Happy holidays from the dean

Dean Johnny Laursen sends a christmas greeting to all staff and students.

Dear staff,
Dear students,

In previous newsletters I have described some of the present uncertainties owing to the government’s proposal to relocate a number of degree programmes and reduce student admissions in Denmark’s major cities. The senior management team has now drafted a plan showing how Aarhus University can cope with this challenge. On Friday we received comments supplied by the faculties, academic councils and liaison committees. And on Monday the board had an initial discussion of the proposals and comments that had been received. The senior management team will now discuss all this material once again before submitting Aarhus University’s final plan to the Ministry of Higher Education and Science on 12 January 2022. As you already know, the input received from the universities will be used in a national plan for the entire sector, which the political parties who have agreed on this initiative are expected to approve in April 2022.

Our contribution to Aarhus University’s draft plan will be a major reduction of the number of student places, the closure of cognitive semiotics and diaconia, and the relocation of the experience economy programme. The Faculty of Arts will carry a large share of the reductions in the number of student places because the level of unemployment among our graduates has been relatively high for some time. Other faculties have chosen to relocate a large number of degree programmes, instead. I know that AU’s plans have given rise to a great deal of speculation and a good deal of concern regarding the way in which we at the faculty have prioritised the degree programmes in question. So I’d like to repeat what I have already said at meetings with the Academic Council, various liaison committees and staff meetings: apart from the three degree programmes which will be affected directly, all programmes will one way or the other contribute to the reduction of student places to ensure the future sustainability of the faculty.

In October, and in accordance with tradition, I informed the Academic Council and liaison committees about our financial expectations regarding the upcoming four-year budget. I recommend that you all read the minutes of the meeting on 26 October (there’s a link attached at the end of this newsletter in Danish). As I explained at the meeting, a large proportion of the loss in income caused by the government’s initiative will not be felt until the period 2025-2030. We don’t know what the final national sector plan will be, so we have not yet drawn up a final prognosis for the financial consequences. We will know more in April 2022. We will then make the necessary decisions before the summer break in 2022, enabling the faculty to adjust to the new situation. We have a big joint effort ahead of us.

Many of us are keeping a close eye on the spread of Covid-19. At the moment I can’t predict what kind of temporary measures may be needed over the Christmas period. We will continue to observe the national guidelines, as well as maintaining our normal careful practice and normal everyday work as much as possible. Any changes in the teaching caused by local Covid-19 incidents can be arranged at departmental level. I encourage everyone to take all the usual precautions, and we look forward to the day when the sun begins to shine on us once more so we can all start to relax again.

A number of people are wondering how we can learn from the Covid-19 pandemic. For instance, should we switch to digital teaching on a more general level? The faculty management team has discussed this issue; and we agree that although we’re happy to continue the development of digitally supported teaching, it’s still too early to make any general decisions about this. We need to consider a range of didactic and social issues first, and at the moment we’ve simply got enough on our plate! So we have decided to postpone this discussion, which will naturally involve the boards of studies and students as well.

Just before I let you go, I’d like once again to thank you all for your dedication and excellent teamwork. It’s been a difficult semester, full of new concerns and disappointments caused by the renewed spread of Covid-19. But we’ve also managed to enjoy a decent glimpse of normal everyday life for both staff and students alike. We look forward to returning to this life in full. But for now, we will just have to be guided by the light of the Christmas star.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all,

Johnny Laursen

Link to minutes of joint meeting on 26 October 2021 between the Academic Council and the liaison committees at the Faculty of Arts.