New Thinking in Historic Uppsala

Uppsala University was founded before Columbus discovered America. The top class international research conducted there nowadays has been rewarded with eight Nobel prizes over the years, so it was a suitable venue for the meeting of Nordic ministers for education and research on 29 April, at which they discussed Nordic excellence in research in the era of globalisation. Greater autonomy for universities was also on the agenda.
 New Thinking in Historic Uppsala
The Swedish research minister, Lars Leijonborg, hosted the meeting. He spoke about the wide-ranging reforms being introduced in Sweden, after which the other ministers presented the major changes being made in the university sectors in their countries. Denmark has made the greatest progress in concentrating universities and higher education institutions. Bertel Haarder was able to tell his colleagues that Denmark now has only eight universities and eight university colleges. Haarder, who doubles as Minister for Nordic co-operation, was pleased with the positive discussions about an ambitious proposal for Nordic excellence in research.

"The right questions were posed but we haven‘t found all the answers yet. We are still working on them. I feel sure that we will back the proposals made by the prime ministers at the Nordic Globalisation Forum in Riksgränsen a few weeks ago. I pointed out that it looks as if the private sector has made greater progress towards Nordic co-operation than politicians have. It is important that private companies are involved, if Nordic research is to make breakthroughs in practice, not just in theory. For example, as far as innovation is concerned it is important that we develop the nursing profession, not just nursing as an academic subject,"the Danish minister said.

Also attending the meeting were Tora Aasland (Norway), Sari Sarkomaa (Finland) and from Þorgerður Katrín Gunnarsdóttir (Iceland). The five ministers discussed experiences and posed questions to one another. Rector Lauritz B. Holm-Nielsen of Århus University and the Nordic University Association also spoke about a "New Deal" to improve teaching and research - including outside the university sector. He stressed that the Nordic universities are coping well, so the starting point is one of strength but competitors continue to develop all the time, so standing still is not an option. Based on OECD data about the business community‘s share of research funding, he advised Norway to provide more, but suggested that Sweden and Finland could almost channel less funding into research by private companies and more into stable public-sector funding.

Leijonborg rounded off a lively meeting by stressing the clear link between a well educated society, affluence and welfare. "The Nordic countries have had their share of crises in the past, so it is important to remain competitive. Education and research play a key role in those efforts," he said.


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