We stand strong when we stand together

Franklin D. Roosevelt once said: A smooth sea never made a skillful sailor. Well, there certainly isn’t much smooth sailing in our sector. On the contrary: we must navigate rapid developments in policy, funding, technology and in relation to our role in society – and that sets new agendas for the tasks we need to perform in the administration. It’s both exciting and challenging – and it improves our ability to keep our university on a safe course through turbulent waters.

Photo: Lars Kruse

Even though I have only been university director for a few months, it’s very quickly become clear to me just how many balls we keep in the air, across the administration. We develop and adapt our services. We have an enormous commitment to ensuring high quality. We maintain an unswerving focus on reliable operations, no matter which way the winds of change might blow.

Development in research administration

For example, take research administration. The requirements for external research funding have continued to increased for a number of years, along with ever-rising expectations of the universities as partners for both the business community and the public sector, while the geopolitical situation means that we must safeguard sensitive data. Our researchers have successfully increased the amount of external funding they attract and participate in more and more projects with external partners. This is an extremely positive development. Nonetheless, it also places new demands on the administration: the need for support and guidance is changing, and researchers need different and more complex services from us. In this light, I’m particularly pleased that we are able to successfully meet these new demands and continue to provide coherent support to researchers, thanks to the steps we have take to develop AU Research and closer collaboration between AU Research and Enterprise and Innovation.

Challenges on every front

There are also developments in many other areas: This week, the government coalition and several other parties presented a political agreement on a reform of Master’s degree programmes (read the university’s statement on the reform here). This is an academic challenge, but supporting the reform processes at AU  will also be a major administrative task, particularly in studies administration. Developments within digitalisation continue to have an enormous influence on our IT systems, and ensuring that our technical solutions are functional for the university’s users requires unremitting focus.  For example, we are currently in the process of wrapping up the implementation of mitHR. The threat of cybercrime means all levels of the organisation are facing new demands with regard to information security, while our proactive approach to the climate agenda is constantly producing new focus areas, for example the upcoming new waste-sorting system. And in the meantime, we are still in the process of developing AU’s campuses and must also take into account the fact that the university’s financial situation means we have to prioritise more than we have been accustomed to.

In short, there are challenges on every front. But change has always been a constant, and we are in a strong position to handle the turbulence we’re facing now – as long as we continue to work together and help each other find solutions to the many complex issues we face.

Stronger link to the department and school secretariats

In this connection, I would like to express my gratitude to all of you for how you have welcomed me as university director. On every corridor and at every level, I have encountered commitment and a spirit of cooperation that makes our administration unique. And we must continue to cultivate this culture.

Because we stand strong when we stand together under the banner of a cohesive administration. Not just in the central administration and the administrative centres, but also in relation to the department and school secretariats, which are often a crucial link in the chain when it comes to implementing new decisions and initiatives at the level of our research and degree programmes. We must strengthen this link. In order to do so, we have decided to test the waters of a new collaboration between LEA (the administration’s management team) and TVÆRS, the department/school secretariat heads’ network through a new executive committee that will contribute to greater cohesion in the administration as a whole.

Although I’ve know Aarhus University for many years, taking on a new role always opens up new perspectives. I always learn something new when I talk to you, and I really value the honest input you give me. So keep it coming.

Soon I’ll be going offline, lacing up my hiking boots and travelling to Norway with my two daughters, who are 10 and 12 years old. But I’m looking forward to getting back to work again in August. And to all of you who will be keeping an eye on AU during the summer – thank you. It’s really appreciated.

I wish all of you a great summer!