The future health care landscape in Stockholm has been discussed and planned for many years. Discussions and planning where Karolinska Institutet has taken part, not necessarily being heard. The future health care system has many components; The new Karolinska University Hospital, a highly specialized hospital; the consequent transfer of patients into primary care and private actors. All this will influence Karolinska Institutet and its educational and research activities.


A medical faculty and the health care sector are mutually dependent on each other, as reflected in ALF agreements at the national and regional levels. KI is dependent on the health care sector for clinical research and placements for our students, and the health care sector depends on us for competent staff and novel care, diagnostics and treatments. So what is really happening? When the patients move, students, teachers, research, researchers and resources also have to adapt. The student has to be where the patient is and education should also be connected to research for example. All this needs to be done in well planned and long term processes, making sure to maintain high quality care, education and research. In parallel with this the Karolinska University Hospital is introducing a new work modell.

A top priority for KI

Altogether this is placing a lot of stress on our organization, students, teachers and researchers. Resolving this is a top priority for the university management. For instance, I will give the Board of Education a special assignment to look into how we can secure our learning goals within the new work model at Karolinska University Hospital. If the Board concludes that the learning goals cannot be secured, they are tasked to suggest alternative solutions.
In our regular dialogue and meetings with the Stockholm County Council we also bring up the importance of expanding the concept of specialist centra as we believe they represent a good model for combining care, education and research. The first specialist centra is well under way but we need much more of this. We also need assistance from the Stockholm County Council in reaching out into the private care sector.

Work-shop. Photo: Lena Atterwall

A have previously written about the decision to implement a coherent quality system for Karolinska Institutet. Maintaining and developing quality in operations are continuous and long-term efforts. KI’s new coherent quality system is to be viewed as the start of a sustainable systematic development of quality in all of KI’s operations. One important aspect that is not well developed was models for peer review and associated learning. I was very happy to learn that the Board of Higher Education is organizing workshops including representatives responsible for first-cycle education from departments (so called GUAs) and representatives from our study programme committees (programme directors) for peer review and associated learning of quality plans for first- and second-cycle education. I was very happy to be asked to start up the second of these work shops.

Senior colleagues as role models and mentors for younger colleagues for continued learning

Last week we had the yearly Emeriti dinner. We then honor those who have contributed to make Karolinska Institutet to what it is today, an internationally leading medical university. Senior academics and emeriti represent an extensive knowledge and experience resource not least to younger colleagues and we really welcome your continued contribution to our university into the future. Senior academics are very important as role models and mentors not least for younger colleagues. Nowadays, reaching the formal retirement age for professors at Karolinska Institutet is often a passage to the next stage and many will continue as senior professors. The position as senior professor was introduced at Karolinska Institutet in 2012 and today we have around 100 individuals employed as senior professors, ranging from a few per cent employment to full time employment. I have asked our HR Director , together with the chairperson of the Recruitment Committee review the position as senior professor to make sure we have a common view within the university and a clear purpose and scope. It is very natural to make such a review a few years after something new is introduced.


Last week SciLifeLab was visited by its International Advisory Board, IAB.  SciLifeLab is hosted by four universities in Stockholm and Uppsala; Karolinska Institutet, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm University and Uppsala University, and supports activities organized within these universities. SciLifeLab is additionally supporting activities at several additional Swedish universities.

Translate novel methods

As vice-chancellor of one of the host universities, I met with the IAB. It is clear that the IAB is impressed with what has been achieved, but also sees unexplored possibilities and potential. We should not be content and rest assured that combining activities from universities with distinct profiles alone will automatically generate added value, but we should exolore how the universities could contribute to strategic initiatives that will move SciLifeLab to the next level. This is a clear responsibility for us representing university leadership. KI as a medical university has a special responsibility to translate novel methods and protocols into clinical practice, something that is already happening. I hope to contribute in the further developments of SciLifeLab and believe that I have a good understanding of SciLifeLab, including its potential and limitations, from my previous experience of being part of the SciLifeLab operative team as well as the Stockholm SciLifeLab steering group.

Focus on getting a permanent structure

One urgent matter is that presently SciLifeLab is managed by an interim organization until June 2017. It is very important that the universities now work together with the SciLifeLab management to get all organizational agreements and a permanent management structure in place. A structure that allows the universities to take their responsibility as hosts. Being a host of SciLifeLab includes the very important responsibility for personnel. I left the meeting (and the Alpha/Gamma building) with a feeling that we in the KI management should improve communication with our staff at SciLifeLab and that we should also improve joint communication from all host universities to all of our staff.

The coherent quality system is based on a holistic perspective – there is one KI where all parts of our operations contribute to the overall quality of the university and where our core operations are interdependent on each other.  With this system, we have a consensus on what quality is and how we shall approach quality and we use the consistent methods and tools.

