University Post
University of Copenhagen
Independent of management


Most influential board seat in the Danish university sector is up for grabs

Senior management — The chairman of the UCPH board will be replaced at the end of the year. Potential candidates can apply now

His day-to-day job is executive vice president and chief science officer at the most valuable company in the Nordic region, but as chairman of the University of Copenhagen (UCPH) board, Mads Krogsgaard Thomsen is also the highest authority at the university – until 1 January 2020, when his appointment period ends.

58-year-old Mads Krogsgaard Thomsen is an alumni of UCPH himself, with a doctorate in veterinary medicine from 1991. His chairmanship highlights the close ties between UCPH and medical research at Novo Nordisk.

During Krogsgaard Thomsen’s term as a board member and later as chairman, the Novo Nordisk Foundation (which has a separate management to the company) has invested billions of kroner in research at UCPH.

In a press release, the University of Copenhagen encourages potential candidates for the position to nominate themselves.

The university is looking for someone who:

  • Is preferably an active top executive.
  • Has experience of strategic management of a large company or organisation.
  • Has experience of collaboration on a political level and considerable insight into societal matters.
  • Has experience of supporting, challenging and developing day-to-day management.

(A candidate may meet one or more of the criteria listed.)

The university board is responsible for keeping an eye on the manager – the rector – and making sure the university’s finances and strategy stay on track.

Arm-wrestling skills are a must

The board stays out of most of the daily decision-making, but when the university is involved in difficult cases, the board may get involved. For example, they are part of UCPH’s long-standing quarrel with the Danish state over budget and timing issues with new building projects and – currently – the negotiation about the placement of some of the university’s most cited science researchers, who were unhappy about a planned merger between the National History Museum of Denmark and the Department of Biology.

External GovernancE

At Danish universities, the board is made up of students, employees and researchers at the university – chosen by their colleagues  – and external members with experience from the corporate world, education sector, etc.

By law, the external members are in the majority (though this does not mean they are always in agreement).

The external members at UCPH are paid a fee of DKK 85,400 per year. The chairman’s fee is DKK 256,000.

Student and employee board members do not receive remuneration. However, the Ministry of Education and Research permits university employee board members to recieve a salary supplement »if the university deems it to be relevant and appropriate and to the extent that board duties are not carried out during working hours.«

The UCPH board usually meets six times a year.

In situations like these, it is useful if senior members of the board can arm-wrestle with ministers and other powerful people.

The board is also responsible for involving university employees’ perspectives in important decisions.

However,  200 employees at the Department of Biology recently criticised the university for not living up to this responsibility, claiming that their voices were not heard regarding the merger between their department and the Natural History Museum of Denmark. In a written response, Krogsgaard Thomsen conceded that their complaints were valid.

Openings for board members – researchers only

Besides the chairman, two other board members will be leaving the board. Sine Sunesen, CEO of Akademikerne (AC) and professor Kari Melby both leave the end of the year, when their second term on the board expires.

The criteria for members of the board differ slightly from those for the chairperson. Here, the university is looking for:

  • An acknowledged researcher, preferably with experience from international universities.
  • Management experience, preferably from complex organisations and senior management.
  • Experience of collaboration on a political level.
  • Economic insight and budget experience from senior management.
  • Knowledge about the University of Copenhagen and an ability to communicate the University’s services to society.


Not all board members have to be researchers. The university statutes state that »the external members shall together possess insight into research, research-based education, management, organisation and finance, including assessment of budgets and financial statements. The external members shall each hold a master’s degree or a degree at a similar level, and at least one of the external members shall have experience as an acknowledged researcher.«


At their first meeting, the UCPH board agreed that transparency is the guiding principle for their work. This means that all board meetings are open to the public.

Despite this pledge, the agenda usually includes several confidential points. Since university boards were established at Danish universities, UCPH has had at total of three chairpersons, including Krogsgaard Thomsen.

  • 2005-2009: Bodil Nyboe Andersen, governer of Danmarks Nationalbank.
  • 2009-2017: Nils Strandberg Pedersen, president and CEO of Statens Serum Institut.

The current board members are:

Internal members:

Law student Rebecca Ingemann Madsen, medicine student Ida Karoline Bach Jensen, senior consultant Signe Møller Johansen, professor Eske Willerslev, professor Anja C. Andersen.

External members:

Professor Kari Melby, NTNU, Norwegian University of Science and Technology; Sine Sunesen, CEO of Akademikerne (AC); Birgitte Vedersø, head of Gefion Gymnasium; Jakob Thomasen, professional board member with experience from the oil industry; Carsten Krogh Gomard, professional board member with experience from the IT industry; Mads Krogsgaard Thomsen, Executive vice president and chief science officer at Novo Nordisk.