Illustration by Ulrika Hellgren

…and what these objectives mean…

Aktum asked three deputy vice-chancellors to comment on the three overall objectives in ‘Umeå University 2020 — Vision and objectives’.

1. A long-term approach facilitates a high level of risk-taking

Our researchers can and dare to take risks that enable ground-breaking research, and this can result in real advances in knowledge. This is strongly linked to the fact that our jobs and career paths are internationally attractive in terms of resources and stability. High quality research shapes our first, second and third cycle programmes and courses.

Marianne Sommarin, Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research:

“We’ve got a lot of exciting and interesting work which we need to do with the faculties. This work is not easy and it’s going to take time to implement all of it. We need to establish a job system that gives our best researchers resources and access to a solid research infrastructure. We also need to give them the right employment conditions to allow them to take on difficult projects that take time and involve a high level of risk, but which, if they succeed, could provide important breakthroughs,” says Marianne Sommarin, Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research at Umeå University.

“We need to be better at identifying and supporting the young  researchers we recruit, offering the best of them a career path known as ’tenure track’ (this allows them to develop their excellence in research and teaching in the long term). But even if we invest a lot in the cream of the crop, we also need to make sure we have a good breadth of researchers and teachers. All teachers must be given the opportunity for further education and research, although the amount will vary from person to person — this will allow us to support the continual transfer of knowledge and ensure improvements in the quality of our programmes and courses. We need to promote more interdisciplinary interactive environments and be better at taking on social and global challenges at both a national and international level,” says Marianne Sommarin.

2. Creative environments stimulate dynamic meetings

The university is a dynamic meeting place where interdisciplinary knowledge is generated and disseminated. Creative environments attract students, researchers, teachers and collaborating partners — nationally and internationally. We are one of Europe’s leading universities with regard to innovative physical and virtual environments. A large part of our courses integrate campus and online teaching, and through flexible forms of teaching can be carried out regardless of time and space. This provides excellent opportunity for everyone to study, and puts a focus on lifelong learning.

Anders Fällström, Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Education:

“I personally think that a lot of this vision programme focuses on the word ’mobility’. By this I mean the mobility of teachers and students around the world, in Sweden and at their educational institution, but also the ’mobility’ of thoughts and ideas between different disciplines, between society and academia, and between research and education. If we really believe that this can strengthen both research and education, then we need to put the best conditions in place for it. If the very best researcher and educationalist in a specific area is on the other side of the world, I can still use them by making the most of the modern technology that is available. I can get them to lecture my students, while I use this time for supervision, discussions or other kinds of teaching, maybe in small groups. If we’re going to do this, we need to have the right physical environments and technical equipment, and we also need to effect a cultural change among our teachers and researchers. To put it simply: use the very best,” says Anders Fällström, Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Education.

“I think that our programmes and courses on campus are going to dominate for quite some time to come. One of our main challenges is to combine them with mobility, enabling people to study no matter what time it is or where they are. But to do this we’re going to have to make a real investment in our physical and digital environments. We need to build interactive focus environments, allowing research, education and the surrounding community to meet in physical environments; environments which stimulate, in quite an unstructured way, the exchange of different kinds of ideas and cultures, while using cutting-edge technology to expand these meetings to include people who are far away from the campus. We also need to build interactive learning environments, providing our students with completely new ways of broadening their curiosity and being stimulated by interaction with teachers and researchers. I’m not talking about flashy buildings that are great to show off. Quite the opposite in fact. They should be more ’creatively unstructured’. This kind of investment would strengthen our research and our education, allowing them to reach even higher heights. Pure and simple,” says Anders Fällström.

3. Collaboration creates development and improves quality

”The university already has well-developed forms of collaboration in place — both regionally and internationally — with trade and industry, the public sector and selected partner universities. This kind of collaboration makes the most of our own strengths and the strengths of our partners. This enhances the quality of both our education and our research. We can contribute to development in society by having a strong research and education environment, along with a professional system in place that promotes innovation.”

Agneta Marell, Deputy Vice-Chancellor for External Relations:

“The whole point of collaboration and cooperation is for all of the parties to feel like it contributes to the development of their operations. For Umeå University it is important for this collaboration to clearly contribute to the development of the university and the development of its partners. The research work provides resources that, for example, can help to develop researcher groups and sharpen their approach to problems — it strengthens trade and industry and the public sector as they gain access to the knowledge and expertise of the university and can use new knowledge to create competitive advantages and develop their operations — collaborating through education can strengthen the university by giving it greater relevance in literature, interdisciplinary ventures and exercises — the university gains attractive programmes and courses and our partners can recruit students who have cutting-edge expertise, who can analyse different areas in their theses or create interest in the company’s operations through exercises and lectures,” says Agneta Marell, Deputy Vice-Chancellor for External Relations.

“A strong research and knowledge environment paired with a strong education environment is important to contribute to development in society. Strong and creative environments create the right conditions for innovation, enabling people to think in new ways. It is important for Umeå University to have an effective support system for innovation for all its faculties to allow ideas from employees and students to benefit the world outside the university. This support system needs to nurture commercialisation and use in a broader perspective,” says Agneta Marell.