The concept of a coherent quality system was out-lined in KI’s Strategy 2018 and is also mentioned in the latest government research policy: ”…a more coherent system for quality assurance including all activities of the higher education sector, is likely to contribute to a closer link between research and education”. Work commenced in 2015 and I touched upon the work in this blog in June last year.

Associate Professor Anna Kiessling and Britta Steneberg, Coordinator at the Strategic Planning Office have been instrumental in bringing the project to a successful completion. They have had a broad approach bringing in opinions and ideas from many people all over KI.

Next steps

The identified overall quality indicators will be available for the follow-up of KI activities 2017.

We will regularly follow up quality for instance through surveys on the perceived quality with different stakeholders such as students, doctoral students, staff, collaboration partners and other external stakeholders.

A joint survey data base will be established.

Through ”Verksamhetsinformationssystemet”, VIS, i.e. Operations Information System, we will make results from surveys etc readily available for managers and coworkers at all levels of our organisation.

Evaluation and feedback shall be an integral part of KI’s set process for operational planning.

A joint fika to celebrate the finalizing of a coherent quality system for KI. Anna Kiessling and Brita Steneberg to the left.

Continuous development efforts

During the last year’s work, the project team has identified a number of potential development areas that KI will address:

  • Develop the quality work within the joint administrative support, i.e. the University Administration. This includes identifying and describing processes within the joint administration and the interface between central and local (at the departmental level) administrative functions.
  • Develop additional indicators at the overall joint KI level.
  • Develop models for peer review and associated learning.
  • Develop routines and evaluation methods for compliance, including administrative support
  • Develop KI’s incident and deviation handling.
  • Incentive structure supporting quality development.

Maintaining and developing quality in operations are continuous and long-term efforts. KI’s new coherent quality system is to be viewed as the start of a sustainable systematic development of quality in all of KI’s operations.



This week the three internal boards – board of research, board of doctoral education and board of higher education – had a common retreat, a very important signal that there is one KI where our core activities are mutually dependent on each other. I was invited to give a few remarks to start up the retreat. I choose to focus on some of the important topics that were to be covered. One of the topics, which presently occupy a lot of attention, and which is highly relevant for all three boards, is the tight dependence of the Stockholm County Council, SCC, and KI on each other. KI needs the health care sector and in particularly SCC to provide an arena for our education and research activities. And in return, we provide the health care sector and SCC with highly educated staff and research results and innovations for implementation in the health care sector. With the transforming health care landscape, characterized by a transfer of healthcare out from the hospitals, particularly the highly specialized focus of the Karolinska University Hospital and the inclusion of private health care providers. KI needs be proactive to assure that we can provide high quality professional training and that we can maintain high quality research environments. In this, a constructive dialogue with the SCC at all levels is important. Our activities are often dependent on patient volumes so we must assure that these are not too fragmented.

Minister visiting Swetox

I left the retreat to go to Swetox in Södertälje which was hosting a visit by the Minister for the Environment, Karolina Skog, together with Undersecretary Per Ängquist and the Political Advisor Anders Wankler. It is very important to highlight the role of Swetox as a national expert center for competence development, analysis and research in toxicology, not least in relation to the environmental challenges that the world is facing. Environmental challenges is a prioritized area in the latest government research policy and the visit by the minister was very important and welcome. More about the visit at Swetox website.

The latest government research policy has a clear focus on innovation and touches upon the role of university-associated holding companies. The government expresses its intention to review the focus of holding companies and to bring suggestions forward to the parliament. I believe that in general the innovation support is too fragmented and undercapitalized and we should deepen the collaboration within the sector to gain critical mass and to share the responsibility, similarly to how the sector has realized the need to collaborate and share responsibility for infrastructure.

Innovation is one important way for universities and other higher education institutions to collaborate with and have an impact on the surrounding society at large. Government is urging universities for increased outreach, collaboration and societal impact. This was evident in the latest government research policy and also in a government commissioned report from Vinnova, exploring the possibilities of directing part of the direct government funding on the basis of measuring collaboration performance. While agreeing with the overall purpose of stimulating collaboration, it is our opinion that the government is starting at the wrong end and should instead look more into eliminating obstacles to increased collaboration. Last week, six university rectors expressed our concerns in a debate article in Svenska Dagbladet (article in Swedish only).

As KI’s acting vice-chancellor, I am a member of the board for the KI-related holding company, Karolinska Institutet Holding AB. We recently appointed Anders Flodin KIHAB interim CEO, following the resignation of Magnus Persson. Anders has been in the group since 2006, as CEO of Karolinska Institutet Housing AB, and is well acquainted with the KIHAB group and its subsidiaries. As CEO, Anders is expected to review the activities and organization of the KIHAB group, to generate conditions for a cost- and operationally effective corporate structure, in accordance with the owner’s directives and the board’s vision.

