Uppsala University, Sweden

Author: The Vice-Chancellor’s Blog (Page 2 of 6)

Review of management systems and resource allocation

(Original Swedish post published 24 November, English version posted 25 November.)

According to an article in the newspaper Svenska Dagbladet yesterday (in Swedish), the government is planning to conduct a review of management and resource allocation to higher education institutions. This is a good thing. The government has previously shown an interest in increasing basic appropriations and giving policies a more long-term perspective, and has also indicated that new management models are needed beyond the New Public Management model, which is increasingly criticised. This is in line with what Uppsala University has long been calling for so there is reason for optimism.

Having said that, the article hints that HEIs are not behaving properly and that firmer management is needed. The Minister says the government wants to give higher education institutions the conditions they need to meet the major challenges facing society, and talks about giving them incentives to develop their activities “in accordance with the laws, ordinances and objectives that the Swedish parliament and government have established for higher education and research.” Here it is important to recall another quality mentioned in the article – trust.

We by no means question the validity of checking that we perform our duties as a government agency in accordance with the rule of law and that we focus on quality in our activities. It is misdirected to suggest that Swedish higher education institutions are not doing their job properly and not following laws and regulations. We are doing so – even when it has absurd consequences and obviously gets in the way of our external collaboration and internationalisation, for example. But what the right conditions are for the best possible development of research and teaching must primarily be a question for the the higher education institutions to decide – in trust-based dialogue with partners in the business sector and public sector. Mutual respect for roles and integrity creates trust and confidence within a higher education institution and thereby the right conditions for development.

Regrettably, in recent times we have seen initiatives that tend in the opposite direction. Dalarna University has recently been forced to conduct education and research in two new locations – without the support of the higher education institution or its board being secured for this (Swedish article). Here, the institution’s own situation and strategic considerations were disregarded, which does not benefit development and quality. What we need is a well-rooted understanding of the factors that promote success in the academic world.

The Minister talks about the outcome of the relatively extensive investments in excellence and strategic research areas over the past decade in terms of unwanted effects such as the concentration of resources to a few higher education institutions. From the perspective of Swedish research universities this is disturbing. If Sweden is to be a knowledge nation with leading research universities, we must dare to concentrate our efforts around the environments where the conditions for conducting world-leading research are best.

Share this post

Opening symposium of The Guild of European Research-Intensive Universities

(Original Swedish post published 21 November, English version posted 22 November.)

Today we (Eva Åkesson, Anders Malmberg, Katarina Bjelke and Kay Svensson) are in Brussels along with representatives of some twenty other leading research universities in Europe for the opening symposium of a new network, The Guild of European Research-Intensive Universities. Our aim is that the network will give Uppsala University a more distinct presence in Brussels, which we hope will increase our opportunities to influence European research and education policies.


Europe faces many challenges and the universities have much to contribute. We see a great need to improve the dialogue between research and politics on important future issues. The refugee crisis, threats to democracy and the freedom of expression, increased social exclusion, antibiotic resistance, energy and sustainable development are some of the issues the network’s universities are working on at local, regional, national and international level. One of the activities will therefore be something that goes under the working name ‘Policy Labs’, and which is envisaged as dialogue between politicians, officials and researchers on these and other topical issues. The Guild’s first symposium was on open science and open innovation.


The network fits in naturally with Uppsala University’s activities. International contacts and exchanges of knowledge are part of our everyday life. Students and researchers collaborate around the globe. This also fits in well with the government’s objective that Sweden should be a leading knowledge nation. EU cooperation has a major part to play in achieving this. EU resources provide a considerable proportion of funding for research projects. The total value of projects in which Uppsala University is participating stands at around EUR 50 million.

This being so, it feels absurd that we – one of the initiators of the network – are not allowed to become a full member yet. Instead, we have to wait for approval from the Riksdag (the Swedish Parliament). This is a consequence of the organisational status of Swedish universities.

