Dean's Column

Mette Thunø comments on the the new study environment survey and on the interesting media debate on the status of the humanities at Danish universities.


Dear staff and students

The rector's summer speech is always a sign that the summer holiday is just around the corner. Nonetheless, exams, the academic development process and a variety of other activities are still continuing in high gear.

Naturally, I'm pleased that the 2011 study environment survey confirms that most students at Arts are flourishing. Significant improvements have been made on many fronts since the last survey in 2007, and this is something we should be proud of. However, the survey also reveals that we still face major challenges which we must begin dealing with immediately after the summer holiday.

First and foremost, it is alarming that Arts students hold the AU record for least amount of time per week spent on their studies. On average, our students spend just twenty-five hours a week on their studies. In light of the fact that Arts receives the lowest taximeter subsidy (study activity level-based grants from the central government), it is a challenge for Arts to motivate our students to spend more time on their studies. This is particularly important because our entire organisation is designed to support full-time study, and because the survey shows that students with a high level of study activity experience higher levels of satisfaction with their studies. For all these reasons, we must now begin to re-evaluate our teaching practices: our students must increase the amount of time and effort they put into their studies both before and after lectures.

I am also very aware that a relatively large proportion of our foreign students have expressed that they find it difficult to adapt to Danish university culture. We must do a better job of integrating international students - and of overcoming our traditional Danish reserve. If we want to become an international university, we have to make a serious effort to open our doors and make our international students feel at home here.

The study environment survey provides us with an invaluable tool for identifyingthe areas we need to focus on and improve. This is why we are planning to apply for a substantial grant from the university's management fund for the improvement of AU's study environment, and we expect to launch a number of initiatives in autumn 2011.

Over the last few weeks, we have also witnessed an interesting media debate on the status of the humanities at Danish universities. There has been talk of crises and scandals. I prefer to view the various contributions to this debate as different perspectives on what direction the humanities - and in a wider perspective, the sciences of culture - should take in the 21st century. It's an extremely relevant discussion which complements the strategy process we will begin working with this autumn. I'm glad that the discussion has already been  kicked off.

Once again, I would like to invite all staff and students to take part in next week's café meetings.  We will be holding open meetings in Aarhus and Emdrup respectively, at which four of the implementation working groups will present their reports. There will be plenty of opportunities for discussing their conclusions with representatives of the working groups and the faculty's senior management.  Click here for more details on the café meetings

Last but not least, the long-awaited Tomorrow's AU celebration is right around the corner -  not to mention the Arts pre-party on Friday afternoon. The tantalising theme of the (secret) programme for the event has been finalised: Alt godt fra Arts (literally, 'All the good stuff from Arts'). Guests will be led to one of three rooms on arrival, where they will be entertained with short, fascinating presentations - with titles designed to pique your curiosity. Read the list here (in Danish and English):

Three hundred and twenty staff members have signed up for the pre-party, so all the ingredients for a festive - and stimulating- afternoon are in place. It's not too late to join the fun. Please write an email to  to sign up.

I'm looking forward to this opportunity to talk to you all in an informal setting - and I wish you all a lovely evening!

Best regards

Dean Mette Thunø



Arts, Staff, Tomorrow's Aarhus University, Students