Management focuses on unresolved problems

We need to take a closer look at the academic development process: An internal analysis will uncover the problems related to administrative support and the academic organisation. At the same time, we need to bridge the gap between managers and employees and to further strengthen the area of education.

“We are starting to implement these initiatives now, because we believe that we are ready to take the next crucial step in the academic development process,” explains Brian Bech Nielsen in reference to the follow-up plans that the senior management team presented last week after earning the board’s approval.

First and foremost, the plans include an internal problem analysis, which is meant to help us identify where things are not yet in order:

“We quite simply need to follow up on what has taken place so far. In the senior management team we have carefully discussed our options, and we admit that, up until now, we haven’t been able to hit the mark on all aspects of the process. What we need to do now is to identify and map out exactly where the shoe pinches, so that we can take the right measures and deal with the problems the right way,” says the rector and points out the three central topics that will govern the analytical work.

  • The administrative support of the departments
  • The organisation of the academic environments on the main academic areas
  • The need for accessible and inclusive management

“The academic development process will not be rolled back - instead, it’s about adjusting and drawing the last lines. The results of the workplace assessment and not least my tour around all units at the university, which gave me the opportunity to meet a lot of dedicated employees – this has given me a sense of where the problem areas are, and we need to map them out and address them,” explains Brian Bech Nielsen and emphasises that these problem areas differ from one unit to the next.

The problem analysis will be carried out by an external group of experts, which is appointed by representatives of the academic councils, the Main Liaison Committee, the students and the administration. The group will submit a report in late March 2014, which will then be submitted for consultation. Finally, in June 2014, the board will be presented with a solution plan.

More time to manage the academic areas

The senior management team are, however, not willing to wait that long to start off the first initiatives.

“I have heard several people say that they believe the university is at risk of breaking in two; that the gap between the management and the employees is expanding. These statements are very worrying, and we need to do something about it. We therefore want part of the problem analysis to focus on mending this gap. But we can already see that by adjusting the organisation of the core activity committees, we can secure more time for the deans to work on managing the main academic areas instead,” says Brian Bech Nielsen.

Although, he emphasises that the core activity committees have played and will continue to play a significant role in the university’s organisational cohesion, and in the future, the deans will also be in charge of major strategic projects that span all the main academic areas:

“I believe that it is really important for the deans to keep one eye on their respective academic area and one eye on the overall welfare of the university. Establishing and managing the core activity committees has been a demanding task, and therefore the balance has tilted too far to one side. We now want to amend things and instead allow the deans to appoint other representatives of the main academic areas – such as vice-deans, heads of department or centre directors.”

Fewer committees and a new vice-dean profile

However, this is not the only change to the core activity committees that will take place. As of June 2014, the four committees will be reduced to two. It is not yet clear which committee will be in charge of which activities, but the board has emphasised that the committees should continue to support all four core activities: research, education, knowledge exchange and talent development. 

“The committees’ portfolio of activities is growing, and we have made the preliminary proposal to organise the activities under the headlines of Research and Education. There is increased focus on the area of education, both internally and externally, and this requires considerable managerial focus. We ensure this by reorganising the pro-rector profile from knowledge dissemination to education and by putting the future pro-rector in charge of the Education Committee,” says Brian Bech Nielsen. He finishes by voicing a request to all employees and students:

“I believe that with the university board’s approval of the follow-up plans we have gained the opportunity to implement focused and goal-oriented initiatives, which I hope you will all respond positively to. At the same time I hope that everyone will participate in the process and enter into dialogue with the group of experts in relation to the problem analysis. We need to shed light on the specific obstacles that we encounter on an everyday basis, and this will allow us to take the necessary steps in the right direction and move on.” 


The problem analysis, the analysis panel and the expert group

  • The mandate for the analysis is developed in collaboration between the senior management team and an analysis panel, the members of which are appointed by the academic councils, the Main Liaison Committee, the administration and the students. The chairman is elected among the members of academic staff on the panel. The mandate must be finished and the problem analysis must be initiated by the end of the year 2013.

  • The analysis is performed by an internal group of experts that have been appointed by the analysis panel and the university board. Members of the expert group must have insight into organisational development. The group consists of four members from the main academic areas, one member from the administration and one chairman, who must be a widely renowned researcher with comprehensive university experience. The purpose of the expert group is to ensure that relevant employees, students and managers of all departments and areas are included in the analysis. Moreover, the group will also incorporate into the analysis the relevant follow-up work related to the workplace assessment. The expert group will develop a report, which will be submitted to the panel, who in turn will submit the report along with their comments to the senior management team.

  • On the basis of the panel’s report, the senior management team will prepare the first draft of a plan for expected alterations and the implementation of these alterations. The senior management team will submit the plan for consultation with the relevant bodies, and in June 2014 the senior management team will draw up a proposal for the final plan.

The organisation of the core activity committees

  • As of June 2014, the four current committees will be merged into two committees under the headlines Research and Education. For each of the two committees, each main academic area will appoint two members of the local management. The current committees will be integrated and form two new committees. The division of responsibilities among the two new committees will be discussed with the members of the current committees and fora. The four fora will continue as they are (one for each core activity).

The Pro-Rector position

  • The current position as Pro-Rector for knowledge dissemination will be abolished by the end of May 2014, and a new position as Pro-Rector of education will be advertised, since the area of education requires considerable managerial focus, both internally and externally. The new pro-rector will be in charge of the new Education Committee, representing Aarhus University in the education debate both on a national and an international scale. The current pro-rector Søren E. Frandsen will transfer to a position as a special consultant focusing on the university’s initiatives vis-à-vis the EU.

Public sector consultancy

  • From June 2014, all activities related to public sector consultancy will be transferred to the relevant national centres under management of the dean in question, thereby securing the direct connection with the senior management team.