2017 Coming to an End

This year is almost over and it is time to close the books. The biggest thing that happened to me personally in 2017 was that I was entrusted with the leadership of the University of Gothenburg. The University of Gothenburg is without a doubt a great academic institution. This was my impression already before I started here, and after six months as Vice-Chancellor, I can only conclude that it is true. Our University offers both tremendous competence and great opportunities.

It is of course impossible to list all the exciting and interesting things that go on at the University in a small blog post like this. But I can always mention a few things, like my excitement about the interdisciplinary approach, of which the University’s joint venture UGOT Challenges is a good illustration. I strongly believe that interdisciplinary collaboration, and I mean at an even higher level than today, is absolutely critical to our University. Both from a competition standpoint and to enable us to contribute to the sustainability goals declared for the world by United Nations as part of its Agenda 2030.

This brings me to the University’s own sustainability efforts, which are both successful and under continuous development. In fact, this was confirmed in a review presented by the Swedish Higher Education Authority earlier this autumn. Of the 47 evaluated universities, only eleven – or less than a quarter – received a passing grade and were deemed to have ‘a well-developed process in place for the work to promote sustainable development in the education’. We were among the eleven. The Swedish government’s appointment of Katarina Gårdfeldt, director of the Centre for Environment and Sustainability, as new director of the Swedish Polar Research Secretariat from the turn of the year can also be seen as an acknowledgment of our successful sustainability work. Gårdfeldt’s new position is both an important and a prestigious assignment that we can take at least a little bit of credit for.

The University of Gothenburg has had a successful year when it comes to research funding acquired from various sources, which is a strong signal that our research is of high quality. This autumn, we received a record amount of research funding from the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation: SEK 188 million, or one-third of the value of the Foundation’s total project grants awarded in 2017. Outstanding! As for the national investments in research infrastructure, we received funding from the Swedish Research Council for three units connected to the University: the Swedish National Data Service, the Swedish Language Bank and Evaluation Through Follow-up. All three of these are nationally important research infrastructures. And towards the end of the year, we learned that three of our researchers had been appointed Wallenberg Academy Fellows.

Finally, I would like to say something about the biannual management dialogues carried out in November and December. It has been very encouraging to realise that the work related to the action and operational plans has had such a strong impact. There seems to be a clear understanding of how the plans should be implemented. It was also very interesting to listen to the priorities communicated by the various faculties and departments. We saw many pleasant indications of both strong commitment and good strategic thinking.

We also of course talked about the #MeToo movement, which swept across large parts of the world this autumn. It has been an almost surreal experience to witness a large number of women finally stand up and talk about the harassment and abuse they have suffered. This is obviously not a problem that can be solved overnight. Instead, it will require hard and persistent work. It is reassuring to know that we as an organisation are taking the issue very seriously, also considering that the Swedish Council for Higher Education has been assigned by the national government to review how the country’s higher education institutions are dealing with the problem.

When it comes to the University’s work environment in general, we feel that there is a consensus regarding the ongoing efforts, which Pro-Vice-Chancellor Mattias Goksör is in charge of. The first step to strengthen the University’s systematic work environment management is to create a stronger link between the central work environment committee, CAMK, and the local work environment committees, LAMK. A systematic approach to the work environment is critical in order to ensure a high level of wellbeing among staff members.

Thanks everyone, staff and students, for your valuable contributions and support in 2017. I wish you a good rest of the year and a happy 2018!

 Eva Wiberg

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