2016-20 Communication practice

NB! An updated version is soon available. 

The 2016-20 communication practice provides a framework for prioritising, organising and performing external and internal communication, both in and across academic units and at university level.

At Aarhus University, communication comprises an integrated aspect of the university’s overall efforts to:

  • realise the university’s 2020 strategy and local strategies and faculty and unit level.
  • honour the University Act’s requirement that the university must be a central repository of knowledge and culture which must exchange knowledge and competencies with society and ensure that employees and students are involved in important decisions.

The university-wide communication practice is intended to encourage the development local action plans and annual communication schedules which describe in concrete detail how internal and external communication are to be handled locally.

Basic principles for communication


To ensure that the local communication practices of the academic units are compatible with communication relating to the university as a whole, the university’s communication practice is based on two basic principles which apply at all levels of the organisation.

  1. Academic units should organise their communication in the way which best contributes to strengthening their positions, with due consideration for the fact that they as part of the university also contribute to AU’s overall image.
  2. Communication at the central level should unify and promote AU, and should at all times support and advance the activities of the academic units.

Both principles are grounded in the university’s desire to make its academic diversity clearly evident. At the same time, it is necessary that the university is perceived as as a unified entity which speaks and acts as a single agent in a variety of contexts.

These principles apply to the integrated arenas of internal and external communication, which are described below. Guidelines for design and naming as well as recommendations regarding the evaluation of communication have been developed in this connection. An inspiration catalogue of useful input on external and internal communication across the university is also being developed.

External communication practice

External communication includes research communication and promotional initiatives which are intended to strengthen Aarhus University’s reputation and highlight the university’s contribution to society.

Goals of external communication

The common goal of all external communication at the university is to:

  1. Contribute to the dissemination of knowledge in order to help promote growth, welfare and individual and cultural development in society.
  2. Contribute to strengthening collaboration with society.
  3. Maintain and enhance a strong academic reputation.

Central tasks in external communication

External communication assists the university in reaching its goals through the performance of the central tasks described below, which are prioritised according to local strategies:

  • Ensure high levels of competitiveness and a strong market position
    Communication must contribute to attracting external funding and promoting national and international positions of strengths in regard to education and research.

  • Establish and develop constructive external partnerships
    Communication must represent the university as an attractive potential partner for private and public stakeholders.

  • Attract and retain talented students and employees from Denmark and abroad
    Communication must contribute to promoting the university’s reputation as an inspiring institution of education and research as well as its efforts to cultivate talented researchers and students.

  • Work for favorable political framework conditions
    Communication must contribute to putting the interests of the university on the agendas of ministries, special interest organisations, think tanks and other political agents with regard to framework conditions and important political agendas.

  • Disseminate knowledge to citizens and society
    Communication must disseminate knowledge to society as a whole, contribute actively to public debate on important social issues and ensure that the latest knowledge is made accessible to society.

Recommendations on the practice of external communication

The university-wide recommendations for communication in practice are as follows:

  • The concrete communication initiatives must be grounded in the goals for the academic units’ core activities.
  • Starting at an early stage and continuing throughout, communication expertise must be integrated into the projects, initiatives and events which the university wishes to deploy proactively in relation to its external relations.
  • When prioritising communication initiatives, emphasis should be placed on stakeholders with the greatest academic, financial and political importance to the university.
  • Communication must encourage dialogue and collaboration with the university’s external stakeholders.
  • In content, form and choice of platform(s), communication must be planned and executed appropriately in relation to the goals and intended audiences of individual projects.
  • Evaluation and impact assessment must be an integrated aspect of all communication initiatives.

Internal communication practice

 Internal communication is an integrated aspect of day-to-day operations for both managers and employees at all levels of the organisation. The university’s many employees have a variety of tasks and responsibilities within and across their respective units, which means that they have diverse needs in relation to communication. To meet these needs, various forms of internal communication are required, as shown in the following matrix:






Internal corporate communication

The organisation      

Primarily two-way

Board, senior management team


Primarily one-way

Senior management team, central administration

University policy, organisational and administrative information

Vertical communication

The chain of command


Rector, dean, head of department/school, centre director, head of secretariat, head of section and employee

Rector, university director, deputy director/administrative centre manager, unit manager and employee

The roles and tasks of employees, feedback, frameworks, initiatives, information from management etc.

Communication within units

Departments/Schools, sections, research groups, administrative centres, teams


Unit management and employees

Professional knowledge and discussion, strategy, administrative and social information

Communication withing working groups and bodies

Work groups, councils, boards, and committees

Two-way, ofent across units

Participantsm representatives

Strategy, issues in terms of reference

The internal communication practice at Aarhus University is a common framework for initiatives and measures in all four dimensions with a particular focus on the manager’s responsibility to facilitate knowledge sharing in the organisation as well as good conditions for dialogue on the development of the university’s activities.

The target audience for internal communication is all employees at Aarhus University. With regard to questions related to studies administration and university policy, students are included in the target audience for internal communication.

Goals of internal communication

Managers, employees, and students share a responsibility to contribute actively and constructively to internal communication, the overall goals of which are to:

  1. Promote commitment, motivation and well-being at the university as a place of work and study
  2. Bring transparency to the organisation’s decision-making processes and provide opportunities for influence
  3. Strengthen the legitimacy of and trust in the organisation’s decision-making processes
  4. Strengthen the cohesion of the organisation, so that the development of the university becomes a common project

Central tasks of internal communication

The goals of internal communication are to be reached through the following central tasks, which are to be prioritised in relation to local needs.

  • Encourage open, credible managerial communication
    Communication about the management’s strategic work gives employees insight into the organisation’s goals and priorities. Communication initiatives at the different levels of management must contribute to creating a constructive debate culture.

  • Strengthen genuine and relevant staff and student involvement
    Communication must increase employees’ and students’ insight into and involvement in important decisions. This takes place in the organisation’s councils, boards and committees, through consultation and through day-to-day dialogue between employees and their immediate supervisors.

  • Promote clear, dialogue-based vertical communication
    Communication in the chain of command must set the framework and direction of the university’s day-to-day operations in addition to anchoring measures and decisions at the local level in close collaboration with employees.

  • Optimise cross-organisational knowledge sharing
    Communication must contribute to the sharing of relevant knowledge across the organisation.

  • Ensure targeted, easy access to information
    Communication must help ensure that employees and students receive and kan find the information which is a prerequisite for them to perform their tasks.

Recommendations on the practice of internal communication

The goals and central tasks of internal communication form the basis of a number of recommendations regarding day-to-day internal communication for both management and employees.

  • The communication method, process and channel selected must provide employees and students with easy access to relevant, timely information, as a necessary foundation for a good work and study environment.
  • At an early stage and throughout, communication must be integrated into projects and processes aimed at communicating to and involving employees and students.
  • Communication in relation to decision-making processes must take place in a timely manner and throughout, with an emphasis on a nuanced presentation of arguments in the different phases of these processes.
  • Communication must take place in the closest possible proximity to those involved. As a general rule, locally before centrally, internally before externally.