New year, new students, new minister
Happy 2023! A new year with hopes for more peaceful developments in the world around us as well as for continued success for our university.
Last Monday, I had the great honour of welcoming some one thousand new students to the university. They got to hear me stress how the Swedish system with access to free higher education is unique in an international context. I emphasised the importance of making the most of their studies.
This includes taking advantage of the help offered by teachers and study advisors to avoid cutting corners and the risk of cheating and plagiarism – even if life for a while happens to be a bit of a struggle. I also highlighted the value of getting involved with the student union and student associations. To make one’s time at university something to look back on, it should also be paved with parties, pleasures and new pals for life. Feedback from previous welcome speeches shows that at least some students more than anything remember the vice-chancellor encouraging them to “Party on and don’t cheat”. It is not clear, however, if “don’t cheat” was taken to refer to the partying.
Last Tuesday and Wednesday, it was time for vice-chancellors to “party” at the Swedish Higher Education Authority’s annual vice-chancellors’ conference at Steningevik. The most important item on the agenda was the opportunity for an in-depth dialogue with the political leaders and senior officials at the Ministry of Education. In my six years as vice-chancellor, the ministry has seen no less than four ministers and five state secretaries!
This time around, it was Minister for Education Mats Persson and State Secretary Maria Nilsson who in a pleasant setting got to meet with the vice-chancellors from Sweden’s higher education institutions – all of us curious, geared up for discussion and keen to ask questions. The latter included “the ever recurring questions”, such as eroded direct government funding for training, increased costs for facilities, and the need for increased government funding for research. However, matters such as university autonomy and academic freedom in troubled times were also brought up. Further, higher education institutions were encouraged to carry on with the development of profile areas, but the ministry was unable to provide a timeframe and deadline for the submission of possible applications.
The minister particularly stressed that the government now has three key words for higher education and research: excellence, internationalisation and innovation. We should carefully reflect on what this may mean for Örebro University.
In conclusion then, a good meeting with new political leadership for higher education and research who possess good knowledge and a considerable interest in our operations.
A working year yet to take form lies ahead. I look forward to a 2023 when our university furthers its contributions to the knowledge and competence development that Sweden and the world so desperately need. And for this, each and every one of our competent staff and students are needed.
Ps. In Ukraine and Iran, people continue the brave fight for freedom and human rights under the slogans Slava Ukraini (Glory to Ukraine) and Zan, Zendegi, Azadi (Woman, Life, Freedom). Their fight is ours!