Christmas greetings from the university director A farewell to 2020, the year of Covid-19

Let me begin with the most important thing: I’d like to wish all employees in the administration a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year. At this time last year, on the threshold to 2020, none of us could have guessed what kind of year awaited us. Hopefully, we can all look forward to a return to more normal conditions in the course of 2021.

2020.12.17 | Arnold Boon

2020 has been an extraordinary year - beyond comparison. And the same goes for the efforts you have all put in over the past many months. You have all put an enormous amount of work into making sure the university has been able to keep on functioning under conditions that have been unreasonable at times, as fluctuating infection rates have forced us to invent new solutions in record time.

Aarhus University has made it through 2020 in good shape. Not least thanks to you. You have contributed to keeping our research activities alive, to making sure that classes, orientation week and exams were carried out in the best possible way – and to keeping at least some of our collaboration and development activities going.

When we had to adapt the university to our new reality in the spring, you did so with impressive efficiency and professionalism - and that goes for both administrative and academic staff. And now that we’re in the middle of yet another shutdown, you are still demonstrating your flexibility and resilience in working together to find a path forward.

But that doesn’t alter the fact that the pandemic is putting a degree of pressure on us that very few people can withstand in the long term. I think most of you will agree that the adrenaline of the spring has dried up, and that we’re all pretty tired of Covid-19 by now. But as Søren Brostrøm said at the press conference on 7 December, unfortunately, Covid-19 isn’t tired of us.

This means that we are wrapping up 2020 without being able to get together and wish each other a merry Christmas. And it means that we’re entering 2021 with a considerable degree uncertainty about where infection rates are heading, which makes it impossible to know what we can expect in relation to a reopening in January.

Naturally, I had hoped that we would be able to end the year with a more stable situation in relation to the pandemic. Because even though this situation has shown us that we can work efficiently from home, AU is and will remain a campus university: both administrative and academic activities are centred around our physical locations.

Once again, I would like to thank all of your for doing such a fantastic job of dealing with the Covid-19 situation.

Clear financial skies in 2021, but with challenges on the horizon

We have budgeted with a budget deficit of DKK 48 million in 2021, which we will draw on our reserves to make up. But as the senior management team announced recently, we must begin preparing ourselves to deal with the structural challenge the university will face from 2022 onwards.

2020 wasn’t only about Covid-19

It’s important to stress that 2020 was about a lot of other things than Covid-19 – fortunately!

I’d also like to highlight three aspects of the work we’ve accomplished in 2020 – and which the entire administration will continue to contribute to in coming years.

Early this year, AU adopted a new strategy which will remain in force through 2025. The administration will play a central role in the implementation of the strategy, by providing support for initiatives in the areas of internationalisation, career development and recruitment of talented new employees and students.

At the same time, we are working on the large, resource-intensive task of transforming AU’s digital solutions into up-to-date, effective and IT-security compliant solutions. This has been high on the agenda in 2020, and will continue to be so. I’m aware that switching IT systems can feel like an extra task for the individual employee. But this digital modernisation is simply necessary.

Finally, the climate and sustainability have also been important issues internally at AU in 2020: we have adopted a climate strategy and launched a variety of initiatives in the new climate action plan. Our focus on sustainability and the climate with require thought and action – now and in future. And we will be putting a lot of energy into reaching our ambitious goal of a 35 per cent CO2 reduction by 2025.

Our most recent greenhouse gas emissions report shows that we’re well on our way, and we anticipate that the Covid-19 shutdown will push developments yet another step in the right direction. Less air travel and fewer car trips will have a great impact on AU’s total CO2 emissions. Our next task will be to explore how we can continue to practice some of these good green habits in the post-Covid-19 world.

And finally, I’d like to encourage all of you to take things easy during the Christmas holiday. It’s been a demanding year in a lot of ways, and I think we all need the Christmas holiday more than ever.

So once again: Many thanks for all your hard work in 2020.

I wish you a merry Christmas and a happy New Year.

Arnold Boon

Fællesadministration

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