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We have to make cutbacks – but not to our ambitions

It’s summer at long last, and no matter what the weather forecast may bring, it’s time for the summer holiday. Time for all of us to recharge our batteries, something we’re all looking forward to.

The first six months of 2016 were intense, and despite the unusually warm spring, we’ve mostly been getting stormy weather from our nation’s politicians at Christiansborg. As you know, the Finance Act ushered in cutbacks across the board on both education and research. This poses a major challenge to the university’s operations, along with the study progress reform and degree programme resizing.

I would like to acknowledge the enormous efforts that have been made across the university to find the necessary savings. After the board meeting of 14 June and the most recent Main Liaison Committee meeting, we have set a course for Aarhus University towards 2020. Over this period, the university must find a total of approx. DKK 280 million in savings. Fortunately, some of the cost reductions which were adopted in connection with the budget cuts a couple of years ago will help us along the way. The process of working out the specifics of the plans at the local level will begin after the summer holiday, and here at the outset, we are in a solid position to handle our financial challenges.

Yes, we have to make cutbacks. But we must not cut back on our ambitions. And we most definitely must not hold back on the external funding we’ve won with such success. Putting these funds to work in order to realise the planned research projects is one of our major tasks. Increased research activity generates revenue, collaboration and increased competitiveness, and we are in particular need of all three as we enter a period in which growth funded by public subsidies is not in the cards for the universities.

Together with the other members of the senior management team, I will do my utmost to ensure that we – within the given framework – continue to develop the university, with a constant focus on the highest quality in research, education and not least consultancy, which has been in the news a lot recently. I have no doubt whatsoever that the public sector consultancy services Aarhus University delivers through the DCE and the DCA provide a a solid basis on which politicians can base their decisions. Our ambition is for there to be public access and impartiality for our researchers in relation to these services, governed by clear agreement with the ministries.

Does this mean that AU researchers, including those who provide their expertise to government agencies under consultancy contracts, are forbidden to have opinions about political decisions or social developments?  No! For as stated in the University Act: As society’s central repository of culture and knowledge, the university must exchange knowledge and competences with the society it belongs to and encourage its staff to take part in public debate. Researchers represent their fields, and of course they must take responsibility for their statements and critical comments.

I want to emphasise that scientific quality, a critical approach and freedom all go hand in hand. We are here for society’s sake, and our role is to serve and collaborate with our entire society. But that doesn’t make us society’s spineless lackeys. We do our best to uncover the truth, and we tell it – even when the truth is unwelcome. These values are at the core of the university employee’s work. They are the very spirit of the university. They are the values that guide our lives.

The university’s most important tasks are to educate graduates, conduct research at an international level of excellence and supply the knowledge society needs. We are extremely conscious of this responsibility. This is why we are charting a new course in a variety of subjects to take the university in the right direction.

For example, Aarhus University will be educating more engineers in future in order to correct the acute shortage of engineers faced by our society. And we are consolidating our humanities and business language programmes to create Scandinavia’s largest centre for research into and education in the major European languages here at Aarhus University.  We are also bolstering our business programmes and strengthening the commercial orientation of the medical degree programme.  And finally, the university has taken the lead in the field of research on basic schooling and daycare with the National Centre for School Research, which will open right after the summer holiday.


These initiatives are examples of our continual adaptation of the university to society’s needs. 

One thing is certain: No matter what challenges we face, we will only succeed through a joint effort. Again and again, across the entire university – among both academic and administrative staff – I’ve experienced your impressive motivation, commitment and willpower. We need to hold on to that spirit. And fight to create a good workplace in that spirit.

Although the most recent WPA showed definite progress, there is still room for improvement in relation to stress, constructive communication and recognition. It cannot be spelled out too clearly: If you’re employed at Aarhus University, you should be happy to get up and go to work in the morning. We all have a responsibility to create this culture – and as managers, we have a special responsibility to lead the way.

So valued employees, colleagues and students. Each and every one of you make a difference. For each other and for the university. l hope you all enjoy your well-deserved holidays and that you have a great summer. I’m looking forward to getting started on the second half of 2016 when we meet again after the holiday. I’ll be visiting all of you at your departments in September again this year, and I’ve already booked the first dates.

Until then, an excellent summer to you all!