Rector’s summer speech: A strong university has become stronger

Things are going well for Aarhus University. The students are satisfied, the merger with the Engineering College of Aarhus (IHA) has finally been approved, and Tomorrow’s AU is gradually becoming a reality.


Rector Lauritz B. Holm-Nielsen has just given his annual summer speech. He focused on the status of the academic development process, but also touched on the new study environment survey and the merger with the Engineering College.

However, this came after a clear statement about the right of researchers to express themselves.

“Because there’s a bit of debate at present, I’d like to put the record straight by saying that everyone can say whatever they darned like at Aarhus University, and if they’ve also got the finances for it, they can do research in whatever they darned like. I’m saying this because there are apparently politicians in Denmark who don’t think this freedom applies to all university researchers. But we stick to the ideals of freedom.”

After this improvised introduction, he launched his account of the year’s benchmarks, beginning with the recently approved merger with the Engineering College of Aarhus (IHA).

“There are some people who ask: ‘Haven’t we finished with all this merger hullabaloo?’ No, we haven’t. You know the flower we drew in 2007, the one with a light-blue petal on it. It had engineering science printed on it.”

The ‘flower’ refers to a diagram from 2007 that illustrates all the subject areas Aarhus University would like to encompass.

“That petal will now be opened right out in six months’ time, because we have been given political approval of the merger between Aarhus University and the Engineering College. And that is actually something we have been working on for a decade,” said Lauritz B. Holm-Nielsen.

A good environment for students and researchers

The rector also mentioned the recently published study environment survey – the most comprehensive in Denmark. It states that the students are doing well, even though students from abroad have problems being integrated in reading groups and other academic environments. He also pointed out that an average of 28.5 hours is too short for a working week. For this and other reasons, an amount of DKK 8–10 million has been set aside to follow up on the survey.

The research environment is also flourishing at the university. The rector highlighted a research impact that is 1.4 times above world average, and that Aarhus University is number fourteen in Europe as regards grants from the European Research Council (ERC). This is the highest placing for a Danish university.

However, we must be even better, and the rector therefore urged the researchers to apply for funds via the recently established AU IDEAS grant programme for visionary and original project ideas. This means non-traditional alternative projects that have difficulty getting funding from the conventional pools and foundations.

With reference to AU IDEAS and a number of proposed new interdisciplinary centres, the rector concluded by emphasising that Aarhus University continues to be a university with one single, common aim: to create greater depth and coherence.