University Post
University of Copenhagen
Independent of management


Here is your team, Wegener. Hope you like it

As new rector, Henrik Wegener takes over prorectors and deans that he can’t, immediately, remove from his team. We've taken a look at the salaries of the University of Copenhagen’s top executives and written a small progress report on each of them.

You go to war with the army you have, not the army you might want or wish to have at a later time, the US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said back in the time of the George W. Bush presidency.

Rumsfeld’s words are relevant for the University of Copenhagen’s future rector Henrik C. Wegener. His closest associates in the University’s academic leadership are going nowhere right now. Documents released under the Freedom of Information Act show that none of the deans stand for replacement in the first 14 months of Wegener’s rector term – and several of them have contracts until mid-2019, with one of them until mid-2020.

Sources speaking under condition of anonymity reckon that the current leadership at the University of Copenhagen (UCPH) want a new rector to not have to occupy too many key positions during his first period, also to keep a new boss’s urge to make changes in check.

The new rector’s time at the helm will be influenced by the current dean and prorector team regardless, so let’s take a closer look at them.

The deans

The six deans of the University of Copenhagen are (along with two prorectors and the university director), the rector’s closest lieutenants, and they make decisions of enormous importance for researchers and students. This is why the appointment of deans is one of rector’s most important powers.

The faculties are – even though few students and staff think about it every day – the hub of the UCPH organization. Critics of the one-tier university management system say that the deans have too much power in the university, and that this does not encourage participation.

However, there are vast differences between the faculties, and therefore also between the options that the deans have. Although they all wear the same fine robes on festive occasions, the deans of the faculties of health sciences and science can each dispose over part of the university’s DKK 8bn annual turnover. The dean of the small Faculty of Theology is like a dwarf among giants, with a budget the size of a department.

The differences are for historical reasons, but they are also due to society’s resources being increasingly devoted to research in Health and Science.

John Renner Hansen, Faculty of Science, hired until 31st May, 2020

The Dean of Science has the largest number of employed scientists (2,160 full-time positions in 2015) and therefore also has the largest opportunity for trouble with professors. In recent times, a good deal of John Renner Hansen’s time has been taken up with the rumpus over the professor of geology Hans Thybo, which the Dean fired in November 2016. The case is not only a dispute between UCPH and Thybo’s union, it has also damaged the University’s reputation – especially when the world’s leading trade magazine Nature questions the UCPH justification for firing Thybo and writes editorials about the Scandinavian university system’s crisis of management.

Employed from 1st June 2012 – 31st May 2020 (contract extension for three years in 2016).

John Renner Hansen

Job on his return: Can be a professor at the Niels Bohr Institute after his term as dean.

Salary: DKK 99,500 a month (2012 level) + pension. (In 2016, this was just over DKK 1.4 million annually including pension).

Can work 15 per cent of his time as a researcher or teacher.

Receives one month’s professor’s salary in bonus  for every year he has been Dean when he stops.

Critics of Renner point to his management style and claim that he could have avoided problems by being less headstrong. There has been criticism of a hiring of a head of the Department of Biology, and a not entirely successful international recruitment drive for a prestigious plant research center has attracted criticism. But on the other hand, it is difficult to imagine a leader of several thousand scientists being popular with all of them.

Apart from this, Renner’s term as dean has passed with a series of department mergers that have been implemented – and given up in one case due to massive staff opposition. And he has also run a series of new constructions, both of which were decided by his predecessor.

John Renner Hansen has in the summer of 2016 extended his contract with UCPH until 2020. This was an item of news that did not attract much publicity, even in the Faculty’s own newsletters from the period.

Ulla Wewer, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, hired until 30th April, 2019

The health faculty almost matches the science faculty in budget and number of researchers, even though it has a lower student population. Wewer has led the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences since 2006, and should therefore be considered a person of much experience.

Ulla Wewer

Employed from 1st May 2014 – 30th April 2019, but can be extended for three years in the job. Wewer was before this, the Dean of the Faculty from 2006 and she applied for the post again.

Job on her return: Ulla Wewer can become professor again when her term as dean ends. She has a special agreement on one year free of teaching responsibilities, so she can get back into her subject matter again.

Salary: DKK 99,500 a month + pension (2012 level). In 2016 her annual salary including pension was just over DKK 1.4 million.

Can do research or teach 15 per cent of the time.

