Torbjörn von Schantz the Vice-Chancellor blog
The question is if it is even possible or desirable to write about anything other than the consequences of the current spread of the coronavirus. Many questions and opinions have already been presented and raised in public debate; I do not need to repeat them all here. However, the capacity of our national healthcare, the global economy, closed borders and the changes in people’s studies, work and private lives affect us deeply, raising the existential questions about life, meaning and death.
Last week, the advice came from the Swedish government that higher education institutions were recommended to switch to distance education. We all have a responsibility, at the organisational and individual levels, to lend a hand in the strategy that the government assesses to be most suitable.
All of the organisations and staff at the University are doing an outstanding job in transitioning to distance education. I am in no way saying it is easy and some nuts are harder to crack than others. All teaching is not easy, or perhaps even possible, to carry out remotely, such as in study programmes at the Faculty of Fine and Performing Arts or in science and engineering laboratories.
However, in meetings I have had with deans, staff and students, I have seen great determination, wisdom and creativity to find the best solutions and to ensure the quality of the activities under the current circumstances. In addition, several faculties have already come a very long way with regard to distance education and digitisation.
In other good news, the Faculty of Medicine has reached an agreement with Region Skåne for students to be able to be employed in healthcare. Faculty staff who are clinically active are also to be made available to the healthcare sector.
I am also aware of initiatives to produce hand sanitiser or to gather materials for healthcare as well as work groups organising coffee breaks with their colleagues online or setting up film studios for thesis defences. Big and small ideas – all good solutions are welcome!
The aim for the University is to get through this coming period and to later be able to state that our healthcare was successful in handling the patients who required care. In the meantime, we will safeguard our own organisation by ensuring functioning education, even in these special circumstances.
We will also support other actors in society in every way we can. For example, we are soon launching a contract education initiative – here, the University can make a real difference for society in times of change – and I will revisit this initiative soon.
Naturally, we will also ensure that all the knowledge that exists at a university is put to good use, through researchers sharing their expertise within their specialist areas – from economics to elderly care, yes, within all areas within this broad University.
Lund University is an international university. The fact that we are now seeing borders closing and a reduction in mobility has an obvious impact on our organisation and collaborations. Society and research are dependent on global collaborations to be able to solve the significant societal problems.
Closed borders and a reduced freedom of movement also affects all our international staff and students in particular – those who are a long way from their family and friends. Many people in this country and at Lund University do not have a Swedish background or Swedish citizenship. They need special consideration!
The University’s general information on how it is handling the coronavirus can be found on the Staff Pages. In recent weeks, we have observed that government directives or new external factors can quickly change the situation. Therefore, it is important to keep up to date on any developments.
Finally, a big thank you for all the creativity, good ideas and hard work and for the solidarity I am seeing! We are a strong university with the capacity to manage the transition that we are carrying out and that is thanks to all the positive contributions. Together, albeit from a distance, we are strong!
Torbjörn von Schantz, Vice-Chancellor
The University is not an isolated island in society
Published 17 March
Lund University is not an isolated island in society, but a part of it. Regarding the spread of infection, the same restrictions apply here as in the rest of society and it is therefore important that each one of us keeps updated on information and recommendations issued by the Swedish Public Health Agency and the regional authority. All students and staff can find all relevant information about how Lund University is managing the coronavirus situation. It is important to keep updated via the Staff Pages' Corona information, as there will be frequent decisions.
It is important that education and research can continue to be conducted. The University Management advise academic units to switch to online alternatives where it is possible to retain quality. The chosen solution will differ between units, as they are very different. It is also important to bear in mind that all programmes and courses will have diffilculties to be provided online.
I presuppose that all students and staff take their responsibility as citizens and stay home from work and studies if you have a respiratory infection, even if the symptoms are mild, and maintain good hand hygiene. Those who can work or study from home are encouraged to do so, however, I am aware that for many this is not possible. It is important to remember that the campus, as well as our units, remains open, even if the education switch to to online alternatives.
I am certain that together, with the help of appropriate public authority decisions and by taking our responsibility as citizens, we can make it through this crisis. Nobody can know the final result, but the aim must be that we get through the coming period and afterwards are able to observe that the healthcare services managed to treat the patients who needed medical care.
I am aware that all types of issue arise in this situation. We are working on these continuously and announcing necessary decisions as they are made.
Torbjörn von Schantz, Vice-Chancellor