Swedish higher education institutions are restricted and obstructed by the Riksdag’s calendar and regulatory complications. As a result, we risk missing out on opportunities to swiftly take our place and act in international connections, and being perceived as difficult to work with. Many issues are settled in the opening stages of a cooperative venture so it’s important to take part from the start. This is just one of the unnecessary obstacles to the increased internationalisation of higher education institutions – there are many others. We have delivered a list to Minister for Higher Education and Research Helene Hellmark Knutsson, specifying problems that must be resolved in the inquiry on internationalisation. Now we expect action to address them. If Sweden is to continue to develop as a nation of research and education, the higher education institutions need more freedom to act. This is in everyone’s interest.

Share this post

Historic Inauguration of Professors

(Original Swedish post published 18 November, English version posted 21 November.)

Today we formally installed 45 new professors at the University. The grand ceremony in the Cathedral was the culmination of a week in which the new professors have been in the spotlight. They have given inaugural lectures in the lecture hall at Museum Gustavianum. The broad range of topics offered the audience a fascinating sample of many aspects of our multifaceted University.

Read about the professors and their research.

An inauguration of professors is always a historic occasion. However, this year it is noteworthy that women were in the majority for the first time since we started holding collective inaugurations of professors in 2000. The ratio was 23 women to 22 men. We are moving in the right direction towards a gender-equal university!

The ceremony in the Cathedral began with music played by the Academic Orchestra. After that, I gave the traditional Vice-Chancellor’s inauguration address, in which I drew attention to some principles that our new professors must bear in mind. I also took up certain problems the government needs to resolve if we are to be the university Sweden so sorely needs.

The inauguration had a full programme. Inaugural lectures were given by:

  • Per Andrén: Brain diseases – and new opportunities to understand them
  • Charlotte Platzer Björkman: From sunlight to electricity through new materials
  • Dag Blanck: Is the United States different?

In addition, we honoured some of our skilful teachers, who received the Distinguished Teaching Award. This year’s recipients were:

  • Senior Lecturer Sina Tezel, Department of Linguistics and Philology
  • Senior Lecturer Per Engström, Department of Economics
  • Lecturer Per Holmfeldt, Department of Medical Cell Biology
  • Lecturer Johan Larsson, Department of Physics and Astronomy
  • Senior Lecturer David Black-Schaffer, Department of Information Technology

Read the jury citations here.

The University’s innovation prize Hjärnäpplet, awarded to a researcher or research student for an outstanding transfer of academic knowledge that has resulted in an innovation, was also presented. This year it went to Maria Strömme, Professor of Nanotechnology.

I would like to thank everyone who participated and everyone who contributed to making the day a splendid showcase for the University and our activities. You make me feel proud and impressed.

Share this post

Weekend train outing through Europe

(Original Swedish post published 13 November, English version posted 15 November.)

Groningen, Göttingen and Zürich are the stops on my itinerary from Friday to Monday. On Friday and Saturday, a delegation of about ten people from Uppsala University was in Groningen for the ninth meeting of university heads in the U4 network. U4 is a relatively small network of universities consisting of Uppsala, Groningen, Ghent and Göttingen. We collaborate in four clusters (lead institution in parentheses):

  • Humanities (Ghent)
  • Social sciences (Göttingen)
  • Medicine and pharmacy (Groningen)
  • Science and technology (Uppsala)


Institutional management is a further area of cooperation. Several welcome initiatives are in progress, for example a leadership programme now ending its second round, with a third round due to begin in autumn 2017. We have successfully collaborated in many EU projects, particularly Erasmus mobility projects in Africa and Asia. Topics discussed during the meeting included double/joint degrees for PhD students, summer schools, and other ways of collaborating on doctoral education. Various peer review exercises have been carried out. One of these, on sustainability, was reported on at the meeting. Green Offices is something Uppsala University has been inspired by and would like to try out in future. Two new areas we would like to work on together in future are procedures for post docs and career paths for young academics. In U4 we highlight good practice and learn from one another. Overall I was impressed by all the clusters this time and by the way in which collaboration is now yielding results. It takes a few years to get a network to function and we should remember this now when we are soon to begin working in the Guild, in which all four U4 universities will participate.


