We are celebrating the spirit of the university

Aarhus University’s 85th anniversary paid tribute to academic freedom, an enquiring approach, and a sense of rebellion.

“The Aarhus University we’re celebrating today is not just the yellow brickwork. We’re celebrating the desire and dedication of the staff and students, as well as their ambition to qualify themselves and to fearlessly explore the world. We are celebrating the spirit of the university.”

These were the words of Rector Brian Bech Nielsen when he welcomed guests to Aarhus University’s annual celebration 2013 – the university’s 85th anniversary – speaking from the lectern in the cathedral-like Main Hall in the University Park, Aarhus.

In front of a packed house dressed to the nines, the rector drew particular attention to the special spirit and values that make up the core of the job satisfaction for both staff and students.

“We’re motivated by a critical approach. There’s no academic quality without a critical approach and freedom. We might well be owned by society, but we’re not society’s humble servants. We uncover the truth to the best of our ability, and we talk about it – even when it’s not welcome. These values are at the very heart of the university employees’ job satisfaction. They are part of our DNA. They make up the spirit of the university.”

Chairman of the Aarhus University Board – Michael Christiansen – began his speech by thanking Lauritz B. Holm-Nielsen for his great efforts for Aarhus University as the former rector, and then extended a warm welcome to Brian Bech Nielsen as the new rector.

He also emphasised the academic tradition of immersion and the urge to explore, highlighting in this connection Danish figures such as H. C. Ørsted, Adam Oehlenschläger and Søren Kierkegaard.
“Now and then, I miss the enterprising aesthetes of the past,” said Michael Christiansen.

Rightful demands from society
At the same time, however, both Brian Bech Nielsen and Michael Christiansen pointed out that it is perfectly natural for society to make demands on the universities. And that the enormous focus on education and research has a positive effect on growth, even though it also creates challenges.

“Of course, it’s a much greater challenge to educate twenty-five per cent of an intake and maintain the quality. But it’s a challenge we’ve taken upon us because Danish society needs a high level of education. That’s why we’re working with differentiated offers of degree programmes, talent development programmes, more guidance and more lessons – so we can accommodate the large teaching obligation,” said Michael Christiansen.

Rector Brian Bech Nielsen also pointed to the economy as an important prerequisite for being able to live up to the demands of society, and he therefore emphasised the new budget proposal as a good signal.

“I’d like to acknowledge that, in its latest budget proposal, the present government is maintaining the level of basic grants for research for a new period of three years. This provides the universities with a sensible planning horizon for efforts in the coming years,” he said.

This years’ honorary alumnus was revealed at the annual celebration, and a number of prizes were awarded to honour staff and students who have attracted particular attention. Read more about the annual celebration, the prize-giving ceremony and the speeches.