We ran for the board for the first time in 2019 with a program promising to "fight for strong representation of “tenured" faculty, junior faculty/postdocs, and PhD students on the Univ. of Copenhagen board, through engagement with the rest of the board, including students, and external members." We have done exactly that and have made serious progress, as you can read in the articles about our work linked here.
Our core value is that University of Copenhagen should be a university focused on research and education, lead by researchers and in respect of core academic values, including academic freedom.
You can find a comprehensive 12 point program below, including progress reports since 2020.
For the next period there are some issues that need urgent priority. One grand concern being stress among faculty, PhDs and Postdocs. We believe stress is often tied to concrete issues that we have the power to change, and hence the following are key goals for the next period.
First, we need to work on better hiring procedures and career paths, in particular PhDs and postdocs who are in a precarious position in that the constant ebb and tide of external money removes predictability from the system creating stress and anxiety. We need more predictability in procedures and advertisement of positions so that hires are done according to quality, and not random factors e.g., sudden appearance or disappearance of a money pot. For PhDs and postdocs we also need provide better security if things go wrong (cf. 6-9 below).
Second, we need to finish our work on securing leadership by researchers, in particular on the department level. We are half-way through, see the articles describing our accomplishments, but important work remains to be done. (cf. also 5-6 below.)
Third, there is a battle going on right now about the admistration. While everybody agrees that the administration is structurally broken, and a constant source of stress, opinions differ on how to fix it. We are also half way through this battle, and if we are re-elected we will finish the fight. We need to secure a strong local administration, build around supporting the needs of the researchers, not build a bureaucratic monster (cf. also 3-4 below).
The details of these things are often complicated, and we have spent days and days on it. If you re-elect Involve the researchers! you will have two knowledgable and dedicated VIP representatives in front aided by a large group of supporter from across KU, who in a common front, will see the battle through.
Below is a list of 12 central issues that we work on. Below each point you will find background anno 2019, followed by a current status update. You will hopefully see that progress has actually been made. But we are not there yet on all fronts. If you reelect us, we will finish!
Focus on research and education, for the long term: We’ll keep the leadership’s focus on the university’s core mission of making long-term research breakthroughs, across-the-board, and providing high quality education.
Background (2019): The university is subject to demands from many sides: The government wants it to fix society’s problems, businesses would like the university to carry out its research, etc. While all these things are laudable, and certainly represent opportunities for UCPH, it is important that new initiatives do not cannibalise core activities, or destroy the academic diversity that is vital to long-term success. The only way UCPH can become an internationally leading university (with all sorts of spin-offs for business and society to follow) is by being given sufficient resources for its core activities — we need to communicate that to the world.
Status (2023): We have managed to communicate this point to the rest of the board --- but it is a constant fight, that we will continue if re-elected!
Tenure: We’ll work for better job security for academic personelle, and better hiring procedures.
Background (2019): How can one have tenure track without tenure? UCPH has a bad track record of firing “permanent” faculty, lecturers and professors, due to perceived needs of restructuring or changes in funding situation. The UCPH needs to understand that this hiring-and-firing seriously undermines our credentials as a leading scientific institution, and impairs our ability to hire internationally. “Need” for these kinds of measures reflects lack of foresight by professional leaders or inadequate hiring procedures (cf. 5-7).
Status (2023): Except for a rouge dean at SAMF (now outgoing) there have been no firing rounds or random firings since we started. We take some credit for this. For hiring procedures see 6.
Organization: We’ll work to ensure that academic staff is properly involved in any organisational change — these should be bottom-up and not top-down processes.
Background (2019): The last 15 years show plenty of missteps in handling of mergers of faculties and departments. Such changes in the organisation cannot be done without meaningful consultation with the permanent scientific staff. Mergers driven not by a bottom-up demand, but rather a need for "budget realignment” or desire to transfer resources from A to B will eventually cause the best faculty members to leave, and impair our recruitment.
