Summer greeting from the Dean

2021.06.25 | Johnny Laursen

Dear staff,
Dear students,

The summer holiday is approaching, and I’d just like to say a few words about what lies ahead.

Predictions are always difficult, of course. Especially predictions about the future. But we do know a few things about the decisions we make ourselves. In March the faculty management team started a discussion about the way our faculty is organised. Since then we have discussed proposals at a series of meetings with the Academic Council and the Faculty Health and Safety Committee/Faculty Liaison Committee. We have also received a good deal of written input. There have also been discussions at local level, and I’ve had the pleasure of visiting a number of departments for a chat about the issues at stake. I’d like to thank everyone for all the spoken and written input, which we have considered very carefully. And we look forward to studying some of the issues you have raised in even greater depth in the near future. As announced previously, on 24 June the faculty management team had a final discussion of the reactions that have been received, and we have now decided how to proceed.

As most of you are aware, we decided to mention the elephant in the room from the outset, asking people what they thought about the option of forming a fourth school. The responses that we have received do not provide any basis for proceeding with that particular option. As most of you probably know, I am one of the people who think that our schools are very large. I thought the same thing in 2014 as well, but our existing schools have done very well. I have been happy to work with this setup and I am happy to continue to do so. So the main thing now is to ensure that our current framework works as well as possible. The following decisions should be seen in this light. Even though we will not be pursuing the radical option of creating a fourth school, we still believe that there is a need to strengthen the current organisation. And in many ways this view is also reflected in the input that we have received.

For instance, we have noticed that a lot of your reactions relate to the way in which our degree programmes are organised on a local and a more general level. Naturally, the most important issue in this respect is the number of boards of studies at the School of Communication and Culture – an issue that has generated a number of different reactions. We will continue to explore this area of concern. It seems clear that our largest school, the School of Communication and Culture, might consider the option of strengthening its connection to local activities. However, a number of questions relating to the organisation of (and collaboration between) our degree programmes have led us to set up a broad-based working group to process all the many comments received in this connection. We will ask this working group and the School of Communication and Culture to provide us with their recommendations for decisions by the faculty management team. After all, the way our schools are organised does have an influence on the situation of the entire faculty.

Some of the comments relate to the way we plan and organise our courses and exams a topic which has been discussed by various bodies at the faculty for some time now. You probably know already that we have asked a firm of consultants to help us identify the best possible procedures in this area, which is very important for both teachers and students. So this issue is being dealt with separately. We will include the input relating to the planning of teaching in these discussions, where it will be very useful.

Let me now turn to our foreign language subjects. The faculty management team still believes that we should take steps to strengthen our internal collaboration in the field of foreign languages, whatever this concept is taken to mean. Therefore, we will continue to pursue an idea which was mentioned briefly in our original proposal: setting up a cross-disciplinary advisory body (we don’t have a good name for it yet) to ensure effective internal contact between the stakeholders in this area. I regard this as a relatively undramatic, pragmatic measure which will make up for the fact that our language competences are divided between so many different units.

Some of you may feel that the best way to describe all these discussions about our organisation is “much ado about nothing”. I don’t see it like that. We have managed to clear the air about an issue which has troubled a number of people for some time; and we now know a lot more about the way our staff and students view our organisation. The process gives us a good basis for an evolutionary development of our organisation and forms of collaboration, equipping us to meet the challenges awaiting us just around the corner.

One of these challenges after the summer holiday involves returning to the kind of life at our university that we were forced to abandon on 12 March 2020. We should be able to drop the face masks, hand disinfectant, cotton swabs and other restrictions. Most of us will embrace this newfound freedom with enthusiasm. Personally, I look forward to being able to visit our schools once again. But I know that you will also respect the wishes of anyone who wants to approach this new freedom with a certain degree of caution. Some of you have actually had this awful virus, or you may know family or friends who have had it. And we will of course respect this. There may of course be setbacks ahead, even though we now believe that the situation is returning to normal in our part of the world. But please be careful when you plan lengthy trips. And I don’t think it’s a good idea to hold all the events that have been postponed at the same time in the upcoming semester.

Nobody knows for sure what the new semester will bring in terms of political initiatives. As you know, a political agreement was reached this morning, 25 June, regarding the government’s new proposal “A step closer – More degree programmes and strong local communities”, which is going to make big demands on educational institutions. It’s difficult to predict what the consequences of this decision by a political majority will be. The ministry and the individual institutions will now start discussing a plan for the years until 2030, which is expected to be ready in April 2022. As a rule, there will be a requirement to reduce or relocate 5-10 per cent of the 2019 admissions in the major cities, but there are so many qualifications and topics to be discussed, so it’s difficult at this stage to predict the consequences for the individual institutions and faculties. It’s therefore too early to assess how this will affect Arts. Of course, we will continue to follow the negotiations closely, and we will keep you informed on a regular basis, for instance during my school visits in the autumn semester.

And just before you go, I’d like to thank you all for your dedication and teamwork since we entered a universe of restrictions and hand disinfectant on 12 March last year. The world ahead looks bright and promising once again, and I am sure that we will face it with the same sense of dedication and teamwork.

I hope you have a great summer holiday

Johnny Laursen

Arts