Summing up after six years as President
In the past six years, you have pretty much been able to set your watch by Sigbritt Karlsson. Every morning, regardless of the weather and the pandemic, she has come walking up Drottning Kristinas Väg at about 7.30am. As President and head of a public authority, she is pleased with what she has achieved.
“The things I talked about at my hearing before I started, the things I was determined to achieve, I have pushed through. A lot of the Development Plan we drafted in 2018 has been realised.”
“I’m also satisfied with the principles. They’ve been nice and clear in staking out everything we do in research, education and collaboration,” she says, adding that it is of course a team effort.
Making a closing summary after six years is not the simplest of tasks, countless decisions, strategic initiatives and changes down the line.
The reorganisation of the schools from ten to five, the development of future education, the reorientation of KTH as an international player, coordinating administration, launching KTH’s sixth platform in industrial transformation, the Climate Action Centre initiatives and investments in multidisciplinary environments such as KTH Food are just some of the many items that can be ticked off the list.
“Without all the great researchers, teachers and students at KTH, as well as administrative staff and close colleagues, it would never have been possible. We did it all together.”
On a general level, other examples of development during Sigbritt Karlsson’s tenure are greater visibility and better placements in THE and QS rankings. Sustainable development and, above all, gender equality and core values are other important areas.
“I’m certainly pleased with all that.I think we’ve managed to shift people’s mindsets, so that equal conditions and opportunities for men and women are completely natural at KTH.”
What has been hardest in your role as President?
“KTH is a large workplace, and reaching everyone is a challenge. I’ve also found HR issues to be difficult at times and there have been dilemmas. As a leader, you can’t possibly please everyone. The tendency to report each other on loose grounds is also rather worrying.” Then she adds with a smile:
“And the fact that people expect you to say something clever – all the time.”
What has been the most fun?
“Although I’m not someone who always likes to be in the limelight, it’s nice to be at the centre of development and have access to so much information about what’s going on at KTH. Having the privilege, once again alongside others, to decide on where we’re headed. Getting things started and seeing them through. I think I’ll miss all that. Oh, and I’d also like to mention the students and the student union. They often speak plain language and are sometimes the cleverest of us all.”
Is there anything that has surprised you?
“Well, since I’ve been at KTH for so long, with a spell in Skövde in between, I’ve always had quite a clear overview of things. And when I have had ideas, it’s always been better to bounce them off other people.”
Even so Sigbritt Karlsson does, during our interview in the President’s room, mention two things that have confounded her over the years. The first one is the idea that the president’s presence in different contexts is so symbolically important, regardless of the content, perhaps that says something about an outdated view of hierarchy. Secondly, there’s the lack of courage when people say things and agree in the office corridor, but when it comes down to it you’re often left there standing alone.
“Maybe it’s a fear that it’s their turn next. I think it’s important to work on both these things.At a university like KTH everyone should be able to speak their mind freely.”
What are you going to do next?
“I’ll be going back to the department, maybe writing a few review articles. I also have various assignments on boards and councils. But I’m very much a working, reading kind of person, so I’m bound to continue with that in some way.”
From the first of December, it will no longer be possible to set your watch by Sigbritt Karlsson.
Text: Jill Klackenberg
Photo: Anja Callius