Complement or competitor?

Two universities within 20 km of each other will become a reality next year when the higher education institution in Malmö will receive full university status. What this will mean for Lund is unclear. Will the university in Malmö be a complement or a competitor? In Lund, the feeling is cautiously optimistic.

Huset Orkanen, Malmö Högskola (foto: Fiora M.C /Mostphotos) och universitetshuset i Lund (foto:Petra Francke ).

Traditionally, the relationship between the esteemed seat of learning in Lund and the salt-spattered people’s institution in Malmö has been somewhat chilly – even back when all academic activities in Malmö were part of Lund University. At the peak of Lund’s presence in Malmö, the University also had the School of Dentistry (the Faculty of Odontology), the teacher training college, and some less extensive engineering courses (on behalf of LTH) in Malmö.

Previous lecturers and vice-chancellors testify to the fact that Malmö has almost always felt unfairly treated by Lund. Lars Haikola, the last dean of the teacher training college while it was still part of LU, believes that the teacher training programme stems from a tradition with a low level of research and (since the higher education reform in 1977) has continuously called for better research resources.

“The teacher training college, with its low level of research, was regarded as the non-academic light-weight within the heavy-weight Lund institution. The geographical distance has also played a certain, but not crucial, role”, says Lars Haikola, who later became a university chancellor.

When Malmö University was established almost 20 years ago, it was only natural for the teacher training college, the LTH courses and the School of Dentistry to leave Lund University for Malmö. Per-Olof Glantz, professor emeritus of odontology, was the deputy vice-chancellor in Lund a few years before becoming Malmö University’s first vice-chancellor in the beginning of 1998 – a position he held until his retirement four years later. Per-Olof Glantz says that the Faculty of Odontology had a long-standing tradition as an internationally recognised research unit, and he remembers the split from Lund University as being emotional.

“However, in light of the faculty’s focus and activities, all members agreed it was necessary to belong to the new Malmö unit. A few of us also considered it a challenge to try to bring about some academic innovations that were difficult to implement within Lund University”, says Per-Olof Glantz.

Some lecturers in other subjects in Lund were also excited about the challenger in Malmö and taken with the entrepreneurial spirit surrounding the new institution. Wilhelm Agrell, professor and espionage researcher, was one of the people who joined Malmö but returned to Lund University a few years later.

Anders Persson, professor and head of the Department of Educational Sciences at Lund University, has also worked at Malmö University. He is not particularly thrilled about the upcoming university status, which he argues is due to political, rather than scientific, reasons. But since it’s happening, he thinks that Malmö and Lund should try to work together to eliminate the obstacles and possible destructive competition that may exist between the two institutions.

“I hope for a process that involves an inquisitive approach in which we study each other’s different skills, strengths and opportunities to find new forms of collaboration”, says Anders Persson.

He argues that universities should safeguard research integrity and be strong institutions, and that Lund University has succeeded in this regard.

“It would be great to build that strength in Malmö as well!”

His department and Malmö University are already cooperating to some extent. Among other things, Malmö supplies Lund with work placements (internships) for students on LU’s teacher training programme, and there are a number of student exchanges between the institutions.

Anders Persson is also on the board of the Faculties of Humanities and Theology in Lund, and he believes that both the humanities and social sciences suffer in times of narrow-minded views on utility and management.

“The demands for fast results are not always productive. Universities must remain multifaceted institutions where unexpected things can happen when diversity is at play. Malmö University has done well in this respect, and it’s something that Lund University could learn from”, he says.

Pro vice-chancellor Bo Ahrén is the person within the university management who is particularly responsible for external engagement. He sees Malmö University’s status as a good addition to the universities in southern Sweden in order to create balance against the Mälardalen region.

“But it’s important to have responsible collaboration that can create synergies.”

He says that a number of good collaborations are already underway in areas such as social work, urban planning and equal health. And that we must continue in this direction.

“Otherwise, there is a risk that we end up doing the same things, and competing for the same funding.”

Bo Ahrén thinks it is important for the whole region to have a world-leading university like LU in Skåne. Therefore, if Malmö University were to expand at Lund University’s expense it would not be good for anyone.

Other synergies besides joint research projects that Bo Ahrén envisions involve the co-utilisation of teaching expertise. The fact that Malmö University’s nursing programme is adjacent to LU’s Clinical Research Centre (CRC) in Malmö, can provide further opportunities for collaboration in the future. Bo Ahrén also sees infrastructure as an area in which to explore synergies.

