95 years is no age for a university

The reform of the Master's degree programmes and academic freedom were important themes when the rector and the chair of the board stepped onto the podium. Read extracts and watch videos of the speeches at the celebration of AU's 95th birthday.

"Thank you for joining this celebration of our still young university," said rector Brian Bech Nielsen, when Aarhus University celebrated its 95th birthday with employees and collaboration partners. Guests at the annual celebration included the Minister for Higher Education and Science, Christina Egelund (M). Photo: Søren Kjeldgaard

Chair of the board, Birgitte Nauntofte, gave her first opening speech at AU’s annual celebration. During her speech, she thanked employees and students for their work over the past academic year. She stressed that Aarhus University is still on course, despite the many squalls during the voyage: 

"The outside world must be able to depend on the university as a place of free thought and strong, impartial basic research; a place where thought-provoking and innovative hypotheses are explored and put to the test. And not least, a place where results are discussed and shared. The management team at Aarhus University is committed to freedom. Academic freedom, freedom of research and freedom of expression. As management, it is our job to ensure that these freedoms are observed at all times. Because we will not compromise our academic freedom – ever," she said.

Watch Birgitte Nauntofte's speech 

Brian Bech Nielsen: The Master's reform makes demands of us all
In his speech, Rector Brian Bech Nielsen touched on the controversial reform of Master's degree programmes; a reform that will place demands on the university and on the employers of university graduates:

"The Master's reform is by far the most radical educational reform imposed on universities since as far back as anyone in this room can remember. Implementation will be a Herculean task, but we accept the challenge and the responsibility it entails. Even if it hurts. We will engage constructively in the task ahead, and we will work with the rest of the education sector to find the best possible solutions within the framework we’ve been given. However, I hope that the Minister will take the lead in ensuring that future employers of the new graduates also commit to the changes. A number of employers have realised that Master's degree programmes for working professionals and programmes with a work placement will place additional demands on them, and meeting these demands certainly won’t be cost-free," said Brian Bech Nielsen to guests at the annual celebration in the Main Hall, which included Minister for Higher Education and Science Christina Egelund (Moderaterne).

Watch Rector Brian Bech Nielsen’s speech 

The 2023 student speaker, Rune Bak: From pupil to university student
Rune Bak, a Master's student in educational philosophy, told guests how his curiosity had helped him go beyond the curriculum and transition into life as a university student in his second semester. It was like being on a flying carpet.

"It's not easy if you don't have the time and peace to steer the flying carpet. You can influence how much flight training we get and how far we can fly," said Rune Bak, to prolonged applause from the guests in the Main Hall.

Watch the video of Rune Bak’s speech (in danish - the translation in on its way)

Distinguished alumna Lone Frank: Universities must be think tanks
The 2023 distinguished alumna is science journalist, author and PhD Lone Frank, who holds a Master of Science in biology from Aarhus University.  Brian Bech Nielsen has described Lone Frank assomeone who builds bridges between researchers and the public, between decision-makers and specialists, and between science and society. Lone Frank thanked everyone for the award and talked about her time at AU:

"My degree from Aarhus University laid the foundation for the rest of my life. The world really opened up for me here," she said, and also touched on the freedom that is so crucial for the university:

"Universities are not just knowledge factories, they must be think tanks where free thought can be expressed. You must insist on your freedoms, including your freedom to discuss anything you wish,” said Lone Frank.

Watch the video of Lone Frank's speech 

Read a portrait of Lone Frank

Watch a video about Lone Frank

Other honours and awards

Bobby Zachariae, professor of psychology, received the Rigmor and Carl Holst-Knudsen Award for Scientific Research

Steffen Petersen, professor of building science, received the Aarhus University Anniversary Foundation Teaching Prize 2023

Kim Daasbjerg, professor of chemistry, received the first Else Kai Sass award

Honorary doctorates were conferred on the following five researchers:

Professor Hartmut Rosa (Arts)
Professor Deborah Stone (Aarhus BSS)
Professor Timothy L. Lash (Health)
Professor Elena Conti (Nat)
Professor Kaushik Roy (Tech)

Read more about Aarhus University’s honorary doctorates

The following five students received Queen Margrethe II travel grants:

Frederik Søren Nielsen, Master’s degree student in archaeology, Arts
Tobias Rehoff Hyldahl, Master’s degree student in political science, Aarhus BSS
Mohsen Redda, Master’s degree student in medicine, Health
Signe Bjerg Kristensen, Master’s degree student in molecular medicine, NAT
Nikolaj Kühne Jakobsen, Bachelor’s degree student in computer technology, TECH

Read more about the travel grant recipients