The Dean’s Christmas Letter

Read Dean Mette Thunø’s Christmas Greetings to staff and students at Arts.

[Translate to English:] Foto: AU Kommunikation, Lars Kruse

Dear members of academic and administrative/technical staff and students

Christmas is again upon us, and I hope that you took the opportunity, at the annual Christmas lunches and parties, to celebrate with old and new colleagues and students that the year draws to a close and a new one soon begins. Perhaps you used this occasion to look back at the many changes that we have been through in 2012, and hopefully mid winter was duly celebrated with plenty of food and drinks.

The changes at Aarhus University and Arts have been comprehensive, and I feel that you have all made a fantastic effort. Therefore, we can now look back on a year where the academic organisation of Arts was finalised. I am constantly pleased to be collaborating with well-functioning councils and committees at faculty, department and centre level.  New collaborations and working procedures are also being established throughout the organisation for the benefit of us all.

At this time last year, I hoped that 2012 would be a year of happiness in both financial and academic terms because, according to the Chinese horoscope, 2012 is the year of the dragon. This hope has been fulfilled. Although, at the start of the year, we foresaw a deficit of DKK 24 million, we now seem to have established sustainable finances. We have also managed to attract more external research funding, and the number of students reached a record-breaking high this year.

An increasing number of postdoctoral fellowships funded by the Research Council for Culture and Communication and the Carlsberg Foundation is good news - not only to fellowship recipients but also to our new research programmes. In addition, we look forward to the launch of many new research activities in the wake of the new interdisciplinary centres with Arts researchers: The Interacting Minds Project, Participatory Information Technology Centre, Arctic Research Centre, four new AU IDEAS pilot centres: Centre for Fictionality Studies, Centre for Cultural Epidemics (EPICENTER), Research on Schools for Health and Sustainability and the Democratic Public Sphere - and a fine representation from Arts in the Centre for Research into Well-Being among Children and Young People funded by a grant from the TrygFonden foundation of DKK 60 million.

Arts has also made a particularly distinguished contribution to knowledge exchange. A collaboration agreement has just been concluded between Aarhus University and the foundation behind Aarhus as European Capital of Culture 2017. Researchers from Arts will thus play a role in developing and evaluating a range of activities during the Capital of Culture year. The Festival og Theology in collaboration with, among others, Aarhus Cathedral was such a success that we will repeat this form of research communication. In addition, researchers at Arts have played a key role in major international studies on the reading proficiency and mathematics skills of school children.

2012 also saw the opening of the Digital Humanities Lab and thus the creation of a new main research area: the development of new digital tools for processing data in research and teaching.  The new digital methods can be used by all disciplines and will help us to ask new research questions. A first workshop on digital research methods will be held on 23 January. All are welcome!

Studies-related developments have also accellerated during 2012. With a constant focus on campus development and student counselling, several campus projects were completed, and Study Centre Arts was established at both the Aarhus and Emdrup Campuses. But we are far from finished and continue to improve both campus facilities and student counselling in the new year. In 2012 the Aarhus University Prize of Honour for Pedagogics was awarded to Lone Koefoed at Arts, which is a clear proof that Arts have special qualifications as regards teaching development. Engaging, stimulating and motivating pedagogy will also be required in 2013, with the key focus being increased study activity. Beyond this we are also in the process of developing new, preferably, international programmes with a clear focus on the skills needed in the labour market. We are on track with the accreditation in 2012 of the Master’s degree programmes in Educational Anthropology and Educational Science.

I am aware of the difficult task faced by our degree programme directors. Degree programme management is a very important field - and is no less important in 2013. Therefore, the Senior Management Team has initiated a process that will relieve degree programme directors of administrative tasks and equip everybody for their job.  There are still challenges, but I am pleased that we are now well under way.

In my speech at this year’s summer celebration, I mentioned the importance of internationalisation for the faculty’s development.  During the year, the Dean's Office has established and strengthened strategic partnerships with Peking University, Fudan University, University of Gothenburg, Universität Hamburg, Christian Albrecht University of Kiel and the University of York.  It is our intention to intensify collaboration in relation to joint/double degrees with foreign universities, several Erasmus Mundus programmes and generally more international programmes.  There are already a wealth of good, international research collaborations at Arts and a potential for developing more.  Visitors have reinforced the impression that we have potentials for developing research collaborations and new programmes together with international partners and made it clear to us how far some universities have come to establish joint degrees across borders.

In 2013 the faculty’s strategy until 2020 will be fully formulated.  During the autumn, many of you have heard mentioning of the three ‘I’s: internationalisation, interdisciplinarity and interaction (with society).  We will jointly discuss the issue of how to implement these guiding principles of strategy in connection with the preparation of action plans for the first part of the strategy period 2013-15.

In the beginning of 2013, we leave the year of the dragon and move into the year of the snake. In China the snake is related to wisdom and beauty, so it is hard to imagine that 2013 will not be a year of good performance. The Chinese also say that the snake is soft on the outside but strong on the inside. These are exeactly the characteristics I associate with the staff and students at Arts!

Season’s Greetings and Happy New Year!

Yours sincerely

Mette Thunø