On Sunday I took the opportunity to visit Göttingen, where the President, Ulrike Beisiegel, briefed me on their preparations for the German excellence initiative and showed me the campus, including visits to some of their museums. I carried on south by train on Sunday afternoon. And there are delayed and cancelled trains in Germany too. Complaints about poor maintenance were heard when the delayed train came to a standstill halfway and we had to crowd into an already packed train in Frankfurt. Now I’m sitting on my way to Zürich several hours later than planned but hope to reach my destination before midnight. On Monday morning I will attend a conference on “Women and Leadership in Academia” and will try to say something clever in the panel debate I will be participating in.

On Tuesday morning I’ll be back in Uppsala and I look forward to the inauguration of 45 new professors in the cathedral on Friday. Don’t miss their lectures this week!

Share this post

Dialogue on Swedish Higher Education Authority evaluations

(Original Swedish post published 11 November, English version posted 15 November.)

On Friday the Swedish Higher Education Authority held a dialogue seminar in Stockholm. The focus was on the Authority’s proposed “Guidance on review of quality assurance at higher education institutions”, which is intended in the first instance to govern the pilot evaluations carried out in 2017, but which of course may guide the new evaluation system in general. The participants from Uppsala were the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (writing here), Åsa Kettis (who drafted some of the material for this blog post) and Maria Wollters from the Division for Quality Enhancement.


The new national quality system is basically good. It gives the higher education institutions (HEIs) greater ownership of quality assurance of individual programmes and encourages an all-round perspective on educational quality, as it encompasses preconditions, processes and outcomes. This improves conditions for quality enhancement and makes it possible to adapt the evaluation to optimally suit each programme. This change gives Sweden a similar system that to the one used in most other countries, such as our neighbours and the UK. Uppsala University has already reacted and is now starting to implement its own model of educational evaluation, in accordance with the Vice-Chancellor’s decision – a model designed with the extensive involvement of the University.


In the new national system, the Swedish Higher Education Authority will check that the HEIs’ quality systems work, and Friday’s meeting focused on the model to be used in this connection. The Authority’s model focuses on four ‘aspect areas’:

  • management and organisation
  • environment, resources and area
  • design, implementation and outcomes
  • follow-up, measures and feedback.

These in turn are analysed from three ‘perspectives’:

  • undergraduate and doctoral students
  • the world of work
  • gender equality.

Each aspect area includes several aspects and for each aspect a number of criteria are specified. Even though many of the criteria are reasonable and derive from Swedish legislation and/or European Standards and Guidelines (ESG), the overall picture is complicated. The terminology contributes to this. For most of us, ‘aspects’ and ‘perspectives’ are completely synonymous terms, so it is unclear how they differ from one another.

Otherwise, we think the Swedish Higher Education Authority’s proposal gets it wrong primarily on one key point. In the new national system, the HEIs can initiate their own educational evaluations with external review if they consider this appropriate, but the Authority does not actuall expect this of them. This is aiming low, and in practice means that not all education will be subject to external review, which is a step backward compared with the system between 2011 and 2014. Uppsala University and some other HEIs, such as the University of Gothenburg, are now launching ambitious systems in which in principle, over a six-year cycle, all education will undergo a full evaluation based on ESG and including external review. This is the most important, and most substantial, component of Uppsala’s new quality assurance system.

If an HEI chooses to introduce such a system, you might think the Authority’s review of the HEI should primarily focus on ensuring that the educational assessments work and fulfil their purpose. However, the proposed model has no such focus, and this is unfortunate. Local systems involving external educational evaluations are more results-oriented and considerably sharper than other systems, but this is not clearly acknowledged by the Authority. One proposal that came up at the seminar was that HEIs that have their own educational evaluations should be subject to a more focused and less comprehensive assessment than those that do not. This would be more appropriate and would enable the Authority to conduct better-focused HEI reviews at a lower cost. It would undoubtedly be a more rational and efficient arrangement.

At the seminar, the Authority also presented a timetable for its enitre evaluation programme over the six-year period 2017–2022 (link). In the new national system, the Authority will conduct four types of assessments/reviews:

  • assessments of degree-awarding powers
  • reviews of HEI quality assurance
  • educational evaluations
  • thematic evaluations.

