Visit to Lund inspires improvement

23 September 2022

Meeting other universities is inspiring as the challenges and problems we face are often shared. After having visited Lund recently, I feel reassured that the decisions made in Umeå were the right ones to achieve a more secure workplace. Exchanges of experience also encourage further ideas for improvement.

An important task in my role as University Director is to encourage development of the University's administrative functions with the ultimate goal to provide research and education at Umeå University with the best opportunities to excel.

Hans Wiklund, University Director

Photo: Mattias Pettersson

To support me in that task, I have the Strategic Council for the Administration (RADON) consisting, among others, of representatives of the four faculties of the University. Earlier this September, we visited Lund University for an exchange of experiences and to gain new inspiration. Our focus lay primarily on two prioritised areas to develop, namely: the work to prevent and handle victimisation and harassment, and the work to improve conditions for head of departments and other managers.

Owing to circumstances that have arisen, we have been working purposefully to improve Umeå University's work against victimisation, harassment and sexual harassment for nearly a year now. The majority of the 32 proposals for future improvement in Karin Röding's external investigation have already been completed, or are in progress.

An important measure that still remains is to set up better support for managers at Umeå University in the processing of complicated cases relating to staff. In this area, Karin Röding recommended us to look at Lund University as a positive example. Even if our visit there clearly showed that Lund is in the early stages of that work, it was still impressive to see the clarity of their procedures in handling cases of victimisation and harassment, and the hands-on guides they have produced for managers. Lund University has also set up a team consisting of HR and legal officers as well as the occupational health service to provide managers with coordinated support as and when needed. This confirms my conviction that Umeå University needs to make a corresponding journey of improvement.

In two audit reports, the Internal Audit Office at Umeå University has indicated the need for improved conditions for heads of department and directors. Corresponding to the Internal Audit Office's recommendations, we have revised the terms and conditions to make it more appealing to hold a managerial position within academia. We have also improved managerial training courses and strengthened administrative support in chosen fields. A pool of resources has been established on a university-wide level to which heads of department and other managers can turn for financial support when staff are on sick leave or when there is a temporary shortage on staff. Simultaneously, work is underway on a faculty-wide and department-wide level to strengthen support for heads of department and directors.

Something of particular interest in this context was that the Faculty of Social Sciences at Lund University has set up a joint financial and HR support function at the faculty office to aid the faculty's departments. A reason to organise administrative support in this way is that small departments and units otherwise struggle to bear the costs of professional administrative support. Another reason is the ever increasing difficulty for departments and units to recruit financial officers and HR specialists. Currently, nine out of eleven departments at the Faculty of Social Sciences in Lund have voluntarily chosen to join the faculty-wide support, which they call Institutionsservice (En. "Department services").
To my knowledge, this solution has generated interest from faculties at Umeå University, and at least a few of them have plans to invite the Lund Institutionsservice to learn more and discuss the solution.
Something both we and our colleagues in Lund have observed is that an increasing number of cases require collaboration between experts in different fields, and from various parts of the organisation, to be resolved efficiently. Permanent teams with several expert functions, networks between various organisational levels and temporary projects is one example of how this challenge could be managed. What I find most important, though, is the ability to see the University as one entity and to ensure that the welfare of the organisation and its staff comes first.

Another interesting and instructive part of the visit was to touch down at the Max IV Laboratory housing the brightest source of x-rays worldwide, which enables researchers to study materials and molecules down to their atoms in several research fields.

Also, the visit to the Museum of Artistic Process and Public Art was interesting, as it features the world's largest collection of sketches, models and preparatory work for Swedish and international public art. In its role as one of the very few museums owned by a Swedish university, it is a relative of sorts to our exquisite Bildmuseet in Umeå.
Hans Wiklund, University Director

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