Status (2023): There has been no random major restructuring since 2019, unlike previous periods. We take some credit for this.
Administration: We’ll work to make sure that the administration is built around servicing the academic staff, and not vice versa.
Background (2019): Centralisation in the UCPH administration, in particular in terms of IT, HR, and accounting, is often done with a poor understanding of the functioning of the university in terms of teaching and research, or international routines, often blindly copying questionable programs and methods used in non-congruent governmental agencies. A poor job-environment for administrative staff also impairs our ability to hire and retain qualified administrative staff.
Status (2023): The situation here is still not good, but there is now at least agreement that there is a structural problem, including unclear processes and a general lack of accountability to fix your problem. Our feeling is that the current rectorate is in a better shape to now address these issues than when we started in 2020. However this is risky business, as many previous "reforms" have made things worse. It is a difficult process and requires detailed attention to every part of UCPH administration: IT, HR, accounting, and we have spent a lot of time on this. Surveys show that people want local administration, and that there are serious structural issues on the central and Faculty level. We've made crystal clear that the solution is of course not just a central or campus based "call center" which just informs you that your problem has indefinitely been given priority: "low", and that this decision has been taken by unknown higher-ups. We are in constant, and direct, communication with the rectorate, including the new university director, about this, including part of oversight committees. Any restructuring will need the approval of the board. If re-elected you have our word that the VIP-side of the board will continue its detailed engagement in a better administration, but also ultimately be ready to reject any proposal which does not live to the goal of easing the burden of the VIP staff and keep well-functioning local administrations at the department level!
Leadership by researchers: We’ll fight for better representation of people with a strong research and teaching profile throughout the UCPH leadership.
Background (2019): The introduction of professional leaders throughout the line management, from head of department up, with no research time and heavy administrative burden has made it hard to recruit people with sufficient research and teaching insight for these positions. Positions such as head of department or vice dean should be part-time jobs held by strong active researchers, similar to current custom at top international universities.
Status (2023): On our initiative the board has worked on this essentially since we started. On the rectorate level, we pushed though that there should be a position as vicerector for research, a position that had been vacant for years. We have also secured that the head of the scientific council (Akademisk Råd) must be a VIP, and on the department level seen the establishment of Faculty Boards (forskerkollegier) for better involvement of researchers, and better interaction between faculty members and the department leadership. For the head of department position, we have, together with the vicerector for research and an external board member, a professor at EPFL, worked in a committee with the goal of improving the job as head of department to allow serious time for research (it should be a VIP, not a TAP!). If re-elected we will finish the job -- it is really important that we are allowed to continue here as otherwise a lot of work will be lost.
Career management and hiring procedures: We’ll fight for better career paths at UCPH.
Background (2019): It has for ages been a cause for all sorts of troubles that promotion from lektor to professor could not be done without advertisement of a new position, a point where light is hopefully at the end of the tunnel. Likewise has the concept of “tenure track” only recently became part of UCPH vocabulary, and, even there, largely only in name. There is still much confusion about what these things mean and should mean. Good hiring procedures is one of the cornerstones of a university, and UCPH has a lot to learn just by properly understanding how it’s done elsewhere in the world, such as the top international universities.
Status (2023): The "professor track" program is now running, but as some decisions were made before we started on the board it has several of structural flaws: In particular it is too bureaucratic, admission requirements are often unclear and so are the final evaluation criterea, and this whole distinction between "track" and "non-track" is somewhat bizzare. The program will be evaluated soon, and if we are re-elected, we will try to push this in the right direction. Some of the same comments apply to the tenure-track program, which will also be evaluated in the next board period. Hiring procedures in general are on the board "action list" during the next period, and this also depends on getting HR to be better functioning (see 4). Included in this is also making sure that advertisment and duration of PhD and postdoc positions is made more predictable, as unclarity here leads to both worse hiring and stress and unsatisfactory conditions.
