Last Wednesday, I travelled to San Fransisco as part of Stockholm University's spring leadership trip. We visited the universities in Stanford and Berkeley, with which we have many research collaborations, and where – together with the universities of Gothenburg, Lund and Uppsala, as well as the University of Washington, Seattle – we are now also participating in a collaborative project at the management level, CALIE: the Sweden-USA Project for Collaboration, Academic Leadership and Innovation in Higher Education, initiated and led by Lund University’s Deputy Vice Chancellor, Sylvia Schwaag Serger. It is a benchmark project that  aims to stimulate the process of programme renewal through experience exchange and best practice, and to develop academic, collegial leadership to strengthen this strategic renewal.

Visit to Stanford and Berkeley

My experience at Stockholm University has been that our decentralised method, which generally serves us well when it comes to research, can sometimes prove detrimental when there is a need to think about our programmes in new ways. Not infrequently, creative attempts to develop and broaden the programmes within the framework of our departments leads to overlaps and mutual competition between education programmes. There are good examples of programmes that transcend departmental boundaries, but the structures are not conducive to such innovation. That’s why I see the CALIE collaboration as an important opportunity to approach these issues jointly and reflect on them at the strategic level.

Astrid Söderbergh Widding and Marc Tessier-Lavigne

As is always the case on these kinds of trips, the programme is intensive, with meetings with both management representatives and researchers, as well as visits to various facilities, institutes and centres. We have been extremely well-received by both universities, established many new contacts and renewed old ones. Sweden's Consul-General Barbro Osher – an alumna of Stockholm University – also gave us a generous reception. On Monday we will travel onwards to Washington DC, where, among other things, the CALIE collaboration will officially be launched.