Skip to main content
To KTH's start page To KTH's start page

New Chair fights for a free academia

Potrait of Johan Sterte.
Johan Sterte has been new Chair of KTH's University Board since May 1.
Published May 03, 2023

Johan Sterte is the new Chair of the KTH University board as of 1 May. He is currently County Governor of Västmanland and has a long and broad background in the sector.

“I was made an offer I couldn’t refuse. I am delighted and honoured to be Chair. The role is an excellent fit with my background.”

Johan Sterte is a scientist at heart and has an MSc in Chemical Engineering. During his career he has been president of three universities: Växjö, Luleå University of Technology and Karlstad. He was also instrumental in the establishment of Linnaeus University. Furthermore, he is an experienced board member. He has sat on four different boards in the higher education sector and held four different roles – as president, vice president, teacher representative and external member.

What will you contribute to KTH?

“First I want to do my homework and become more familiar with KTH’s organisation and operation. But my main task will be to support and perhaps complement the president, and be a discussion partner regarding KTH’s development. I also have a large network of contacts, especially in the field of engineering, that may come in useful.”

What do you consider to be an important issue for the sector as a whole?

“We must fight for the academic freedom that is quite vulnerable right now, both nationally and internationally. Good research is not possible without the scope for free thinking, mobility and inquisitiveness. I like to quote Linnaeus and his view of the world’s academies as the ‘Republic of Letters’.”

What are your views on researchers’ working environment today?

“I’ve been a university president for almost 20 years, and in that time I have always asserted that the university should receive a higher percentage of research grants directly, and I think this would benefit researchers’ everyday life and operations.”

Name: Johan Sterte
Age: 63 (soon 64)
Family: Wife and two children
Home: Västerås Castle – it felt a little surreal at first because I’m more used to a modest home in southern Sweden.
On the bedside table: A detective novel by Adler-Olsen.
On the CV: Professor in chemical technology, president at Växjö, Luleå University of Technology and Karlstad 2003–2022, County Governor, member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences and a driving force behind the establishment of Linnaeus University.
Your dream for humankind: It’s hard to give any answer other than peace on earth, bearing in mind the war taking place 700 km away in Ukraine.
The role of academia: To counter the worrying downturn in democratic progress. Academia has an important role to play here as an independent force for keeping the hope alive.

The Swedish government appointed Johan Sterte as Chair of the board and also Professor Emerita Katarina Eckerberg, Professor Bjarne Foss, board member Kirsti Gjellan, Director Anna Haupt, CEO Christian Levin, Director-General Thomas Persson and Professor Mia Rönnmar as external members. The mandate period is from 1 May 2023 until 30 September 2024. Six professors and researchers from KTH sit on the boards of other universities and higher education institutions.

Text: Jill Klackenberg

Belongs to: About KTH
Last changed: May 03, 2023