Gets a personal annuity of DKK 75,000 for this purpose.

She is best known as a skilled fundraiser at a time when both society and industry have put a high value on health sciences and technology.

By virtue of her good connections, she has helped to secure billions in research funding to UCPH. It may have helped that her own vice-dean Birgitte Nauntofte took over in 2009 the directorship of the Novo Nordisk Foundation, which is one of UCPH’s most generous donors.

It is also during Wewer’s term that the Maersk Foundation decided to pay most of the Faculty of Health’s brand new (mini) skyscraper in the Nørrebro district.
Wewer had the bad luck to be Dean when the Penkowa scandal was rolling, and she was not praised for her handling of it, even though this was not as much of a personal issue for her, as it was for Rector, which critics at the time wanted fired.

Ulf Hedetoft, Faculty of Humanities, hired until 30th April, 2018

Humanities is the University’s largest faculty in terms of number of students, but only one-third as large as Science in terms of the number of research positions.

It has not been the happiest faculty to lead in recent years. Most of the changes to the research and teaching environment have entailed cuts. Cuts that paradoxically have been carried out while the faculty has moved into big, beautiful new buildings.

Ulf Riber Hedetoft

Employed from 1st May 2012 until 30th April 2018, where he will be at a typical retirement age.

No information about his job at the end of his term, but he will get a bonus on his termination of one month salary per year of his job as dean.

Salary: DKK 99,000 a month + pension (2012 level). In 2016 it amounted to  just over DKK 1.4 million a year including pension.

Can do research or teach 20 per cent of the time.

Hedetoft has carried out the cuts, layoffs and closures of subjects – and he has been criticised for failing to get staff buy-in for his decisions to close financially ailing study environments. But at the same time, the dean has outwardly always talked the case of the humanities to politicians and the wider community, and this may have contributed to the humanities in 2017 getting a small stash of cash in the form of the so-called national language commitment funding.

In 2016, Ulf Hedetoft extended his position by one year until 30th April 2018.

By modern standards, Hedetoft is a strikingly independent type who appears to manage without the upholstery of middle men. This can be seen when he engages in polemical discussions with students and others on the University Post website.

Ulf, who has been called the Big Bad Ulf in Danish, turned up with an agenda that emphasized research and education tasks rather than administration. This initially created frustration among technical and administrative staff, who complained of a rapidly deteriorating working environment. On the other hand, Hedetoft had from the beginning strong support among researchers at Humanities. Since then it has got better with the administrators, and some of the original critics have even praised the Dean.

Troels Østergaard Sørensen, Social Sciences, employed until 30th April 2019

Troels Østergaard. The Faculty of Social Sciences is atypical with its only five independent departments. The dean here plays perhaps a more withdrawn administrative role than at, say, Science, where management is seen very clearly from the outside.

Troels Østergaard Sørensen

Employed from 1st May 2014 – 30th April 2019.

No information about a job on return. Gets a bonus of one month’s salary per year at the post, when he stops.

Salary: DKK 93,000 per month + pension (2013 level). (About DKK 1.3 million annually including pension in 2016).

Can do research or teach 10 per cent of his time, and gets a personal annuity of DKK 50,000 for it.

The social sciences faculty is interesting for the new rector partly because it is the first one that has had an overall assessment of its research quality carried out.

Soon the other faculties at UCPH will have to put themselves through the same test.

It showed that some of the disciplines – sociology and psychology – needed to pull their socks up.

Jacob Graff Nielsen, Faculty of Law, hired 31st March, 2019

The Faculty of Law is going through a time of change physically. The faculty – after years of protests by students and employees – will in 2017 move to Amager to be a part of the South Campus together with the theologians and humanists.

Jacob Graff Nielsen

Employed from 1st April, 2014 to 31st March, 2019, but can be extended for three years.

Will be a professor of tax law after the expiry of his term.

Salary: DKK 84,000 a month (in 2014) + pension. Annual salary including pension is approximately DKK 1.2 million. Can research or teach 5 per cent of his time.

The Dean (who has been looking forward to moving to KUA3) has had no responsibility for the decision to move. He must simply maintain the subject’s spirit despite leaving the wood-paneled halls that has been its environment since as long as anyone can remember.

The problems at the Faculty of Law seem, from the outside, to be a lot about the students’ conditions. The students complain nowhere as much as at the Faculty of Law. But part of the staff have also been looking grumpy.

