New students and new pens

What I liked best when I went to school was the start of the autumn term. The smell of new books, a new timetable, new pens. Despite the arrival of darker days, everything exuded a sense of new initiatives. I feel the same way now – as president of Sweden’s largest university of technology – and with great expectations of the days to come.

KTH’s new students arrived last week and right now it’s freshers week. Many people, both students and staff, are heavily involved in welcoming the new students. A commitment that hopefully will infect the new students once they get stuck into their studies properly.

The reorganisation of KTH has now entered its third phase and I can see how, slowly but surely, we are reaching our goal of creating a more coherent and efficient organisation. Once again, I would like to take the opportunity to thank everyone for all the hard work that both the faculty and administrators have put in and are putting in on this. The continued development of KTH is something I look forward to this autumn.

Another area that is a constant fixture on the agenda is, of course, sustainable development. KTH, via things such as the climate framework , is working to find effective solutions and create new technology that support sustainable development. Materials research, energy and urban planning, to name a few critical areas for the future where sustainable solutions are now being developed. Added to which, we are working clearly and consciously to reduce the university’s own impact on the environment.

KTH should stand for scientifically based knowledge and facts in everything we do, not least when it comes to sustainable development, where emotions risk gaining the upper hand, which can sometimes lead to short-term solutions that can be worse than what we already have.

Sustainability was, for natural reasons, the most discussed subject at this year’s Almedal Week in early July. Although this Almedal Week had fewer seminars in total, many of the seminars themselves raised important and burning issues. Another area at Almedal Week – a perennial favourite – discussed was lifelong learning. Several discussions referred to Study Friday, a specific proposal that the enterprise sector, universities and Sveriges Ingenjörer debated in early summer. Next week, a few members of the Study Friday working group, will meet Matilda Ernkrans, the Minister of Higher Education and Research, to present the concept in more detail.

One clear common denominator for the above initiatives is collaboration. Another similar example that was presented in Almedal Week was Stockholm Trio – an alliance along international lines with KI, Stockholm University and KTH  that we launched at the end of May. We are going to take the next step this autumn, which will be very exciting.

Yet another thing that was obviously mentioned and intensely discussed, apart from AI, was the  Inquiry on Governance and Resources (STRUT), where many parties have recently submitted their comments. How much consideration will be given to these comments, many of which were of a critical nature, and how they will be amended, can become a key issue for academia.