Last Friday Professor Ole Petter Ottersen was installed as our new Vice-Chancellor and as we now look ahead we see several challenges for us to deal with.
We need to strengthen our students’ education. Nowhere else in our country are there so many professors gathered together but few of the students’ courses are today led by professors. We need to review our resource distribution system and the incentive structures that this creates. We need to find ways to handle the substantial investments that have been made in new infrastructure.
At the next meeting of the University Board I also hope that we will be able to take the decision to establish a function as scientific representative at KI, that is to say an ombudsman or “named person” whose task it is to support our work on ethical development.
New organisation in place in 2019
In May I wrote in this blog that our organisation is in some respects dysfunctional. I stated at the time that my goal is for us to try to have a new organisation for KI in place by 2019. The organisation was therefore a question that we focused on when the University Board held its annual residential meeting in September.
It is important for us to tackle an organisational change with a great sense of purpose but also with great care. We should not try to resolve all conceivable problems but seek to address those that are most important. When dealing with organisational changes we often underestimate the cost, not only of dismantling existing structures but also of building up new ones. The police and new Karolinska University Hospital are in my opinion two examples of just this. It is also important that organisational changes do not create more bureaucracy and increase administrative costs.
Leaders who can be seen in the line organisation
Eight years ago Göran Bexell, Marita Hilliges and Leif Lindfors made a study based on extensive interviews with members of staff at KI. When we look at those interviews today we recognise a great deal. They showed us that many people thought that the division of responsibility between the Vice-Chancellor and the heads of department was vague. The system of three internal boards was considered by many to lead to a lack of clarity as regards responsibility and to sub-optimisation. Many focused on what we talk a lot about today – the culture at KI – and how we build a KI spirit and not a hotel for researchers.
There is much to indicate that instead of three boards we should insert the deans as distinct leaders in the line organisation. That we should “cluster” our 22 departments rationally under faculty boards led by the deans. We need a more distinct linkage between responsibility and authority. And from the University Board’s point of view it is also important that the Vice-Chancellor play an over-arching and strategic role. This will hardly be possible if the Vice-Chancellor has close to 30 managers reporting directly to him. One very important task is also to institutionalise collegial influence in a manner suited to the purpose.
It is my hope that at the next meeting of the University Board we can begin working on these questions.