Donald Trump and Brexit affects the agenda of the board

When Jonas Hafström swings his gavel at the board meeting in June, he will do so in front of an almost entirely new University Board. He himself maintains his seat, comfortable in his role as chair which he began two years ago.

Jonas Hafström

Jonas Hafström, chairman of the University board.

When former chair Margot Wallström resigned, in the middle of her term of office, to become Minister for Foreign Affairs, Sweden’s former ambassador to the United States Jonas Hafström was appointed. He took office in March 2015 with the intention to build a network in the region and to be a present and accessible chair.

How has it gone so far?

‟I have tried to be present and available and have established a network which hopefully has benefited the University”, says Jonas Hafström.

He has been visible not least among all of the prominent people who have visited the University in the past two years, including the Swedish King (four times), the Pope, the Prime Minister, and the Canadian state visit, to name a few…. He believes that the attention the University now receives, thanks to its 350th anniversary among other things, is important as the Government so strongly emphasises external engagement, which is important for future funding.

Jonas Hafström also gives many talks. With his knowledge of the United States, his analyses on the US presidential election are in demand – and these accompany him also in his work on the board.

‟What’s happening now in the UK and in the US affects us”, he says.

With regard to Brexit, the consequences are only negative, he argues, as the research grants from Brussels which currently go to England will not be compensated for by the EU member states. Everyone is getting a smaller piece of the pie. Not to mention the negative affect this will have on research and student exchange with England.

Donald Trump’s first budget indicates huge cuts in the research and higher education sector and, from a short-term perspective, this could benefit Europe and Sweden.

‟The United States attracts many of our top researchers, and if research is no longer prioritised there in the same way as it was before, maybe we can keep them closer. But for research and innovation in general, this is obviously not a good thing.”

In the past year, the board has worked extensively on the strategic plan which has now been adopted, and on gender equality issues for which there is now a strategy for how the University can create a better gender balance on all levels.

‟The so-called Macchiarini scandal was of course a clear warning to all Swedish higher education institutions, and a decentralised organisation like LU places great demands not only to have a good regulatory system in place but also a function at the University that follows up to make sure that the rules are followed”, says Jonas Hafström, who is very pleased about the Auditing Committee and the Internal Audit Office at LU.

‟It’s nice that all employees actually have somewhere to turn to if necessary.”

A risk committee has also been established to improve and simplify risk management at the University.

The board currently focuses on the appointment of a new deputy vice-chancellor. The application period recently expired, and a decision is to be made with regard to which candidates are to be interviewed. Jonas Hafström is in charge of the nominating committee and says that the timetable, set by the board and supported by the consultative assembly, is kept. This means that a new deputy vice-chancellor should be appointed by 1 July, when the current deputy vice-chancellor Eva Wiberg will assume her position as vice-chancellor of the University of Gothenburg. Follow the appointment process at www.lu.se.

An open and good atmosphere at board meetings

Overall, the members of the University Board find the work procedures satisfactory, but that the information items on the agenda are too long and slow things down. The members emphasise the importance of the good and open atmosphere at these meetings, and for this they give praise to the chair. This is evident from an evaluation of the board’s work which was conducted by former head of office Hans Modig who interviewed the board members late last year.

Here is what the members thought in general:

  • The most important task of the board is its control function.
  • Because the preparatory work before each board meeting is conducted in different groups, there is a perception that, at the meetings, the decisions have already been taken.
  • Most members emphasise that the board is a sounding board for the university management, but is used too little as such. The management would like to receive more inspiration from the board.
  • Some members would like there to be more strategic discussions, while others warn of this. Some argue that the board must pay closer attention to business intelligence.
  • The members argue that the information received from the management is too extensive and not put in context. Some argue that it should be more oriented towards university policy, and include ‟uncomfortable” issues rather than being a glossy chronological list.
  • The presentations made during board meetings are usually good. The fact that they are made by different officials is good and shows breadth.

FACTS. The board is comprised of three categories of members: teaching staff (3), students (3) and members appointed by the Government (7). In addition, employee organisations have the right to attend, speak and submit proposals during board meetings. The board normally convenes six times per year, including an awayday in June or September.

In the next issue of LUM, the new board will be presented.