New chair of the University Board
8 September 2017
Gudmund Hernes has now taken over the gavel of the University Board at Uppsala University. On 20 June, he will come to Uppsala to lead his first board meeting. His preparations include plenty of reading and a visit to the university.
Gudmund Hernes has been in Uppsala many times for everything from conferences to seminars and lectures, and as a result, he has both friends and colleagues in the city. But his first visit to Uppsala was only in his imagination.
“My father was a refugee in Sweden during World War II. When he returned to Norway, he brought ‘The Wonderful Adventures of Nils’ by Selma Lagerlöf, which he read aloud every night for 18 months. It was Nils who introduced me to Uppsala,” says Gudmund Hernes.
He is a professor emeritus of sociology at universities in Bergen and Oslo, as well as an adjunct professor at BI Norwegian Business School, with a focus on political economy. Each autumn for the last fifteen years, he has been a guest researcher at Stanford University in the US. In addition, for the last decade he has led the board of the Falstad Centre, a memorial and centre for human rights.
How do you view your role as chairman of the University Board?
“As a leader of a work community, in which the task is to create the best possible conditions for a large group of exceptionally talented professionals.”
In addition to his academic posts, Gudmund Hernes has been a politician for the Norwegian Labour Party and was the Minister of Education and Research from 1990–1995.
Is that something you will find beneficial?
“Yes, my experience is like the Ash Lad’s in the Norwegian folk tale, ‘The Princess who was Never at a Loss for Words’ – everything you’ve brought with you on your way will benefit you, as long as you have enough imagination to use it.”
In preparation, he has done plenty of reading – including information from the University Management, as well as sources he has searched out on his own. He spent 18–19 May in Uppsala for an initial introduction to the university.
“It is an absolute pleasure to get to know a university which, through its history, merits and contributions to the use of knowledge, includes so many outstanding research environments and important decision-making settings,” he says.
What is your image of Uppsala University at this point?
“An internationally leading academic environment with a long, diverse and strong university tradition – including a vital study environment.”
Wants to foster academic freedom
Gudmund Hernes recognises several challenges for Uppsala University. One is to foster the university’s classic tasks: the freedom to study what one wants to study; the freedom to be able to teach in accordance with one’s convictions; and the freedom to conduct research based on interest. He notes that today, the university faces increased pressure.
“In many countries and from many directions, what could be called a new fight against enlightenment is underway. Research findings are denied; scientific procedures are shoved aside and in many places, funding is getting worse. Respect for facts and for the general knowledge provided by university studies must be powerfully defended.”
Gudmund Hernes is a professor emeritus of sociology at universities in Bergen and Oslo; professor II at BI Norwegian Business School; author; and former politician and cabinet member of the Norwegian Labour Party. He was Norway’s Minister of Education and Research from 1990–1995; Minister of Health and Social Affairs from 1995–1997; and led the research team on the Norwegian inquiry on power from 1972–1981. He is a member of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters and author of the book “Makg og avmakt: En begrepsanalyse” (Power and Powerlessness: A Conceptual Analysis), which has been named one of Norway’s 25 most important contributions to sociology.