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Dear students, colleagues and friends of UiA.

Three and a half years have passed, and I can take my leave from being rector at the University of Agder. In the autumn, I will be back as a professor, and I am looking forward to researching, educating and guiding students again.

In this letter, I will name three things that I am especially proud of having achieved together with you all. That is co-creation, team spirit and the work against bullying and harassment. Then, I have three wishes for UiA going forward. Those are about diversity, lifelong learning and our contribution to reach the UN’s sustainability goals about a good education for all.
I am proud of our strategy process that involved so many people. Together, we developed our vision “Co-creation of knowledge”, and now the “samskaping” term is being used throughout our region.
Together, we finished an exciting and challenging process with results:

  1. We have started a Centre for learning and education with the learning and education for the future strategy as its basis.
  2. We have opened CoLab, established co-creation-based topics and our focus on practical experience in our study programmes is extensive. The head of NOKUT has asked us to be a beacon for work life relevance in education, so we will have to show what we have achieved in this area.
  3. We have the Global Lounge in Kristiansand, and it will open in Grimstad as well this autumn. The lounge is a meeting point that will strengthen the relation to international staff and students.

The way I see it, this strategy has not only been about centres and organisation. Strategy is a mental process, and I think that we are co-creating more now than before.
This leads me to my second point of pride; the UiA team spirit. I experience that we work together and wish each other well. We can see it in departments and faculties, in centres and in the administration. Of course, not everything is all rosy. We are supposed to have discussions and disagreements, but I sense a will to make each other better.
The third point is about bullying and harassment. How can I say that I am proud of this point, when we know that this is still happening and that we are not able to completely stop it?
My firm opinion is that all bullying and harassment against students and employees is unacceptable. That is the main reason why I got involved in the work group UHRMOT against bullying and harassment in our sector. Through our work we have raised awareness about this topic in all Norwegian educations. We have taken the initiative for a national survey and over 18.300 staff members have answered. I would like to give my gratitude to all those who have contributed and look forward to the results being published in August. We need facts about this topic that we until now have known too little about. We also hope to make it easier to speak up when something happens.
I will not make any commitments on behalf of the rector elect or the new university board, but I would still like to express three wishes for the future of UiA.
Firstly, I would like UiA to become a strong hub for lifelong learning. “We want a work life where no one becomes outdated”, says the Minister for integration and education, Jan Tore Sanner, and challenges us to be an important part of this reform. The student mass will change, and we will have to meet the students of the future in new ways and create new education methods.
I started my rector term with the big goal of making UiA Norway’s best educator. My second wish is about education, but not only in Norway. The fourth of UN’s sustainability goals, Good Education, aims to “secure inclusive, fair and good education for all”. A good education is the foundation for making people’s lives better. To make this happen, we as a sector have to open up and give access, not only to Norwegian youth, but to all. Sub-goal 4.3 is “By 2030, ensure equal access for all women and men to affordable and quality technical, vocational and tertiary education, including university”. 2030 is 11 years away and this is a big goal. I hope and believe that UiA will contribute.
My third wish is about diversity. Here at UiA, we come from many different nations and cultures. Are we inclusive enough? Are we good enough at showing people respect and allowing them to contribute?
Professor Ingrid Lund defines bullying like this: “Bullying restrains the feeling of belonging, of being a meaningful person in the community and being allowed to contribute.”. Lund reminds us all to appreciate each other, to give everyone the feeling of being a part of the community and being able to contribute.
The golden rule or the great commandment is a part of almost every religion and life philosophy.
“One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself”. But isn’t diversity to treat others as they wish to be treated? Acknowledge the other’s orientation, religion, life philosophy and way of life, and treat this with respect?
Diversity is hard. To balance one’s own needs against our fellowmen’s needs and perspectives is not an easy task. But what if we succeed?
Professor Paul Leer Salvesen gave us the saying of “Universities as institutions of hope”. Imagine if we could be an institution of hope. This has inspired me greatly in the last year and will continue to do so when I return to research and education as a professor. Thank you all for the good cooperation and I’m looking forward to continued co-creation.
Have a good summer and vacation,