USV is shrinking – centres are moving into the faculties

USV is the umbrella term for the University’s specialised centres which are gradually moving into the faculties. But the process is not painless – the specialised centres are keen to safeguard their identities and their low overhead costs. The faculties and departments, on the other hand, do not want to take on financially insecure ventures.

Leif Stenberg is the director of the Centre for Middle Eastern Studies, CMES, which is to have moved in to a faculty by the end of the year. He calls for clarity in the process.

USV has gone from thirteen to seven centres under the current management. The goal is for all well-established centres with research and education to move in under the wings of a faculty. But it is not a simple process, as many emotions are stirred up. Employees who have contributed to building up a centre feel very committed and are eager to safeguard their centre’s identity and financial autonomy. Leif Stenberg is the director of the Centre for Middle Eastern Studies, CMES, which is to have moved in to a faculty by the end of the year. He calls for clarity in the process.

“The management must be clear that this is about ideology rather than merely calling it an organisational improvement, because it does not entail any organisational improvement for us. There is an unease about more and, above all, more expensive bureaucracy and employees losing their jobs”, he says.

A previous discussion about moving CMES to the Centre for Theology and Religious Studies was interrupted when the students protested. They did not want to identify themselves and their interdisciplinary education with theology. Leif Stenberg thinks that their relatively low overhead costs have made them successful with regard to soliciting projects. The lower overheads depend on the USV office being much smaller than the equivalent faculty offices, but at the same time, CMES must currently spend money on buying in services from the faculties. Now, an important issue for CMES is to obtain compensation for the higher overhead costs that apply at the faculties. Discussions are ongoing with the faculties of Engineering, Social Sciences and Humanities and Theology.

“We are truly interdisciplinary so, from a subject point of view, it doesn’t matter which faculty we join. What is important is our finances and a smooth administrative collaboration”, says Leif Stenberg, adding that as long as reasonable discussions are being held, he is not overly worried about the reorganisation.

At the moment, CMES and CIRCLE (the Centre for Innovation, Research and Competence in the Learning Economy) are negotiating with the management and faculties about the move planned for 1 January 2018. The Centre for Work, Technology and Social Change (WTS) was closed down at the end of last year and its three component units were moved to their new locations within the faculties of Engineering and Social Sciences and the Centre for Middle Easter Studies. Bo Ahrén is the pro vice-chancellor at LU responsible for external engagement, and also the chair of the USV board.

“Organisational affiliation with USV is good for new activities which grow and get incremental grants. But it is extremely vulnerable when they cease to develop. At that point, there is more security in inclusion as part of a faculty with a long-term strategy”, he says.

One example of this is the Food for Health Science Centre, which will close at the end of the year. The centre was established over three years and has not found a faculty willing to take it on now that its funding has run out and, furthermore, its budget is not balanced. For the faculties, activities with a high proportion of external funding are not a safe bet, as the funding tends to fluctuate over time.

The Lund University Rules of Procedure state that well-established activities are to be transferred to the faculties and that the vice-chancellor decides when and how this happens. 40 interdisciplinary centres are currently already affiliated with a faculty.

“We consider this to be a reasonable rule. The ideology behind it is that education and research, even when interdisciplinary in nature, are best run as intertwined in a faculty. The various centres still exist, after all, even if they are organised under a faculty”, says Bo Ahrén.

The Centre for Öresund Studies, CORS, happily moved to the Faculties of Humanities and Theology at the start of this year. The centre’s director Fredrik Nilsson sees only benefits to the move and is satisfied with the compensation allocated for overheads. As director, he finds himself closer to several colleagues with whom he is interested in networking.

“We are a small organisation and it will probably be easier to get our voice heard in the faculty than in the USV board. What could be a concern is to be seen as a cuckoo in the nest at the department. We will do everything we can to build up trust there, by initiating joint research projects and workshops”, he says.

As CORS was moving to Humanities and Theology, the Swedish South Asian Studies Network (SASNET) was moving in to CMES and the Centre for Work, Technology and Social Change (WTS) was being closed down. But the three units in WTS were each re-housed within the Faculties of Engineering, Social Sciences and the CMES respectively. As so much is going on with the activities within USV, Bo Ahrén has informed the employee organisations about the plans. A meeting has also been held for the directors at USV, who have requested comprehensive information. But as the activities differ so much in size, growth and mission, there are no common messages to communicate, explains Moa Lindell, project manager at the USV office.

“For example, there are no discussions ongoing as to the International Institute for Industrial Environmental Economics, IIIEE, LUCSUS or the Pufendorf Institute. None of those organisations was set up on a temporary basis, so it is not as urgent to find them a new organisational home. Also, it is not possible to do everything at once; we are reviewing the organisations one by one”, she says.

The International Institute for Industrial Environmental Economics is a large and well-established organisation which, according to earlier arguments, should be included within a faculty, but it is also based on a separate ordinance, making it an exception.

“As I understand it, we have received clear signals that we will not be moved into a faculty as we have our own ordinance. The major advantage for us in being organisationally outside the faculties is the opportunity to successfully recruit researchers and students from various disciplines”, says Lena Neiij, IIIEE director.

Jenny Loftrup