has started on the new environmental plan and funding can now be sought for climate measures. Before the infection situation put a stop to physical meetings, we had an important Vice-Chancellor’s seminar on freedom of speech in academia, following a high-visibility media debate. While everyone agreed that the freedom to express opinions and to question ideas is at the heart of academia, better support is needed for managing issues of harassment. The guidelines in this area have been reviewed and everyone must play their part in keeping dialogue open on the dilemmas that can arise at work. The final public event with a substantial audience was an inspiring lecture by Alumnus of the Year Emma Frans.
Since the second week in March, when the Public Health Agency of Sweden declared that community transmission of COVID-19 had established itself in Sweden and we switched to distance education overnight, many things have been different. All of us are now fully-fledged users of digital meeting tools. Many have taken this way of working further and plan to continue to take advantage of the opportunities offered by technology even when the pandemic has run its course. There have been numerous urgent decisions and new instructions from the government and public authorities. Among other consequences, we will be able to welcome more new students than planned to Uppsala University in the summer and autumn, which is pleasing. We have held beautiful and much appreciated digital Master’s ceremonies and have learned that we can carry out these events too in new ways.
The year 2020 is also a ‘super election year’. Several members of the Management Council and the University Board have completed or are reaching the end of their terms of office, including the chair of the University Board Gudmund Hernes, and two of us who are signing this message: vice-rectors Stellan Sandler and Torsten Svensson. We have welcomed the new chair of the University Board, Anne Ramberg, and other new members, who have already taken several really important decisions – the approval of the University’s operational plan for 2021 and planning frameworks for 2022 and 2023, and not least the decision to recommend Anders Hagfeldt to the government as new Vice-Chancellor for the period 2021–2026. On 1 July, we will welcome two new vice-rectors to their duties: Mats Larhed for Medicine and Pharmacy and Tora Holmberg for Humanities and Social Sciences.
Now we wish all members of staff, students, partners and friends a very enjoyable summer that gives you the opportunity to rest, spend time outside and socialise responsibly. Put your work aside while you are on holiday and enjoy the Swedish summer. We will meet again in August, revitalised and with fresh inspiration and, hopefully, a better situation in terms of the pandemic.
Have a good summer!
Eva Åkesson, Vice-Chancellor
Anders Malmberg, Deputy Vice-Chancellor
Caroline Sjöberg, University Director
Torsten Svensson, Vice Rector Humanities and Social Sciences
Stellan Sandler, Vice Rector Medcine and Pharmacy
Johan Tysk, Vice Rector Science and Technology