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“Storträffar” good for quality

One way of working with and further developing quality at a university such as KTH is via “Storträffar”. Such meet-ups are an arena for exchanging experiences and cooperation for all categories of employee.

Gatherings of this kind have been arranged every spring and autumn since autumn 2016. These meet-ups are open to everyone at KTH with an interest in education issues. They start with lunch, a welcome and presentation of current issues by KTH management. This is followed by a speech by an invited guest.

The meet-ups consist of round table discussions on current themes that are led by the table chairperson over two-three rounds and where the participants can choose from around ten themes (per table). To help the participants choose, each table chairperson pitches their themes before the first round. At the end of the gathering, the table chairpersons summarise the discussions and send notes on them to the KTH management.

The “Storträffar” perform several functions. As mentioned, they provide an important arena to exchange experiences and for cooperation between teachers, faculty programme directors, student representatives, management at various levels, educational administrators at both schools and the University Administration, plus everyone else at KTH who is interested in education issues. Around 150 people took part in the last meet-up. These meet-ups increase the sense of involvement and also contribute to creating a common view of education at KTH.

Information and ideas fly off in all directions and in so doing, contribute to a broad collegial discussion where everyone can participate irrespective of their position and employment; across school boundaries and functions and between schools and GVS. There are also opportunities to raise new table themes for discussion at each network meet-up. You can even propose suitable topics and speakers ahead of meet-ups. The Swedish Higher Education Authority has even praised these meet-ups as a very positive and quality raising activity at KTH.

Tip of the week: Read the article about the Storträff event on 12 May that will be held online with virtual tables.

On the way to world-leading digital expertise

According to the government digitalization strategy, Sweden should be number one in the world at exploiting the opportunities digitalization offers. A shortage of world-leading digital expertise is said to be one of the reasons we are lagging behind. But what is world-leading digital expertise and how do we acquire this?

The Ministry of Infrastructure and the Ministry of Education have jointly tasked the Swedish Higher Education Authority (UKÄ) and Swedish Agency for Economic and Regional Growth with investigating the concept and how this should be measured and monitored from 2019-2022. As a first step, we at KTH have helped by investigating how the concept of world-leading digital expertise should be defined. This proved to be far more complicated than we had imagined.

Our definition spans nine different dimensions; the knowledge you possess (broad knowledge, in-depth knowledge, general education and domain knowledge), what skills and capabilities you have, what 21st Century skills you possess, your disposition towards or sense of taking responsibility, your flexibility and capacity for development, and what practically reflected experience you have. From reading literature about and interviews with people who recruit new employees and for universities, it can be said that the demands on what can be expected of you are so extensive that the idea of renaissance man or woman springs to mind unbidden, in other words, a multiskilled polymath.

How then, can we be able to measure, verify and even certify perhaps, such expertise and can in-depth expertise within one dimension compensate for shallower expertise within another dimension? How important is it to possess a unique expertise profile – if many people acquire the same expertise, you are perhaps no long unique in being world-leading? Or should the label world-leading digital expertise be a quality that a whole group of people can be assessed as being able to attain, rather than single individuals.

On 28 April, we presented the work we have done at a digital conference and the report itself will be available in the near future. The question of how Sweden can become number one in the world at exploiting the opportunities digitalisation offers has been given much needed impetus. Another question is what role we within universities and colleges should play in the development of world-leading digital expertise? What are your thoughts on this?

Listen, learn and lead change

Integrating gender equality  has involved intensive and ongoing work at all Swedish universities for quite some time, including at KTH. The work we are doing is based on a plan for integrating gender equality that we wrote in 2017, which involves a large number of our different areas of operation.

As a university, it is perhaps especially important that we base our approach on knowledge and research, not least in getting people to buy into such change work. I often hear our employees say, in the initiatives we are working with, that they particularly appreciate taking part in studies, theories and developing methods.

There are no absolute truths when it comes to gender equality as this is an area that goes hand in hand with values. Having said that, there is plenty of research that argues that gender inequality exists, and theories that offer interpretations of how we can understand why this is.

That the goal of greater gender equality concerns values links to issues such as: What kind of society do we want and on what human perspective should such a society be based? One incredibly fundamental question we need to ask ourselves is accordingly, do we value all humans the same regardless of gender? In which case, what consequences does this have for education and research?

Knowledge is needed if we are to be able to discuss these issues. Knowledge, dialogue and reflection are high on the agenda in our change work at KTH. Naturally, we must comply with laws, regulations and directives. However, in addition to a structure of policies, procedures and guidelines, change change management needs arenas in which to engage in dialogue.

To make a change possible we must be able to participate in dialogues where you are allowed to ask questions (without feeling stupid), and to reflect on the manifestations of gender inequality that exist within your own organisation and in your own everyday contexts, together with others. By sharing experiences and learning to actively listen to each other, we can learn a great deal. There are tried and tested methods for this, and we are using them in our work for change.

Research centres and the art of teamwork

We have a very large research side at KTH that is run in the form of Research Centres. This is a structured form of cooperation between academia, industry and society that focuses on a specific problem area. Long term and often relatively substantial financing enables knowledge to be developed and critical mass achieved within areas where know-how from many different directions is required.

In 2005, VR and Formas were commissioned by the government to support the development of Centres of Excellence, also known as Linnaeus Centres for Excellence, at Swedish universities in accordance with research bill 2004/o5:80 “Research for a better future”. This resulted in financing for 40 centres, that received from SEK five to ten million per year. Having been in operation for ten years, these centres have now been evaluated by an international panel to provide feedback to the government on whether the investment has had the desired effect.