In 2017 a number of doctoral education subjects at Uppsala University will undergo evaluation by the Authority: computer science, economics, ethics and the history of religions, art history, education, psychology/applied psychology, and history. According to plan, Uppsala will then undergo an HEI review in 2020 (along with Lund, Gothenburg, Stockholm and Linköping). Read more about the timetable here (in Swedish).

Share this post

Anders Wall Lectures at packed UKK

Today’s Anders Wall Lectures attracted a full house at Uppsala Konsert & Kongress. This was the thirteenth annual event and this year too we had the pleasure of hearing inspiring speakers talking about their entrepreneurship. Their stories varied widely, even if they had certain things in common. What strikes me is the enthusiasm, the energy and the courage of these people who have all, in different ways, dared to do or stand up for something they believe in. Thank you for sharing your experience with us all so generously! And many thanks to everyone who helped to make this afternoon a success!


This year’s Anders Wall lecturers were:

  • Anders Johnson, economist, author, speaker, panelist, business operator and former editor-in-chief of Dagens Nyheter.
  • Camille Sucasas Gottfridson, student and founder of the company Macacos – Brazilian Superfruits.
  • Pär Svärdson, entrepreneur behind the successful companies Adlibris, Apotea and Babyland.
  • Siavosh Derakhti, social entrepreneur and founder of the network Youth against anti-Semitism and Xenophobia (UMAF).
  • Hannah Widell and Amanda Schulman, authors and founders of Perfect Day Media.


The annual Uppsala Student of the Year award has been awarded for the seventeenth time. It is awarded to a student who has distinguished themselves through their good, creative efforts at Uppsala University, actively participated in student union and/or student nation activities, made special efforts in support of other students, or engaged in entrepreneurship in connection with their studies.  This year’s Uppsala Student of the Year is Allen Ali Mohammadi.


The prize citation is as follows:

Allen Ali Mohammadi is taking the Master Programme in Energy Technology. Allen is a visionary, an entrepreneur and an inventor who inspires other students. He started his first company when he was just 12 years old. Alongside good grades at Uppsala University, he has developed a prize-winning tool for early diagnosis of heart diseases, called ‘Heartstrings’. The tool integrates data from blood tests, electrocardiograms and demographic information and matches them against statistical comparisons of characteristic symptoms of the illness. The tool, which has been tested and validated on 500 patients, can save time and resources for doctors, hospitals, care providers, insurance companies and other similar actors in society. Allen is a good ambassador for Uppsala University and Sweden, and has won several national and international awards. He is a true enthusiast, changing society with his ambition and capacity for innovation.

Share this post

Gender mainstreaming in progress

Today our enlarged Management Council received a visit from two people from the Swedish Secretariat for Gender Research at the University of Gothenburg, which has been commissioned to support higher education institutions in their work on gender mainstreaming. This was included in the University’s appropriation directions for 2016. The government singles out certain areas as particular priorities: unequal academic career opportunities, the need to counter gender-related study choices and the need to improve student completion rates for women and men.

As part of this work we have studied gender equality measures at the University that were decided at a central level and implemented between 2004 and 2015. Gender equality efforts have often been conducted in project form. In the course of these projects, problem areas have been identified and measures carried out. The list makes impressive reading. My conclusion is that Uppsala University has worked intensively for a long time to promote gender equality and equal treatment. In general, Uppsala University has met the government’s targets for the percentage of women among newly appointed professors (in the latest period, 2012–2015, this was 36%). I am convinced that the initiatives carried out by the University, such as our ‘Kraftpaket för jämställdhet’ (‘Package for gender equality’), have contributed to this, as does the fact that the management at various levels emphasises the importance of continuous and systematic work on gender equality and equal treatment. The next stage is a catalogue of problems, which will soon be completed.

The University is required to produce an action plan for gender mainstreaming, and I have appointed a working group and a reference group for this purpose. The working group includes Anna T. Höglund, Adviser to the Vice-Chancellor on Equal Treatment, Ann-Sofie Wigg Bodin, equal treatment specialist at the Human Resources Division, and Tom Petersson, analyst at the Planning Division. The student unions have also nominated a member of the working group. Anna T. Höglund has been appointed chair and Tom Petersson secretary of the working group. The Equal Treatment Council serves as a reference group for the working group, which makes regular progress reports to the Vice-Chancellor’s Management Council. The action plan is scheduled to be circulated for comments in early January 2017 and to be finalised and submitted to the Ministry by 25 May 2017. It is important to bear in mind the advice we received – it is better to select a few areas and do them well than to make extensive plans that come to nothing. If you have any opinions or suggestions, please contact the working group or a representative of the Equal Treatment Council.

