Collegial management, consisting of academic colleagues who are in charge of the content and quality assurance of education and research

In document Core values work in academia (Page 109-116)


2. Collegial management, consisting of academic colleagues who are in charge of the content and quality assurance of education and research

There is a potential for conflict between these two models, and core values can be used to clarify and allocate tasks and responsibilities. Annika Rejmer points out that the line management system is governed by a hierarchical administrative system, and is expected to comply with laws, regulations and public service agreements. Decisions by the Swedish Parliament and Government are to be implemented in all government authorities. The administrative authorities are responsible for ensuring that the laws and regulations are implemented. They do, however, have some autonomy, and can decide for themselves how to apply the laws in individual cases (see 1.3).

As for collegial management, responsible for research and education, there is no legal support in terms of the responsibility for implementing laws and regulations in specific cases. To quote Annika Rejmer,

budget-related issues and centrally determined goals such as sustainability, gender equality and equal opportunities, internationalisation and widening participation fall outside the collegial system’s assignment and area of responsibility. These issues are to be handled by the line organisation. This means that the line organisation is to ensure that collegial decisions also fulfil centrally determined goals that are established in laws, ordinances and budgets.

Core values can be a support to a university in that they identify and clarify the allocation of responsibilities and their realisation.

‘Translating’ common basic values to academia

As shown in the previous sections of this report, academic freedom is often at odds with statutory requirements on gender equality, equal opportunities, etc. There is a strong belief in meritocracy and a common disregard of the fact that (also) decision-makers are biased, that stereotypes control our choices, and that a homosociality exists in assessments. There are methods that can help combat this bias, such as gender mainstreaming, aimed at integrating a gender perspective into all decisions and processes.

Bias is a problem when translating the common basic values into academic culture, because of the belief in the principle of objectivity and keywords that are linked to this principle: independence, impartiality, integrity and equality. Research clearly shows that

‘objectivity’ and ‘impartiality’ in academic practice is a chimera. What we perceive as objective and impartial is a matter of power and interpretative prerogative. Inger Lövkrona (1.4) illustrates this by showing that (gender) bias exists in, for instance, peer

reviews and perceptions of quality. The principle of objectivity must therefore be interrogated in relation to the academic values.

The principle of “respect for the equality of everyone” as explained by the keywords of equality, gender equality, humanity and integrity, can serve as another example of a similar translation problem. This principle ultimately refers to the UN Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which is manifested in the Swedish Instrument of Government and parts of which has been adopted in the Swedish Discrimination Act (DL). The DL clarifies the contexts in which respect is to be shown, and connects it to the seven grounds of discrimination, which narrows down the content of the UDHR.

The DL also further limits the principle of respect for the equal value of all people in its definition of discrimination, by distinguishing between direct and indirect discrimination of individuals. The active measures proposed in this law apply to all government authorities, and appear to prioritise gender and rank the different grounds of discrimination. This means that the DL leaves some room for negotiation for the individual education institution/authority. In the context of a government authority, recognising the equality of everyone is transformed into equal opportunities for those who fall within the seven grounds of discrimination. Although equal opportunities, or anti-discrimination, can obviously contribute to a better working environment, which in turn is encouraging, it does not change the structures that cause discrimination.

In the academic context, as in all other contexts, there is structural discrimination, which is not covered by the concepts of direct and indirect discrimination which refer to acts against individuals. Structural discrimination refers to discrimination that is rooted in the rules and norms in society and/or working life, that violate the principle of equal opportunities, and is (usually) unintentional. Equal opportunities for all people in terms of recognising the equal right to respect of all people, does not lead to changing the unequal conditions that are caused by bias and partiality which, according to research, exist in the assessment of quality when recruiting employees or allocating resources. Change requires awareness of the ‘hidden’ unequal conditions related to bias with regard to gender, class, ethnicity, race, sexuality, etc., and how they are generated in power relations.