The Council for Accreditation is not completely satisfied. A ‘mess’ was the word the University Post used in a major article on the problems at the faculty recently. Jacob Graff Nielsen has more than enough to get going with. But on the other hand our society will probably continue to need plenty of lawyers, and the students are applying to get in.

Kirsten Busch Nielsen, Theology, hired until 30th June, 2018

Dean of the University’s smallest – but the oldest and historically the finest – faculty was mentioned as a possible outsider candidate for Rector of the University of Copenhagen in 2017 on the basis of her commitment to the University as a whole.

Kirsten Busch Nielsen

Employed from 1 July 2013 – 30 June 2018, may be extended for three years.

To be professor in dogmatics at the end of her term.

Salary: DKK 71,000 per month + pension (2012 level). Overall salary including pension is about DKK 1 million. Can do research for 10 per cent of her time.

The most notable case for Busch Nielsen has been the handling of the current Minister for Environment Esben Lunde Larsen’s possible case of plagiarism which – in addition to being an ordinary case concerning research practices – also raised questions about the requirements for theology students. The questions include whether the University has been too lenient in its approval of credits from faith-based educational institutions that do not follow accepted academic standards. Busch Nielsen handled the case in a cool and undramatic manner. (And the minister escaped with little criticism).

The prorectors

Prorectors Lykke Friis and Thomas Bjørnholm have their offices next to the rector’s on the central Nørregade address.

Thomas Bjørnholm, Prorector for Research and Innovation, employed until 31st August 2018

Thomas Bjørnholm

Contract: 1st September 2010 to 31st August 2018 (had his contract extended by three years in 2015).

After his term: Be a professor of materials chemistry.

Salary: DKK 104,500 a month (2010 level) + pension and free newspaper. (The total annual salary including pension was just about DKK 1.5 million in 2016).

Can do research or teach 10 per cent of his time. He gets a personal annuity of DKK 70,000 for this purpose. For every year he has been prorector, he gets one month’s salary in bonus when he stops (Professor’s salary, not prorector’s).

Thomas Bjørnholm has “by delegation of the Rector” responsibility for Research and Innovation at the University of Copenhagen, and is expected to be the driving force for internationalization and cooperation with foreign universities, etc.

There is no doubt that internationalization has increased significantly while Bjørnholm has been employed. According to the UCPH annual report from 2015 (the latest), the proportion of foreign scientists at UCPH has been growing, and the University has also opened a special talent program where talented master’s students are offered a PhD and a so-called tenure track program, where young scientists are helped into a research career. At the end of 2015, 25 had participated in the programme.

Bjørnholm has also recently done his part in getting Microsoft to invest an undisclosed (but supposedly enormous) sum in developing a quantum computer together with researchers from UCPH. The collaboration will take place on campus in an unprecedented close co-operation between a business and this university. If it is successful, it could transform the university.

The University Post pointed to Bjørnholm as the most obvious candidate for the Rector job after Ralf Hemmingsen’s term, but this was not how it went (and the University Post does not know whether he was at all interested).

Lykke Friis, Prorector for Education, employed until 31st July, 2018

Lykke Friis has been prorector twice at the University. First time in the period 2006-2009 – after which she became a politician and Minister for the Liberal government of the period – and for the second time round from the summer of 2013.

She has – in agreement with rector – responsibility for developing UCPH’s education programmes, which includes student matters. This means that Lykke Friis has been the person in management who has had to introduce successive governments’ detailed plans for the university world, including the Study Progress Reform.

She has managed to do this without appearing to be too much of a villain among the student populace.

Lykke Friis

Contract: 1st August 2013 – 31st July 2018. Option to extend for a further three years. No job to return to.

Salary: DKK 110,184 a month (2012 level) + pension and free newspaper. (The total annual salary with pension was slightly below DKK 1.6 million in 2016).

Can do research or teach for 10 per cent of the time. Gets a personal annuity of DKK 70,000 for this purpose. For every year she has been prorector, she gets an extra month’s salary in bonus, when she stops. This does not apply however, if she herself resigns.

Friis, who is the University’s most well-known boss  is also responsible for the university’s central communications department and is a regular author of featured comments in the Berlingske newspaper, often about education policy. In recent years, the University has been relatively widely reported in the international media – and has actually surpassed other Nordic countries’ universities on this point.