A breath of fresh air for the country

  • University / Central Administration and Rectorate
    11 July 2023
  • Category
    Research, University

Professor Kreisel, you have assumed the rectorship of the University after two years of a pandemic and amidst numerous crises occurring around the world. What is the biggest challenge you will have to tackle immediately?

First, I should note that the University navigated/managed the corona pandemic comparatively well by maintaining lectures, research, and outreach, to the best of our ability. Furthermore, we demonstrated our valuable contribution to Luxembourg by offering multidisciplinary expertise, ranging from biomedicine and psychology to logistics, and advising policymakers on effective strategies to combat the virus and minimise harm.

Despite navigating a challenging three years, the University successfully completed its strategic planning. Our top priority now is its implementation, which is key to shaping the future.

What’s at the core of the strategy?

Excellence and interdisciplinarity. Our previous academic work focused on individual disciplines, which was necessary in the University’s formative years. However, to address the pressing issues at hand, it is crucial that we now extend and leverage our disciplinary excellence through increased interdisciplinarity and collaboration. All members of the university community have a vital role to play.

Interdisciplinarity seems to be a popular term, but, for many, it’s just that — all talk. How can it be made a reality at the University of Luxembourg?

The most effective approach is through concrete projects that engage multiple fields. Our University is well equipped to support these efforts through its Institute for Advanced Studies (IAS), which provides significant funding for high-risk, interdisciplinary initiatives that bring together researchers with diverse scientific perspectives. To be eligible for IAS funding, a truly interdisciplinary approach is a requirement. The
IAS complements existing important initiatives in the faculties and interdisciplinary centres.

An additional catalyst will be the establishment of the Interdisciplinary Centre (IC) for Environmental Systems. This will serve as a hub for cutting-edge interdisciplinary research, from basic principles to practical applications. We are currently defining its scope and searching for an appropriate leader to guide its research efforts.

What would you definitely like to have achieved in your first year in office, Professor Kreisel?

It is important that we navigate through the current crises unharmed — including financially. Healthy finances are a prerequisite for continuing our excellence and for keeping an important ambition, also in the interest of Luxembourg. I aim to ensure that the University’s strategy is translated into tangible and enduring initiatives, such as the abovecited IC, the creation of a Centre for Digital Ethics, and other structuring projects, as well as new initiatives in higher-education such as medicine, nursing, education, and innovative digital learning formats. It is crucial that we move forward with these and other recently launched projects.

Also, there will soon be a generational change in several positions of research and administration. It is important that we recruit individuals who can keep up the excellent work of the past years and bring fresh perspectives to guide our future direction.

My goal for the rectorate is to work in close partnership with the deans and directors of the centres, and administration. Building this team is one of my priorities during my inaugural year in office.

The University has declared three focus areas for the immediate future: Digital Transformation, Medicine and Health, and Sustainable and Social Development. What tangible projects will there be to address these topics?

Our four-year plan outlines specific projects in the areas of Digital Transformation, and Medicine and Health, such as the National Centres of Excellence in Research (NCER) FinTech and Clinnova, and various teaching initiatives. In the area of Sustainable and Social Development, things are just getting underway – keyword ‘new interdisciplinary centre’. I place great importance on the University’s own journey towards sustainability, which requires a cultural shift and a dedicated strategy beyond existing strengths. I am committed to personally driving this change, with a strong emphasis on involving the wider university community and especially the student voice.

The University presents itself as a research university. What does that mean for lecturers and students?

Providing young people with the best possible education and preparing them for careers in business, government and non-government organisations or academic institutions is central to our mission as a research university. Studying at the cutting edge of research gives students the opportunity to learn from the best in their field – from world-class researchers who share their current knowledge, culture, curiosity, and critical thinking in the lecture hall.

At the same time, universities across the globe are facing – and will increasingly face – major challenges in their teaching methodologies. During the pandemic, we successfully adapted by offering digital alternatives for our lectures. However, effective teaching lives from in-person interaction. Moving forward, we aim to utilize digital technologies that prioritise more interaction and flexibility.

To achieve this, we will seek input from our students, who, as digital natives, often know very well what it takes to create a cyberspace solution that is truly usable.

“Studying at the cutting edge of research gives students the opportunity to learn from the best in their field.””

The University will be celebrating its 20th anniversary in autumn 2023. What will you be celebrating?

For one thing, the University of Luxembourg has developed outstandingly. I don’t know of any other university in the world that got to such a high level in such a short time.

The University of Luxembourg has experienced tremendous growth and has achieved excellence in a short period of time. In addition to the quality of our staff and students, this is due to factors such as strong support from the government and citizens, a multicultural environment, and excellent funding for research. This attracts top talent, leading for instance to an above-average number of European Research Council (ERC) grants and partnerships with industry. The University contributes to the country through its research and innovation, and by providing education to talents from around the world, with many graduates choosing to stay in Luxembourg after their studies. This helps the country stay competitive and benefit from the fresh ideas and perspectives brought by the well-educated young professionals.

We can be proud of our University. And the University of Luxembourg can be a source of pride for the country. It is a driving force behind the thriving research and innovation ecosystem in Luxembourg. The University also conducts research on important topics like Luxembourg’s history, various dimensions of inequality, or democracy, all stimulating the necessary societal discourse.

Finally, the University attracts talent and promotes people’s qualifications. For example, we currently have over 1,000 doctoral students, of whom 10 per cent are from Luxembourg and 90 per cent from all over the world. 40 to 50 per cent of all graduates stay in the country after graduating. These well-educated young people make Luxembourg even more competitive. And, with their ideas, they bring a breath of fresh air to the country.

“I don’t know of any other university in the world that achieved such a high level of excellence in such a short time.”