Newsletter 20-04-2016

 
 

Dear colleagues

The last weeks have been about opt-outs and cutbacks. We, like all other educational institutions in Denmark, have been instructed to realize significant savings in the coming years. This has made it necessary to close down a number of programmes and profiles. This is regrettable, but I believe it is better to make clear opt-outs within selected areas than to use an across-the-board approach, cutting all areas. We must prepare ourselves for a future with fewer resources, increased competition and more demands from the outside world. This calls for strategic opt-outs, but also for strategic investments.

The new reality

The universities have achieved a central place in society. This is both good and reasonable, but it also means that we to a much greater extent will be met with expectations of our study programmes and research, as well as demands for higher efficiency. Just think of the many policy initiatives the past few years, for example the dimensioning of study programmes, the study progress reform and the forthcoming reform of the taximeter model. I believe that we at the universities will experience what has been everyday life for the hospitals for many years now: Demands for relevant high-quality services, but at lower costs!

Here at SDU we are particularly challenged as we have seen a great increase in our educational activities through the past several years – not least here at BSS. This has eroded our base funding and made it difficult to maintain high standards in all activities, while at the same time making us vulnerable to both the current and any upcoming dimensioning of our study programmes. Finally, we have a decentralised structure – which we will stick to, because we take our regional responsibilities seriously – but which is also very costly.

You can choose to watch passively and try to make ongoing adjustments to the increasing demands and ever decreasing resources. This is a slow but certain death. We have chosen a different and more pro-active approach – we want to be co-architects of our own future. This is why we started a strategy process a year and a half ago under the heading “quality and relevance” with the purpose of working out how we should develop and strengthen our activities and revenue base to prepare ourselves for the new reality.

This also requires that we have the courage to invest and adopt strategic measures during a time of cut-backs and opt-outs. I realise that this may be difficult to accept – but unfortunately it is imperative.

The local strategy development

The Faculty’s strategy, which was completed in the summer, sets a framework and guides our joint efforts to create a strong and viable faculty. The content of this framework must be decided locally. The local environments have different opportunities and challenges – and must therefore focus on different parts of the strategy. And we should never try to do everything at once!

This is why all departments and units have worked intensely to figure out which measures are most important to them. I have seen much hard and committed work, and many good proposals have been forwarded both within and across units – and I would like to thank all of you for taking on this important but difficult work in spite of your busy schedules. It has not been easy, and we all had to get used to a whole new and joint way of working – but you really came through, and we have all (especially I) become wiser in the process. Thank you for your efforts!

The strategic measures

Many good proposals regarding education, research and knowledge exchange have been suggested – and many proposal cut across these three areas. Unfortunately, we cannot implement all of your good proposals right now. We have neither the strength nor the financial resources to do so, and we must also ensure that we have the financial leeway to initiate further measures in the coming years.

The group of department heads has created a joint prioritisation of the many good proposals with great help from the Academic Council and the Education Board. Some of the measures require coordination and must be carried out in a joint effort – others need to be supported by joint strategic resources if we are to succeed with them.

In the process, we have focused on proposals that are both achievable and have the potential to make a difference. Due to the increasing economic challenges, we have placed particular emphasis on proposals that have the potential to free or create new resources – both in the short and longer term. Finally, we have prioritised proposals with cross-cutting potential. I am convinced that we must be much better at thinking in terms of development and cooperation across departments, geographical and administrative units so as to avoid duplication of work and instead reap synergies across disciplines and old boundaries.

I will not go into the details about the individual measures here, but simply emphasise the fact that they are in very good keeping with our four key strategic initiatives, and focus on the following overall prioritisations:

More profitable and attractive programmes: We must simultaneously create better finances in the programmes, promote cooperation across campuses and ensure attractive programmes for the students. Therefore, we have given priority to the development of new IT-based forms of learning as well as an effort to achieve an international accreditation (AACSB – The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business).

A strengthening of our continuing education programmes: We must ensure visibility in the surrounding community and we must ensure a strong and alternative revenue base for the Faculty in the future. We have therefore given special priority to the development of part-time programmes and short customised programmes.

The development of research groups: We must increase the quality and relevance of our research and ensure more external and elite research funds. We have therefore chosen to support a few elite measures, where the potential for external financing is large, and where research is both relevant and cross-disciplinary. Simultaneously, we have chosen to give priority to selected local measures, which focus on linking quality and relevance.

Optimisation of operations and financial management: In order to ensure the best possible administration for students and employees and in order to free resources for future developments, we have given priority to optimising and rationalising our administrative processes, for example our study administrative and financial processes.

 

In the near future, heads of departments and administrative managers will inform you in more detail about the prioritised measures and the further work of implementing them.

/Nikolaj