With a marked organizational change, Aalborg University (AAU) has this week taken a significant step towards being able to deliver even more agenda-setting solutions to global challenges and securing the position of the university as a leader within problembased learning.
The university has presently decided to merge its two faculties for humanities and social sciences respectively into a single new, powerful faculty that by virtue of its size and strength will have better opportunities to develop future research areas and education – thus providing agenda-setting insights and solutions to global challenges. At the same time AAU will establish a cross-cutting research and teaching unit tasked with further developing the university’s unique teaching model with problembased learning (PBL). A learning model that has steadily become more and more popular at other Danish and international universities in recent years.
A stronger foundation
- The major challenges facing the world are man-made, and as such also require a focus on human actions and behaviour if we are to achieve the green transition. We cannot save the world with engineering, technical and natural science alone. On the contrary, it is essential that humanities and social sciences are a strong and equal element in the solutions to the global challenges, says Lene Espersen, Chair of the University Board, who adds:
- With the new faculty and the other changes, it is the board's ambition to create the best possible foundation for a university that acknowledges its societal responsibility and contributes to finding the most innovative solutions for the future. Now the framework is set for us to create future-proof content at Aalborg University in the next strategy period.
The merger of Humanities and Social Sciences will ensure AAU’s future as a strong, significant player in the humanities and social sciences. A unified SSH faculty will be stronger and can match the STEM faculties – in terms of both research and finances.
- If Humanities and Social Sciences at AAU are to deliver world-class solutions, they require a more solid organisational foundation than what they have today, says Rector Per Michael Johansen.
The new faculty will be given the same financial weight that Humanities and Social Sciences together have today, and in the long term the aim is also for the faculty to be able to generate new external research funding. The establishment of the SSH faculty does not, as a rule, involve a redistribution of funds from the other three faculties (Engineering and Science, IT and Design, and Medicine) to the new faculty.
- The university has no prospect of more resources in the coming years, so any strengthening of the two main areas can only be made by pooling the strengths we already have at the two faculties into a single, strong organisational unit. The strengthening of Humanities and Social Sciences must not be at the expense of other research areas. Therefore, this is about making the best use of the resources we already have, explains Rector Per Michael Johansen.
Increased focus on interdisciplinarity
The University Board and the Executive Management at AAU agree that the focus on interdisciplinary research is necessary if the university is to play an active role going forward. Therefore, the creation of the new SSH faculty must also ensure that Humanities and Social Sciences are a more obvious partner both internally and externally.
The University Board has also agreed that AAU must strive to better integrate humanities and social sciences (SSH) into the engineering, science and health science programmes. Furthermore, STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering and mathematics including IT) must also be more closely integrated into the SSH programmes. The aim is to strengthen the ability of AAU students to take a holistic view of their disciplines and give them the skills to solve society's increasingly complex challenges through interdisciplinary collaboration.
New unit to ensure AAU's leading position in PBL
Another important part of the upcoming organisational change is the establishment of a special research unit for PBL, with the working title: Institute of Advanced Studies in PBL. The unit will consist of academic and administrative staff working on research, dissemination and further development of the university's teaching model, PBL.
- At AAU, PBL is the pedagogical foundation for teaching and learning in all programmes. Internationally, we have long been a leading figure in PBL research and the development of PBL practices, and AAU is known for high quality in a learning model that is applied consistently and implemented in all main areas. We want to maintain that position, but it requires that we take our PBL model to new heights, says Rector Per Michael Johansen.
In recent years other universities have discovered the advantages of PBL and have also begun using the teaching model. If AAU wants to continue to be – and be known as – a spearhead within PBL, it is necessary to strengthen the research into PBL at the university and to further develop the teaching model.
- Other universities are catching up with us. In recent years, they have discovered the benefits of PBL and have started to apply our learning model. In a November 2020 reputation analysis of AAU, several stakeholders mention that PBL no longer differentiates AAU from other universities. If we want to continue to be – and be known as – a spearhead within PBL, we need to strengthen our research on PBL and the further development of our learning model, the Rector adds.
- The idea in establishing a unified cross-cutting research and teaching unit for PBL is to bring competences together, enabling the unit to exploit synergies across the university-pedagogy landscape at AAU and ensure better support for new breakthroughs in PBL, such as mega-projects and digitalisation; the ongoing competence development of teaching staff will also be a focus, says Rector Per Michael Johansen.
Both the merger of HUM and SAMF and the establishment of the new PBL unit will enter into force 1 January 2022.
Chief strategic advisor Bo Jeppesen, tel. 61 40 40 61, e-mail email@example.com