Internationalisation: We’ll work for a better incorporation of international best-practices throughout UCPH.
Background (2019): UCPH often says it wants to be an internationally leading university, yet, there is little international experience in the university leadership, and insufficient understanding of how a leading international university works. Many of the models are copied from governmental agencies or close-by universities (themselves copied from agencies?) which do not quite represent what we are striving for.
Status (2023): We believe that we are in a better place than when we started, but there is still work to do!
PhD and postdocs: We’ll work for a better integration of PhD students and postdocs in the university.
Background (2019): There has been a tremendous growth in the number of PhD students and postdocs, yet these are often not properly integrated in the department, as they may be paid on external money, or attached to a narrow project. The university needs to do a better job in integrating postdocs and PhD students, as the subsequent careers of PhD students and postdocs are key to determining the overall status of the university.
Status (2023): We have worked hard on, but systemic change is difficult, and it has top priority for the next period. To help this along we have formed an action committee of PhDs and postodocs, as part of Involve the researchers! to help things along, and we have together formed a detailed action plan for the next period.
Integrity: We’ll work for better possibilities for PhD students, postdocs, and permanent faculty for reporting transgressions by line management.
Background (2019): CPH is still suffering from the repercussions of the Penkova scandal. While the scandal has put focus on research integrity of the individual researchers, there has been too little focus on ensuring integrity in university leadership — a key part of that scandal was that complaints by people working under Penkova about abusive and criminal activity were ignored.
Status (2023): The board has had this on the agenda at several meetings, and we have looked at models at different universities, e.g., EPFL in Switzerland which is far ahead. If re-elected we expect to implement structural change during the next 4 years. We are also being helped by our support group of PhD students and postdocs.
Teaching: We’ll work on rewarding and encouraging good teaching, focusing on local needs and sufficient resources, including a better integration of research and teaching, and meaningful teachers training.
Background (2019): Teaching is part of our core mission, and there is a constant, and fully warranted, demand to raise the quality of teaching at UCPH. Unfortunately, instead of entering a real dialog with departments and researchers on how this is done, the top-down approach has been through bureaucratic control mechanisms together with forcing everybody on lengthy teachers-training courses designed by theoreticians without enough knowledge of the subjects taught. (Designing a TA session is different in mathematics than in law!).
Status (2023): This has been taken up at board meetings and in discussions with UCPH leadership. There is now understanding that the local insight is important, and we hope and expect that meaningful improvements will be made during the next board period. We are also aided by Involve the Researchers! support committee of PhDs and postdocs, as they are the ones with the most on-the-ground experience.
Funding: We will work with the rest of the board to ensure that politicians allocate the necessary resources for basic research and high level education, and also engage in the mission of convincing private foundations to pay proper overhead.
Background (2019): It is of paramount importance that politicians truly understand the need for basic research and high level education, and allocate the necessary resources. Also, while the influx of external funding is overall a huge success story, and something we should pursue vigorously, it is also not without pitfalls, due to the concentrated and transient nature of these funds. It is therefore important that grants come with the necessary overhead to cover the actual costs, to not cannibalise other core activities.
Status (2023): The fact that we opened up the position as vice rector for research has meant that UCPH could actually deal with this, and just October 2023 a new agreement with private foundations about overhead has been announced. These is still work to be done, but at least we are moving in the right direction.
An inclusive UCPH: We’ll work on making UCPH an inclusive workplace, with good possibilities for combining work-family obligations.
Background (2019): UCPH has a mixed record of trying to make it a more inclusive workplace, and debates on how to improve can sometimes degenerate into the voices of the extreme. It’s important that we keep focus on this important issue through bottom-up solutions, instead of either denial or heavyhanded implementation of fix-it-all quotas.
Status (2023): This has been the subject of many board meetings, and progress is infuriatingly slow, and it will be a focus also for the next period, see also here. During the next period we will also use our PhD and postdoc support group to move things also on the local level.