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One token Norwegian ‘cousin’ is invited, but board meetings at the University of Copenhagen seem to be a closed party for Danes only. And there is not likely to be any international representation this time round
More and more international students, scientists and staff can call the University of Copenhagen (UCPH) their home university. But they are still not represented at the Board, the supreme authority of the university.
The board consists of five members elected by staff and students and six external members from outside the university. All are Danes except one, the Norwegian Kari Melby, who is Provost at the University of Science and Technology in Trondheim.
But the two countries language and culture are so similar that she speaks Norwegian at the meetings while the rest of the members speak Danish. No English is spoken.
To the University Post, the chairman of the board Nils Strandberg Pedersen says that it is not out of the question that one or more of members eventually will be international. But it´s not going to happen either today or tomorrow, he says.
One of the external members is going to be replaced by the end of 2015, but a non-Danish international profile is not being considered even if a new member should have an international outlook and experience in international cooperation.
Nils Strandberg Pedersen explains that the policy at UCPH is to treat English as a parallel language to Danish, which is still the primary language at UCPH. This means that the university’s official language is still Danish but that English is being used simultaneously where appropriate.
“Language change takes time, and we are adapting around the organization,” he says, adding that the Norwegian member is contributing with new input and ideas.
According to associate Professor Niels Ejersbo, expert in university boards at the Department of Political Science and Public Management at University of Southern Denmark, it varies across the Danish universities if they have any international representation on their board or not.
Aalborg, Aarhus and Roskilde Universities either have or have had one or more international members.
But in most cases the member speaks a Scandinavian language similar to Danish.
The board at the IT University of Copenhagen (ITU) has the most international members at any Danish University.
One of the external members is Jay David Bolter, a professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology, USA.
One of the staff representatives Sebastian Büttrich is German, and the two members elected by the students, Gabriele Zeizyte and Vytautas Davidavicius, are both from Lithuania.
This means four of the eight members come from outside Denmark.
Chairman of the ITU board is director Jørgen Lindegaard, the former CEO of Scandinavian Airlines. He says that meetings are conducted in English and all written information presented to the board members is also in English.
“Our external board members who are working in big private companies are used of English being the corporate language. It is not an issue at all. It’s just the way of life,” he says to the University Post.
Jørgen Lindegaard explains that the IT business has an international outlook so it is important to give the students information and inspiration from outside Denmark.
Vice-chancellor at ITU Mads Tofte adds that English is not the corporate language at his university. But according to the language policy all administrative staff should be able to communicate in English in connection with their job functions and all full time staff should learn Danish.
The rule is that if a student or external members of the board do not speak Danish the meeting can be held in English.
Joan Lykkeaa, board member at UCPH selected by the administrative and technical staff, says that this will not happen at UCPH as long as she is a member.
“As a Dane I would be marginalized if I have to speak English. My English is quite good, but there are things I can´t express as well in English as I can in Danish in a debate. Furthermore many of my administrative colleagues will be left behind unable to follow the discussions if it is in English,” Joan Lykkeaa says.
She adds that Rector can appoint international members to his advisory board if he wants more input from outside the country.
Søren Axel Petersen, board member for the student council, doesn’t see the need to have an international board member but he won’t rule out that it could be a good idea once in the future.
He thinks Norwegian Kari Melby is doing a good job as she is an excellent scientist and because Danish and Norwegian conditions are quite comparable.
He says it wouldn´t be an issue for him if he had to speak English at the board meetings.
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