Henrik Cederquist. Foto: Niklas Björling

Balanced finances

The faculty is now also working on assignment of the University President to achieve balanced finances by 2023 and we are following up on the spring department visits in connection with this assignment through brief meetings, which will be held, between mid-September and mid-October. The faculty’s finances are basically strong and, in recent years, we have steadily increased our income from external research grants in such a way that they last year were greater (totalling SEK 1,000 million) than the government grant for research and doctoral education (FUF, SEK 900 million in 2019). The external grant income was also greater than the government grant for undergraduate and graduate education (UGA, SEK 300 million) in 2019. Despite this, we see a rapid decrease in the faculty’s saved grant funding (agency funding), which amounted to approximately SEK 160 million at the beginning of 2020. With a budgeted deficit of SEK 73 million for 2020, it is clear that we need to review our expenses on the grant side.  This autumn’s discussions with the departments/equivalent are then also being conducted in light of financial interim reports as of 31 August 2020 and the departments’ new forecasts for the whole of 2020. At the time this is being written, the faculty has held meetings with the Department of Biology Education (BIG) and with the Stockholm Resilience Centre (SRC) and at these meetings, some further proposals on higher efficiencies and savings came forth, such as a higher utilisation rate for classrooms and some limitation in the co-financing of external grant projects. These were also the kinds of measures discussed before the summer and other departments are on their way to implementing similar measures, for example, by changing the rules for co-financing of doctoral student employments. A trend we see, however, is that the number of full-time equivalents summed for the categories of doctoral students, postdocs and researchers for the entire faculty is slightly higher than at the same time in 2019 (an increase of around 15 – or a few percentage points). This increase reflects, among other things, that the faculty’s teachers/researchers were awarded several major new external grants in 2019, which is very pleasing and evidence of well-functioning, strong, research environments. Through co-financing of doctoral student employment, this naturally leads to higher costs on the governmental grant side, which again emphasizes that it is important to review co-financing procedures. Balanced finances at the faculty and department level provide room to further develop strong research environments through strategic teacher recruitment and other investments and are therefore very important. At the meetings this autumn, the departments also have the possibility to comment and briefly discuss the preliminary report on quality assurance of research. The departments may of course correct errors and also bring up aspects that are important for their research but is missing in the report. Jonas Gurell, the main author of the report, gathered the information from publicly available databases. The reports with any supplements are intended as a basis for dialogues between departments and the faculty and with the University President.

Quality assurance

After this autumn’s visits to individual departments and centres, the President will convene meetings with our four sections where the faculty leadership and the leadership for the section’s departments participate jointly. These meetings will be focused on the quality assurance of research and provide further opportunities to discuss these issues. In the next few days, I will participate in one of 37 panels that will evaluate the research at Lund University. My panel has the task of evaluating how the university handles the need of the teacher’s and researchers’ access to research infrastructure. It will be very exciting to participate in this effort and I hope to be able to obtain insights that can also be of use in Stockholm in terms of infrastructure and I will also have the opportunity to compare our quality assurance work at SU with the evaluation of research quality at Lund University.

Budget Bill for 2021

In the Budget Bill for 2021, the Government proposes increased investments on research infrastructures and the Swedish Research Council, as well as increased basic funding for universities and colleges. The total investment in research and innovation for 2021 is SEK 3.4 billion and the estimated level increase until 2024 is SEK 3.75 billion. Exactly how this funding will be allocated is unknown at the writing of this text, but it seems clear that it will be a strengthening of the research funding through the research councils for both researcher-initiated projects and for research infrastructure. A strengthening of basic funding for universities was also announced.

Thank you!

In conclusion, I would like to thank the department heads, directors of studies and all of the employees for the fantastic work that has been done and continues to be done with the challenges we will have with grant funding and the pandemic for some time to come.