The students, wider society and the path to academic success were important points in Torbjörn von Schantz’s inauguration speech on the University’s foundation day, 28 January. After the usual pomp and ceremony, and with the vice-chancellor’s chain hanging splendidly round his neck, he expressed his thanks for the appointment, which he sees as a great honour.
After a welcome from acting chair of the University Board Lars Ljungälv and music from Lund Academic Choir, it was time for Per Eriksson, now vice-chancellor emeritus, to hand over the vice-chancellor’s chain to his successor Torbjörn von Schantz. He opened his speech with what he sees as one of the greatest joys of his new post – the students!
“These young, talented, well-read, enthusiastic people – who are also often very skilled in rhetoric – come out with some very wise ideas, and in discussions with students I often gain new perspectives that affect the decisions I make. Student influence is decisive for the University’s success and must be safeguarded and developed”, said Torbjörn von Schantz.
He went on to talk about society, saying that research and education must come to use and pay back those who have funded it – first and foremost taxpayers. While the University has to be an independent voice in society that dares to question accepted truths, it is also set in an important context and he emphasised that engagement with municipalities, schools, the business sector, regional authorities, government and other universities is therefore key.
Torbjörn von Schantz also had a lot to say about academic success, which he said is based on the ability to generate new knowledge and new explanatory models, and to do this better and faster than others in the same discipline.
“Competition is integrated into our core activities; we cannot avoid the fact that the University in some aspects is elitist.”
The vice-chancellor said he believed in a future with enhanced collegial leadership, despite accepting that this form of leadership has rightly received criticism for being slow and unwilling to take difficult decisions and make priorities. He continued:
“Collegial leadership naturally requires colleagues who take responsibility. Colleagues who develop a collective approach, i.e. an ability to both take responsibility for their own unit and to take broader responsibility for the organisation as a whole.”
Oskar Styf, president of LU Students’ Unions (LUS), handed over a syllabus for the subject “managing Lund University” to the vice-chancellor. For Torbjörn von Schantz to pass the course, which is worth 360 second-cycle credits, LUS laid down a number of outcomes desired by the students that he will need to fulfil.
“We want you to work to raise the status of teaching at the University and to increase the number of contact hours students have with their lecturers to a minimum of 15 hours a week. Good teaching is essential for high-quality courses and programmes”, said Oskar Styf.
In his speech, he also stressed the importance of improving students’ rights and of continuing to implement the decisions taken by the former vice-chancellor on resources for areas such as the student health service and other student support services.
“We also want the vice-chancellor to safeguard a university with gender equality, breadth and free education for all students. Partly because this enables us to take advantage of the expertise provided by that breadth, and partly because free higher education is a hallmark of quality and a contributor to democracy in our society.
Text: Maria Lindh, Jenny Loftrup
Photo: Gunnar Menander
Two new pro vice-chancellors
During his inauguration speech, Torbjörn von Schantz also announced his choice of new pro vice-chancellors. Bo Ahrén, Professor of Medicine and former dean of the Faculty of Medicine, and Stacey Ristinmaa Sörensen, Professor of Synchrotron Radiation Physics.
Bo Ahrén will have special responsibility for external engagement. He has been a professor since 1999 and was dean from 2006 to 2013. He has conducted research on diabetes and been involved in developing new drugs to treat type 2 diabetes. Bo Ahrén is the son of former Bishop of Lund Per-Olov Ahrén.
Stacey Ristinmaa Sörensen has research infrastructure as her area of special responsibility. Originally from Connecticut on the east coast of America, she first came to Sweden in 1990 as a doctor of physics. She has been pro-dean of the Faculty of Science and is involved in initiatives to build bridges between ESS and MAX IV.