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Enough is enough

At many universities around the country, major changes are now taking place in the use of premises as a result of sharply increased rents. This is also the case at KTH, where extensive efforts are being made to reduce the need for premises in the departments and in the University Administration. More cramped office solutions, officeisation of certain open spaces and closure of labs are now commonplace around campus. There are certainly opportunities to optimize the use of premises and, not least after the pandemic, there are opportunities to reconsider how we use our offices and educational facilities.

But enough is enough. Rent increases of 20 per cent in two years cannot be compensated for by reduced use of premises, and the reduced use of premises will not be translated into reduced costs until the day the contracts can be terminated, and the contracts cannot be terminated until we have succeeded in consolidating vacant space to such an extent that we can vacate large parts of certain buildings or entire blocks of buildings. This takes time. Like the fox caught in the fox scissors, we will soon be gnawing on its legs. By the way, fox scissors are banned!

There is a need for an emergency commission to develop sustainable alternatives for the provision of university premises. A starting point must be that universities do not operate in a market; in a market, buyers and sellers can choose whether to do business with each other. We, as universities, have no choice in our premises provision and our premises cannot be used for anything else. In a market, the buyer can pass on its increased costs to its customers. We have no such options. When the state-owned Akademiska Hus raises rents, the state as financier does not react at all – by compensating our increased costs.

In a market, companies can be closed down, moved abroad, sold or merged to create better long-term conditions. We have only one option when the state-owned Akademiska Hus raises rents by 20 per cent in two years and the state as financier does not react: we must cut costs. And we are doing that, but enough is enough. The foxhole has closed. We are stuck.

We are part of the higher education policy area. What is needed now is a policy that understands what is happening and takes responsibility for a new model and, in the meantime, compensates us for the increased costs of recent years. The money is available through the share dividends that Akademiska Hus has delivered to the state and if that is not enough, the owner can always bring home a little more from their balance sheet. Enough is enough!