Sigbritt Karlsson is set to become the next President of KTH. (Photo: Adam af Ekenstam)

Sigbritt Karlsson proposed as new KTH president

Published Feb 22, 2016

She goes from Sweden's smallest university, Skövde, to the largest technical university in the Nordic region. Sigbritt Karlsson is proposed to become the new president of KTH Royal Institute of Technology.

"It feels really exciting," Karlsson says. "I want to help lift KTH and take the university to the next level, not least in terms of education, but also in terms of research and visibility."

After an extensive selection process in which 58 candidates were considered, the university's nominating committee proposed Karlsson for KTH's president, deeming her the one who most clearly matched the committee's requirements. The requirements profile has been used throughout the recruitment process.

"Sigbritt was the strongest candidate and we believe she will be a good president of KTH," says Börje Ekholm, the nominating committee chair. "She was the candidate who best meets the requirements profile, which we established before the recruitment began. She has conducted outstanding research; she is recognized as a skilled leader with experience in presiding over an institution of higher education; she has worked actively with gender issues; and she is a good communicator."

Karlsson has, in a sense, come home. She graduated from KTH in 1982 and has since held a number of roles, most recently as vice dean of faculty, from 2008 to 2010.

"I've been at KTH since I was 19 years old, and this is where my heart is. My time as president of Skövde has given me many good experiences and perspectives, from which I will benefit greatly in my new role."

Karlsson also relishes debate and thinks that the image of Swedish education as inferior is incorrect.

"That's is exaggerated. There are almost 16,000 students at KTH, and there is a wide range of different categories. With developed education and higher status of learning, all of them can be lifted from their different perspectives.

When it comes to research, she has the ambition to make KTH even more competitive.

"There is world class research here, as well as research that needs to be reviewed so we can determine if it should be phased out or developed. It is important to dare to choose," she says, explaining that she does not have a problem with drawing a line she believes in.

Being KTH's first female president does not strike her as extraordinary. She was first in Skövde, too.

"Equality is about how we act every day — how many women there are in visible positions, for example. But they say you stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before you, and it's the same thing here."

Taking KTH to the next level is also true at international level, Karlsson says.

"To start working with new countries, and regions such as Africa — the home of 25 percent of the world's young people, all of whom need education — this is something I want to be involved in and make a contribution toward."

She is comfortable with developing organizations, structures and entire institutions.

"I am persistent and stubborn. It will be very exciting."

Jill Klackenberg

Name: Sigbritt Karlsson
Age: 58
Family: Husband, three adult children and one grandchild.
CV: Since 2010, has served as President of the University of Skövde. All her academic background is from KTH. She graduated with an MSc in 1982 and PhD in Polymer Technology six years later. In 1999, Karlsson became Professor of Polymer Technology at KTH. From 1996-2004, she also served as Director of Studies. Worked as Vice Dean of Faculty responsible for strategic education at KTH 2008-2010. Before that she was Vice Dean of School and responsible for undergraduate studies at the School of Chemical Science. Karlsson is editor of a magazine, Polymers from Renewable Resources, which has an H-index of 44 (measure of citations in scientific journals). Currently: Proposed as new President of KTH, to succeed Peter Gudmundson.

An open hearing will be held for employees of KTH on March 8. In Lecture hall  F2, Lindstedsvägen 26, at 10 to 12 AM

The University Board is to ratify the appointment on April 14, and then submit it to the government, which appoints the new headmaster. She will assume office on November 12, 2016.