December 18, 2023

Navigating Challenges, Shaping Knowledge, and Embracing Change

By Professor Petter Aasen, rector of the University of South-Eastern Norway

It would be impossible to start this Christmas letter without reflecting on the current situation in Gaza and Israel.

USN entertains longstanding and highly valuable relationships to higher education and research institutions in Israel. We also have close cooperation with higher education institutions in the West Bank and in Gaza.

We are shocked by the atrocities and violence inflicted on the Israeli and Palestinian people, colleagues, and students. We wish to demonstrate our solidarity with our Israeli and Palestinian friends and all those who fall victim to the violence.

Higher education and academic values emphasize freedom of expression, social inclusion, diversity, and equality as cornerstones of a democratic society. Free and independent universities must pay a vigilant and critical attention to social institutions and power structures and watch over the compliance of human rights. We need to strengthen knowledge and competence for sustainable transition as a central part of our identity as a university.

This year we have elected five strategic research areas, built on so-called mission thinking within the framework of the UN’s sustainability goals. Our ambition is that they will provide the power needed to contribute knowledge in the face of the great challenges of our time.

These new strategic research areas are:

  • energy, climate and environment
  • upbringing, belonging and coping with life
  • future health and welfare services
  • regional value creation
  • democracy, social organization and governance

To build a better future, we must work together to develop new knowledge and competence rooted in recognized academic values, social engagement, and excellence. USN greatly appreciate our membership in YERUN as an important arena to bring together like-minded young research universities in the efforts to meet challenges and fulfill the universities’ social mandate.

USN became a member of YERUN in January 2022. The same year I celebrated my 70th birthday. I will therefore step down as rector at the end of this year. Our Dean of the Faculty of Health and Social Sciences, Pia Bing-Jonsson, will be USN’s new rector from January.

I wish our YERUN community a productive, prosperous, and healthy 2024!

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