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Aarhus University is 91 years old

Today, Aarhus University is celebrating its 91st anniversary with visits from the distinguished alumna Marianne Dahl and the Danish Minister for Higher Education and Science, Ane Halsboe-Jørgensen, among others. Read more about the distinguished alumna, the award winners, and the speeches here.

2019.09.17 | Ida Hammerich Nielson

Marianne Dahl, distinguished alumna, together with Rector Brian Bech Nielsen.

Four talented students received the HM Queen Margrethe II Travel Grant.

The four honorary doctors.

Professor Torben Bæk Hansen and Senior Consultant Jens Holbech received the Aarhus University Anniversary Foundation awards.

"For many, the university may be just a number of striking and beautiful buildings. But in truth, these are just the shell. The core of the university is its staff and students. You give the university life and vitality, and you do so brilliantly. I thank you warmly for all your efforts every single day. It's a pleasure to share my workplace with you."

This was how, on 13 September 2019, Rector Brian Bech Nielsen started his address in the Main Hall to staff, partners and politicians, including the Danish Minister for Higher Education and Science, Ane Halsboe-Jørgensen, to mark the occasion of the 91st anniversary of Aarhus University. Rector Brian Bech Nielsen also commented on the current media debate about Aarhus University:

"Everyone here is well aware of the importance of public trust and confidence in universities. When something happens that can harm that trust, it’s time to look each other in the eye. And then do everything in our power to restore that trust. When we meet legitimate criticism, we listen. When we make mistakes, we recognise them – and we rectify them. This is also an integral part of Aarhus University's values.”

Watch the video of Rector Brian Bech Nielsen’s speech

Chair of the board: graduates must have green skills
The chair of the board, Connie Hedegaard, focused on how the climate crisis and sustainability challenges underline the sense that we increasingly need to be able to see our existence in a larger context:

"If I'm right, and a paradigm shift is on the way such that there will again be a demand for people who can create a sense of perspective and provide depth as a counterweight to the superficial, and a demand for  people who work on the big questions about who we are, where we come from and what’s the point of it all, then there’s a greater need than ever for strong universities."

The chair of the board also struck a blow for university green-transition efforts:

“AU put so much effort into developing a far-reaching sustainability strategy this year, because it’s also a question of how we ourselves work as a university. Of course our biggest contributions are through our research, and the knowledge and solutions we can offer. There’s no doubt about that. But how can we make our own daily practice and ethics climate friendly? For example, how do we use energy and resources? How do we get around? And should our course catalogues be adjusted so that it’s not possible to graduate from AU without a certain level of green skills? As I see it, a certain fundamental knowledge about sustainability and the climate is simply part of being a well educated human being in the 21st century. And it should be part of the university's DNA."

Watch a video of Chair of the Board Connie Hedegaard’s speech (link to follow)

Minister: The degree programme cap gave the wrong signal
Ane Halsboe-Jørgensen began her talk by congratulating Aarhus University on its anniversary and emphasised the importance of the role of universities in society. Then she turned her focus to the students and the fact that one in five students feel under stress.

"I'd like to say openly here today: I failed an economics exam. And no, it wasn’t the most fun I've ever had. But things turned out alright anyway. Stumbling along the road is something we can discuss out loud. Something we should never feel ashamed of. We should never be so busy chasing top marks that we go down with stress and anxiety. We’re currently looking at the entire grading scale. I do not think that the idea of extending the grading scale with a 12+ was a good idea. I know from students that many saw it as yet another competitive parameter. We also want to abolish the degree programme cap. It gave the wrong signal - that young people were not allowed to change their choices."     

Watch the video with Ane Halsboe-Jørgensen's speech (link to follow)

The 2019 distinguished alumna: Marianne Dahl

The distinguished alumne of the year is Marianne Dahl, Master of Science in Economics and Business Administration and vice president for sales, marketing & operations at Microsoft Western Europe. Marianne Dahl has proved to be a notable voice in a number of agendas, including on democracy in the digitalised world, talent development and inclusion in the labour market.  She mentioned the significance of new technology in her speech:  

"I work with the most advanced technology within artificial intelligence and augmented reality, and this is used in everything from customer service, to energy optimisation, to surgical procedures. Today, artificial intelligence is better than human intelligence for all types of pattern recognition. This places new demands on the graduates of the future and on educational institutions such as Aarhus University. "

Read a portrait and watch a video of Marianne Dahl

Watch Marianne Dahl's speech (link to follow)

This year’s student speaker changed track
The student speaker was Lasse Louis Svendsen, chair of the board at RIA (the council for engineering students) at Aarhus University. He started his studies taking a medical programme, but he realised that it wasn't right for him.

"I wanted to switch to the Bachelor of Engineering in Mechanical Engineering programme, and I’m still there today on my 5th semester. Even though, back in January 2017, I felt something of a failure when I opted out of the medical degree programme I’d been talking about for so many years, today I can see that it was the best decision I’ve made in my entire life. At that time I was on a road with a clear goal; to become a doctor. But that was a road I didn’t like. I much prefer the road I’m on now, but I’ve no idea where it’s headed, apart from the fact it’s led me to talking to you here today. More specifically, my change means that instead of showing up for the sake of the syllabus, I'm now going to classes for my own sake; my own curiosity about what I can learn today. And I’m ready to be astonished yet again."

Other honours and awards
Professor Torben Bæk Hansen, Aarhus University Anniversary Foundation Prize of Honour for Pedagogics.

Senior Consultant Jens Holbech, Aarhus University Anniversary Foundation Research Communication Prize.

Four students received the HM Queen Margrethe II Travel Grant

Honorary doctorates were conferred on the following four researchers:

Professor Martha Nussbaum

Professor Dame Carol Robinson

Professor Mark Joseph Daly

Professor Linda Argote

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