Dean's letter October 2021

Last changed: 01 November 2021
Picture of apples in a basket surrounded by autumn leafs.

As the autumn semester progresses, we are trying to see what lessons we can learn from the pandemic. What have we learnt that is useful also when there is no pandemic forcing us to work in a certain way?

Two inquires

The vice-chancellor has commissioned two inquiries, one focusing on lessons learnt when it comes to teaching, the other on working from home.

The pandemic isn’t over yet, but the vaccination rate makes it possible to return to the workplace and benefit from face-to-face meetings and making use of the resources available on campus. At the same time, we mustn’t just return to old habits, but take advantage of our newly acquired knowledge and experience.

Continued development of teaching and learning, and technology, together with campus resources central to our programmes, contribute to the quality and attractiveness of our educational offering.

When planning activities like meetings, we need to take quality into account, but also take responsibility for how we use our time and resources, and the environmental impact of our activities. This also affects our work environment and our opportunities to ensure inclusive and equal conditions at work. Flexibility is key, as is adapting to the needs of different parts of our organisation.  

The faculty’s strategy operational plan

The faculty’s work with the 2021–2025 strategy and the operational plan that will ensure that the faculty develops in line with the strategy is in full swing, as is the strategy work at the department level. A project group consisting of the dean, deputy dean, head of faculty administration and research officer are busy preparing the consultation results before the operational plan is addressed at the 10 November faculty board meeting.

The operational plan will also be on the agenda during the away-days for heads of department on 24–25 November, and the plan is to approve it at the faculty board’s December meeting. We want to thank everyone who has contributed during the consultation process, including at the department level. The commitment and contribution of individual employees to improving their everyday situation, and their part of the organisation, are what make a real difference in the strategy work.

Skill provision

Skills provision at the faculty is crucial for the long-term improvement of research and teaching. The dean, deputy dean, heads of department and deputy heads of department have an annual dialogue based on each department’s operational plan.

This year, for the first time, the programme board for landscape and horticulture, as well as the doctoral education committee, have contributed feedback to the departments on the needs they have identified in their respective area of responsibility. For recruitments to senior posts, data is compiled in two-year recruitment plans that will be established by the faculty board at their first 2022 meeting.

Getting our priorities right is a challenge; we need to balance the need for skills that will ensure the competitiveness of research with the skills needed for our courses and programmes.

In several of our specialised subject fields, we have difficulties getting enough qualified applicants. This is the case particularly for the faculty’s professional programmes. It is clear that we need to increase our efforts to contribute to the recruitment base in these fields.

There are no quick fixes, instead, we need an even flow of doctoral students and career-development positions for all subject fields. This may seem simple enough, but the truth is that doctoral education is very much governed by external funding, as the current direct governmental resources for our subject fields don’t cover more than perhaps the fourth year of doctoral studies.

We see the same problem with associate senior lectureships. This is not a problem unique to our faculty, the other faculties have the same problem when it comes to subject fields linked to professional programmes and providing staff for the land-based sector, which is why this needs to be addressed at the university-wide level.

Good growth is predicted

There are many challenges, but also many joys. The faculty strategy focuses on the importance of making the most of and improving the skills of existing staff, as they are our most important resource. Growth within the faculty is positive, with newly recruited professors and senior lecturers who will further strengthen our team.

Our doctoral students are, on the whole, happy with their studies and the continual improvement supported by a well-functioning quality assurance system. The recent dialogue on quality is an important tool where the crucial importance of the supervisor and the importance of agreeing on expectations were among the topics discussed.

The growing interest from society and businesses in the faculty’s subject fields and a well-developed capacity for collaboration suggest a bright outlook when it comes to external funding. We continue to see successful grant applications, and we are currently waiting for the results of a substantial Formas call. We are also working on various applications for EU funding. We wish everyone success in this work; the competition is tight.

Our educations a success

That the faculty is doing well when it comes to education is reflected not least in the admissions results for the freestanding courses next spring. Four of the ten most popular courses are commissioned by the programme board for landscape and horticulture and are offered at the LTV Faculty. The 50th anniversary celebrations for the landscape architecture programme are in full swing with several events taking place.

Campus in progress

Campus development is taking place in both Alnarp and Ultuna, and guiding principles and a local programme for Campus Alnarp will be finalised shortly. Competence groups will be set up for different fields to ensure that we make the most of our employees’ skills and competence; a subject we will be returning to. Visit the newly inaugurated spaces for Green Innovation Park Alnarp!

As SLU employees, we have every reason to be proud of our university and pleased with the work we do. It’s easy to forget everything we achieve in our everyday work when the focus is often on what can be improved or on objectives and expectations that weren’t quite met.

In the latest Kantar Sifo reputation index, our position improved considerably; we climbed 6 points and are now among the top 5 Swedish higher education institutions. This is even more remarkable as knowledge about SLU is still relatively low.

We see this as a result of the successful work of our employees and their efforts to communicate our successes to society. By continuing our communication efforts and making sure everyone knows when SLU is the source of knowledge, we can reach even further, and that way contribute to the attractiveness of our university and the faculty. As part of this, we will continue our initiative to improve research communication.

See you, if not before, on the short version of Faculty Day on November 17 at 13.00 – 14.30!

Håkan, Karl, Åsa and Lena