Soon, we can look forward to a much-awaited summer break and a relaxing time after a very intense spring semester. But before that, I would like to provide you with an update on the progress of the subject area review that the faculty has been working on since the autumn of 2021.
On the 13th and 14th of June, the Faculty Board (FN) had a work retreat, and the purpose of the days was to discuss "what decisions can the FN make based on the process material in the subject area review so far," "how does the FN want to proceed with the process results and any further process," and "how does the FN want to develop a development plan" according to the FN decision (in Swedish only).
During the work retreat, we went through the FN members' assignments, responsibilities, and decision-making authority according to the delegation order. Additionally, we took a look back at the FN decision for the subject area review and went through what was presented in Workshop 4.
The work retreat days were then interspersed with constructive, creative, and forward-looking discussions in either plenary or small groups on:
a) the future issues for the faculty that the FN sees as potential (based on the subject areas' potential to develop high-quality research and education in relation to relevance, future issues, and societal challenges),
b) their thoughts on the results that emerged in the process, i.e., during all the workshops and in the current situation analyses, based on what was requested in the FN decision,
c) what the FN would have liked to see the departments and subject areas achieve in the process so far,
d) the significance of the subject areas in relation to other subject areas in the faculty and SLU (synergies and overlaps),
e) what a subject area is and what significance, role, and function the subject areas have and should have in the future,
f) how critical mass we need to achieve strong subject areas,
g) how many subject areas we want,
h) what a reasonable number of subject areas is in relation to the size of the subject funding and what level of funding is reasonable, i) the significance, role, and mission of the subject area responsible individuals.
The faculty's research officer, Tomas Österman, also presented key figures for the faculty's subject areas: number of employees and doctoral students, number of supervisors, and the distribution of subject funding at the faculty and in other faculties at SLU.
The days concluded with a summary and presentation of proposals for further process steps and a development plan for subject areas that the FN will decide on later this autumn. Some reflections based on this are presented below.
The way forward:
• The faculty has embarked on a cultural journey where development and work of change should be a natural and recurring process with evaluation and benchmarking of subject areas and responsible individuals to ensure our quality and relevance.
• The current process material from the subject area review needs further processing within the organizations before decisions can be made.
• Various incentives, such as faculty-funded strategic investments and interdisciplinary themes, need to be initiated to achieve interdisciplinary, dynamic, and flexible research groups and fewer boundaries between subject groups.
• A plan for further process based on the desired changes from the FN needs to be developed.
• The FN also sees the need for a short-term (2 years), medium-term (5 years), and long-term (>10 years) active strategic plan for the development of the faculty regarding subject areas (possibly also the institutional organization).
• The deans were tasked by the FN to draft a governing as well as process-oriented development plan that will include goals for different time horizons (short, medium, and long-term) for the development and funding of the faculty's subject areas based on the process material and discussions from the work retreat.
• The draft development plan for the faculty's subject areas is likely to encompass decisions on principles and frameworks for: how we define and shape subject areas and their purpose, role, and function including critical mass for a subject area; role and responsibilities of subject area responsible individuals; size and distribution of subject funding based on strategies and mandates; naming and description of subject areas; processes at the faculty and institutional levels for regular evaluation and development of subject areas, as well as a revised timetable for implementation during 2024-2026.
• Department-level processes will involve the institutions being tasked by the FN to continue working on the proposals sent to the FN through inclusive processes with the support of professional process management. Some proposals are expected to be decided upon for the allocation of funds in 2024, while other proposals from the institutions may only be decided upon for 2025 or 2026. This is because the departments need different amounts of time to arrive at the formation and direction of subject areas.
We are aware that changes resulting from this process may raise concerns, but it is intended to strengthen the conditions for all staff members. After the summer, the deans will be visiting the institutions to discuss and address any questions.