Education 28/11-16 12:12

When PhD student Mette Høeg got an offer from UCPH she could only refuse

Mette Høeg
Photo: courtesy of Mette Høeg
This is what happened when the controversial young literary critic Mette Høeg cut off her PhD at the University of Copenhagen in the Spring of 2016. This can be read as a cautionary tale about a course of study that went wrong. Or it can be as a report on what happens when you poke around in the wrong academic ant hill. Judge for yourself

It is a series of radio programmes on literature in the summer of 2015, which awakens the faculty’s 'concern'.

"I can see that you have good outreach activity, and that's fine. I have basically no difficulty with this," the head of the graduate school said to Mette Høeg.

"But I also have a concern that these activities in our experience can cause problems further down the line."

The words were spoken on 27th January, 2016 at Mikado House on the University of Copenhagen's (UCPH) south campus Amager. Mette Høeg is going through a so-called recovery conversation in which a university offers a PhD student three months to get their PhD programme back on track.

The alternative is getting the sack.

Few PhD students ever experience having to go through a 'recovery' intervention (The University Post has actually spoken to a few PhD’s who did not even know what a recovery intervention actually is), but the faculty can make use of this opportunity when they reckon that a PhD student is in danger of not giving in their dissertation.

It is a serious disciplinary step. According to lawyer in the Danish Association of Master’s and PhD’s Lise Hoffmann the recovery intervention is a bit like a termination.

As the head of the graduate school Sune Auken put it at the meeting with Mette Hoeg: "It is the choice between recovery or dismissal, that is the offer here."

After the meeting, Mette Høeg chose the latter and left the University of Copenhagen.

The University Post has had access to the e-mails and to a tape recording describing the chain of events. The following is based on this material. The University of Copenhagen has refused to comment on the case.

Columnist from hell

In the spring of 2015, almost a year before her exit from UCPH, Mette Høeg had made her entrance into the Danish literary debate. In an essay on the cover of the Weekendavisen newspaper’s book section she criticised the literature written in the environment around the Danish school for authors Forfatterskolen.

Høeg argued in her essay that Danish literature is suffering from a predominance of young women writers who write bad books, but who get 'affectionately' pushed up the ladder by institutions of culture that control the market for new book releases.

"Both the highest positioned women and men who have the power to make decisions in literary institutions get something out of favouring women: The women get the firewood to stoke their own fiery brand of feminism, while the men get an extended interface with author-aspiring, admiring and sexually mature girls." Mette Høeg wrote in Weekendavisen

Inside the department, Mette Høeg is well known as a person who dares to go against the flow. She had previously had a face-off with one of the department bigwigs, adjunct professor Poul Behrendt, who is known for researching the so-called auto fiction in literature. Mette Høeg does not share Behrendt’s theoretical viewpoints, and there has been friction between the two. (The discussion between the two only becomes public in the newspapers during 2016).

As a PhD student Mette Høeg is in no way a publicly known figure in 2015. At this point she is abroad for a year as a guest student at the University of California, Berkeley. For the most part it's a surprise when a new academic voice arises from the US with a controversial literary view.

Høeg and the Weekendavisen newspaper set off one of the most intense literary debates in Denmark over the last 10 years.

Current Danish literature is written by women who “grumpily and aggressively play out predictable politically correct, boring, queer, gender, anti-racist and feminist viewpoints”, writes Høeg. And this literature – the literature of the cultural elite – is also “unattractive, sneering, and embarrassingly performative.”

In her essay Mette Høeg ridicules at the same time the authors’ school, the newspaper Politiken, the small-but-artistically-significant publisher Gladiator (led by a former rector of the authors’ school Hans Otto Jørgensen), and a number of named writers and cultural figures.

Høeg also criticizes literary critics, who in her interpretation are misreading women’s literature: The effort to support the female perspective in a politically correct manner prevents them from taking issue with the tedious aspects of this literature, she argues.

To add to this, according to Høeg, there are unflattering reasons why women authors whose books she does not like, are being hyped.

