Rector Per Bruun Brockhoff

Proposal for new scientific department structure

On 16 April, Rector Per Bruun Brockhoff presented his proposal for an organisational restructuring of the scientific departments including new sections, closer proximity to management, and an emphasis on leadership and psychological safety

Written April 21, 2024 by Theis Duelund Jensen

On 16 April, Rector Per Bruun Brockhoff presented his vision for the future of IT University of Copenhagen. If greenlit, the proposed organisational change – which has yet to undergo a hearing process among employees and be approved by the Board of Directors – aims to create a bright path for ITU in the future by gathering the three scientific departments under one and creating a number of smaller sections.

According to Per Bruun Brockhoff, his ambition is to ensure more representation of VIPs in the decision-processes, closer proximity to management, address issues of psychological safety as highlighted by the recent APV, and finally promote inclusive leadership values in the organisation as a whole.

We spoke with the rector about his vision for ITU, the process of organisational change, and promoting a culture of leadership.

Why restructure the organisation?
ITU is in good shape – we are in a good place financially, our research is top-tier, and our educational programmes are more popular than ever – but we also have issues we need to address, and changing a political reality we must adapt to. We have an opportunity to make some changes at ITU – to address problems internally and ensure a bright future for the university. I am proposing a change of structure in our scientific departments to strengthen the core vision of ITU as a multi-disciplinary university anchored in the ITU triangle.

I want to make it clear that this proposal is also a response to the message we in top management were sent in the APV process. Many have expressed their desire for closer proximity to top management, and I believe we can create a university with closer proximity to management and more transparency in decision making at the top level. With that comes a vision to work more strategically and focused with strong leadership in a way that will reach everyone. I want to foster a culture of ITU Leadership.

What does ITU Leadership entail?
This is something that I would like to work on in the new layer of management at ITU. Part of what I propose is a new department structure consisting of a number of sections. Section heads will play an important role as the link between faculty and management, and ideally, they will be culture bearers with a leadership mindset and focus on inclusive leadership. Inclusive leadership is a well-defined field of study and practice, and I would like us to work more with this in our practices at ITU.

The new section leaders will work together in leadership groups and with management and together we will determine exactly how we want this to work for us – what kind of values ITU Leadership embodies. Working on being an inclusive leader is not some vague thing. It is a discipline to be an inclusive leader, it is something you can train and improve in. And I would like us to be better at this discipline, and I would like to invite VIPs to help shape ITU Leadership with me and the rest of management.

To thrive and excel as researchers and educators at a top international level we need to be a workplace where people feel safe, and a strong sense of belonging. Everyone should feel safe and happy to work here at ITU.

The core DNA is the triangle. How do we preserve that in the restructuring process?
I am convinced that having no barriers between the departments will make it easier for us to work with the interdisciplinarity that is and will remain ITU’s core DNA. As I mentioned in my talk, I envision a research community at ITU where it is possible to occupy more than one corner of the triangle at a time. I believe the section structure will enable more interdisciplinarity and better synergy between the many fields of research at ITU. Part of the ambition here is to enable more dynamic interrelations between the sections.

All of our educational programmes will remain the same under this proposal, so the basis in the ITU Triangle persists. I do not know how the sections will be designed – this is a conversation I want to have with employees. If the proposal is approved by the Board of Directors, the plan is that we create the sections in the Autumn and make the final decisions on what being a section entails and what inter-sectional relationships will look like.

What role will cooperation and collegial bodies play at ITU in the future?
These are and will of course remain important parts of our organisation. In the collaboration committee we are already having the conversation about the ideal way for a body like this to serve the university. We realised we had some things to improve, and it is clear that the collaboration organisation must reflect the actual organisation of the university. The organisational units we have formalised must be reflected in the way the collaboration organisation is set up. Had we continued with a number of major departments, we would have had to consider if the current structure with just a single main collaboration committee with two “sub committees” is adequate. We need to find the best match between the proposed organisational change and the future structure of the collaboration organisation.

This is of course something we have to agree upon. I want us to finetune the structure of the committee in collaboration here.

Will the proposed organisational restructuring enable growth?
The structure itself will not enable growth. One point that I made in my talk is that we have a different scenario in front of us compared to when the three current departments were created. Back then we hoped to attract more basic funding. We secured additional funding to grow Computer Science and create Data Science. Our departments have done well for us. We have all seen how Computer Science has grown and thrived. That strategy worked well, but at the moment there is no prospect of that kind of growth given the political landscape. It is almost certain that basic funding will not grow for any university. We are looking into a decrease in student activity sector wide.

On the other hand, there is the vision of Danish universities to be more active on the Lifelong Learning agenda. That vision has been there for quite a while, but all universities are stepping up on this and so will we. We do not know how the educational reform will affect us at the moment, but I believe we are in a better position to generate growth, for instance Lifelong Learning, without the current department walls.

Is there a timeline for the process?
Yes. April to July is business as usual at ITU. The Board of Directors will consider the intended proposal at their meeting 3 June. If passed, we will have an interim period between August-December in which the transformation process is handled by University Director Georg Dam Steffensen, Department Management, and myself. In the interim period, Steffen Dalsgaard will act as Head of Business IT and Lone Malmborg and Peter Sestoft will continue as heads of their respective departments throughout the interim period.

Pending the approval as well as the outcome of the hearing processes, ITU will have a new organisational structure on 1 January, 2025.