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Development of the organisation towards fewer, larger units

The Faculty Board has decided that the Faculty of Social Sciences is to be progressively reorganised into fewer, larger units over the next six years. This page provides the latest information on the project.

Why the need for organisational change?

Today, the faculty has a lot of departments/units in relation to its size, and the size of the units varies markedly. This leads to a series of organisational and administrative challenges, which risk having a negative effect on the core activities. The growing pressure for efficient use of resources and the increased need for more specialised support functions make the existing structure increasingly unsustainable. There is also a clear trend towards it becoming more difficult to fill academic leadership roles such as head of department or director of studies. 

The overall aim of a reorganisation towards fewer units is to equip the departments' leadership, management and administration in the face of increased demands and expectations, while retaining a high degree of autonomy in the core activities.

The change is crucial, both in enabling the maintenance and development of collegial management, and in order to develop and streamline administrative processes and support. Fewer units also provide better conditions in order to maintain today’s diversified range of courses and programmes, combined with both cutting edge and broad research. 

A faculty with fewer, larger units would not primarily entail financial savings but would create better conditions for meeting increased demands and challenges with existing resources. 

More information is available in the Faculty Board’s directional decision (PDF 266 kB, new tab)

Current activities

At the end of April, the Faculty Board decided that a new department, the Department of Communication, will be established in January 2025. The department will consist of the Department of Strategic Communication in Helsingborg, the subject of Media and Communication Studies in Lund and the journalism programme in Malmö.

New Department of Communication in January 2025

There is also a process ongoing of a merger between the Department of Sociology and the Department of Gender Studies. A proposal to include the subject Gender Studies in the Department of Sociology will be presented to the Faculty Board in September. If the Board takes that decision, the new department will be effective  from January 2025.

Earlier this year, the project group also presented a number of proposals for mergers between different departments. The various scenarios have been anchored in the steering group and were also presented at a workshop with the heads of department at the end of January. During the spring, discussions based on these scenarios continue.  

Project plan

On 21 September, the Faculty Board decided on the following project plan:

Project plan: Organisational development towards fewer and larger units at the Department of Social Sciences (PDF 296 kB, new tab)

The project plan contains, among other things, a description of a number of impact goals that are expected to be achieved through the formation of fewer and more similarly sized units. All impact goals are about developing and driving change within the departments' management, governance and administration. The organizational project is thus not about changing main areas, educational programs, research priorities or the like. However, the ambition is that changes in the way we lead, manage and administer activities will create the conditions for further raising the quality of our research and education. 

The intention is that the organisational change will emerge gradually and in dialogue with the faculty's departments/units. Given this, the project plan will be adapted to the circumstances and conditions that emerge along the way. The project plan will therefore be revised at least once a year. 

Questions & answers

The aim is to provide better conditions for the departments' education and research by creating a more robust and efficient leadership, management and administration. This is important in order to maintain the quality of the core activities as they come up against a rapidly changing wider world and increasingly tight economic conditions. The change will be made while maintaining a high level of autonomy in the core business. 
The current organisation with small and many units leads to a number of problems and difficulties with a high risk of negative impact on education and research. Some of the issues that have been identified are:

  • Small budgets limit the departments’ capacity to make decisions and make them more vulnerable to, for example, declines in external funding or increased co-financing requirements.  
  • Small units find it more difficult to staff academic management posistions and to create sustainable leadership.
  • Small volumes of staff entail a risk that collegial elections will be reduced to a paper exercise. 
  • Small units often mean limited administrative support for management and other staff, as well as an increased vulnerability to staff changes.
  • Many units make it difficult for resource-efficient coordination of administration in areas such as finance, human resources and quality assurance.
  • Many units lead to local interpretations of rules and guidelines and several different processes for handling the same type of case.     

    More information about the background to the organisational change can be found in the Faculty Board's directional decision – se link above. 

The organisational project is about developing and driving change in the management, governance and administration of the departments. In other words, it is not a question of merging main areas, forming new degree programmes, changing research priorities or the like. The formation of new, larger units is rather a way of being able to preserve a diversity of subjects and specialisations in both research and education. However, the aim is that changes in the way of leading, managing and administering activities will create the conditions for further developing and improving research and education. 

Changes in education and research may of course take place within the framework of the new larger units that are formed, but then these are driven by ideas and needs identified by the departments.

Collegial governance is about both culture and structure. The cultural aspect includes, among other things, the idea of the importance of enlightened dialogue. The structural aspect means that the college elects its own leaders, but also that the college – or rather representatives organized in boards, committees and councils – make joint decisions or make proposals for decisions.

