Interview with Acting Rector Jørgensen: “New structure of EHU should result in a more efficient organization”

Interview with Acting Rector Jørgensen: “New structure of EHU should result in a more efficient organization”

Starting October 3, 2016 Jørgen Jørgensen holds the office of the Acting Rector of the European Humanities University (EHU) in Vilnius. What are the major tasks undertaken by Acting Rector Jørgensen during these 7 months? What avenues is EHU leadership ready to proceed with? What is the opinion of international donors about EHU’s progress?

Editor-in-Chief of the EHU student newspaper “Phoenix” Maryia Stsiopkina interviews Acting Rector Jørgensen.

You were a member of the EHU Rector’s Selection Committee. Why did the Committee decide that no candidate could be appointed as permanent Rector and how did they explain it?

Initially, there was a long-list with 29 candidates, then we made a short-list. We had intensive talks with the final candidates and ended up with the thought that there was no good match among these candidates for the Rector’s position. Both parties have agreed. And, of course, it was a very unfortunate situation, as it would be very helpful to have a permanent Rector. I can be here for a short while, absolutely no longer than the end of this year. So it is an uncertain situation for EHU.

EHU is a very unique project, which probably requires a special approach towards it. How managing EHU differs from being an Administrative Director at the Aarhus University? Were there any new management, academic and other challenges that you faced?

Sure, there are a lot of differences, although there are many similarities too. Some things are common for all universities, and the relationships between administration and faculty and students are very much the same. But the big difference is that here at EHU we have to get external funding by donors, and this is completely unknown to the position I had at Aarhus University. And, of course, being in a foreign country and culture is unusual, but basically, I’m surprised that there are so many similarities.

You have been working as EHU Acting Rector for half a year already. From your point of view, what are the main strengths and weaknesses of EHU, beginning with financial and management aspects and ending with its teaching staff and students?

I have noticed that a lot of rules, regulations, and procedures have been introduced lately. It is a very fine job. I’m pretty impressed by the handling of the financial situation of EHU. Other activities like work with marketing and promotion are also being carried out very professionally. When it comes to the academic side, I’m very hesitant, because I’m not in a position to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the faculty. I’m an economist, from the administrative side, so I’m not going to make any statements about the faculty because I’m not able to do it.

In May 2016, Nordic Council of Ministers reported that it stopped supporting of EHU, and the management of the donors support shifted to the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA). What steps precisely have you undertaken in order to ensure the financial stability of EHU and what else are you planning to do?

That is correct. SIDA is the one who does practical work of collecting money and transferring it to EHU. For that purpose, we signed an agreement with SIDA in December of the last year about the donations from primarily the European community, but also from Sweden, Lithuania and others, so we have a very close cooperation with SIDA regarding these practical things. When it comes to donations and developing the relationship with donors, we have meetings with the representatives of various governments. The President of EHU, the Head of Communication and Marketing and myself have met with 12 ambassadors from other countries that would be potential donors of EHU. Later this year, after summer ends, there’ll be a big Donor conference where all potential donors will be invited.

How do Ambassadors evaluate our University?

They have some experience with cooperating with us, and I’ve been very pleased to note their positive attitude. Of course, the ambassadors don’t have money on their own account, so they have to go back to their Governments and Ministries of Finance and talk to their heads about the possibilities. So we hope that the Donors Conference will be the place where they come up with donations.

A new Governing Board was appointed on December 14, 2016. What is the significant difference between the new Governing Board and the previous one?

I have not met the previous Governing Board, so I’m not going to make a comparison between these two Governing Boards, but I know that the Governing Board we have right now is very strict and precise pursuing the goals and responsibilities set up for it. First of all, it is a relatively small Board – 9 persons, so it’s easier to get to know each other and build confidence. These 9 persons have all the competencies you could ask for when it comes to a Governing Board. Its members are very competent and professional. They all are dedicated and very eager to help EHU.

Recently it has been announced that EHU Governing Board took a decision on reorganizing academic and administrative structure of the University in order to respond to the expectations and requests of the University donors’ community. What are exactly these requests and how will this reorganization influence the University and its students?

The request was to make the University very efficient. To be very specific, there was a clear indication that they wanted the ratio between the administrative staff and the faculty to be changed. There should be relatively more faculty compared to the number of the administrative personnel. This plan has already been presented to the Governing Board and it has approved the University restructuring. The restructuring means there will be fewer academic departments: 2 instead of 5. So the structure will be flatter. And these changes should result in more efficient organization. I don’t think that it will influence the students very much, but, hopefully, they will experience a more dedicated cooperation between the programs, more interdisciplinary activities. In the long run, students should benefit from this more intense cooperation in the academic area.

What is the role of a Head of a Department and who will become the Heads of the new Departments?

Having only two Heads of Academic Departments will strengthen the cooperation between the administrative and academic areas of the University. And of course, it would change the role of being a Head of a Department, because this person is not only a leader of local activities but is also responsible for the whole University together with the other Heads. We have decided to make a call for these positions internally only. You could argue that it might be good to ask anybody, also from the outside, to apply for this positions, but we think we have capacities in our University. So we expect to have a decision quite soon.

The last time EHU was accredited in 2015 for only 3 years, not for 6, as usual, because of weaknesses in the strategic management. What do you think about EHU’s chances in the upcoming accreditation?

It is a very urgent matter, as we have to deliver the evaluation report by July 1 and we have inspection later this year. The question of governance was actually a challenge last time. It is very important that we present these new conditions in a clear way. So the accreditation authorities can be convinced that this structure is appropriate and can be applied to the University.

How soon will EHU relocate to the former Augustinian monastery and what else needs to be done for it?

The Lithuanian Government has been very generous and promised us this, but, unfortunately, we have not received the final documents yet. This process is to be carried out according to the state laws and regulations and it is a bit more complicated than we had expected. It should be solved rather soon. Also, we do need some finances to move to these new premises. Right now we have quite a substantial amount from SIDA, but we still have to find further resources and we are working on it. I hope EHU will move there this year.

Thank you for the interview.

Interviewed by “Media and Communication”
student Maryia Stsiopkina

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