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The Crown Prince celebrates his 25th anniversary as an alumnus from AU

This year, Crown Prince Frederik can celebrate graduating as an MSc in political science from Aarhus University 25 years ago. The Crown Prince himself, his former fellow students and current associates have provided stories about the Crown Prince's relationship with Aarhus University – from discussions about the AGF football team and sociologists in the cafeteria at the Department of Political Science to his current involvement in the Crown Prince Frederik Center for Public Leadership.

2020.08.14 | Ida Hammerich Nielson

August 1989. Future political science students excitedly enter the Main Hall at Aarhus University – one of them is Crown Prince Frederik. Initially, the Crown Prince was only supposed to study a few subjects at the university, just as his mother had done. But around Christmas, he decided to complete his political science degree. And he has never regretted his decision.

 "I’ve a lot of good memories from my time at Aarhus University. It was an inspiring refuge for me.  I clearly remember my "first day at school". There was a sense of anticipation, an appetite and curiosity to start a new chapter in life. I think this applied to everyone. I quickly found a safe environment. The unfamiliar faces became close classmates, with the cafeteria at the Department of Political Science as a wonderful gathering point where the smell of coffee blended with high-level discussions about everything from AGF to great thinkers such as Rosa Luxemburg, Ralph Miliband and John Locke. There was plenty of room for differences of opinion,” says Crown Prince Frederik.

Classmates: amazingly relaxed

This is confirmed by two of the Crown Prince's former study group partners, Steffen Damborg and Søren Cajus. Steffen Damborg, who is now the CEO of his own consultancy company DigitalConsult, says that it was important for the Crown Prince to be treated like all other students:

"We were a group of students who founded the HK Miliband hockey club with a cheeky reference to the English political science sociologist of the same name. We met on Saturday mornings to play indoor hockey, and Frederik frequently joined us. We really went at it, and nobody was given preferential treatment."

Søren Cajus, a leading senior advisor at the Confederation of Danish Industry, also remembers his student years with the Crown Prince as anything but formal.


"In retrospect, it was amazingly relaxed. Frederik himself is very informal and straightforward, and he blended in nicely at the department without any fuss. I think that we students generally played down the fact one of our players on the team was heir to the throne. When we had a study group meeting with Frederik at Marselisborg Palace, of course the environment was different than what we were used to. And when we were out at night, we were aware of the great interest in Frederik. The night usually ended at a nightclub called "Den Sidste” (the last one)," he says.

“I think that the Crown Prince had some good years at Aarhus University, because they allowed him to live life almost as a normal student. He was addressed as "Frederik", and he had a lot of fun while at the same time working hard like the rest of our students," says Professor and Head of Department Peter Munk Christiansen, who taught Crown Prince Frederik in public administration. Photo: Dan Jakobsen, Aarhus Stiftstidende (newspaper) (1989)


From Aarhus to Harvard

The political science programme not only gave Crown Prince Frederik a refuge and good friends. It also gave him deep academic knowledge and the opportunity to study for one year at Harvard Kennedy School, which he describes as a fantastic experience. Harvard Kennedy School is home to the prestigious Harvard Center for Public Leadership, and when Aarhus University asked the Crown Prince almost three years ago if he would lend his name to a similar leadership centre on the occasion of his 50 birthday, he immediately agreed.

"The Crown Prince Frederik Center for Public Leadership has now been established at the Department of Political Science, where I myself did my Master's degree. When I meet current students – for example when awarding grants from the Crown Prince Frederik Fund to study at Harvard Kennedy School, or when the Center invites me to contribute to a postgraduate seminar – I think back on my own student years – both in Aarhus and in Boston. Political Science in Aarhus gave me a solid academic foundation and taught me critical thinking, while Harvard, with its familiar case study approach, opened up for a more practical use of the theories, so that debate and discussion became a bridge between theory and practice," says Crown Prince Frederik.

The Crown Prince sends other students to Harvard

The Crown Prince’s stay at Harvard inspired the Crown Prince Frederik Fund. When the Crown Prince arrived in the US in 1993, a group of Danish-Americans – including Harvard graduate Gustav Christensen – was ready to welcome him and introduce him to a network in the new country. When Crown Prince Frederik turned 25 in the same year, the group of Danish-Americans established the Crown Prince Frederik Fund as a gift to the Crown Prince.

