New centre brings together the arts disciplines

9 April 2019

The question regarding the organisation of the arts-based disciplines within Umeå University has been finalised with a new centre to take effect on 1 January 2020. The Centre will comprise of the Umeå School of Architecture, Umeå Institute of Design, Umeå Academy of Fine Arts, Bildmuseet and the Department of Creative Studies. Umeå Institute of Design and Umeå School of Architecture will remain within the Faculty of Science and Technology.

Umeå Arts Campus

Photo: Ulrika Bergfors

On the afternoon of Friday 5 April, operations at the Umeå Arts Campus were invited to an information meeting with Vice-Chancellor Hans Adolfsson and Mikael Wiberg, who since last fall has been project manager for the development and reorganisation of the Arts Campus.

Between 50-100 people gathered in the auditorium at the Umeå School of Architecture to hear more about the decision on the new organisation, which two days earlier had been approved by the University Board.

Mikael Wiberg, project manager for Umeå Arts Campus

Photo: Mattias Pettersson

The decision was made that a new centre for the arts disciplines will be formally established on 1 January 2020.

"The centre will function as a support structure and a common platform for the long-term development of the arts disciplines within Umeå University, with reference to both research and education at all levels," explains Mikael Wiberg.

Deviating from the analyst's recommendation

The decision amounts to abstaining from assembling the arts disciplines within one faculty, and therefore, in the present time, forgoes the recommendation that the external investigator Peter Honeth presented in his report last spring.

"Peter Honeth's proposal to centralise disciplinary activities under one faculty is subject to a number of problems," says Mikael Wiberg. "It would had been meant to move the Umeå Institute of Design and Umeå School of Architecture from the Faculty of Science and Technology to the Faculty of Arts, and impose a risk that would establish a 'faculty within a faculty' with prolonged decision paths."

"To move departments between the faculties would be problematic and not solve the question of how we continue to enhance and build good research and educational operations at the Arts Campus," he continues.

The operational needs have been emphasised

The project team he worked with consists of heads of units and departments, pro-deans at the Faculty of Arts and Faculty of Science and Technology, as well as student representatives from the Umeå Student Union of Science and Technology and Umeå Student Union.

In the presentation at the open informational meeting, Mikael Wiberg emphasised how University Board Chairperson Chris Heister and Vice chair Lars Lustig made an effort to make an informed decision that considers the needs of the operations.

The decision by the University Board also means that the project plan for Umeå Arts Campus will be revised. The road ahead for the remainder of 2019 will run in two parallel tracks, explains Mikael Wiberg.

"Firstly, preparations are being made to establish the new centre, formulate an instruction and begin the process of recruiting a director. Furthermore, the project team's work will continue with the coordination of a more practical nature. For example, finding forms for increased collaboration of activities among the schools and institutes at the Arts Campus."

Question and answer session

Following project manager Mikael Wiberg's presentation, there was an open question and answer session for the information meeting participants. The responses were generally subdued compared to the reactions aroused by Peter Honeth's report and recommendations in the spring of 2018.

Vice-Chancellor Hans Adolfsson

Photo: Mattias Pettersson

Vice-Chancellor Hans Adolfsson responded to a question about the decision to start a centre rather than establishing a new faculty of arts disciplines:

"It would had become a very small faculty," he replied. "The difference is greater than we would like already with the current faculty setup, and an arts-based discipline faculty would have been even smaller, which wouldn't been fair. And the burden of common costs would be discouraging for the departments within such a faculty."

Possibilities with a "Umeå Arts Centre"

The status quo in faculty affiliation was a relief for some, and a disappointment for others. Some questions from the audience at the information meeting at the Umeå Arts Campus also held a sense of disappointment over the fact that such a comprehensive, long-lasting and energy-intensive undertaking would not result in more specific organisational changes. Could a new centre really fulfil the needs?

Hans Adolfsson presented several concrete examples of how other centres within Umeå University have driven development and cooperation in different areas.

Umeå Centre for Gender Studies (UCGS) was emphasised as an example of a centre being able to host a graduate school and other strategic initiatives in a research field. The Arctic Research Centre (Arcum) was seen as an example of how a centre can link a research field that cannot easily be classified as a department.

"The Chemical Biological Centre (KBC) is also a good case of how a centre can be responsible for, and coordinate the use of equipment and infrastructure," noted Hans Adolfsson.

Background: Umeå Arts Campus organisation

  • Since the Umeå Arts Campus at Umeå University was inaugurated ten years ago, discussions have been ongoing as to how the activities within the arts disciplines should work closely together.
  • In autumn 2015, four thematic working groups were appointed with representatives from operational functions at Umeå Arts Campus and the relevant faculties. The groups observed promising opportunities in both research, education and administration. But the analysis did not give a clear idea of how a cohesive organisation should be comprised.
  • In autumn 2017, the Vice-Chancellor appointed an investigation. The external assessor Peter Honeth was hired to survey and bring forth a proposal for a new organisation.
  • Honeth's report was completed in April 2018. The most distinct change in his proposal was to converge the Umeå Institute of Design, Umeå Academy of Fine Arts, Umeå School of Architecture, the Department of Creative Studies and Bildmuseet within the Faculty of Arts as individual departments. Consequently, it would have meant that schools of Design and Architecture would be leave the Faculty of Science and Technology.
  • At the University Board meeting in June 2018, it was decided that the University would continue to "take a comprehensive approach to the arts based disciplines", and a project was initiated to take the inquiry's recommendations forward. Mikael Wiberg, Professor of Informatics, was appointed as the project manager.


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