The principle of legality with the associated keyword of ‘normativity’ is also problematic. As noted above, the norms which the laws are based on are non-negotiable – they are the law. The principle does therefore not provide room for questioning, but rather it reproduces and preserves the traditional academic norm and a limited understanding of how discrimination operates. However, no norms, not even legal ones, are objective or natural – they are ultimately linked to power and hierarchies.

They are national and cultural, and require contextual interpretation. Legal provisions are formulated in a general and abstract manner, to be applicable to different situations and in different contexts, but what is general and neutral has already been interpreted from the start. Core values work involves development and change management, and

the principles of the common basic values must be subjected to norm-critical scrutiny in order for them to be used to implement change. Normativity must always be accompanied by norm-criticism.

As such, we conclude that legal expertise on its own is not enough to ‘translate’ the principles and key concepts to the organisation-specific activities at the University.

Therefore, in part 2 of this report, we have gathered support for this ‘translation’. Above all, the implementation requires norm-critical expertise and knowledge of gender and diversity issues. These ‘translation problems’ can be addressed in training and methods such as AKKA, the anti-discrimination training programme, and ‘See the human beyond’, as well as the gender certification project. We recommend developing additional support and training in norm criticism, inclusive teaching, and the understanding of master suppression techniques and bias. The Swedish Discrimination Act is an obvious starting point in this type of training, but can be complemented through University-specific core values – see below.

Academic freedom and freedom of expression – alerting, whistling and informing

Academic freedom is sometimes interpreted as freedom of expression, which of course is protected by the constitution and included in the common basic values. But the law is only the basis for a special form of academic freedom – the freedom of research. It can be important to interrogate and expand on this notion in the local core values.

There are limitations to the freedom of expression for all citizens, including staff and students at a university. Both the Swedish criminal code and the Discrimination Act stipulate that one must not threaten, offend or incite against other people. This means that not even freedom of speech is absolute.

Annika Rejmer (1.3) discusses in detail how this right can be limited for a government employee through the principle of loyalty to their employer – in this case, the University. Although we are encouraged to and have a strong freedom to alert, whistle and inform about any irregularities within the University, it could be a sign of a good workplace if the praxis is the same as for other employers – that the matter must be of public interest and that you first notify your line manager, and give them the opportunity to correct any wrongdoings. According to Rejmer, apart from employees who inform the media, etc. anonymously and are thereby protected by the freedom to disclose information, people who raise the alarm often end up in a very vulnerable situation and lack protection against reprisals in the form of a change in their work duties or job transfer, etc.

It is quite clear that the organisation benefits from having employees alert them – if there is good case management in place. Those who want to bring any wrongdoings to the management’s attention must be supported by an established process and feel safe that they won’t be subjected to reprisals. If this process is not in place, there is a big risk that employees will feel forced to air their concerns externally or, if they are still being ignored, become vocal troublemakers in the media. It should be in everyone’s interest that such issues are incorporated into quality assurance work and affirmed rather than silenced. The core values can be used to formulate the basis for how this is to be ensured.

Local core values and policy to improve and clarify.

As noted in previous sections of this report, legal support varies depending on the value.

Political values often have strong support, while academic ones are more unclear or based on recommendations from the EU or the UN. Ethical values, which are common core values, have no real legal support, unless they fall under the Discrimination Act.

These values can be tricky – they are open to interpretation and must be understood from a cultural and social perspective. In a norm-critical analysis with a power perspective, many of the ethical value words, which appear to be uncontroversial, are shown to confirm or support a power structure – words like respect, kindness or humour (1.4).

This creates room and a need for clarification of the core values. A future policy to complement the core values should therefore include gender equality, equal opportunities, and academic values (1.4).

Even among the political values, there are parts that are less supported. As noted by Inger Lövkrona, the Discrimination Act only discusses individual discrimination and focuses on the seven stated grounds of discrimination. Our firm belief is that a set of core values should be able to expand further, and cover known deficiencies by

1. acknowledging that social background is a ground for negative discrimination and victimisation at the University, and is therefore to be included

2. including all grounds of discrimination (and social background) in preventive and active work, not only those prioritised in the DL

3. working to counter structural discrimination and showing that it is the basis for the individual problems that arise within academia

4. implementing a gender perspective in both education and research to uncover existing structures and biases.

