The browser you are using is not supported by this website. All versions of Internet Explorer are no longer supported, either by us or Microsoft (read more here:

Please use a modern browser to fully experience our website, such as the newest versions of Edge, Chrome, Firefox or Safari etc.

The Doctoral Degree Conferment Ceremony is even more important in troubled times

Erik Renström. Foto: Charlotte Carlberg-Bärg.

Lundagård is at its most beautiful in May and June. And just when it is at its most beautiful, the University makes sure to pay tribute to science at the Doctoral Degree Conferment Ceremony.

And that is also the case this year.

For the University, the Doctoral Degree Conferment Ceremony is one of the most important occasions for paying tribute to the science and knowledge that we create at the University. The Ceremony recognises the 266 doctors who have defended their thesis during the year, and it is a celebration of the doctors, jubilee doctors and honorary doctors and their contribution to the development of knowledge.

I would argue that the Doctoral Degree Conferment Ceremony is even more important this year than usual. Democracy is being eroded in several countries around the world, and we see war and conflicts tearing apart people, institutions and countries. The human suffering in the wake of war is horrifying to behold but it is also terrible to see the polarisation that war creates, which is ripping apart the entire world.

In these polarised and troubled times, I have been strongly committed to safeguarding academic freedom, resisting pressure exerted by different groups and above all allowing researchers and experts to take a prominent role in explaining ongoing wars and conflicts. Unfortunately, it has emerged that threats, harassment and brutal words and symbols have been directed at academia and researchers who share their expert knowledge about the war. This is how to silence researchers and academia, and this approach concerns me and numerous other vice-chancellor colleagues in Sweden and around the world.

For researchers to fulfil their tasks, they need to be covered by academic freedom. The University must be able to resist pressure.
Against the backdrop of camping pro-Palestinian demonstrators in Lundagård that I have had over the past few weeks from the King’s House, receiving the newly published Swedish Higher Education Authority’s report “Academic freedom in Sweden – Government commission on higher education institutions’ work on promoting and safeguarding academic freedom” (in Swedish) was very timely indeed.

Academic freedom cannot be taken for granted. And I will do all that I can to safeguard it. But the responsibility to safeguard academic freedom is also the responsibility of one and all at the University.

The pro-Palestinian demonstrators in Lundagård have camped for just over two weeks and there is no mistaking their commitment. The University always defends the right to hold peaceful demonstrations, and this also applies to the demonstrations in Lundagård. Now, as the police disperse the tent camp, it is not to silence the opinions put forward by the demonstrators. The space in Lundagård is needed in order to conduct all parts of the Doctoral Degree Conferment Ceremony and it is not to be interpreted as the University wanting to remove the protestors.

The Doctoral Degree Conferment Ceremony is a tribute to the science and knowledge produced at the University. It is also a tribute to free academia. Now, when the Ceremony is to be conducted, I feel secure with the preparations that have been made, among other things in dialogue with the police. We want this year’s Ceremony, just like all previous years, to be a memorable tribute to science and knowledge, and for the hard work carried out by the doctoral graduates over several years to get its rightful recognition. 

I am assured that all the staff members and police who have been involved in the preparations are doing all they can to ensure safe and respectful handling of the tent camp and that it will be safe for those taking part in the ceremonial procession.
In Lundagård at its most verdant, I have seen the tents and protestors as a reminder that we cannot rest on our laurels in a beautiful environment. Injustice and suffering exist in the world and the demonstrators are worthy of praise for not letting anyone forget that. But in these times it is more important than ever that Lund University is a credible and trustworthy institution. Being a stable institution does not mean that we as individuals and people who work and study here do not see human suffering or do not wish to see a ceasefire immediately to protect people’s lives.

There are many of us who want to improve the world. This is imprinted on the University through the vision “A world-class university that works to understand, explain and improve our world and the human condition.” Freedom in education and research are important components in being able to make this happen. The Doctoral Degree Conferment Ceremony is our primary symbol to show and honour the value of knowledge and science, which are the foundation and core of the University. 

/Erik Renström, Vice- Chancellor