Home » Arkiv / archive » Akademisk Råd vil sikre faglig styrke/ The Academic Council will ensure academic strength

 

Akademisk Råd vil sikre faglig styrke/ The Academic Council will ensure academic strength

 

Det Akademiske Råd spiller en vigtig rolle, når de faglige miljøer i disse uger gør rede for deres selvevalueringer på en række panelmøder.

Mere end 35 repræsentanter for fakultetets forskningsgrupper har siddet overfor de fem medlemmer af rådet, der har været klar med kritiske spørgsmål for at afdække miljøernes styrker og svagheder. Rådets formand professor John Christensen ser dets funktion som bærende i forbindelse med selvevalueringsprocessen.

“Vi gør det på en sober og ordentlig måde. Vi skal ikke nedgøre andre fagmiljøer, for vi skal ikke føre fagkamp – det er meget vigtigt, og det synes jeg, vi lykkes med,” siger han.
“Jeg går ud fra, at dekanen og institutlederne lærer en masse ved, at vi stiller spørgsmål. Det er min klare opfattelse, at de ikke kunne klare denne opgave uden vores faglige indsigt. Uden os var de ikke kvalificeret til at tage tilstrækkeligt gode beslutninger.”

John Christensen har nu siddet med til næsten to ugers panelmøder, og for ham udgør evalueringen af fagmiljøerne et vigtigt beslutningsgrundlag for fakultetets fremtid.

“Der kommer en tid, hvor institutterne skal positionere sig overfor hinanden, og fordeling af ressourcer og fag kommer i spil. Akademisk Råd spiller rollen som den mere neutrale ”fakultetets stemme”, som jo også er vip’ernes stemme. Alle andre er ansat til at pleje deres egen sag. Rådet adskiller den politiske slåskamp fra de faglige brydninger, og det er vigtigt i denne proces, for vi er altså et universitet, hvor fagligheden skal være i højsædet, og hvor vi ikke skal bygge små magtimperier. Rådet kan give fagligt modspil, som ikke er hæmmet eller farvet af budgetslagsmål.”

Fagligt mod og indsigt skal sikre gode langsigtede beslutninger

Det er første gang, rådet er blevet brugt aktivt for at sikre kvalitet og relevans på fakultetet, og det er ikke et sekund for tidligt, mener John Christensen.
Han betegner de højere læreanstalter i Danmark som steder, hvor man har eksperimenteret meget med ledelse, og hvor den lange tradition for at lærerstaben, det videnskabelige personale, har et afgørende ord, har været knægtet gennem de sidste ti år.

“Det er uhensigtsmæssigt, for det kommer jo til at handle om at få dagen til at hænge sammen og ikke sikre det faglige miljø på længere sigt. Konsekvensen er, at vi får en skævvridning, mindre faglige beslutninger, og den forkerte rekruttering og fagsammensætning, siger han.

“Det er institutledernes fornemmeste opgave at bruge penge, no matter what. Jo større budget de kan bruge, jo bedre. Men når vi bruger penge, binder vi ressourcer i 30-40 år, fordi vores ansættelser strækker sig så længe og det er farligt. Hvis man tager en forkert beslutning i begyndelsen, hænger vi på den. Der skal faglig indsigt og fagligt mod til at sige, det her er ikke rigtigt. Det er svært, fordi alting bliver let politisk.”

Universiteter i hele verden inkluderer de videnskabelige miljøer i deres beslutningsprocesser, og John Christensen er tilfreds med, at fakultetet har bestemt sig for at følge den kotyme.

Os eller nogen andre

Enkelte medlemmer af rådet har selv skullet indtage den varme stol, og man kan anfægte, om de kan holde sig objektive, når de selv er en del af processen. John Christensen vedkender, at det kan være svært at være med til at evaluere sig selv.

“Det er svært at tie stille, når ens egen faggruppe bliver behandlet, men så træder vi jo et skridt til side. Og alternativet til det her ville jo være eksterne eksperter, som vi fløj ind til at sidde her. Det ville være et hold til nogen, et andet til nogle andre, og så videre. Det store problem bagefter ville blive, hvordan man kunne sammenfatte og koordineret holdningerne fra de forskellige paneler. Her går et samlet panel igennem det hele og sikrer en vis homogenitet.”

Målet med selvevalueringen er synergi

Formanden dvæler atter ved tiden efter marts, hvor evalueringen skal bruges til at udforme den strategi, som skal sikre kvalitet og relevans for fakultetet i fremtiden. På panelmøderne er det blevet tydeligt, hvor styrkerne og svaghederne ligger i de enkelte forskningsmiljøer, og der er tale om et kæmpestort puslespil, der skal lægges, når beslutningerne snart skal tages.