Visit at KI Innovations AB

Meeting with the staff at Karolinska Institutet Innovations AB

KIAB CEO Lilia Wikström

KI Innovations AB (KIAB) is an entity within KIHAB, and the first instance of the overall commercial innovation system. Researchers with ideas or projects with a possible commercial potential are offered professional support.

Monday 13 February, myself and the university director Per Bengtsson was invited to KIAB to get an update on their operations. It was a very interesting hour where we were presented with examples of the diverse repertoire of projects that have received coaching by the KIAB staff. We were presented with examples of both projects aimed at early drug target discovery and other projects that had progressed further into the drug development phase. But we were also presented with very different projects where novel digital tools can be used in diagnosis and to save lives.


Honouring long-term serving employees

On Thursday, we had the annual ceremony for honouring those who have served as government employees for 30 years, the award is called “Nit och redlighet i riketsikets tjänst (NOR)”, similar to ” Royal Medal for Zeal and Probity in the Service of the Kingdom”. As acting vice-chancellor it is a great honor to participate in a NOR-ceremony and honor employees who devoted 30 years of their lives in service for the government. I am also very grateful to the staff of our ceremony unit that with extreme professionalism prepares and completes our ceremonies, and to the photographers for producing memories of happy and important moments.

Photographer Ulf Sirborn together with staff from Unit for Academic Ceremonies: Karin Björklund-Jonsson and the Head of the unit, Ylva Blomberg


















The dean of higher education, Annika Östman Wernerson had asked med to join her for an afternoon at the advanced leadership programme she is currently attending. Known as HeLP, Högre Ledarprogram/Higher Leadership Programme, this training is organized by the Association of Swedish Higher Education (Sveriges universitets- och högskoleförbund, SUHF).

This programme is important in many aspects; It equippes participants with important tools and experiences in their own formal and personal leadership. Personal leadership is a continuous process where there is always scoop for development, the nature of which is dependent on one’s previous experience and present position. The programme is also important as it is an opportunity to network with other academic leaders from universities and higher education authorities all around Sweden. We can all learn from each other and there are many questions and challenges which we should discuss and develop together within our sector.

Discussing equality

This afternoon all participants’ rectors had been invited, and the afternoon ended with handing out of diplomas by Helen Dannetun, Rector at Linköping university and Chairperson of SUHF. But prior to that, we enjoyed a very interesting afternoon on the theme equal opportunities. The course participants had prepared activities – a mixture of panel discussions, mentometer surveys and sketches. It became very apparent that although we think we know what equality and equal opportunity is, we did not always see the obvious. This was a very important “eye opener” that knowledge is not enough, one has to always be observant and challenge one’s perspectives, not least by interacting with and listening to others who have different experiences than yourself. I left the day with a feeling of being inactively competent.

Looking far enough?

There was also an interesting discussion on how to advice a young female researcher whether to take a leadership role or not. Clearly different opinions were expressed but at the end of the day,  it is only the individual herself who can decide. Lina Thomsgård, the founder of Rättviseförmedlingen presented a very interesting lecture on the theme; The balance, or rather imbalance, between males and females in media, culture, business and other contexts. She founded Rättviseförmedlingen as a response to the statement “we did not find any female candidates”. Rättviseförmedlingen uses the power of social media to search for a diversity of candidates for different positions. Are we perhaps not looking far enough when searching for candidates for tasks within our own university?


Participants in the davanced leadership programme with their diplomat. KI dean of higher education on the chair to the left.


It is becoming increasingly clear that no one is immune to international politics, including our own university in a country historically relatively unaffected by international restrictions and conflicts.
As a university, KI strongly defends the liberty of thought and the possibility and right of researchers to interact and build network across borders. This is a fundamental principle of a free world and a prerequisite for science.

Alarming news

Two days ago we were alarmed by information that a researcher who has been active at KI is imprisoned in Iran on unclear grounds and without due trial. Detention of any person under the threat of being punished without due trial is unacceptable. KI is now seeking further information and advice on how to act.
In another part of the world, new immigration rules are restricting movement of individuals and hence also the abilities for scientific interchange and the building of scientific networks. This is happening in the USA, a country known for attracting scientists from all over the world working together to deliver successful research. The latest on this is that the restrictions have been stopped by the US justice system on the grounds that they are unconstitutional

Important research ally

In a longer time span, alarming signals are coming from the new US administration indicating restrictions in academic freedom, ie the right of scientists to independently choose research questions and methodology, and to freely spread research results. For Sweden, the US is an important research ally and in many research fields also an example and an inspirer, why these developments raise concerns both from our own egocentric perspective but more importantly as a member of the global research community.


As an independent academia we are obliged to speak up and defend scientific values and our research colleagues. It is equally important for us to engage in dialogue with our government. We will do our best to bring attention to our concerns and, if asked, provide constructive advice.