Gustav Christensen explains that Crown Prince Frederik is very involved in the Fund, which, every year, gives two, talented Danish students a unique opportunity to study at Harvard Kennedy School.

"Getting into Harvard is like getting through the eye of a needle and a Harvard degree helps grant recipients onwards in their careers. Harvard offers something unique, among other things a broad network of students from all over the world, and over time the Crown Prince Frederik Fund has given 54 Danish students this unique opportunity. Graduates subsequently contribute their knowledge in both the public and private sectors," says Gustav Christensen, who also sees the grant as a bolster for the relationship between Denmark and the US.  

In 2008, Crown Prince Frederik was named distinguished alumnus in connection with Aarhus University's 80th anniversary. As a distinguished alumnus, he plays a special role, according to Rector Brian Bech Nielsen - not just for the university, but for many others: "Denmark is rather proud to have an heir to the throne who has completed an academic degree at the highest level and on equal terms with all other students. The Crown Prince is a good role model for all young people who make an effort to pursue the education they want," says Rector Brian Bech Nielsen. 
Photo: Søren Kjeldgaard

It’s about people

Crown Prince Frederik's contact with Aarhus University – 25 years after his Master's degree – mainly consists of his work in the Crown Prince Frederik Center for Public Leadership. He sits on the Center’s Governance Committee, among others with Jens Bjerg Sørensen, who is chair of the board of the foundation Købmand Herman Sallings Fond. Donations from the foundation helped establish the Center, and have made a major contribution to better knowledge about public leadership. According to the Crown Prince, this is crucial for the many thousands of Danes who perform tasks in the public sector every day:

"Basically, it's about people and about good relationships. This became very clear when, together with the Center, I invited a head midwife, a head of school and a municipal chief executive to Amalienborg Palace for an informal chat about public leadership. My solid foundation from Aarhus University is particularly useful at such meetings between different disciplines from different sectors in the public sector. On the whole, the political science programme has been a rewarding source of wisdom to understand our society," says Crown Prince Frederik.

Better public leadership

Professor Lotte Bøgh Andersen works with the Crown Prince at the Center for Public Leadership and stresses that the Crown Prince makes many contributions – from input at seminars to new research ideas.

"The Crown Prince's affiliation with the Center means that many public sector leaders walk a little taller, because he helps to acknowledge the importance of good public leadership. The Crown Prince's affiliation with the Centre provides significantly better opportunities to realise the vision of contributing to a better public sector by creating, sharing and applying research-based knowledge about public leadership. In this way, the Crown Prince also contributes to ensuring that Aarhus University continues to set the tone through high-quality education and research, and through its strong commitment to the development of society," says Lotte Bøgh Andersen and mentions that the Department of Political Science has just been ranked as the best in the world in public administration on the Shanghai Ranking list.

Through his work at the Center, Crown Prince Frederik keeps in touch with Aarhus University and the degree programme that has helped shape him both professionally and personally. The anniversary gives rise to reflection among Aarhus University's prominent alumni:

"It almost sounds like a cliché, but I can’t believe that it’s 25 years since I graduated – memories from my life as a student are still very clear to me."

"No one is born a leader.......... or perhaps almost no one," said Crown Prince Frederik in his speech when he helped open the Crown Prince Frederik Center for Public Leadership in May 2018 as part of his 50th birthday celebrations. In the photo, the Crown Prince is flanked by Center Director Lotte Bøgh Andersen (right) and Chairman of the Aarhus University Board Connie Hedegaard.
Photo: Lars Kruse, AU Foto 


The Crown Prince and Aarhus University
1989: Commencement of studies at the Department of Political Science, Aarhus University
1993-1994: Study abroad at Harvard University
1993: Establishment of the Crown Prince Frederik Fund
1995: MSc in political science with thesis on foreign policy in the Baltic countries
2008: Appointed as distinguished alumnus at Aarhus University
2018: Opening of the Crown Prince Frederik Center for Public Leadership:
2020: Crown Prince Frederik celebrates 25 years since graduating from Aarhus University

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