Future of the Department of Business Communication in place
Before the summer holidays, there was disagreement about the future of the Department of Business Communication. But now Dean Thomas Pallesen and the Section for Corporate Communication have finished negotiating the terms and conditions that will apply if the board adopts the dean’s wish to transfer the section to the Department of Management, thereby closing the Department of Business Communication.
The process outlined
In June, AU's board adopted the plan proposed by the deans of Arts and BSS to move the business language programmes from the Department of Business Communication at BSS to the language study programmes at Arts.
Dean Thomas Pallesen from BSS also wished to simultaneously transfer the department's remaining employees at the Section for Corporate Communication to the Department of Management. As a consequence of this, the Department of Business Communication would cease to exist as an independent department.
The Section for Corporate Communication and the Communication Council, which is the degree programme council for the students, argued in letters to the board that the department should be maintained. The board chose to postpone the decision about the future of the section.
The dean then asked the employees to list their wishes for how the section could be organised under the Department of Management. According to the dean, remaining an independent department was not an option.
On the basis of the employee's wishes and input from the degree programme council, Thomas Pallesen has, together with the department heads at the Department of Business Communication and the Department of Management, negotiated the terms and conditions which will be applicable to the section if the board adopts the plan to transfer the section to the Department of Management.
If this happens, the following will apply for the Section for Corporate Communication from the turn of the year:
• Status as section with its own section manager at the Department of Management physically located at Fuglesangs Allé in connection with the faculty's relocation in spring/summer 2017.
• Own board of studies with its own chair of the board.
• Own director of studies with responsibility for the development of the study programmes and staffing of the subjects in close cooperation with the section manager.
• The section keeps its employer panel, and the Dean's Office will work to ensure that the section establishes its own body of external co-examiners as quickly as possible.
• The Department of Management ensures continued support for the students' degree programme council, and also makes a room available.
• Own PhD degree programme will continue for a trial period of three to five years, after which the scheme will be evaluated by the faculty management team.
• An annual subsidy of DKK one million will be given for a period of five years for the development of cooperation with the other sections at the department and external parties.
Read the agreed terms and conditions for the merger here (in Danish)
An independent board of studies, a trial period with own PhD degree programme and DKK one million in annual funding for five years towards developing cooperation with the other sections at the department and external parties.
These are some of the terms and conditions that have been negotiated with Dean Thomas Pallesen from BSS by the employees from the Section for Corporate Communication under the Department of Business Communication, led by Department Head Christa Thomsen. The terms and conditions will enter into force if Aarhus University's board adopts the dean's wish to transfer the Section for Corporate Communication to the Department of Management at its board meeting on 27 October. This will mean that the Department of Business Communication will be dissolved, as the board has already taken the decision to merge the parts of the department that deal with business language, with the language study programmes at Arts.
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Department head: Best possible agreement within the framework
"My assessment is that we’ve ended-up with the best agreement we could, within the framework that the dean laid out, bearing in mind that it wasn’t possible to maintain our own department," says Christa Thomsen.
According to the department head, the terms and conditions do not meet all of the employees' wishes. They would like to have had financial autonomy in relation to the degree programmes that are transferred with them to the Department of Management. This was not possible, among other things because departmental finances are organised differently. However, Christa Thomsen focuses on the fact that corporate communication will have its own section and section management, and that the director of studies for the study programmes is also transferring to the new department.
Dean Thomas Pallesen also highlights the agreed status as an independent section in the agreement as one of the things intended to counteract employee concern about their subject area drowning in a new, large department. He also emphasises that the section will have its own board of studies, and that the department's graduate school will continue in a trial period of three to five years.
"It will be unusual for a department to have two graduate schools, and it might well be that we will continue with this. The reason for not saying this is how it will be for ever, is that offering courses costs time and money. Perhaps things will look different in five years," says Pallesen, and adds that the graduate school's ability to attract and train talented PhD students will be crucial for any continuation.
Thomas Pallesen acknowledges that the situation was deadlocked before the summer holidays, but he is pleased that the dialogue on the terms and conditions for the transfer of Corporate Communication to the Department of Management have been open and constructive.
"The agreement has been reviewed by the local liaison committee, the departmental forum, the students and the faculty, and there is support for the content from every corner. That’s positive, when you think about where we were in the spring," says Pallesen, who emphasises that the agreement has broad support among the parties concerned.
Isn’t it true that the employees would still prefer to remain an independent department?
"I’m pleased to note that there is support for the agreement that has now been finalised. That’s what I relate to."
Employees: Sensible terms and conditions
Omnibus has contacted several employees for comments on the agreement. None of them have wished to comment personally, and they instead refer as a group to the comments made by the employee representatives in the local liaison committee and the departmental forum.
In the minutes of the latest meeting in the local liaison committee, Associate Professor Birte Asmuß is quoted as saying:
"… Fundamentally, the employees in the section for corporate communication are of the opinion that a good draft has been drawn up and that the content of the terms and conditions are reasonable. It is important to ensure that the employees continue to be able to influence the process and also ensure that the agreed terms and conditions are also implemented."
A degree of autonomy
The students' degree programme council, the Communication Council, has also been consulted and has given its input in connection with the drawing-up of the agreement. The students in the degree programme council are today quite satisfied with the terms that have been negotiated, says chair of the council, Rasmus Schou Laursen.
“The section will end up with a structure that’s similar to a department. We will have a certain degree of autonomy, an independent board of studies and a section manager, who will continue to have close contact with the students. For us it’s been important that the management contact didn’t move a step further up," says Laursen.
Students still prefer an independent department
Before the summer holidays, the degree programme sent a letter to the board in which the students argued in favour of maintaining the Department of Business Communication as an independent department. That is still their position, but the degree programme council chose to enter into the dialogue on the agreement as the situation had become deadlocked.
"We had to meet somewhere in the middle, otherwise the process would have been even more drawn out. We have not changed our position, but we don’t expect to be able to continue as an independent department. In our view that would be best for us, but with this agreement we get as close as possible to this solution," he explains.
Translated by Peter Lambourne.