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New director puts LiU on the world map

Lars Holberg, nytillträdd direktör intrnationella relationer

Investing in international relations is becoming more and more important for Linköping University. So important that a director who will put LiU on the world map has been appointed.

“No, I’m not the one who’ll do it; our researchers and students will," protests Lars Holberg, the newly appointed Director of International Relations. International cooperation, networking, the chance of recruiting international staff and students are becoming more important for the university. A newly established post of director and a deputy vice chancellor - Peter Värbrand - with responsibility for cooperation and internationalisation, are clear indications that LiU is becoming more ambitious in this context. “It’s basically a question of quality,” stresses Holberg. Within both education and research, internationalisation is a way to increase quality.

Internationalisation is nothing new for LiU; universities have always been international. But, society and industry are becoming increasingly globalised and this affects the universities as well. “Internationally there is a dramatic growth in education and research. Today there are around 150 million students in the world. In 15 years it is anticipated that there could be 300 million,” Holberg says. “The number of mobile students – those who will study abroad– might feasibly rise as high as nine million. But, there is also global competition for those students. A number of countries have chosen to see education as a major industry and international recruitment as a business concept, and we are seeing completely new actors, for example profit-driven universities in major international concerns. Over the last decade, many western universities have become involved in setting up “branches” in Asia, a policy that attracts talent. It could very well be that in a few decades we will have Chinese universities here in Sweden, chasing after our best students. It may seem improbable today, but no more improbable than saying in 1990 that Volvo would become Chinese.

But, internationalisation is much more than simply finding foreign students. “I’m old enough to remember how we as students fought to get English literature as a natural part of our education,” Holberg recounts. “Now it is perhaps time to say that all our students should get the chance to, or be expected to, study abroad for one term, or to study one term in Sweden in English.”

In research the international perspective is often self-evident. Almost 30 % of the scientific articles published by LiU researchers are published in collaboration with researchers from other countries. “You can’t control this; each researcher has to decide themselves who they want to work with, but we can make it easier and encourage them,” says Holberg. “We know that international co-publication creates a greater visibility and greater impact – in other words, more citations. And it is important. Successful publicity is key, both when the Swedish government allocates research funding and when international ranking organisations make their ranking lists. “Also, I think we can still get better at kick-starting our young researchers by clearly stressing that international experience and cooperation should be an element of all postgraduate education.”

In terms of academic influence, we are seeing the international atlas being redrawn. “Development – economic, political and even in the academic world – is moving from the west to the east, to places like China. I am convinced that we need to strengthen our contacts with the east,” Holberg says. Finding long-term strategic collaboration partners in the new growth markets is a key issue. He points to LiU’s cooperation with Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, which is presided over by former LiU Vice-Chancellor Bertil Andersson. “This is a university that very quickly has established itself as a top international university, not least by means of a very conscious international strategy. We started with some collaborative research, which developed to also include student exchanges and exchanges among the administration,” Holberg says. Now, different types of collaboration are being created, and are growing naturally, to some degree managed. And that is putting Linköping on the map.

So, there are plenty of opportunities for Holberg to seize. At the top of his “to-do” list is the development of an international strategy plan for 2013 to 2020. During autumn it was discussed in the newly set up internationalisation committee, and is now with the faculties and departments for consultation. The University Board is expected to give its thoughts on the plan in February.

Text and photo: Elisabet Wahrby


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Last updated: Wed Feb 20 09:12:38 CET 2013