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Is KTH an international university or a public authority?

After six years as Vice President for Global Relations, it is worth reflecting on KTH’s position, both nationally and internationally. Without going into KTH’s research in too much depth, I believe that today we are generally more visible and far more successful. So why is that? Obviously it is a combination of different aspects, and there is no one overriding reason. Having said that, there are some that have played a larger part than others.

I believe I can see a marked change in our approach to recruiting teachers and researchers. The level of ambition is higher today than it was a few years ago. I think that the special recruitment of 12 assistant professors just over a decade ago has been significant. Their starter packages were far better than was standard at the time, which attracted many high-calibre applicants. These assistant professors have now grown into leading international researchers who are hugely important to KTH’s development. Today, this approach is well established throughout KTH.

Our student recruitment has developed well both nationally, with high admission grades, and internationally, where we attract a great many applicants, and where by limiting the number of places we accept only the very best and most motivated students.

Is KTH a well-known university? Yes, it is. One interesting observation is that we are primarily well known as one of the universities that has a good reputation and is highly ranked. We cannot, however, take this position for granted, and we must work together to develop the image of KTH as a progressive university with a clear vision of where we are headed. Since our resources are limited, this means we must constantly make priorities. It is not our words, but our actions that will make KTH develop. Is this obvious? Maybe so, but it is still something we constantly need to remind ourselves of.

So how about Sweden? We do not need to compare ourselves to other Swedish universities, even though we naturally collaborate with the ones that are most relevant to us. In many cases, what we and various other leading Swedish universities do is essentially different to what others do. In that respect, many of the rules and legal requirements that come with being a Swedish public authority are limiting, for instance when it comes to managing financial assets for long-term investments. The issue of greater autonomy for universities is, in some respects, fundamental to the development of KTH, particularly in light of the European Universities Initiative (EUI) and the European university alliances, for example.

What do we need to do more of? We need to create a culture of high quality, and have the ability to focus and create a sense of joy and pride at being a part of KTH. And this is not something we can realise by making a decision– it has to be built through trust.