The University Board’s Election Committee has decided to ask Sven-Erik Dahlén to call the Consultative College to a meeting on 14 February at 5.00 p.m. so that we may consult it on a proposal to ask the government to appoint Ole Petter Ottersen as Karolinska Institutet’s new vice-chancellor. Ole Petter Ottersen is a professor of medicine and has been vice-chancellor of Oslo University for the past eight years.
Yesterday, the University Board was informed of the Election Committee’s deliberations. It then postponed the matter of the addenda. There were no real objections to their substance, but if we do not have to start the recruitment process again, we see no reason to take a new decision on the job specifications.
Last spring, the former University Board put together an Application Committee led by Professor Carl Johan Sundberg, which spent the ensuing six months or so diligently contacting over 150 external advisors in 15 countries and picking out 225 names, including eight formal applicants and 49 nominees. They also conducted dozens of structured interviews with prospective candidates.
Its report back to the Election Committee presented a short list of seven candidates, six English speakers and one Scandinavian speaker. After considering the criteria of the job specifications an unanimous Election Committee ranked the Scandinavian-speaking Ole Petter Ottersen as their first-choice candidate.
The Application Committee first contacted Ottersen last July, at the same time as Gothenburg University was keen to have him replace Pam Fredman as vice-chancellor there. The inconveniences caused by the replacement of KI’s University Board and the pause in our recruitment process were such that the board of Gothenburg University endorsed his candidacy on 10 January.
Since Ole Petter Ottersen all along expressed a preference for KI the Election Committee nevertheless decided to proceed with suitability tests, reference requests and employment interviews in January. Late last week, Ole Petter Ottersen withdrew his candidature from Gothenburg, prompting the Election Committee the day before yesterday to endorse the Application Committee’s recommendation.
On 14 February, we will be presenting the Consultative College with a thorough report of the application process to date, and the deliberations that led the Election Committee to arrive at its decision. In our view, Ole Petter Ottersen has the leadership qualities that KI seeks and the ability to bring his colleagues and the university’s staff and students on board the change programme. He also has experience of leading a large university and conducts research of great significance.
I therefore hope that the opinions of the Election Committee will be enough to convince the Consultative College. If my hopes come to fruition, the Election Committee will be able to present to the University Board the proposal for decision at its ordinary meeting of 20 February, in which case KI could have a permanent vice-chancellor by midsummer.
The recruitment procedure for vice-chancellors is the subject of constant debate. While a thorough hearing with the faculty is a legal requirement and while a successful incumbent needs a solid anchoring within his or her institution, just HOW such a hearing is to take place is not so clear-cut. There are different schools of thought here.
Some people argue that the faculty is to select a vice-chancellor and then have its decision confirmed by a university board and the government. In this case, the Election Committee must obviously put forward more than one candidate for the Consultative College to vote on.
Others say that the government should appoint a vice-chancellor on the proposal of a university board once it has had its proposal approved by the faculty. Should this process be followed, the Election Committee need only present the Consultative College with one name.
If the Election Committee has several equally viable candidates, it must naturally present them all to the Consultative College, possible with an explanatory foreword. However, if only there is only one candidate it deems suitable, it would be inappropriate to add another name simply for the sake of creating a situation requiring a vote.
Now that the Election Committee is to present only one name to the Consultative College, it is in no way to be seen as expressing a preference for one of these schools. It is, instead, an outcome of the circumstances surrounding this particular recruitment. The alternative would have been to have said farewell to Ole Petter Ottersen as a candidate and to start the process from square one. Given how both committees have judged the matter, this alternative would be regrettable as it would not be in KI’s best interests. I hope that the Consultative College shares this view.