The Faculty of Science has a flat structure, as does the University as a whole, with relatively few hierarchies and distinctly autonomous parts. This often provides benefits and aligns well with the spirit of academic freedom in determining the direction of an organisation’s activities.
Autonomy does not always make you strong and sometimes what is needed is not just coordination, but a clear line organisation that can determine what rules apply and who does what. Sometimes autonomy is not what makes you stronger, it just makes you feel alone. The word university comes from the Latin universitas – the whole – and there is also strength to be found in the whole. This is especially evident in change processes.
One example of how we are working to increase coordination is the appointment of our new premises coordinator, who is set to start work at the faculty office. This is a new role. Previously, each department managed their own premises needs, but this made it difficult to address both overcrowding and surpluses of premises across departments. We now have the capacity to manage and plan our use of premises much more efficiently.
IT is another area that is in need of better coordination at our faculty. LDC estimates that Lund University spends 10 per cent of its total financial resources on IT – SEK 800 million per year. It is hard to put a figure on an exact amount, but the Faculty of Science is a significant user of IT. As a public authority, we are required to demonstrate that we use our resources efficiently and responsibly. It is hard for us to make such claims when we do not even know the extent of the resources we use for IT.
The faculty will employ an IT manager whose first task will be to help us put a new IT organisation in place. This will not only help us to keep track of expenses, but will also provide us with more robust IT support with the ability to create specialist functions and to help us in our IT security work. A positive side effect of a larger and more cohesive IT organisation is that we will be able to offer better career development paths for our IT staff. I presented these plans to the Faculty Board and to the faculty's IT Council, and I was pleased that both supported these proposals. I had been inclined to think I deserved criticism for not getting this done sooner.
This does not mean I believe centralisation is the answer to every issue. I am convinced that the best organisational structure changes over time. Sometimes central administration is needed to be able to move forward and to adapt to a changing environment, sometimes it is better to let a thousand flowers bloom.
At the time of writing my last dean's bulletin, the scilla had just started to flower. Now we find ourselves in the middle of an explosion of spring, from the Mayday trees to the lilac bushes. Every morning I see something new has begun to flower as I walk through our Botanical Garden. It makes you happy to be alive. When we have seen it happen so many times before, it is strange that we forget how amazing it is, but each year the arrival of spring comes almost as a surprise. Of course, we knew that spring would come, but perhaps not that it would be as wonderful as this!
Sven Lidin, Dean