Utrecht University: Swedish university appreciates Utrecht’s innovative strength

They are similar in several ways: Lund University (Sweden) and Utrecht University. Broad universities, approximately the same age, comparable amount of students and staff and in significant rankings among the best hundred universities of the world. What can the two learn from each other? To find out, Lund’s University Board paid Utrecht a two day visit at the end of April.

What strikes me is the way Utrecht University manages to combine its long history and tradition with looking ahead. After a full morning of encounters with various people Vice-Chancellor Erik Renström praises Utrecht’s innovative strength and future oriented view. That is something we can definitely learn from. In turbulent times like these, it is particularly important to join forces with institutions with long traditions in safeguarding academic core values, whilst also being at the forefront of academic development to adjust to society’s needs today and in the future.

Similar opportunities and challenges
During a meeting with, among others, the members of the UU Executive Board, it appears that the two universities largely face the same opportunities and challenges. Experiences are exchanged about subjects such as sustainability, educational innovation, student participation, funding, fake news, strategic plans and collaboration in international networks (like Utrecht, Lund is a member of the League of European Research Universities).

But there is one subject in particular which the Swedish delegation seems to look at with special interest. Utrecht is considered to be a frontrunner when it comes to open science. This is one of the reasons why we specifically wanted to visit you, says Renström. Your ideas on and attitude towards open science is tremendously inspirational to us. It is, for instance, great to see how Utrecht University is committed to society on so many different levels.

Utrecht is considered to be a frontrunner when it comes to open science. This is one of the reasons why we specifically wanted to visit you.

Erik Renström
Vice-Chancellor Lund University
Utrecht’s strategic themes also have the visitor’s explicit attention. Faculties, institutes and themes that join forces and work together? How does that work and how do you organise such a thing?

Internationally oriented
When the topic of global engagement comes up, it is Utrecht that listens extra carefully and asks lots of questions. Lund University is very internationally oriented. The Swedish university has considerably more international students, staff members and PhD’s than Utrecht University. As an example Vice-Chancellor Renström mentions the fifty Ukrainian students that currently study at Lund. That is half of all of the Ukrainian students in the whole of Sweden.

Train delays
Utrecht’s Programme Leader International Affairs, Bart van de Laar and EU liaison, Edwin Kanters look back on a visit that they above all characterise as ‘open’. This is also the feedback we received from Lund, says Kanters. The openness, like-mindedness and the willingness to learn from each other, really stuck with me. Just like the way the Swedish visitors didn’t hide their enthusiasm. They called UU an example of a progressive university, which is a very nice compliment. They were inspired and went home with the words: ‘we have to get to work now!’

What I, in turn, thought to be inspiring, adds Bart van de Laar, just a small thing, but that a large group like this sets an example by traveling to Utrecht by train and laughs about the terrible delays they had on their journey.

The visit was a good confirmation of this collaboration and we will now look into how we can further intensify it. For instance by exchanging staff in sustainability research, open science activities and in educational innovation.

Bart van de Laar
Programme Leader International Affairs
Intensifying collaboration
Van de Laar: International partnerships form the heartbeat of our education and research; most of our publications come about with co-authors from foreign universities. We continually search for further improvement and ways to learn from each other. Lund and Utrecht have already been working together for quite some time in many fields. The visit was a good confirmation of this collaboration and we will now look into how we can further intensify it. For instance by exchanging staff in sustainability research, open science activities and in educational innovation like professional development ((Senior) University Teaching Qualification) and community engaged learning.

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