New deputy vice-chancellor with research in focus
“It is good to keep one foot in the researcher’s daily life,” she says. “It is necessary so that I’m able to lead the strategic development work on a university wide level in the best possible way.”
Jenny Johannisson is something of a veteran at the University of Borås and has worked here since 1995. She has been the vice-chancellor’s strategist for research funding and third-cycle courses and study programmes for nearly three years.
“In light of the aim of becoming a so-called 60/40 institution, with approximately 60 per cent education and 40 per cent research, both the vice-chancellor and employees have expressed a need of reinforcement to the university-wide management of research. It is important for an institution of our size to have a greater focus on research and then increased external funding is a must, since 60/40 definitely does not mean that resources are to be transferred from education to research.”
Why it is important to be a 60/40 institution?
“We are a university and have our focus on education, that’s the way it should be. However, in order for education to have as high a quality as possible, we need to conduct more high quality research. This research benefits the students in several ways: it means the education programmes are anchored in up-to-date knowledge that researchers at the university generate, it also means that more qualified researchers seek out the university and can participate in teaching and this means that students can become involved to a far greater extent in research activities.”
In parallel with her continuing to carry out research, teach, supervise and examine, Jenny Johannisson will also contribute to the strategic development to strengthen research, third-cycle courses and study programmes and external funding.
“I would like to focus on strengthening the conditions to further develop the university's already excellent research activities. I would also like to contribute towards managing existing third cycle programme rights and support the development of new rights.”
What do you intend to do to find more research funding, when a large part of the researchers' working day is already spent chasing funding?
“I am currently in the process of sending out a plan of action for review, where the team working on the plan of action have listed a number of actions required in order to succeed. The proposals originate in a deep conviction that all research must come from the researchers themselves. Accordingly, we are not going to control the content of the research. However, we will support collaboration between researchers, programmes and projects. The conditions and methods to achieve 60/40 are different for different research domains and our strategies must be based on reality and not on invented templates.”
Can you give some examples of measures included in the plan of action?
“Of course, we intend to find ways to bring more transparency and a clear basis for prioritisation. Annika Bergman, our coordinator for external research funding, has produced an excellent proposal to create a grants and innovation office, where we can collect advice and administrative support to the researchers about research funding, while watching announcements and all formalities, such as contracts and economic terms.”
How have these issues been handled before you started working with them?
“It is the vice-chancellor who had and still has the principle responsibility for the issues, and I and my task are on the level below. It has worked well, but now we will be able to invest even more and in a concentrated manner focus on research funding and building strategic relationships around it. One advantage that we need to take care of is the fact we have a small and flexible management. My task is to deliver good decision-making data to the vice-chancellor.”
Jenny Johannisson has vast experience of working at the University of Borås. She was involved when the subject Information and Library Science was established as an academic discipline. She is a docent and researcher on regional cultural and educational policy. All research after her public defence of her doctoral thesis has been externally funded by piecing together different smaller projects that have been funded separately - a reality she shares with several of the university's researchers.
In addition to this, she has international assignments, such as the chair of the scientific committee for the International Conference on Cultural Policy Research, a research conference held every two years, attracting more than 300 participants. And she has a good view of the outside world, which is necessary when working as a strategist.
“As deputy vice-chancellor I want to pass on what I have learnt during my years here at the university,” she says. “To recognise good ideas, to support development and to cultivate the tradition that has given me the opportunity to develop in so many ways: as a teacher, as a researcher and as an organiser.”
Text & photo:
Lena M Fredriksson