Get to know AU – one bite at a time

Aarhus University is big: 42,000 students, 8,000 employees and campuses in Aarhus, Herning and Emdrup near Copenhagen. If AU was a cake, it would be a total calorie explosion. Here you get the organisation cut up into bite-sized pieces – making it easier to get an overview of where you can get help and how you can exercise your influence.

It can be difficult to find your way around AU's organisation. We have tried to divide the organisation into bite-sized pieces. The three pieces of the cake provide an overview of: student politics; AU's organisation; and how to go about exercising your influence. Committees and bodies placed on the same line are located at the same level in the organisation. Click on the image to enlarge it. Photos: Lars Kruse. Graphics: Astrid Reitzel.

Who are you?

You are a student. Not a pupil. There is a difference. As a student, you have the primary responsibility for your learning, which is to say for everything from your studying and your registration for exams to buying the books on the syllabus list.     

Where are you?

You are taking a degree programme that typically belongs under a unit, which in turn falls under one of AU's 28 departments, which again are part of one of AU's four faculties. At the top of the pyramid you find the rector – we will come back to him later.    

Where should you go if your study group doesn’t function, if your studies give you stress, or simply if you just want to wise-up about future studies?    

All study programmes at AU have their own student counsellors. They are always ready to discuss any academic or social problems that you experience during your studies. This is also where you can get guidance if you want to study abroad or want to direct your studies in a particular direction.    

You're dyslectic, have impaired hearing, suffer from depression or are otherwise impaired. What to do?    

Behind the abbreviation (which you will meet many of at AU) SPS you find Special Educational Support. This is where you can find out whether you are eligible for special support and it’s also where you can apply for support. For example, you can get access to counselling programmes, IT aids and study help. SPS is there to make sure that you can take an education on equal footing with others, even though you have an impairment of some kind.    

Are you dissatisfied with something about your study programme? Or do you need an exemption from an exam?    

All departments have a board of studies (Science and Technology is a bit of an exception, with 16 departments but only three boards of study). You should contact the board of studies if you e.g. need an exemption from an exam, or if you are planning to study abroad and need to get your courses approved in advance. If you are dissatisfied with something or want to influence your degree programme, then this is also the place to go. The students have representatives sitting on the boards of studies who are elected every year via democratic elections. Here you can influence your degree programme’s structure, teaching, study environment and much more. The boards of studies can also appoint committees for the individual degree programmes. If you are taking a humanities degree you will also undoubtedly have a local degree programme board. They hold meetings about the specific degree programme and provide input to the board of studies. Here you can also seek influence, either by talking to one of the representatives from your degree programme, or by coming to the meetings. If there aren’t enough good study spaces, or new blackboards are needed or something else entirely, then you can point this out here.    

Dean? What is that?    

If you were (one of the few who) made it through all ten seasons of Beverly Hills, you might have wondered who the person that Brandon called "the dean" actually was. Well, the dean is head of a faculty. AU has four faculties – Arts, Aarhus BSS, Science and Technology and Health – and therefore the university also has four deans. Arts is where all the humanities are found; Aarhus BSS has all the social sciences, along with study programmes that were previously under the Aarhus School of Business; Science and Technology has the natural science study programmes; and Health has the health sciences. The four deans are also part of the senior management team.    

Can you influence your faculty?    

The answer is yes. Each faculty has an academic council, where the students have representatives in place. This is where you can influence things like education strategies, research and knowledge exchange on a general level, prioritising the faculty's budget and the allocation of PhD and higher doctoral degrees. The council also comprises the dean, representatives from among the research staff and from the technical and administrative staff, although the latter do not have voting rights.    

Rector who?    

The rector is the university's version of Dumbledore (though less powerful), and at AU his name is Brian Bech Nielsen. You are unlikely to run into him, unless you are either elected to the board or caught cheating at exams. The rector is part of the senior management team together with pro-rector Berit Eika (read McGonagall) and the four deans, as well as the university director. the senior management team takes care of the day-to-day management of AU, but within the framework laid down by the board (now things get even more complicated).    

The Board    

The board is the supreme authority at AU. It decides, among other things, what AU's strategy should be and puts in place the overall framework for the university. The students have two representatives sitting on the board. They are elected for one year at a time. The employees also have representatives on the board. Former minister and former EU Commissioner Connie Hedegaard is the chair of AU’s board.    

Want to man the student political barricades?    

At AU there are four student political organisations: The Student Council (Studenterråd), Konservative Studenter and Frit Forum Århus. There is also an organisation called Borgerlige Studerende Aarhus which is engaged in educational politics. When there are elections to the various councils, committees and boards at AU, students typically stand for election from one of the organisations. You can see the chairs of the organisations quoted in the newspaper. The Student Council is clearly the largest of the four and occupies the most seats on the boards of studies, university board and in the academic councils. The Student Council is represented locally via degree programme councils on many of the degree programmes. This is where to show up if you are interested in discussing student politics for your own degree programme. The degree programme councils are a handy place to go if you want to stand for election – on some degree programmes members of the other student organisations are also present. You can follow the work of these organisations on Facebook:    

DSF, KS, BS, FF - What the F?    

The four student organisations at AU are also found on a national level. Konservative Studenter, Borgerlige Studerende and Frit Forum have ”mother organisations” at national level. DSF is the Danish abbreviation for the National Union of Students in Denmark. The Student Council at AU is a member of this organisation, as are the student councils at the other Danish universities. DSF's chair is Sana Mahin Doost and she is a student at AU. You might see her name in the newspaper from time to time. DSF claims to represent 170,000 students.

Translated by Peter Lambourne