University Post
University of Copenhagen
Independent of management


Re-hired dean has learned that, as a manager, you make mistakes

JOB NEWS — Jacob Graff Nielsen, who has been dean at the Faculty of Law since 2014, has been reappointed by a unanimous appointment committee. The University Post asked him what he learned from a tumultuous period, and what will happen next.

A unanimous appointment committee at the Faculty of Law has decided that the professor of taxation law Jacob Graff Nielsen will continue as dean.

His first period since 2014 included the big relocation to South Campus, stressed out law students, and a public debate on theme parties at student intro courses, something known as the ‘sombrero’ case. So what has he learned from this period? And what is going to happen now at the Faculty of Law? The University Post asked the rehired dean.

What did you learn during your first period?

»That being a manager also involves making mistakes and learning from them. I’m actually a rather introverted person who would like to think things through. But I’ve learned how extremely important it is to quickly talk to people when you have a new idea, or if something is acute.«

»You shouldn’t sit and contemplate on how an idea can be implemented – you need to put it out there, and let others relate to it. Then it will also be tested – and if it is rejected, then the idea is not good enough.«

Is there a trend from your first employment period that you are particularly proud of?

»The biggest changes for a dean are made by way of other people. I can then come up with some suggestions for directions that we can move towards. But if I don’t get people to go along with it, then I can’t change anything.«

»My biggest task as the new dean the last time round was to move us all out to South Campus, which was a huge process. We were involved in the construction, where students and employees were given the opportunity to decide what it should look like. That there should be places for study groups and so forth. It was about using the move to think in terms of what opportunities you have to create a good new setting. There was a lot of initial scepticism, but I think things turned out well for staff and students.«

What are your goals for the next few years with the faculty?

»I think it would be interesting to look at what the Faculty of Law wants to do with the internationalisation of our education and research. This is not something that is completely clear right now. Our Master of Laws was shut down a few years ago because there were not enough graduates from the degree programme that stayed on to work in Denmark. This means that we do not have an international degree programme. That is a shame, because I believe we have a lot to offer. This could be in relation to learning about Danish welfare regulation, and the Danish rule of law. I am aware that this is not easy right now in terms of educational policy. But it could, for example, be in the form of a one-year tuition-paid programme or in a focus on having more exchange students.«

»And we need to ensure that the content of our degree programmes correspond to the labour market of the future. We are constantly asking ourselves what digitisation and what the climate mean for the lawyers of the future, and how we can incorporate these themes into our degree programmes. I think this is a very important issue, and fortunately it is top of mind in the boards of studies also.«

Now you are to continue as dean. What does this mean for your own research into taxation law?

»When I got into university back in the day, it was not to be a manager. I thought I was going to be a scientist. Now, I’ve been in management since 2006, and I’m very happy with that. Of course I can’t do research like I did before, but my interest in taxation law has not disappeared.«

»That’s why I’m occupied with student counselling, and my goal is to publish a couple of articles a year. Right now, I have an article in the pipeline about the historical background to the introduction of income tax in Denmark.«

»The research requires that I strictly organise my time, but it is good for me as a manager. I understand the academic staff better and this gives me legitimacy. The rector fortunately agrees with this priority, and he has said that he wants to ensure that I continue with some academic activity.«