Looking back, moving forward – insights from the old and new Deans
“In five years’ time, we will have further clarified our role as a responsible business school characterised by both local and global commitment.” This is how Mats Benner, the new Dean of the School of Economics and Management, sees the future. We had a retrospective conversation with outgoing Dean Fredrik Andersson, and a forward-looking discussion with the new Dean and Deputy Dean.
How does the new management team view its mission and the challenges it entails? And how does the outgoing Dean sum up his years of leadership?
“The School of Economics and Management stands firmly at the heart of society. It educates, collaborates and researches how our society is governed, how it grows and how it relates to the planet’s limitations and the inalienable values of justice and inclusion. In five years’ time, we will have further clarified our role as a responsible business school characterised by both local and global commitment,” says Mats Benner.
“Always a ‘we’ behind everything we do”
Mats Benner has been the new Dean of Lund University School of Economics and Management since the beginning of January 2021. He is Professor of Research Policy and has many years of research and investigative work under his belt, including on the role of the university in society. The new Dean is originally a sociologist and received a PhD in 1997 for his thesis “The Politics of Growth. Economic Regulation in Sweden 1930-1994”.
He has taken over the leadership of the School of Economics and Management from a dean who was elected and re-elected to no less than three terms, serving a total of nine years. When he took over the deanship from Allan T. Malm in 2012, Fredrik Andersson, Professor of Economics, stressed the importance of collegial leadership.
“The School of Economics and Management is a fantastic organisation and it’s really the School that has accomplished things over the past nine years. I’ve also had the privilege of being part of a very strong management team. There’s always a ‘we’ behind everything we do. The School of Economics and Management developed positively in many respects during my time as Dean, and is making an incredibly strong start in 2021,” says Fredrik Andersson.
Together with Kristina Eneroth, Associate Professor of Business Administration and former Deputy Dean, Fredrik Andersson is handing over a faculty that in recent years has worked hard to gain top international accreditations. Their crowning achievement came at the turn of the month of February and March, when the School achieved “Triple Crown” accreditation. The School of Economics and Management has now been evaluated by the three leading accreditation institutes: EFMD/EQUIS, AMBA and AACSB. The faculty is also included in three Financial Times rankings.
“All three evaluation teams that scrutinised us in 2019–2021 noted our good collegial spirit and the commitment to achieving common goals among employees and students. As an evaluator myself, I know that’s not something you say and write just to be polite – you’ve actually seen it. I see this as proof that we found a good balance between actively leading on the one hand, while also allowing initiative and commitment to the organisation to develop of its own accord,” Fredrik Andersson says.
The faculty’s international character grew stronger under the leadership of Fredrik Andersson and Kristina Eneroth, and several new master’s and bachelor’s programmes have been developed to meet the demands of the present and of the business community.
“I look forward to learning new things”
Dean Mats Benner is joined on his new management team by new Deputy Dean Maria Stanfors, as well as two associate vice deans and the Head of the Dean’s Office. New Deputy Dean Maria Stanfors has research, third-cycle education, and gender equality and equal treatment work on her agenda. She will work 50 percent as Deputy Dean and devote the remaining time to research.
Maria Stanfors has a solid research background with a large number of published scientific articles. She received her PhD in 2003 for her thesis “Education, Labor Force Participation and Changing Fertility Patterns. A Study of Women and Socioeconomic Change in Twentieth Century Sweden”. She is Professor of Economic History and a member of the Swedish Research Council’s Council for Research Infrastructure.
“I’m a researcher and I know the realities of research. I’ve previously worked with strategic research issues at the national level, both in research councils and in collaboration with other state authorities. I’m very familiar with the field and I want to contribute my experiences to the School of Economics and Management. I look forward to learning new things and getting to know new people. That eagerness has driven me ever since I was a curious student, and it still drives me,” says Maria Stanfors.
For the new Deputy Dean, the highest priority for 2021 will be to create structures for faculty-wide work, including in terms of the School’s research strategy. This entails both the establishment of a research committee and maintaining ongoing efforts to develop third-cycle education and its quality.
“I hope to make it possible for more people at the faculty to be able to do more and better research, no matter where in their career they might be. We need department-wide forums where we can meet, discuss and learn from each other. That’s the only way we create a consensus or at least an understanding of the intention behind research and third-cycle education at the School of Economics and Management,” she says.
“Our contributions to social issues should be highlighted”
Maria Stanfors praises the good and broad research that is already conducted at the School of Economics and Management.
“The research conducted at the School is exceedingly socially relevant. We deliver a great deal of knowledge that is not only useful for business but is also relevant for politics and urban planning,” she says, citing several examples:
Everything from organisational and innovation research, the results of which benefit business, to the functioning of the economy in light of an ageing population and changing age composition, to how healthcare can be organised. Not to mention the importance of historical experiences from various markets.
“In three to five years, I hope that the School of Economics and Management has both more breadth and depth, and that we’ve gotten even better at addressing major societal challenges. I think we’ve got a lot of great things on which we can build,” says Maria Stanfors.
Dean Mats Benner also sees challenges tied to how the School and its research and education can assert themselves and contribute to society, as well as how the faculty organises itself internally.
“We need to get our faculty to really function as a faculty, with clear subject identities and lively collaboration between these areas. Our visibility and contribution to social issues will be further highlighted. And I hope that our unique identity as Sweden’s (probably) most international faculty will be further strengthened,” says Mats Benner.
Former Dean Fredrik Andersson believes that it is important to find a balance between leading and allowing the organisation to be driven forward on its own.
“I think there’s a great collegial spirit at the School of Economics and Management. People are open-minded and there’s room for free thinking, although I’m fully aware that there’s often far too little time for that,” he says.
He has now handed over the packed agenda of the deanship to his successor. As he returns to his role as an economics professor and researcher at the School of Economics and Management, Fredrik Andersson himself is looking forward to “reading with a little more peace and writing with a little more desire”.