“Hvor fakultetet har sorte huller eller overlap er svært at sige – eller rettere, det bliver nok let, men det bliver svært at tage beslutningerne. Men der bliver et godt beslutningsgrundlag, fordi man gennem panelmøderne får et totalt overblik over, hvad der rører sig på fakultetet,” siger han.

“Og så må vi huske, at det ikke er en proces, der er sat i verden for at skære, men skærpe profilen og fakultetets sammenhæng. At der så samtidig skabes information omkring, hvilke grene vi kan kappe uden at tabe synderligt, er et godt biprodukt. Men hovedproduktet er at få en bedre synergi og sammenhængskraft – så vidt jeg har forstået.”

 

INTERVIEW: The Academic Council

The Academic Council plays an important role when the academic environments currently present their self-evaluations at a number of panel meetings.
More than 35 representatives of the Faculty’s research groups have sat opposite the five members of the Council, who have come armed with critical questions aimed at identifying the strengths and weaknesses of the environments. Council Chairman, Professor John Christensen, sees its function as vital to the self-evaluation process.

“We do this in a sober and orderly manner. We must not denigrate other academic environments, because it’s not an academic battleground – that is very important, and I think we’ve been quite successful in handling it,” he says.

“I assume the Dean and the Heads of Departments learn a lot from our questioning. I firmly believe they would not be able to manage this task without our specialist insight. Without us, they would not be qualified to make good enough decisions.”

John Christensen has now taken part in almost two weeks of panel meetings, and as far as he is concerned, evaluations of the academic environments form an important basis for making decisions about the future of the Faculty.

“There comes a time when the Departments have to face one another, and the deployment of resources and skills comes into play. The Academic Council plays the role of the more neutral “voice of the Faculty”, which is, of course, also the voice of the academic staff (VIPs). All the others are employed to take care of their own affairs. The Council separates the battle of politics from academic wrangling, and that is important in this process, as our university must make academic achievement the top priority; we should not be building our own little power bases. The Council can contribute a different, academic perspective that is not restricted or coloured by battles over the budget.”

Academic courage and insight will ensure sound long-term decisions

This is the first time the Council has been used actively to assure quality and relevance at the Faculty, and it has come not a moment too soon, according to John Christensen.
He describes the institutions of higher learning in Denmark as places where there has been a great deal of experimentation with management, and where the long tradition of giving the teaching staff – the academic staff – the last word has been suppressed over the past decade.

“That is inappropriate, because then it all becomes a question of making things work on a daily basis rather than ensuring the long-term future of the academic environment. The result is a distortion, with decisions that are less about the academic aspects, and the wrong recruitment and composition of subjects,” he explains.

“The primary task of the Heads of Department is to spend money, no matter what. The bigger the budget they are able to use, the better. But when we spend money, we are committing resources for 30–40 years, because that is the length of time we retain staff, and there’s a danger in that. If a bad decision is made at the beginning, we’re stuck with it. It needs academic insight and academic courage to say this is not right. It is difficult, because it is so easy for everything to become politicised.”

Universities all over the world include the academic environments in their decision-making processes, and John Christensen is pleased that the Faculty has decided to adopt this practice.

Us or someone else

Individual members of the Council have had to sit in the hot-seat themselves, and you could question whether they can remain objective when they themselves are part of the process. John Christensen acknowledges that it can be difficult to be involved in evaluating oneself.

“It’s difficult to keep quiet when your own academic group is in the spotlight, but when that happens, we take a step back. And the alternative to that would be to parachute in external experts to do this. There would be one team for some, another team for others, and so on. The big problem afterwards would be how to summarise and coordinate the opinions of the different panels. Here, a combined panel goes through the whole thing, ensuring a certain degree of homogeneity.”

The goal of self-evaluation is synergy

The Chairman then focuses on the period after March when the evaluation has to be applied to design the strategy that will assure quality and relevance for the Faculty, going forward. The panel meetings have helped to clarify where the strengths and weaknesses lie in the individual research environments, and when the time comes for making decisions, it is rather like a huge jigsaw puzzle.

“It is difficult to say where there are any black holes or overlaps in the Faculty – or, more accurately, it’ll probably be easy, but the decisions will be difficult to make. However, the basis for decision-making will be sound because the panel meetings have provided a complete overview of what’s going on in the Faculty,” he says.

“We must also bear in mind that this process is not designed to make cut-backs but to sharpen the Faculty’s profile and cohesion. The fact that it also provides information on where we can prune a few branches without sustaining severe losses is a useful by-product. However, the main product is to improve our synergy and cohesion – as I understand it.”

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