“Everyone thinks that infrastructure is important, but no one wants to assume overall responsibility. The need is considerable everywhere.”

As yet, there have been no formal discussions or meetings at the management level regarding future cooperation opportunities between Malmö and Lund. But there will be….

“We still haven’t sat down together for any concrete discussions – but we will”, says Bo Ahrén.

Of course, the danger that Bo Ahrén and others envision in terms of competing for the same funding is real, primarily with regard to direct government funding.

“Obviously, the resources for research are limited. It will be just the same for Malmö University as it was for the higher education institutions in Karlstad and Örebro when they became universities and their research funding increased”, says Johan Gribbe, analyst at the Swedish Higher Education Authority’s analysis department.

He is behind the report that was published earlier this year on the funding received for research and third-cycle education during the period 2005–2015*.

The amounts of direct government funding have an historical basis, but in 2009, the centre-right government introduced a performance model that included external grants and publication figures. The allocation of direct government funding was thus to be made in competition between the institutions. Last year, the model was modified to strengthen the university colleges and small universities. The higher education institutions were divided into groups, and the one composed of small and new institutions received a total of SEK 90 million in increased funding for research, and the group of large and comprehensive institutions received SEK 100 million.

Malmö’s direct government funding for research and third-cycle education will increase by SEK 90 million in 2018, and the money will be taken from the total increase of SEK 1.3 billion (allocated through the research bill) during the period 2017–2020.

Essentially, this means that Malmö University is growing at the expense of other higher education institutions, but not specifically Lund University.

“The resource allocation model used in recent years does not create a regional impact”, says Johan Gribbe.

The Swedish Research Council (VR) does not take regional aspects into account. Maria Thuveson, director of the Department of Research Financing at VR, claims that only the quality of the research projects determines who receives funding or not.

“Where or whom the application is from is not important to us”, she says, emphasising that the council does not consider fairness in this process – regional or otherwise.

Indirectly, Malmö, which already receives a lot of funding from VR, may become a tougher competitor if its increases the quality of its research with the help of more direct government funding.

“But Malmö is no more a competitor to Lund than to any other institution”, says Maria Thuveson.

Malmö is now at the top among the smaller universities, with the exception of Umeå which is by far the largest with an annual turnover of SEK 4.2 billion. Malmö comes in second at approximately 1.4, Örebro University at 1.3, Karlstad University at 1.2, Linnaeus University at just over one billion, and Mid Sweden University at just below one billion in annual turnover. The corresponding figure for Lund University is just over SEK 8 billion and for Uppsala University the number is SEK 6.6 billion.

Photo: Håkan Röjder

FACTS about Lund University in Malmö.

Two of the six departments of Lund University’s Faculty of Medicine are based in Malmö: the Department of Clinical Sciences and the Department of Translational Medicine. Here you also find Lund University’s entire Faculty of Fine and Performing Arts, including the Malmö Academy of Music, the Malmö Theatre Academy and the Malmö Art Academy.

FOOTNOTE I. The teacher training and nursing programmes are two of the major study programmes conducted by Malmö University and Lund University in parallel.

FOOTNOTE II: Read the entire UKÄ report (in Swedish) “Forskningsfinansieringen vid svenska universitet och högskolor: Intäkter till forskning och utbildning på forskarnivå 2005-2015” on the UKÄ website,

FACTS about Malmö Högskola soon to be Malmö University

Number of students: 24 000 including 11 682 FTE studentsNumber of doctoral students: 223
Number of publications: 473
Number of employees: 1 800
Faculties: Faculty of Education and Society, Faculty of Culture and Society, Faculty of Health and Society, Faculty of Odontology, Faculty of Technology and Society
Education: 370 courses and study programmes
Founded: As a university college in 1998 and as a university in 2018

FACTS about Lund University

Number of students: 42 000 (FTE students)
Number of doctoral students: 2 900
Number of publications: 5 300
Number of employees: 7 400
Faculties: Faculty of Medicine, Faculty of Engineering, Faculty of Science, Faculty of Law, Faculties of Humanities and Theology, Faculty of Fine and Performing Art, Faculty of Social Sciences, School of Economics and Management
Education: 280 study programmes and more than 2 000 freestanding courses
Founded: 1666