Collegial governance is thus based on decisions being made on the basis of the expertise and experience that exists in research and education. That said, it's important to remember that collegial governance coexists with a line organization. The line organisation's governance mechanisms are not based on peer quality assessment, but on laws and regulations, strategic goals and the allocation of financial resources.

There are more colleagues who can take on assignments on the board, department management, preparatory groups and the nomination committee. A larger department also makes it possible to rotate between these assignments and prepare younger colleagues to take on different assignments.

The organisation project does not aim to cut back and achieve savings, but to be able to meet increased demands and challenges with existing resources. By creating increased coordination and more efficient administration, resources are freed up that can be used for more qualitative administrative support or for quality-enhancing measures in education and research. 

An alternative to reducing the number of units would be to centralise significantly more decision-making power at the faculty level. Such a solution would address several of the challenges that have been identified, not least in terms of inefficient use of our overall administrative resources, vulnerable economies and limited ability to make strategic decisions. However, centralisation would go against an established practice within the faculty, which is characterised by a very high degree of autonomy.

Another option would be to fully professionalise the management and governance organisation by abandoning collegial leadership in favour of recruited managers. However, this alternative is not compatible with the University's work and delegation of authority and is not seen as desirable.

The challenges of many and small departments/units have been noted by previous faculty managements for at least fifteen years. Increased demands for strategic and efficient use of resources and the growing need for specialised support functions have made it increasingly urgent to address the situation. By forming larger units in the next few years, we hope to avoid ending up in an urgent need for change. 

Neither the directional decision nor the current project plan specifies which of our existing departments will merge and form new units. At the beginning of the autumn semester 2023, the project group has met with all department managements to listen to thoughts and ideas. The group also gathers experience from other units, both within Lund University and other universities. Based on this work, the project group will develop proposals for possible mergers.

At the beginning of 2024, proposals for new units will be developed, according to the project plan. These proposals will need to be discussed and perhaps revised.  At present, it is difficult to say when formal decisions can be made. 

According to the directional decision, the changes will take place gradually. The goal is to reduce the number of departments over the next six years from the current eleven to about half, with a reduction to eight units over the next 3-4 years. It is important to point out that there needs to be a sensitivity to the process when it comes to the pace of change, and it is difficult to say exactly when new units will be formed. 

Technical, administrative and academic management staff may be most affected.  

For some TA staff, the organisational change means that they will be part of new, larger administrative groups at the department level. The ambition is that it will lead to improved coordination of administrative processes and contribute to reduced vulnerability, as well as provide opportunities for in-depth skills for the administrative staff.

Teachers and researchers may be affected by becoming part of a larger unit with a new management, but their tasks will not be directly affected.

This is not yet decided and it is something that departments concerned must be able to influence. The project group aims to develop models and proposals on how larger units can be organised that can form the basis for discussions. During the autumn, the project group will gather knowledge about how other major units, both within Lund University and other universities, have chosen to organise themselves. 

The organisation and management structure will depend on which departments are to merge and the conditions that prevail in that particular merger. It is important to point out that collegial governance must be safeguarded and further developed in the new constellations.

The risks identified so far are mainly related to autonomy, subject identity and profiling in relation to the outside world, as well as size asymmetry between the units.

Other risks may include increased distance between management and employees and the emergence of an increasingly complex structure with new hierarchical levels within each department. The task of the project group is to relate to these risks and make proposals that take these and additional risks into account in the course of work.

Although the project involves risks, it is important to remember that an unchanged organizational structure would also have brought risks and challenges. 

Project group

organisationsprojektet [at] sam [dot] lu [dot] se (organisationsprojektet[at]sam[dot]lu[dot]se)

Charlotte Simonsson (project manager), Vice Dean
Malin Schatz (assistant project manager), Social Sciences Faculty Office
Mersiha Hamzic, Department Service, Social Sciences Faculty Office
Robert Holmberg, Department of Psychology and project manager for "Project Campus Paradis"

Steering group

Agnes Andersson, Dean (chair) 
Björn Badersten, Pro dean 
Lina Wedin, Head of the Faculty Office
Magnus Jirström, Department of Human Geography (Faculty Board representative)
Johan Alvehus, Department of Service Studies (Faculty Board representative)
Andréa Björk, HR Director, Faculty Office
Helena Lind, Communications Officer, Faculty Office
Charlotta Kjöllerström, principal health and safety representative 

Student representative and substitute member nominated by the Social Sciences Student Union.