Here are a few pictures from the day’s proceedings in the enlarged Management Council:


What is gender mainstreaming?
(from the Swedish Secretariat for Gender Research Guidelines for Gender Mainstreaming Academia)

Gender mainstreaming is Sweden’s principal strategy for achieving the national gender equality objectives. According to the Council of Europe, gender mainstreaming:

“is the (re)organisation, improvement, development and evaluation of policy processes, so that a gender equality perspective is incorporated in all policies at all levels and at all stages, by the actors normally involved in policy-making.”

Concretely, gender mainstreaming can involve development of management systems and core activities so that they promote gender equality and a fair distribution of resources; routines and processes that do not discriminate any person based on sex/gender; and educational opportunities that are equally available to everybody regardless of sex/gender and other power regimes.

Share this post

Future issues up for debate and decision at University Board meeting

Every term the University Board has an extended meeting away from Uppsala to provide an opportunity for a more in-depth discussion of strategic issues for the future. This time we travelled to Lund and yesterday we completed the more formal part of the meeting. As usual, I kicked off the meeting with the Vice-Chancellor’s report (in Swedish) on what’s happened since our last meeting and what’s going on at the University.

In recent weeks the procedure for appointing a Vice-Chancellor at Uppsala University has been discussed intensively both inside and outside the University. The issue has generated a lot of interest. While the debate has been about the procedure, it also impinges on the issue of the University’s autonomy and has become a matter of principle. I am impressed by the responsibility staff and students have shown by engaging with the issue.

After adjustment, the proposed procedure will be circulated in the University for comments – it will be sent out on Monday 31 October. I think it’s good that staff and students have a proper chance to express their opinions before the University Board takes a decision in December. Ahead of the meeting today, I asked the Board for a clarification in the proposal regarding the matter of extending the mandate of the Vice-Chancellor in office, and also informed the Board that I would be happy to continue as Vice-Chancellor for another three years – if this is what the University wants. The proposal is now available here (in Swedish).

At today’s meeting, Uppsala University Research Strategies was adopted. This document provides a picture of the current situation and a strategic direction for the future. With its breadth and multiple areas of strength, Uppsala University stands well equipped to face the future. We have the capability and the desire to conduct research that proceeds from both the challenges facing society and issues intrinsic to scholarly enquiry.

During the day, the University Board also had scope to discuss one of the issues I feel most strongly about – strategic skills provision. We want to be able to attract the very best researchers and teachers. That being so, it’s important that we can offer creative, stimulating research environments and good conditions. This autumn’s dialogues with the disciplinary domains will focus on this issue. We also found time to begin a discussion on the provision of premises in a longer-term perspective. These are important issues that we will come back to in various forums.

Today the Board will continue with discussions on infrastructure – an important future issue for our University. We will visit two facilities that are important for us – Max IV and ESS. Uppsala University is the largest user of Max IV. The Freia hall at Ångström is a test facility for ESS and Kristina Edström leads the international research school at ESS. Adviser to the Vice-Chancellor Joseph Nordgren will introduce today’s programme and give an overview of infrastructure at national level and our own internal work on this issue.

Share this post

IVA delegation on Gotland, Health Summit and more

(Original Swedish post published 16 October, English version published 9 November.)

Each year, King Carl Gustaf makes two trips organised by IVA (the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences) – one abroad and one in Sweden. This year the destinations were Japan and Gotland, and the Vice-Chancellor had the pleasure of participating in both. Unfortunately the King couldn’t come because of back problems so the trip to Gotland had to go ahead without him. The delegation consisted of around 20 representatives from the public sector, the business sector and the University. It was a busy programme, starting out at Campus Gotland, where researchers, teachers and students gave presentations on sustainable tourism, cultural heritage, wind power and game design. Next came Science Park and a lively presentation by the IT company Pickit, lunch at the craft centre Mejeriet and then on to the agricultural centre Gotland Grönt Centrum, where we heard about the Moving Floor concept (self-cleaning floors in animal facilities) and saw a lamb-shearing demonstration. We had time for a short visit to Wisby breweries before dinner at the Residence, hosted by County Governor Cecilia Schelin Seidegård. On day two, the destinations were Cementa AB, Slite and Bungenäs, with a lunchtime presentation of BRS Networks AB. Major-General Karl Engelbrektson, the Swedish Army Chief of Staff, gave a presentation on the security situation during the trip back to Visby, where the visit concluded at the Swedish National Heritage Board. Uppsala University and Campus Gotland in particular came up in many presentations and conversations at most of the venues. It was easy to be a very proud Vice-Chancellor.


At the same time as the Gotland trip, the third Uppsala Health Summit was in progress, on this occasion in the historic and surprisingly functional conference premises at Uppsala Castle. The theme on this occasion was “Ending Childhood Obesity – Actions through Health and Food Equity”. Around 180 participants were offered a well-planned and varied programme including plenary lectures, workshops and regular aerobics sessions with instructors and children from Friskis&Svettis. Uppsala Health Summit is well on the way to being the well-established international forum the initiative aimed for. Eight partners now stand behind Uppsala Health Summit – Uppsala University, the Swedish University of Agricultrual Sciences, Uppsala Municipality, Uppsala County Council, World Class Uppsala, the National Veterinary Institute, the Medical Products Agency and the National Food Agency. Uppsala University is the host organisation and Deputy Vice-Chancellor Anders Malmberg chairs the steering group. The project team, headed by Madeleine Neil, does a fantastic job along with all the hard-working members of the annual programme committee, led this time by Professor Richard Landberg.


Otherwise, the week began with a department visit. This time we visited the Department of Modern Languages. We would like to say thank you and to emphasise how important these visits are for us. Learning about day-to-day activities at the departments, reasons for satisfaction and causes of concern, enables us to carry out our management responsibilities better.

On Friday evening it was time for the staff party at UKK – more than 600 people were there having a good time together. That’s about 10% of the staff, who enjoyed a festive evening with good food, entertainment (Bröderna Rongedal) and each other’s pleasant company. Thank you to all the organisers, much appreciated.


On Saturday Uppsala received a visit from the foreign minister of El Salvador, Hugo Martínez, who was accompanied by his country’s Stockholm ambassador Anita Escher Echeverría. Anders Malmberg and Municipality President Carl Lindberg hosted a lunch at the Walmstedt House, before the minister moved on to open a Salvadoran film festival at Slottsbiografen.


Share this post

Management Council in Tartu and Tallinn

(Original Swedish post published 29 September, English version published 10 November.)

We’re continuing our visits to universities in our region, partly as study visits and partly to deepen cooperation. Now it was the turn of universities in Estonia. First we visited the University of Tartu, formerly known as the University of Dorpat, which was the second Swedish university when it was founded in 1632 – Uppsala University, as I’m sure you all know, was the first. This is a university we share a common history with, one of the figures we have in common being Johan Skytte, who was the university’s first chancellor in 1632–1634. And their constitution was based on ours – perhaps it’s time to start thinking about reintroducing a constitution at our university?


We already both belong to the European network the Coimbra Group and Tartu, like Uppsala University, will be a member of the new network the Guild, so we will have a lot to do with each other in future. During the visit we presented our universities to each other, and discussed challenges and future cooperation. Several suggestions and ideas came up and there are plans for a delegation from Tartu to come to Uppsala University next spring. A group from the Faculty of Law was also with us to discuss enhanced cooperation. There is a news item about our visit on the University of Tartu website.


In the evening we attended the opening of the Estonian National Museum, where we ran into a delegation from Uppsala Municipality who were also visiting. Uppsala and Tartu are twin towns. Tomorrow we will be moving on to Tallinn, where we will meet representatives of Tallinn University and Tallinn University of Technology at the Swedish Embassy. Earlier today we had the great pleasure of meeting Ambassador Anders Ljunggren here in Tartu.


Share this post
« Older posts Newer posts »