These are some of the ‘gaps’ in the legislation that can be filled with effective core values.

Implementing core values

How can core values work be conducted efficiently? Both Annika Rejmer and Christer Eldh have picked up on several pieces of advice from their sources. They stress that it is important that there is significant dissemination of knowledge about the core values, but it must be combined with other efforts, otherwise there is a risk that if the core values are not accepted, they are met with cynicism, resistance and believed to be empty rhetoric. It is therefore important that they are supported, and to allow them to be confronted with the values that exist within the organisation. One should apply a bottom-up approach, where workshops and discussions lead to summaries and support for management decisions. An important part of the approval process is to identify and explicitly discuss the changes and improvements that the core values are intended to generate, and to provide clear information on their implementation.

The importance of active agents of change within the organisation, who assist in making the entire organisation aware of the need for change, cannot be overstated. Their task is to build trust between those who are agents of change and who are to change the way they work, and to make sure that no one is excluded from the process. As stressed by Inger Lövkrona (1.4), this requires them to motivate, activate and integrate all levels of change management. University leaders here hold a key position, a special responsibility. Training academic leaders to become agents of change through gender-integrated leadership programmes such as AKKA, is an investment for the future.

In the words of Annika Rejmer (1.3):

The communication of knowledge has, according to previous research, certainly been insufficient for successful processes of change, but remains of fundamental importance.

There is a need for a description of the new way of working or behaviour that shows which core values it is based on and its intended function. The research also shows that the most effective spreading of knowledge is done through informal local networks, i.e.

in discussions and cooperation between colleagues.

KRUS has offered support for implementing core values. However, the individual public authorities have had responsibility for local implementation i.e. to integrate core values by developing the expertise of staff and offering supervision and support via action plans, new routines and templates etc. Previous research shows that local integration and institutionalisation of changes in an organisation require that the forms of support – the new routines, templates etc.– are easy to use, and have clear and noticeable benefits when compared with the previous way of working, and that they are continuously followed up, evaluated and revised.

Core values work is to be seen as an open-ended process, where the establishment and decisions lead to change, which will then be evaluated and may uncover new needs for improvement. To support this work, the Government has appointed a Core Values Delegation, to offer assistance to government authorities. However, as we have shown in this report, universities are unique government authorities, and to translate the national core values to the world of academia requires specific techniques and knowledge. We hope that this report will be used to support this work.

Summarised recommendations for core values work

The following list is a summary of our recommendations when working with core values:

1. Discuss and clarify the aim, objective and process of developing and implementing core values.

2. Use the common basic values as a starting point, and focus on how they are to be translated to apply to an academic authority such as Lund University.

3. Discuss and interrogate the conflicts and disagreements that exist between the political common basic values and the organisational values of the academic culture.

4. Specify the differences in responsibility between line and collegial management.

5. Interrogate meritocracy on the basis of bias, stereotypes and homosociality.

6. Provide educational support for how the academic culture is to live up to the superordinate principles of the common basic values, such as independence, impartiality, equal opportunities, equal treatment and gender equality.

7. Use the Discrimination Act as a starting point for upholding the principles of the common basic values.

8. Enhance and expand the Discrimination Act by

a) advancing the work to counteract structural discrimination,

b) including social background to the same extent as the other grounds of discrimination in the Act when widening participation

c) including all grounds of discrimination and social background in the requirements for preventive and active work,

d) implementing a gender and diversity perspective in all education and research, as well as all decision-making processes, through gender integration, etc.

9. Improve the core values work by drawing up clear administrative procedures, and combat reprisals for staff and students who wish to alert the University management of any irregularities, etc.

10. Have the core values work be based on norm-criticism, inclusive teaching, and increased awareness of how bias, master suppression techniques and discrimination can be counteracted.

11. Establish an implementation process that is based on knowledge dissemination to all parts of the organisation, and agents of change.

Photo by Jens Rydström

Part 2 Core values within academia

In document Core values work in academia (Page 109-116)