The report that was presented a couple of weeks ago, said that the investment has not only been very successful but also boosted the internationalisation and international visibility of the Swedish universities. Two Linnaeus Centres for Excellence at KTH; ACCESS and FLOW, excelled in the Research Performance panel report.  ACCESS also stands out in the category of the Social Impact of Research.

The lessons learned from the Linnaeus Centres for Excellence at KTH include, for example, that ADOPT proved very successful within its area Optics and Photonics, and was able to recruit new research talents.  One specific outcome of the profile of the Centre was that it led to KTH’s participation in the EU FET Flagship Quantum Technologies Program.

The FLOW centre brought together expertise within flow dynamics at KTH with researchers from mechanics, aeronautical engineering and applied mathematics, and these activities are continuing today as part of the Department of Engineering Mechanics at KTH.

The third centre, ACCESS, has developed along a different line, having been able to continue within the umbrella of the strategic research area oriented to Digitalisation, after the centre was closed. The centre has been hailed as a shining example of how, having started by seeking professional help in creating a strong profile, it took the path of using the funding offered for visiting professors and positions for post-doctoral researchers. This gave the centre critical mass and a reputation that, in turn, helped to successfully attract additional external financing and further develop its research.

In their different ways, these centres have had a big impact on KTH over the most recent ten-year period, a large number of other research centres have been established based on different strategic directions. To provide them with the best possible support, we have developed and arranged bespoke courses and workshops for centre representatives on leadership, Intellectual Property Rights, communication, partnerships with industry etc. The Research Support Office works closely with all KTH centres to ensure they are well-positioned with the structure to develop good research environments and strategic steering groups.

As Vice President for Research, I work on a day to day basis with both existing research centres and proposals for new ones. I never cease to be impressed by what can be achieved by working together. It therefore feels extremely meaningful to focus on how we can increase the quality of the way we manage this type of research cooperation and how we can make it more efficient.



Broadening the base at KTH

What can KTH offer someone who lacks the formal qualifications to enrol on our university and Master of Science in Engineering degree courses? Is there a path to embark on an engineering study programme that also offers a second chance with the focus on problem solving, creative thinking and training in good study technique?

Absolutely. KTH offers an access programme course in the form of a foundation year course in technology and a foundation term in technology at the KTH Campus on Valhallavägen, KTH Flemingsberg and at KTH Södertälje. The courses are designed not only to give students entry qualifications for university and Master of Science in Engineering courses but also to provide training in problem solving, creative thinking and in good study technique.

Entry qualification, training and time on KTH campuses during the course are also excellent steps towards our Master of Science in Engineering courses for students who had not previously thought about studying engineering for whatever reason. Access programmes can therefore been seen as one of the many tools to broaden recruitment and broader participation.

Access programmes are also among the courses with the highest number of applicants per place at KTH. How well do these students then perform once they have started their engineering courses? Really excellently is the short answer. The completion rate within engineering courses is better than for other admission groups. As such, our access courses contribute to raising the quality of our engineering courses.

Tip of the week: Click on if you do not have the right entry qualifications to find out more about the foundation year and foundation term in technology. Please read interviews with our knowledgeable head of programme teachers within the access programme courses.

New steps for our sustainable development work

At the start of the year, we compiled a number of different indicators of how KTH is progressing with its sustainable development work. As part of this, a report on some of these has been compiled and submitted to the Swedish Environment Protection Agency Naturvårdsverket. Many of these indicators are pointing in the right direction, but there are also a few that are moving in the wrong direction. Here are some of the results:
  • The number of courses that are shown as environment or sustainability courses continues to grow.
  • There is a continuing increase in indicators of scientific publications and financing linked to sustainable development.
  • There has been a rise in the number of faculty services with a clear link to sustainable development in the subject or subject description. This is especially pleasing as they have had a tendency to fall for several years.
  • The indicator of KTH’s visibility in media when it comes to sustainable development continues to rise. Our international visibility increased in 2019.
  • Carbon dioxide emissions from air travel fell by 9 percent per employee between 2018 and 2019. This is the first time in several years that this has been the case. This is encouraging and hopefully can remain so in the coming years. We aim to reduce emissions by 20 percent between 2015 and 2020 ). To date, emissions have increased by 7 percent since 2015.
  • There has been a drop in the proportion of procurement processes that include some form of environment demands.
  • Foundation and donation capital managed on behalf of KTH is invested in 99.46 percent fossil fuel free assets.

These results show the breadth of KTH’s sustainable development work and the systematics behind it. This is not a temporary project or single initiative. It is long-term work that includes education, research, cooperation and our own effects. We are going to continue this work in 2020 and add new steps.

During the year, a more indepth review of our education and research goals will be performed. We are also going to set out new sustainability goals for the period 2021 and beyond. These will build on the climate goals that KTH resolved on last year and the work KTH is already doing. We believe universities, and universities of technology in particular, have a key role to play in the transition to a climate neutral and sustainable society. KTH aims to be a leading university of technology, and here, this also includes being a leader in sustainable development.

Tip of the week: Join us to discuss how universities of the future can contribute to Agenda 2030 and the global sustainable development goals. What needs to change and how should we structure our approach? New and old students, employees and everyone else interested in this issue are invited to attend workshops and discussions on 28 March. Apply here: