This week has been full of virtual meetings, which have become the stuff of everyday life for many of us now. One of my meetings was with European colleagues in The Guild university network to discuss policy issues at EU level. Vanessa Debiais-Sainton, Head of the Higher Education Unit at the European Commission’s Directorate General for Education, Youth, Sport and Culture, participated and updated us on what’s in the pipeline in Brussels and visions for the future.
This was the second Guild meeting in just over a week. Last time we had the opportunity to talk with European Commissioner Mariya Gabriel. Our membership of The Guild gives us a better platform than previously to make our thoughts and views on a range of issues heard in Brussels. We described the unprecedentedly rapid digitalisation of education and research that has taken place during this spring of the coronavirus, and everyone in the network emphasised the importance of resuming international exchanges as soon as possible. We also pointed out that the ongoing pandemic has made it clear how important it is to have strong basic research. It is when society encounters unexpected challenges that such research proves most necessary, providing a basis for rapidly developing solutions to the problems, in this case tests and vaccines. In this connection – and as always – we took up the importance of reinforcing academic freedom and focusing on quality. Our involvement in The Guild is a good way for Uppsala University to keep abreast of EU policies and exert influence.
This week, I (Eva) and University Director Caroline Sjöberg participated in the staff meeting at Campus Gotland, on Zoom, of course. We talked about the University’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and explained the arguments behind the decisions taken at Vice-Chancellor level. Even if we are all following recommendations and decisions, the situation varies considerably between Uppsala and Visby. As one of our campuses was established (as Gotland University College) and operates on an island, it has long experience of electronic meetings and distance education, and those of us in Uppsala have a lot to learn from them now. Our colleagues in Visby we early adopters of electronic tools that were far more awkward than the user-friendly options available today. At the same time, it is far from being merely a matter of technology; creating really good remote meetings and education requires a certain way of thinking. At the moment, we are working together in Uppsala and at Campus Gotland to prepare the best possible welcome for our students this autumn, even if it has to take place 100 per cent remotely.
On Tuesday, it was time for the student collaboration meeting, which gives me an opportunity for dialogue with representatives of our students’ unions and the student nations. Always important, particularly at this time. I have also had the privilege of signing scholarship award decisions, so good news is on the way for some students.
The week has also involved numerous shorter forward-looking discussions with the chair and other new members of the University Board as well as incoming new vice-rectors and their deputies. In addition, I have had personal development dialogues with vice-rectors, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor, advisers to the Vice-Chancellor and the University Director. Several of these are on the way in and full of enthusiasm for their new roles, others are nearing the end of their term of office. No matter which, it is pleasing that all are so committed and forward-looking.