"Both the highest positioned women and men who have the power to make decisions in literary institutions get something out of favouring women: The women get the firewood to stoke their own fiery brand of feminism, while the men get an extended interface with author-aspiring, admiring and sexually mature girls."

"It was spectacular to see people of the literary scene reacting so violently. The muttered name 'Mette Høeg' was as dangerous as saying Lord Voldemort at Hogwarts. She was - is - hugely controversial. We thought that here was finally someone that could really shake the aquarium." - Mads Brügger, programme director at Radio24syv.

Such an attack calls for an answer. Some believe that Høeg says what needs to be said, but the majority in literary Denmark shoot back at her. According to the newspaper Politiken's literary editor Jes Stein Pedersen, Mette Høeg reminds him of “one of those drone pilots who from a computer on the other side of the world, tries to hit live targets with maximum firepower without any petty considerations of justice and fairness". And the newspaper Information’s literary editor Peter Nielsen concludes that "Mette Høeg hates women."

Online, the Høeg-criticism is debated for months. Her notoriety gets her a job offer as a radio host.

"My PhD supervisor at the University of Copenhagen said it was a great chance," says Mette Høeg.

Shook the aquarium

"When we hired Mette Høeg, it was spurred on by her essay in the Weekendavisen newspaper. Overnight she became the hottest ‘potato’ in literature," says programme director at radio station Radio24syv Mads Brügger.

"It was spectacular to see people of the literary scene reacting so violently. The muttered name 'Mette Høeg' was as dangerous as saying Lord Voldemort at Hogwarts. She was - is - hugely controversial. We thought that here was finally someone that could really shake the aquarium."

When Mette Høeg gets the offer to do literature radio for 24syv she is two years into her PhD programme. The sojourn in the United States as a Fulbright visiting scholar has completed her second year of education, and she says that she – like many other PhD students – has spent the first years developing ideas, methodology and an outline of her thesis, in addition to teaching commitments and taking courses.

Her supervisor Marianne Stidsen has expressed enthusiasm for Høeg’s project. In March 2015, as Høeg is halfway through her programme, Stidsen lets her understand that the project is running well: "I think your new thematic, or problem-oriented angle looks SO exciting and promising! I am convinced that you are on to something important here! (...) I believe this new perspective can help lift your project up from being academically adept to being a project that has real potential for achieving new knowledge (...) So, therefore: I am very much 'all in' on what you're doing here. And I am looking forward to seeing your work on it unfold further."

Mail from Marianne Stidsen to Mette Høeg, March 2015

Stidsen suggests also that Høeg makes a sort of road map for her dissertation work, but adds that it is “fine by me," if Høeg works better without one.

In the US, Høeg has written two scientific articles, which she says with Stidsen’s acceptance have not been submitted to journals yet, because they should be consistent with the contents of the rest of her dissertation.

On the other hand, Høeg has not written much of the actual dissertation text that her three-year programme is to result in. When she comes back to Copenhagen in the summer of 2015 and about to begin her final year, it is therefore time for the dissertation.

The atmosphere changes

The University Post has been in contact with several PhD students from humanities programmes at UCPH who confirm that it is often on the third year of the programme of study that the bulk of the writing work takes place on the dissertation. In this sense, Mette Høeg’s study process is not unusual. But the correspondence between Høeg and her supervisor Marianne Stidsen from the summer of 2015 show that Stidsen at this time now expects Høeg to focus on putting words onto paper.

In the same period the relationship changes dramatically between the PhD student and the supervisor.

30th July and Høeg sends as agreed a draft of her theoretical chapter to Stidsen, while at the same time telling her that she has decided to only do four radio programmes for Radio24syv. They should be carried out in Mette Høeg’s summer holidays, so the job won’t get in the way of her writing work.

