How to govern our Nordic universities during the current geopolitical situation

Key messages from highly qualified experts and leaders about:

freedom of speech, national security and university democracy

Nordic Director Meeting Stockholm May 11 – 12, 2023

Venue:  KTH  Royal Institute, Brinellvägen 8, Stockholm  – register here  latest April 11th, 2023

Conference fee: SEK 2500

Practical information 


Thursday May 11, 2023,

Registration 17:00-17:30

17:30 (followed by conference dinner in the evening)

  • Welcome and introduction by NUAS acting chair, University Director, Søren Lind Christiansen, Aalborg University and Deputy University Director, Fredrik Oldsjö , KTH Royal Institute of Technology
  •  Marina Tofting, Head of Communications, The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters  will facilitate the conference
  • There will be time for discussion after each presentation.


The Nordic universities’ challenges in the current geopolitical situation

Key Note speakers:


  • Hans Wallmark is a member of the Swedish Parliament, chairman of the Swedish EU committee and of the recently established defence committee


  • Kenneth Ruud,  is director general of the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment and a professor of theoretical chemistry at the University of Tromsø – The Arctic University of Norway


Friday May 12, 2023

9:00 – 13:30

National security in an extreme situation in academia – Lessons learned

Professor Gunhild Hoogensen Gjørv is professor of Critical Peace and Conflict Studies at the UiT The Arctic University of Norway.

Universities are increasingly targeted for hybrid threat tactics including cyber-attacks (hacking/infrastructure attacks), the spread of disinformation, and espionage including information gathering and network building. As centers of knowledge, largely (though not solely) of  an unclassified nature, universities play a significant and crucial role in a comprehensive security framework.

On the one hand the knowledge produced at universities can, at given points in time, be considered sensitive in a national security context, requiring access limitations. On the other hand, universities play a core role in promoting and exercising freedom of information, speech, and ideas for democracies, providing a venue for value contestation. As important actors in a comprehensive security environment, universities need to balance protecting democratic rights while ensuring the security democracies depend upon.

Freedom of speech – the role of academia as experts and unlimited critics

Thomas Ploug is professor of Information and Communication Ethics, Aalborg University.   Ploug is a member of the ethical research committee at Aalborg University and has been a significant voice in the public debate on research ethics, citizens’ rights and moral responsibility.

Role of the University in the free Democratic Society

Samuel Engblom, Jur.dr. is Former State Secretary in the Swedish Ministry for Education and Research.

Do universities have a role in defending democracy and how can that role be reconciled with autonomy?

Atte Jääskeläinen is Director General of Higher Education and Research Policy at the Ministry of  Education and  Culture, Finland.

Before joining the ministry he was Professor of Practice and Chairman of Advisory Board at LUT University. He was Visiting Senior Fellow at LSE, London 2018- 2021 and also Visiting Fellow at Reuters Institute at University of Oxford, 2017-2018. Atte was also CEO of his wholly owned consultancy company and was active in the fields of strategic management and digital strategies for European public service media. He co-authored European Broadcasting Union’s News Reports 2018, 2019 and 2020.   Atte was Director of News and Current Affairs at Finnish Broadcasting Company 2007- 2017 and Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief of Finnish News Agency STT 2004-2006. He held senior business and political editor posts in the leading Finnish daily Helsingin Sanomat, 1995-2004.


Closing remarks

University Director Kerstin Jacobsson   KTH Royal institute of Technology

Director of Administration,  Esa Hämäläinen Helsinki University


Good byes and lunch to go