Student representation is a critical part of our governing structure. We need input from students to continuously improve study programmes, teaching, and learning environments and to improve our university as a whole. Being a student representative is an important role guarding the interest and influence of students, not just here and now but also for future students. While some improvements cannot be implemented in the short term perspective, you, our present students, will still benefit later when you as colleagues in your work life encounter more junior colleagues that have had the best training. And being a representative is also in itself a valuable experience for your future work life. Beginning this week, I met with students that have chosen to contribute as student representatives in our different university bodies.

To provide attractive study programmes is one critical aspect for meeting the increasing demand of highly trained personnel in the health care sector. The latter is a real challenge, exemplified for instance by the Swedish Minister of Health tasking the Swedish Higher Education Authority (Universitetskanslerämbetet) and the National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen) to jointly investigate possibilities for collaboration for competence supply for the health care sector.  I am part of the reference group and the group had its first meeting last week. It is evident that this challenge must be addressed by several stakeholders, including universities and other higher education institutions and representatives from the health care sector; in a collaborative manner. We as universities must contribute by providing attractive study programmes that equip students with the skills they need in the future working landscape, shaped not least by digitalization and the omics revolution.

As students of this generation, you add new perspectives in our governing bodies from the world we now live in, based on your diverse backgrounds and experiences. My hope, of course, is that you will experience that your contribution makes a difference and that you get new skills and experiences that is important in your future life.

Farewell symposium celebrating a fantastic research career

Later on in the afternoon, I attended a Valedictory Symposium for Outi Hovatta, professor,

Outi’s career at Karolinska Institutet, which spans almost 20 years, has really contributed to our vision – to make a significant contribution to the improvement of human health and she has also made sure that the research is put to good use. She has addressed individual, and in a broader perspective societal, challenges all to the benefit of individuals, families and society at large.  She is highly recognized in Sweden and internationally for her contributions to improve methods for in vitro fertilization, to preserve fertility in association with serious disease and for the establishment of novel methods for cultivations of human embryonic stem cells.

It was a fantastic symposium, with Magnus Westgren as main organizer, including a diverse repertoire of science and music provided by Outi and her family. Outi, will now move on to warmer parts of the world but will remain affiliated with Karolinska Institutet

Graduation ceremony in Aula Medica 13 January, 2017. Photo: Gunnar Ask

Welcome back to Karolinska Institutet after the holidays, students and employees!

Monday I will welcome new students to Karolinska Institutet and this Friday I had the privilege of addressing the students leaving our university at two graduation ceremonies. Meeting our students is very valuable for me as vice-chancellor. It is an opportunity to present what our university is and wha

t we stand for as well as to give some personal reflections and advice along the road. It also provides for more informal discussions with some of the students, not least the student marshals (marskalkar) who play a very important part in ceremonial aspects of our celebrations, and who guide me through the ceremony and make sure I walk in the right direction and do the right thing at the right time. Thank you for your contributions!

Graduation ceremony in Erling Persson Auditorium at Aula Medica, 13 January 2017. Photo: Gunnar Ask

A graduation ceremony followed by welcoming students illustrates what makes the university such a vibrant environment: new students arriving full of expectations and others leaving equipped with new knowledge, experiences and an attractive degree, all in a constant cycle. New students and those which have just obtained their degree share the experience of being at a cross road probably with great expectations but also a little concern. But between the two cross roads, many days have passed. As a university it is our responsibility that these days consist of educational activities of high quality fulfilling our students’ expectations and preparing them for their future important work tasks. To achieve this, leadership, not least of our educational activities, is of great importance.

Discussing leadership

By coincidence, between the graduation ceremonies, I had the opportunity to meet participants of our leadership programme “Education Manager of the Future – “Framtidens utbildningsledare”. These programmes are very important since good leadership is a prerequisite, however not sufficient, for high quality activities. At the meeting, I spoke about what kind of university KI will be in the future and thus what they will be expected to be leaders of; An internationally leading medical university competing for students, teachers and researchers on a global market; An extensive operation with over 6000 students and 6000 employees, with many activities, both research and education, taking place partly within the health care sector, and last but not least, all of this anchored on the solid ground of being a public authority, tasked by the government to serve society’s need for new knowledge.

I also touched upon on how to be a good leader, where I can only refer to my own thoughts and experiences. My ambition is to be a lucid, transparent and communicative leader, while at the same time being responsive and having a listening attitude. I believe that well-informed students and employees perform better. It must be clear to all on what basis and by whom a decision is made. Mandates and responsibilities must also be clear.

Then we had a very fruitful discussion where we touched on many important aspects such as who is responsible for what, not least in the interface between the university and the health care sector? We also discussed the importance of clear rules and regulations and that these are followed and how do we as leaders deal with different difficult questions we might encounter? I very much appreciated the discussion and wish we would have had more time!