It is December, which means our efforts to produce an annual report and a financial statement are intensified. It is also time to pause and reflect about the past year, even if the year of a higher education institution is divided into an autumn and a spring semester.
“This year has been a year of intense changes: great relief when the pandemic slowly subsided, but great despair when the war broke out in Ukraine,” Ylva Fältholm says. “Despite the challenges, I feel a strong sense of confidence in the future.”
The joy was dimmed
At the beginning of the year, some restrictions due to the pandemic were still in place, so most of the teaching was carried out remotely. The pandemic gradually eased its grip and by the end of March we could slowly return to on-campus teaching. However, the joy of going “back to normal" was overshadowed by the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine, initiated at the end of February.
“Unfortunately, there are no signs the war is coming to an end, and it is now affecting the whole world. In addition to the human suffering in the war zones, large parts of the world have been hit by energy shortages and skyrocketing prices. For the University, this means increased costs, and it is too early to say how this will impact next year. Clearly, we must be frugal and save wherever we can.”
Although black clouds loom ahead as we enter the dark and cold season, we can still find many things to be happy about when we look back on the past year.
Unprecedented Academic ceremony
In April, we celebrated our academic ceremony. A record number of new professors were inaugurated, and we conferred a doctor’s degree to a record number of PhDs. True, we had to skip one ceremony due to the pandemic, which means that it was four years since our last Academic ceremony. However, we have had never so many of our own PhD students before.
At the beginning of the year, the Swedish Higher Education Authority’s (UKÄ) published their report on our quality assurance processes, which were approved with some reservations in a few areas. For this reason, we need to enhance our process in the next few years.
Importantly, the University continues to be environmentally certified according to ISO 14001 for another three years. Only a few higher education institutions in Sweden are environmentally certified. The approval was announced after a four-day external audit of our environmental management system.
“Continuing with systematic enhancements of our environmental management system and quality assurance processes gives credibility to our ambitions to help create a sustainable world through education and research.”
Some researchers are among the world’s most cited
University of Gävle remains one of the most popular university colleges when it comes to applicants per place to study programmes and freestanding courses. No other university college in Sweden had more first choice applicants for the autumn semester in 2022, and that has often been the case over the last years. The study programme in applied criminology is, for example, one the twenty most popular programmes in the whole of Sweden.
The university is concentrating its search to four interdisciplinary strategic research areas.
“This research is internationally renowned, which is one of our overall operational goals, Ylva Fältholm says. “Eight of our researchers were all recently included on a list of the world’s most-cited researchers.”
The University also strengthens its international collaboration as we will become a special European University in alliance with eight other higher education institutions from eight countries. Our alliance is called EU GREEN and its main aim is to facilitate mobility and collaboration within education and research while promoting sustainability.
Students awarded prize for best degree project
Moreover, HiG has students who distinguish themselves. For example, two students in mechanical engineering, Martin Larsson and Hannes Holm, were awarded Engineers of Sweden’s annual prize for best degree project in competition with all engineering students in Sweden.
Yet another testament to our students’ achievements is the recent survey on graduates’ labour market outcomes conducted by Confederation of Swedish Enterprise. In terms of labour market establishment, engineering students from University of Gävle, along with graduates from Örebro University, are the most successful ones in Sweden.
A sharper university college
Over the past four years, a comprehensive review of the University’s strategy has been carried out, resulting in a new vision and an education and research strategy for the period up to 2030. Last June, Vice-Chancellor Ylva Fältholm made a formal decision on a renewed educational offering after an extensive two-year-long process.
“By strengthening our profile, we are strengthening the University. Now, we are better equipped to meet needs of the labour market and student demand,” Ylva Fältholm says.
The financial situation demands frugality
Next year, there are great challenges ahead, challenges which HIG shares with the entire sector.
“We are now seeing the aftermath of the terrible war in Ukraine: high energy prices and runaway inflation, which all affect the University. We need to strive for a balanced budget, reduce energy costs, be frugal, and save where we can. We are prepared and our finances are sound. This makes me hopeful that we can weather a tough period.”
Ylva Fältholm is looking forward to an exciting 2023 with great challenges and now wishes everyone, staff and students, a great end to the year.
“Now, the holidays are waiting for us. There is a lot to do, courses to finish and exams to complete. I hope that this time of year can also include a few days off and recovery for staff as well as students.”
Great thanks to all staff and students
“I would like to thank the Student Union as well as sections and associations for good collaborations in 2022. Your contributions in developing our university are great. I am thinking especially about our joint efforts to create a more vibrant campus, for studies and for social interactions. “
“Thanks to the staff for all your valuable contributions over the past year. There have been major changes during and after the pandemic. This work has been hard, but we have learnt from it as well. As we now have a fine and carefully prepared strategy in place, we can continue to develop HiG and make progress both within education and research. “
“I would like to wish everyone an enjoyable Christmas holiday and a Happy New Year!”
TEXT: Tommy Löfgren