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The new head of school for the ABE school about the future, research and flagships

Published Jan 12, 2023

At the turn of the year the ABE school got a new head of school. KTH's president appointed Björn Berggren to lead the school during the next four years. He has taken over a well-managed activity that is well prepared for the future.

Why did you want to become head of school?

“A simple answer is that it was an attractive assignment. I have worked a lot with education issues and I have been a programme director for both first-cycle and third-cycle education so I felt that it was a natural step. But I must also say that it is always fun to try something new. That goes hand in hand with one of my research subjects, entrepreneurship, which is about doing new things.”

Talking about your research about entrepreneurship, which earlier experiences will you benefit from in the new role?

“I have worked at division and department level, which is a good basis for working at school and KTH level. Part of my assignment has had a strong focus on Southeast Asia for a number of years, both with student recruitment and the development of research collaboration with universities in the region. Therefore I know what interests and attracts international students. Sustainability issues are important and ranking is enormously significant. If you are in a student fair in Jakarta in Indonesia you will get questions about KTH's ranking!”

“To be able to represent KTH I have first learned about everything we do here. So I have good knowledge about KTH's education and research, and I think we can develop collaboration within the ABE school as well as between the schools, not least when it comes to education.”

You succeed Muriel Beser Hugosson. What is particularly important to administer from her leadership of the school?

“Muriel has handed over an incredibly well-managed organization. The ABE school has a well-balanced economy and we are well-prepared. We also have a well-functioning support service. Everything is in order and I am grateful for that.”

“An important question that Muriel prioritized is succession management. A building block in a well-functioning school is that it is natural and attractive to assume assignments. This is also a question that I will continue working with.”

How would you say that the ABE school stands out and what are our strengths?

“We are strong on sustainability issues, KTH's good reputation in that area is to a large extent thanks to the ABE school. We are also strong in practical applied research and we have good collaborations with society, both with the private and the public sector. Not least with the city of Stockholm and Region Stockholm.”

“When it comes to education the architecture programme is totally amazing, to me, it is the ABE school flagship. The way they work with studios, sustainability, many practitioners and continuous examination is inspiring. We can e.g. take advantage of the experience from education without any written exams when tools like ChatGPT make home exams difficult to use. I recently spoke to colleagues at Indek - the department of industrial economics and management - who had made a trial with oral exams. They thought it was very pleasurable and the students appreciated getting to know right away if they had passed.”

“In general there are many applications for our educations and much of what is being discussed as the education of the future is already in place at the ABE school.”

How do you want to develop the school further? Are you inspired by other universities, e.g. in Asia?

“The most successful universities in that part of the world, e.g. NTU and NUS in Singapore, also have enormous financial resources that we can't compete with. But we are good at getting external funding and we should use the resources we have in a clever way, e.g. through developing the partnerships in both education and research, e.g. when it comes to lifelong learning.”

“I also want to encourage academic mobility, it should be more natural to spend time at universities abroad. Learning new things, being part of a new context and getting perspectives is enormously valuable. More people ought to try being in e.g. USA, Australia or England and see how they work, with e.g. concrete goals for publications, and create their own international networks. It is important and valuable knowledge as well to take back to KTH and more clearly see the strengths of the Swedish system, which among other things encourage collaboration more than many other systems.”