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Thank you for your questions - here are my answers

At the end of January, I encouraged you to send me any questions you would like me to respond to. I have received a lot of questions from you. Thank you very much! Here are my answers.

2016.02.26 | Arnold Boon

Your interest indicates that we have a good basis for continued dialogue about the university’s challenges and opportunities. I have answered some of your questions in this video, and the rest in writing below.

(If English subtitles are not shown automatically, you can select them manually in the media player)  

You can also hop directly to the videos where I answer questions about


Question:

Lab safety is one of the main concerns in every University. I don't know about other departments, but at Foulum, we have a very large community of international academic staffs and PhDs. However, most of the lab signs and descriptions are in Danish. This can potentially pose a risk to internationals, at least until they learn some Danish. I strongly believe that there should be English versions of every safety measures in the university, especially in the labs. I hope that the director helps to provide a safer research and working environment for everyone. (PhD student from Foulum)

Answer:

Going to work should be safe as a matter of course, whether or not you speak Danish. So shortly after I received your question, I made sure that the departments in question were instructed to make sure that English versions of signs and safety instructions in the laboratories are available, if the laboratories are used by non-Danish-speaking students or employees.

On a more general level, I strongly encourage everyone to contact their local occupational health and safety committee if you experience problems with your work environment.

Your question is an example of the fact that there is room for improvement in our service to international employees when it comes to communication. This is a challenge we will be working with intensively in the coming period.    


Question:

In 2015, a collective agreement was concluded for employees of the Danish state (the CFU settlement). The parties agreed on a three-year collective agreement with a responsible financial framework of 6.60 per cent. The general pay increases were set at 0.50 per cent in 2015, 0.80 per cent in 2016 and 3.20 per cent in 2017, including estimates for the pay adjustment scheme. 2.10 per cent of the total pay development in the period has been allocated to local pay negotiations, corresponding to 0.70 per cent annually. At Aarhus University, the amount allocated to local pay development for 2015 and 2015 is significantly less than 0.70 per cent per annum (0.30 per cent in 2015 and 0.40 per cent in 2016 + 0.20 per cent for one-time bonuses). How does AU intend to ensure that the university lives up to the financial framework agreed in the collective agreement? (Joint union representative for AC TAP Anders Moestrup)

Answer:

This is a technical question, so my answer will also be rather technical. Pay development expresses the centralised adjustment of pay plus seniority-based pay increases in addition to locally negotiated pay increases.

Each year prior to the pay negotiations, the senior management team considers the pay negotiation budget very carefully in the light of AU’s financial situation. In the process, the senior management team also considers the collective agreement’s estimates regarding average local pay development in the state sector – the 0.70 per cent referred to in the question. This is precisely an estimate of the pay development in the entire state sector, and som institutions will lie above, others under, because the amount of funds for local negotiations is decided by the individual institutions. The estimated local pay development in the state sector also includes the pay increases negotiated locally during the course of the year in addition to the pay increases agreed in the annual negotiations. These may be supplements for responsibilities, one-time bonuses and supplements in connection with change of job category and recruitment. 

When determining the pay negotiation budget, the senior management team also considers the pay development that has taken place at AU in the preceding years. If we consider the development in the individual employee’s pay from one period to the next – including central pay adjustments, seniority-based pay increases and locally negotiated pay increases – we see that generally speaking, pay development at Aarhus University was above average for the state sector as a whole in the period 2012-15.

Pay development in per cent
(as of Q3)

2012-2013

2013-2014

2014-2015

The state sector

1,5

1,4

1,8

Aarhus University

2,6

1,6

2,1

One-time bonuses are not included in these figures and are thus in addition.


Question:

Our question to you is whether you will proactively contribute to ensuring that AU can (once again) can present itself as a professional, consistent organisation with clear guidelines on design and visual identity? (Employees from AU Research Support and External Relations)

Answer:

I understand that the design programme has been under a lot of discussion in recent years, in connection with the problem analysis as well.

In April 2015, the senior management team appointed a diverse working group with VIP and TAP representatives from the faculties. One of the working group’s tasks is to make recommendations regarding the design programme, and the group is currently completing its work. The senior management team expects to consider the working group’s proposal in late March or early April. After this, we will hopefully have more clarity about what the design programme will look like in future.


Question:

How do you see HR, including HR’s role of supporting management? (Employee from HE HR)

Answer:

First and foremost, we have to have a good HR administration and payroll administration. In other words, that hiring take place professionally and efficiently, that new employees get their contracts on time and receive the right salary.

