Good chemistry with Tromsø in Abisko

12 May 2022

Last week, the entire university management and I boarded a train to Abisko. We were looking forward to meeting the new university management at the University of Tromsø, to discuss common challenges and opportunities facing our respective institutions.

Umeå University has long had alliance partnerships with Linköping University and the University of Tromsø – The Arctic University of Norway. It is gratifying and valuable to gain new insights by sharing experiences, knowledge, and perspectives with leaders from different universities.

Hans Adolfsson, Vice-Chancellor, Umeå University

Photo: Mattias Pettersson

We were greeted by an enthusiastic group from the University of Tromsø. The Rector, Pro-Rectors and Vice-Rectors began their duties in August last year, and the only one remaining from the previous management is the Administrative Director. I have previously met the university's new Rector Dag Rune Olsen on several occasions when he was rector of the University of Bergen before coming to Tromsø.

Tromsø is an Arctic and multidisciplinary university, which shares many of Umeå University's challenges with education and research in sparsely populated rural areas. We operate in a geographic area with long distances and recruit students as well as teaching and research staff far from metropolitan regions. Tromsø conducts education and research in eleven locations in northern Norway, from Mo i Rana in the south to Kirkenäs in the north. The developments in Norway are very similar to what is happening in Norrbotten and Västerbotten, and there were interesting discussions about common opportunities and challenges in terms of managing the expectations that exist from society and the policies on us education providers in connection with the ongoing green transformation of society.

Collaboration with the University of Tromsø is not only at the management level. Our two universities are already active in the Arctic Five along with with Luleå University of Technology, the University of Oulu and the University of Lapland in Rovaniemi. Together, we are working to find research-based solutions to the challenges facing northern societies, including through the establishment of the Arctic Five Chairs, a platform in a collective effort of researchers to address common challenges facing the Arctic region. During the meeting in Abisko, we discussed further bilateral collaboration in research and education, and one of the ideas raised was to jointly organise a workshop on green transformation to see how we can best contribute to this with our respective competences.

Staying at the Abisko Natural Science Research Station was a highlight. Researchers and students work here in a sub-Arctic environment and the climate research attracts scientists from all over the world. The research station is home to a wide range of collaborations between various universities and organisations.

Umeå University's Climate Impact Research Center (CIRC) is one of the units permanently in place, with activities focusing on the effects of climate and environmental change on Arctic and alpine ecosystems. The Abisko National Park was established together with the research station, precisely to conduct both research and tourism. It is a good example of how research and society can work together.

The journey to Abisko by train takes hours, with many stops and waiting time at various stations along the way. As a curious researcher, I was struck by how different our railway platforms are in length, and in case anyone is wondering, Gällivare boasts the longest platform (665 vice-chancellor steps). At the same time, on the way home, I reflected on the different perspectives that will take home from the meeting with the management of the University of Tromsø. During the visit, it became clear that the personal chemistry between our management teams was genuinely authentic. I look forward to further exemplifying the collaboration in the coming years.

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