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Fewer schools at KTH

Investigation suggests bundling Chemistry and Biotechnology together

Published Jan 03, 2011

The school organization is given a green light in the evaluation that has been carried out. But the investigators believe that there should be fewer schools and that what they offer should be more diverse. The first phase proposes a merger of the Schools for Chemical Sciences and Biotechnology.
In addition, the office of Director of education should definitely be a full-time occupation, the investigators believe.

Gunnar Svedberg, Innventia. (Photo: Johan Olsson)
Gunnar Svedberg, Innventia. (Photo: Johan Olsson)

The organization in the schools provides clear lines of communication, a clear division of responsibilities and the prerequisites for long-term planning. It should therefore be maintained and further developed according to the steering committee that led the evaluation of KTH’s school organization.

“The alternative, for example some form of matrix organization, provides indistinct decision paths and reduces the opportunities to enforce accountability,” says steering committee chairman Gunnar Svedberg from the Research Institute Innventia.

Before the introduction, concern was expressed that the school organization would lead to the schools largely choosing to use their own teachers - even if the best expertise in the subject was available at another school.

The evaluators noted that such a “lock-in effect” exists but that examples have been fewer than expected. And it is far from clear that the phenomenon is linked to the school organization.

“There was a lock-in effect already and it has not increased significantly because of the school organization,” says Gunnar Svedberg.

Since the education forms a part of KTH’s activities that are most in need of stability and continuity, it is also reasonable that the school division is based on the educations, the investigators believe. Research more or less runs itself and finds its own connections, Gunnar Svedberg points out.

“Researchers look each other up and new areas of research are often transnational in character. The driving force also comes from outside, you will not receive money these days if you do not cooperate across borders.”

Students seldom meet researchers

On the other hand, the investigators question whether KTH’s overall capacity is being made use of with the existing division. Today there are some schools where teaching dominates, with the result that students too rarely get to meet teachers who are active researchers.

Conversely, there are also schools where research dominates so strongly that the researching teachers have very little teaching.

“There are a number of competencies within KTH today that are not well utilized,” says Gunnar Svedberg.

The steering group therefore recommends that the school division is reviewed. But it’s not the size but the potential common content that should determine the division, Gunnar Svedberg points out.

“Some of the schools that now exist are relatively undiversified. In terms of content, more diverse schools would also make it easier to create more diverse programmes and get more of the interdisciplinary components in the education,” he says.

Consolidation will take place in the spring

The investigators note that three of today’s schools, the Schools of Chemistry, Biotechnology and the School of Technology and Health, are responsible for just one engineering programme each. First of all, KTH should consider merging the Chemical Science and Biotechnology schools, the steering committee writes.

The President, Peter Gudmundson, does not want to formulate an opinion as to the proposal for a merger at the moment. He says that it is more important to deal with the issues that are reflected in his proposal for new working procedures.

“The other components of the evaluation will be taken up by management early in the springtime. And I do not want to prejudice the discussions,” he says.

As for the relationship research/teaching the average at KTH is about a third for teaching. Some schools, ABE, ITM and SCI, have a significantly greater proportion of teaching while both the Schools of Biotechnology and Chemistry are clearly dominated by research. Merging the two would not affect the imbalance between research and education significantly, Peter Gudmundson points out.

“But there is also no absolute requirement that it must weigh evenly between research and teaching. Differences between the schools must be allowed, there will always be these differences. And if you think that the differences are too great, well that’s another matter,” says Peter Gudmundson.

“The director of education must be a full-time position”

The steering group highlights in its report the importance of professional leadership and expresses its firm opinion that the Director of education should be a full-time position.

“Managing several hundred people -cannot be done on a part-time basis. Outside the academic world, it would be unthinkable,” says Gunnar Svedberg.

To facilitate the recruitment of the best leaders, the steering group proposes instead that school managers be compensated in a professional manner when they take a break from research. For example, through access to free funds for research for a certain period of time after an assignment has been completed.

A starting point for the evaluation of KTH’s school organization has been materials that have been produced by the research company Technopolis. Technopolis’ comprehensive evaluation report is based on interviews, document studies and some statistical data. The steering group’s conclusions and recommendations are gathered in a short main report.

Text: Ursula Stigzelius