We need to agree on what HR development tasks make most sense and create most value at Aarhus University in addition to this. As I see things, one of HR’s most important tasks with regard to supporting the management is to contribute to the development of managerial competences in the organisation. Managerial development is an issue we are currently discussing in the senior management team, and which we are looking forward to improving in collaboration with HR. 

But as your question also indicates, HR is not just about supporting the management. After all, HR ranges from payroll and employment law to organisational and competency development and work environment. Supporting employees’ competency development and contributing to creating well-being in the workplace at a local level are important tasks for HR. Here I am also referring to the role of HR staff in supporting the WPA process, and not least the local follow-up on the WPA t


Question:

What special challenges do you think that HR may face, both now and in the future? (Employee from HE HR)

Answer:

The world around is in constant movement, and the university has to be able to keep up. For this reason, I think that a major task is to ensure that the employees’ competencies are developed to keep pace with the changing demands the university must live up to. In this way, we can make sure that we always have the best match between competencies and tasks. So the HR units at all levels must contribute to sharpening the management’s focus on competency development of the employees in the administration and at the faculties.

But I am sure that those of you who work with HR on a daily basis also have a lot of input regarding the challenges facing HR both now and in future. I am looking forward to talking to you about this when I visit the different HR units, so that we can set a common course for the development of the HR area.


Question:

What do you think about the way HR is organised – relocated from an administrative division to the administrative centres at the faculties? (Medarbejder fra HE HR)

Answer:

The reporting relationship of the HR partner units was changed to the administrative centre managers of the faculties to ensure that the solutions HR provides are based on the local needs of the academic organisation. But the HR units at the faculties and HR in the central administration taken together still constitute AU’s HR function as whole, which provides services both locally and to the entire university. And I think it is important that we continue to insist that HR – along with the other administrative areas for that matter – provide a cohesive service across the boundaries of the administrative centres and administrative divisions. In general, I consider the double reporting relationship at the administrative centres to be a good way to ensure that administrative support is anchored in the local needs at the faculties.  


Question:

I would like to know what you think about parking for students. Should it be possible for students to drive to classes in their own cars, or do we have to all use bikes or public transportation? (Engineering student)

Answer:

With over 40,000 students at the university, it is not possible for us to make free parking available to all of our students. Engineering students can use the city centre’s free parking spaces on equal footing with all other university students. The location of large parts of the engineering programme close to the city centre also provides good opportunities for using collective transportation.


Question:

I would like to ask if you will demand that the departments and schools actively seek to collaborate with local student clubs and associations. I’m thinking of degree programme councils in particular. One possible example of this could be improving conditions for students at a local level and applying for/using funding. (Engineering student)

Answer:

I have the impression that the departments and schools already have a close dialogue with the students through the established bodies, such as degree programme councils and boards of studies. If students are interested in more involvement, I encourage you to contact your local department or school to discuss how this can be arranged.


Question:

At the engineering programme, we are experiencing communication problems between the management and the students. We don’t feel that AU has an functional way to communicate, because you’re not allowed to send messages on Blackboard. Will you do anything to solve this communication problem? (Engineering student)

Answer:

At AU, we have decided that Blackboard may only be used for teaching-related communication. But as a university, of course, we have an obligation to make good information resources available, so that you are well-informed about topics that are important in relation to your education in general. We have the study portals for this purpose, and it is your responsibility as students to stay up-to-date.

If you find that the information available on your study portal is inadequate, I encourage you to contact your local studies administration unit.


Question: 

In connection with the strategic focus on engineering, the engineering programme will grow considerably, and this will require more facilities for teaching and students to maintain the quality of the teaching offered. Engineers have a tradition for interdisciplinary projects that improve the academic level of the various engineering degree programmes. What are your thoughts in connection with this growth. (Engineering student)

Answer:

At any given time, making sure that there is a good study environment with good conditions for education is an important administrative task. The facilities must be appropriate to the needs of the degree programmes within the given resource framework. For this reason, we have to continually assess whether our facilities provide appropriate support for our academic activities – including in the area of engineering.


Question:

Do you think that engineering should remain part of ST, or should ST be divided into two faculties? (Engineering student)

Answer:

That is a very difficult question, and it is not mine to answer. Ultimately, decisions about the organisation of the faculties are up to the board based on the recommendations of the faculty management teams and the rector.


I hope that all of you have gotten the answers you need – if not, you are welcome to write to me at director@au.dk. I look forward to continuing this dialogue with you.

Yours sincerely

Arnold Boon.

Fællesadministration
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