News from the senior management team no. 12/2020

Latest corona updates

A gradual resumption of lab research – possibly as early as next week

Following the Prime Minister's announcement, a partial reopening of research laboratories for researchers and students is now possible. The statement from the Prime Minister’s Office stresses very clearly that the reopening must take place in a responsible manner, and that guidelines applicable to all Danish universities must be agreed on. In Aarhus University’s capacity as chair of Universities Denmark, we will begin discussing these common guidelines with the Ministry of Higher Education and Science today. As soon as the common guidelines are in place, the heads of department/heads of school will provide information on how the re-opening is to be approached at local level – hopefully in the middle of next week. Until then, everyone should continue working from home. A briefing was issued earlier today via the departments and schools.

The university is reopening for certain students

Students on three health science degree programmes at Aarhus University will be permitted to physically enter the university again for their final exams. The students in question are those taking the final part of the degree programmes in medicine, odontology and clinical dental technician. These students have been given special permission to enter the university as they have to treat patients or demonstrate their clinical skills in some other way.  

Entrance examinations for quota 2 cancelled

As a result of the corona situation, Aarhus University will unfortunately not be able to carry out the planned entrance exams for applicants in quota 2 for the university's technical and natural sciences programmes as well as Medicine. For this reason, this year Aarhus University is introducing open admissions for the vast majority of technical and natural sciences programmes. However, there is only a limited number of places on some degree programmes, including Medicine, because they have been resized or have limited capacity. This year, applications will be assessed on the basis of the same quota 2 criteria as were applied for the majority of the university's other degree programmes – an overall assessment based on specific qualifications and grades in relevant subjects (average mark). Information was sent out to all the applicants involved this week.

AU uses Zoom for teaching and exams 

Following the Prime Minister's announcement at Easter, Aarhus University has decided to reorganise all exams in the current semester for online solutions. At the moment, teaching staff, boards of studies and the administration are working hard to find the best solutions, and they expect to be ready with a plan for the various exams by no later than 1 May.

In this regard, note that AU has decided to use Zoom as the primary platform for virtual teaching and oral exams.

The coronavirus crisis has led to a significant increase in the use of Zoom worldwide, and there have been a number of critical stories in the media about security problems with the solution.

AU has performed a risk assessment, and the main message to all teaching staff and students is that Zoom may be used for teaching and exams as long as you don’t use the solution for anything involving sensitive personal data or confidential data. In order to achieve the best IT security, you should always use the official AU Zoom and make sure that you update the Zoom client. 

Aarhus University to have a single shared teaching development centre

The university’s four teaching development centres and the EDU IT unit are to be merged. As of 1 October, there will be a single teaching development centre under the Rector’s Office. Behind the merger is the senior management team’s desire to strengthen teaching development and give it a higher priority at Aarhus University.

Pro-rector Berit Eika is heading the merger, and she stresses that, among other things, the new joint centre will enable AU to build up stronger expertise, ensure the latest knowledge across the organisation, and reinforce collaboration on the university's teaching development activities.

The majority of staff will move into the new centre, where close contact with academic environments and targeted support for teaching staff will continue to be a high priority.

An advert for the position of centre director will be issued shortly, and in the near future, staff will be involved in discussions about the internal organisation of the new centre.

The merger was approved by the senior management team this week following a recommendation from the Education Committee. This was the culmination of a process involving all of the relevant liaison committees, and the staff affected have been able to submit their input. 

DKK 33 million to construct an artificial brain

Researchers from the Department of Engineering at Aarhus University have just received a total of DKK 33 million (EUR 4.4 million) from the prestigious EU framework programme Future and Emerging Technologies (FET) for a project that may have far-reaching consequences for the computer technology of the future. The new research project is to develop AI hardware. This is a completely new kind of computer system that mimics how the human brain is built up. The project is called SpinAge, and it is being carried out in collaboration with an international team of researchers from a number of European institutions. It is being coordinated by Associate Professor Farshad Moradi from the Department of Engineering.

The government has set up a group of experts to review the grading scale

According to an analysis by the Danish Evaluation Institute, there are several problems with the 12-point grading scale and the way in which it is used. For this reason, the government has set up a group of experts to propose possible solutions. Among other things, it is clearly important that a future grading scale can be used in the same way throughout the entire educational system, it must be possible to calculate an average grade, and the scale must not include minus grades.

The former rector of Copenhagen Business School (CBS), Per Holten Andersen, will chair the group, which will issue its report at the end of September. A political initiative is expected later in the autumn.