The Dean's Christmas Letter

Dear members of academic and administrative/technical staff and students

In this age of globalisation, we might permit ourselves to consult Chinese astrology in order to gain some inkling of what our immediate future holds. And fortunately, the Chinese are optimistic about 2012, the Year of the Dragon. To the Chinese, the dragon is not just an occult, mythical creature; it symbolises the very power of heaven, and is thus the most potent and auspicious of the twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac.

We should allow ourselves to find reassurance in this optimistic Chinese forecast in our corner of the world, where we have just been through a difficult year of change and reorganisation. Now, we can begin looking forward to harvesting the fruits of all of our labours - not least among them the establishment of our new large departments. In 2011, we succeeded in establishing many of the bearing structures of the new Arts, and this spring the new academic councils will be established, along with the new boards of studies, and the new PhD programmes will get down to business. The degree programme committees and the degree programme  directors will begin their work, and the research programmes will begin to take form. At the same time, we will the last of the draining physical relocations over with in the course of the first six months of the year, and the Administration Centre at Arts will be much more firmly established.

I know that it has been difficult for all of you, with so many fundamental changes at once. I would like to thank everyone for working so hard to keep everything on an even keel in the middle of so much turbulence.

Now that the structural phase of the academic development process is nearing its conclusion, we can finally begin to focus on the truly academic dimensions of the process. The new organisation constitutes a firm foundation on which to develop the many new academic initiatives to be launched in 2012. Arts has received DKK 23 million from the AU Ideas fund to establish  four pilot centres and eight development projects, and the Ministry of Science, Innovation and Higher Education has just granted Arts DKK 30 million to spearhead a national Digital Humanities Laboratory project. At the same time, we will appoint four new professors with special responsibilities (MSO professors (links to Danish site)) to head new research projects in the fields of early childhood education, user-driven innovation, organisational development and human security. At the moment we are also receiving good news from the Carlsberg Foundation about postdoc stipends and other grants.  And we have succeeded in maintaining 2011 levels of admissions to our PhD programmes for 2012, despite a reduction in basic research funding - another piece of good news. 

In addition to these most recent external grants, we have received a number of other external grants over the course of the year, and taken in combination with the organisation of the new research programmes, I anticipate that we will be able to increase our research activity in 2012 and begin exploring the local and global challenges Denmark and the rest of the world face - and contribute to solutions. In order to help make our research more accessible to our society and strengthen our ties with knowledge producers from outside the university, the Danish Centre for Culture and Learning will also be established early next year.

2012 promises to be a productive year for our educational activities as well. Next year, we will begin harvesting the fruits of the approximately forty study environment projects we launched in the autumn semester.  The projects have generated a lot of new insights which we will be able to apply and develop further in our efforts to strengthen the development of our degree programmes and study-related activities. At the same time, libraries, study environments and study centres will be reestablished and developed in collaboration with our students.

The AU Board has just approved the 2012 budget, which includes a deficit of DKK 24 million at Arts. This will enable us to consolidate the structural changes we have introduced while maintaining our high standard of excellence in academics. However, it is of course important that we achieve a more balanced budget in future - and I am absolutely certain that we will succeed in doing so if we work together.

I think that we have a lot to be optimistic about, here on the threshold of the Year of the Dragon, both academically and financially. And I feel certain that 2012 will be a year of exploring the opportunities and possibilities opened up by the new faculty, the new departments and the new structure.  You are the best judges of how to develop these opportunities. At the faculty level, we will strive to make our organisation as flexible, coherent and transparent as possible, while we work to formulate a shared vision and strategy for our new faculty in collaboration with the new advisory board, the academic councils, the departmental forums and the liaison committees. A shared vision and strategy are necessary if we are to prioritise and develop our core activities. I am very much looking forward to working together with you to develop them.

I wish all of you a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year!


Dean Mette Thunø