Published: 20-09-2022 16:04 | Updated: 20-09-2022 16:06

The two final candidates for the new President post introduced themselves

By 20 September, the Consultative College has to vote for the candidate they want the election committee to present to the University Board. Photo: Getty Images

On Wednesday 14 September, KI’s Consultative College was given the opportunity to listen and ask questions to the two final candidates for the new President post. The meeting ended with a discussion ahead of the digital voting that members of the Consultative College can participate in until 12:00 p.m. on 20 September. The election by the Consultative College will show the election commission the preferred candidate.

The evening meeting with Karolinska Institutet’s Consultative College, which represents KI’s students and staff, began with the Election Committee and the Application Committee looking back on their work, which is also described in this article. The meeting was supposed to have taken place on 1 September but was postponed as the University Board wanted more information about the individual steps in the recruitment process.

When the Consultative College had the opportunity to ask the Election Committee questions, they requested, among other things, more information about the taking of references, and the upcoming recruitment of a new President. They also asked whether the Election Committee felt that the proposed candidates met the requirements profile.

“The short answer is yes. The fact is that different candidates have different strengths, but we believe that there are two candidates who comply with the requirements to become a president of Karolinska Institutet,” says Göran Stiernstedt, chairman of the University Board and the Election Committee.  

After that, the first candidate, professor Eva Tiensuu Janson at Uppsala University, held her presentation. She began with a review of her qualifications, including her time as head of department and dean and until today as President for the disciplinary domain of medicine and pharmacy at Uppsala University.  

“For me, it is important that the work is transparent, that it is based on trust and participation in the discussions. It also requires responsibility for the work assignments and the courage to make decisions,” says Eva Tiensuu Janson. 

Strategy for research infrastructures

Eva Tiensuu Janson, in turn, described what she considered to be important aspects of research, education and administration. When it came to research, she emphasized, among other things, the importance of a strategic way of thinking about research infrastructure through a dialogue with the departments. And also, that there should be a balance between the cutting edge and breadth of research, and continued collaboration between different disciplines as well as different universities. 

Two different portrait images have been assembled and show Annika Östman Wernerson, KI and Eva Tiensuu Janson, UU
Eva Tiensuu Jansson is one of two final candidates for the post of President at KI. Photo: David Naylor

With regard to education, she addressed, among other things, the continuous development of new educational programmes that meet new challenges, such as digitization and precision medicine and educating students in innovation. She also mentioned the need to strengthen student influence:

“It has become increasingly difficult to get the students to become involved and engaged, something I have worked a lot with. We need a discussion about what makes things difficult and to get more people to share the assignments to provide them with influence at all levels,” says Eva Tiensuu Janson. 

When it comes to administration, she highlighted the need for a high level of service, short decision paths, transparency and predictability. 

She concluded by giving her view on KI’s role in society as being active in the public debate and a home for free speech and research. 

After the presentation, a half-hour Q&A session was initiated. Among the many questions that Eva Tiensuu Janson was asked was, how it can become more attractive for researchers to teach and teachers to want to stay at KI?

“We need a competence resource plan to see which teachers we have and what efforts are needed to maintain quality in the future. Then it is important to ensure that those who are already here, remain here. There is a lot to do to make researchers feel part of the faculty staff, and to feel appreciated for their research and their teaching,” says Eva Tiensuu Janson.

She was also asked to mention some of KI’s future challenges: 

“Something that I have understood, is that we need to make the collaboration with the hospital work better, where even those who have their workplace there should feel part of KI. In addition, I felt that it was intimated by the students here, that it feels like the distance between KI’s two campuses is considerable, and for me, it is important to work with the departments to create participation. 

After that, Eva Tiensuu Janson had to leave the room for Annika Östman Wernerson, who began by stating that today’s KI has highly ranked research, satisfied employees and doctoral students, a high number of applicants to its educational programmes and proud students. But KI also has many challenges: 

“Among them is that we are spread out across the region. We have 22 departments and provide education as well as clinical and basic scientific research,” says Annika Östman Wernerson. 

Improved dialogue in the organisation

She meant that the way forward is through a good balance between external and internal work. 

Portrait of Annika Östman Wernerson.
Annika Östman Wernerson is one of two final candidates for the position of President at KI. Photo: Erik Flyg

“Right now, we need to put in a lot of extra effort on internal work, in order to optimize resources and create good conditions for the departments. We need to improve the dialogue and create participation throughout the organization, as well as develop the work carried out by management,” says Annika Östman Wernerson.  

She pointed to the need to give concrete expression to KI’s Strategy 2030 and to provide a firm base for it within KI’s operational needs – through the management working closely with heads of department and deans, strengthening reporting from the departments, and reviewing meeting forms and information channels.

Annika Östman Wernerson also highlighted the continued work with student-centred and active learning, academic teaching and security among students and teachers. She pointed to the role of student unions in the well-being and security of the students.

She emphasized the need to strengthen free curiosity-driven research and increase collaboration between clinical and basic science researchers to benefit from more large strategic investments. And to provide greater support to individual researchers in matters of law, biobanks and data management.

In addition, she said that it is important that internationalization takes place in a responsible way, where everyone assumes responsibility. And to also take advantage of the experiences of international researchers and the students at KI as they contribute to a diversity that enriches KI. 

She, too, faced many questions from the Consultative College. Among them, how she will find the same commitment to research that she has previously shown for education. 

“My mission has been to pursue educational issues, and if I am given this new assignment, I am prepared to run all of KI’s operations. In addition, I am a researcher and have supervised many doctoral students. The discussions in the faculty board have also related to the overall situation, especially in the meetings with the deans,” says Annika Östman Wernerson.

She was also asked how she wants to strengthen the situation for young researchers. 

“Managing the financial situation will be challenging, among other things, due to inflation. We must work to acquire an increase in our resources, in particular from the region. We must economize with the funds we have by making better use of the premises and selling overcapacity within core facilities. If we succeed in this, more money can go to the career ladder and young researchers,” she says. 

Each Q&A session ended with the same question to the candidates: what have you learned from previous leadership roles? 

“I have worked with academic leadership for many years at different levels and I bring with me an understanding of the different challenges that exist at different levels, both as a head of the department who is faced with directives and also by the person who has to specify the directives," says Eva Tiensuu Janson.

Annika Östman Wernerson said that there were many things. 

“But above all, it has been most enjoyable to contribute to change. We often face major, complex issues, but when we find solutions together, things usually go well. It is also important to have an understanding of the operations and to meet in dialogue to be able to control problems,” says Annika Östman Wernerson.

Recruitment of President and university director

The processes of recruiting a new President and also a new university director are now beginning. The existing Election Committee is also responsible for this work, complemented by a teacher representative with special competence to assess research merits.

Text: Magnus Trogen Pahlén