We’re like other Swedish universities in that our teaching and research are governed by the state, through the Higher Education Ordinance and the Higher Education Act. And like other public higher education institutions (HEIs), we’re funded partly by direct government funding, partly by grants that we apply for in competition with others. Such grant-funded research usually means that researchers have full ownership of all immaterial rights linked to a research project. Swedish HEIs also have the right to conduct contract research, provided all costs are covered. At our faculty, contract research makes up a small part. Preliminary figures show that total funding from companies amounts to only 4 per cent.
We’re also a public authority among others, something that guarantees transparency and provides insight into operations. Unlike most other HEIs, we have our own ordinance – the Ordinance for the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (1993:221). The first section of this ordinance lists SLU’s special areas of responsibility; to conduct research and offer third-, second- and first-cycle courses and programmes in agriculture and horticulture, landscape planning, food production, nature conservation, forestry and timber processing, fisheries and aquaculture as well as veterinary medicine and animal husbandry, and carry out environmental monitoring and assessment. Our faculty’s government assignment is consequently to research and teach landscape planning, nature conservation, forestry and timber processing, fisheries and aquaculture. We are unique in that we’re the only university tasked with carrying out environmental monitoring and assessment. This means we have a wider assignment, but we’re funded in the same way as other HEIs.
SLU’s role as a sector university, originally covering only the land-based sector, has expanded and evolved over time. Our sectoral role involves clarifying the consequences of different trade-offs between production and sustainability objectives. This coincides with Agenda 2030, which highlights the importance of integrated approaches and solutions if the 17 goals are to be reached. Our sectoral role also has a global dimension as our areas of responsibility are linked to societal challenges such as the supply of food, water and energy, urbanisation, climate change, the transition to a biobased economy, etc.
The conclusion, then, is that SLU is a university among others. But we’re also unique, and that’s something to be proud of!