Aarhus University Seal

The board approves AU's budget plan and strategic initiatives

The budget plan up to and including 2019 and a prioritisation of four strategic focus areas have just been approved by the Aarhus University Board. The aim is to ensure that the university will continue to be able to offer high-quality, relevant research and education in the future, while at the same time adapting to the financial framework set by the government.

At a board meeting on 14 June, a unanimous board approved an overall plan for the implementation of the cost reductions the university faces as a result of the 2016 Finance Act.

In 2014, Aarhus University carried out a deep round of cutbacks. In addition, the university has already begun to carry out a total of DKK 100 million in cutbacks in the administrative units for the period 2015-19. This means that the university is currently in a solid position to manage the budget reductions in the most recent Finance Act.

The university’s 2016 budget is balanced. The total financial challenge at Aarhus University for the period 2017-19 is estimated at approximately DKK 280 million. The cost reductions will be achieved by reducing costs related to estates and facilities, operations, and payroll – primarily through natural wastage – as well as by reducing the senior management team's strategic funds (USM). However, limited adjustments to staffing levels in individual units may take place during this period.

Chairman of the Board Michael Christiansen emphasises that the cutbacks will be carried out through gradual adjustments with the lowest possible risk of major rounds of dismissals:

“The university is well-prepared to withstand the coming cost reductions. We have received a thorough budget plan from the senior management team, which has just been unanimously approved by the board. The focus of the budget is to give the academic organisation the best possible conditions while at the same time enabling strategic investments.”

Relevant councils, boards and committees participated in the development of the budget plans through a comprehensive internal consultation and involvement process.

Strategic initiatives to strengthen the university

Decreases in government funding to the university sector make it necessary for Aarhus University to adopt a more precise strategic focus on society’s needs. In response, the board has approved an investment of DKK 260 million in four strategic focus areas in the period up to 2020. The strategic focus areas include: A significant expansion of the engineering programmes, a reinforcement of the business programmes, the establishment of a medical degree programme oriented towards the medical industry, and a smaller and strong Faculty of Arts. As a consequence of degree programme resizing, Arts will become smaller as we near 2023, while at the same time being strengthened through strategic appointments funded by USM. In addition, the faculty’s activities within the major European languages will be strengthened considerably, and the faculty will increase its contribution to the research-based development of basic schooling and daycare through the establishment of the National Centre for School Research under the Danish School of Education (DPU).

These strategic initiatives are aimed at helping the university produce more graduates oriented towards employment in the private sector and intensify the university’s relationships with business and industry.

“The strategic initiatives are absolutely crucial investments in strengths which are aimed at making sure that Aarhus University will continue to have a strong position in fields which are particularly important in relation to delivering knowledge and graduates to Danish society,” states Michael Christiansen.

Rector Brian Bech Nielsen highlights how important it is for the university to take a proactive approach in a situation in which revenues are falling.

“The cutbacks in the public education budgets remind us that preparing ourselves to meet the future is more important than ever. One of the ways in which we will accomplish this is by prioritising our USM funds to kickstart the four strategic focus areas. Every day, we fight to deliver research and education of the highest quality, and we have to be uncompromising about this – this is the essence of what makes us attractive as a university and can increase our contribution to the development of society,” he explains.

The process of defining and implementing the strategic initiatives will now begin at the local level, and concrete details will be announced as plans are finalised.


Further information: Chairman of the Board Michael Christiansen and Rector Brian Bech Nielsen

Contact: Head of Press and Communication, Anders Correll, ac@au.dk 28992235



The DKK 260 million investment in the four strategic focus areas is funded by USM, the senior management team’s strategic funds. All initiatives will be co-funded by the faculties.


Educating more engineers

The strategic goal is for AU to continue to be one of the two institutions with the largest Bachelor’s engineering degree programmes in Denmark and one of the dominant providers of Master’s degree programmes in engineering. The planned expansion will thus contribute to meeting current and future demand for more engineering graduates and more technical research.

The expansion of engineering programmes will involve:


  • Strengthening recruitment to engineering BSc programmes through the establishment of a new degree programme in food technology and offering new degree programmes in Herning.
  • Strengthening recruitment to engineering MSc programmes through the establishment of a new MSc-oriented BSc track within the seven classical engineering specialisations.
  • Developing the quality of technical research to the highest international level through targeted recruitment of 30 new lecturers and 180 new associate professors and professors.

The senior management team has allocated DKK 114 million from USM for the period 2016-2021.

Contact: Dean Niels Christian Nielsen, dean.scitech@au.dk, +45 2899 2541


A strong focus on business programmes

The initiative will further increase the relevance and research grounding of the business degree programmes, in order to meet society’s and the labour market’s current and future demand for graduates.

The initiative includes:

  • A new faculty strategy with a focus on promoting excellent research through strategic recruitment of researchers in the field of business and areas in which there is a collaboration between business and social sciences.

The senior management team has allocated DKK 42 million from USM for the period 2017-2021.

Contact: Dean Thomas Pallesen, pallesen@au.dk, + 45 2037 3932


A smaller and stronger Arts

As a consequence of the government’s degree programme resizing measures, by 2023, Arts will admit 28 per cent fewer students. As a consequence, it is necessary to adapt the faculty’s profile, in order to improve academic quality and orientation towards the labour market.

The initiative includes:


  • Development of Arts’ future profile through strategic recruitment.
  • A strengthening of the English, German, French and Spanish programmes through a merger of business language and humanities language programmes, which will make Aarhus University Scandinavia's largest centre for research and teaching within the major European languages.
  • The establishment of the National Centre for School Research, which opened in February. The centre represents Aarhus University’s commitment to assume national leadership by ensuring research-based development of basic schooling and daycare in Denmark.

The senior management team has allocated DKK 52 million of USM funds to strategic recruitment in the period 2018-2021, DKK 28 million to the assimilation of language programmes in the period 2017-23, and DKK 20 million to the National Centre for School Research in the period 2016-20.

Contact: Dean Johnny Laursen, jla@au.dk, + 45 2029 4180


The medical degree programme oriented towards the industry

Demand for medical doctors is increasing in the pharmaceutical industry. The objective is to strengthen the commercial orientation of the medical degree programme and to generally contribute to strengthening health sciences at Aarhus University.

The initiative includes:


  • A dialogue with industry representatives aimed at gaining a deeper understanding of the industry’s needs.
  • The inclusion of course elements with relevance to the industry in the academic regulations of the medical degree programme.
  • In the long term, new academic regulations will be developed which will reflect the demands of the labour market of the future.

The senior management team has allocated DKK 5 million from USM for the period 2016-17 for this initiative. In addition, the senior management team has reserved DKK 42 million to cover double rent in connection with renovation and new construction.

Contact: Dean Allan Flyvbjerg, dean.health@au.dk, + 45 5177 9548