8th August, and Stidsen sends her comments back to Høeg. She writes that Mette Høeg has caught on to “extremely difficult theories” in an "absolutely qualified manner " and that she has no suggestions for changes. Stidsen asks for a date for them to meet up and a roadmap for the ongoing writing process. Finally, she wishes her "good luck with the radio host job!"

"My impression was that I had complied with all agreements and that everything was fine," says Mette Høeg. But the tone of Stidsen’s correspondence takes an abrupt turn four days later in a new mail in which she moves for a meeting date from Høeg.

"It is untenable that I, as your supervisor, should find it so hard to get through to you. You must remember that you are employed by the university with pay. And that means there are obligations. So I expect to hear from you by Thursday," Stidsen writes on 12th August.

She also writes that Høeg had previously cancelled a meeting with the supervisor at short notice in June.

"I was on vacation, and I was doing radio, so I did not think it was urgent. My supervisor knew that I was on holiday," Mette Høeg explains.

Mette Høeg writes back however, apologetically, the same day she receives the mail from Stidsen and suggests three possible meeting dates. According to Mette Høeg the harsh tone continues with Marianne Stidsen when the two meet up in the late summer.

Mail from Marianne Stidsen to Mette Høeg, August 2015

"I got what I saw as a real reprimand at the meeting, but it is only half a year later that I understand what had happened," says Mette Høeg.

In fact, Mette Høeg is in danger of being left without a supervisor.

In an e-mail from 26th August 2015 about the meeting the supervisor Marianne Stidsen lists her conditions for her continuing “to take responsibility as principal supervisor”. First, Mette Høeg should answer all her e-mails.

Second, she must write 50 pages before 30th September as Høeg, according to her original PhD plan, should have written 100 pages by this point in the process.

"I hope you know that I am hereby giving you a chance," writes Stidsen.

"I was completely confused," says Mette Høeg. "We had a good working relationship, and I had just been praised for my theoretical section. But at the meeting, she said I was not satisfactory as a PhD student and that I did not comply with the requirements. I had never heard of this before, and had only received praise. She said that I needed to really change my approach and begin to focus on my dissertation."

"I also felt quite paranoid. Since my article in the Weekendavisen newspaper, there had been some violent reactions, and I did not know what else the article could have generated. Had I said something on the radio? I had just criticized Lilian Munk Rösing (associate professor and scholar from UCPH and reviewer, ed.), and maybe she and my supervisor were friends?"

Høeg goes through her e-mails. She says they did not indicate that she was in trouble.

Sick leave

In mid-September, while she is at work on the required 50 pages, Mette Høeg sustains a concussion. In the following months, she is ill.

While she is sick, Høeg confides in and discusses her situation with friends. She says she is counselled to find out whether she should take up a scholarship at another university and complete her dissertation under a new supervisor. So she writes and asks head of the graduate school at the Faculty of Humanities Sune Auken, whether this is an option.

"I wrote to the head of the graduate School and asked for information concerning the formalia without mentioning anything about my own situation or my own considerations. He wrote back that this was not possible and asks her: 'why do you want to change institution?’ '' says Mette Høeg.

"I chose not to answer that question. I can see afterwards that it would have been the smart thing to do, but at the time I thought it was a slightly unacceptable that he put this interpretation into my mail. I was not going to change institutions, I just wanted to know what my options were."

Reprimand from the department for not responding

A few weeks pass. Mette Høeg is still sick, but she is called in mid-October for a disciplinary meeting with the department head John E. Andersen.

"This increases my paranoia still further," she says.

Høeg is reprimanded for not having responded to a department administrator’s e-mail asking for a medical certificate. She explains that she missed the mail, but that she can prove that she nevertheless on her own initiative, contacted the department and asked for the procedure for sick leave. In addition, Høeg – in what proves to be more serious – is to give an explanation for why she did not reply to the graduate school head Sune Auken’s mail about why she - as Auken apparently interpreted it - wanted to switch from UCPH.

"I have my staff representative with me to the meeting. At one point, I see that the representative writes a note with the words ‘TOO HARD' in capital letters and pushes it over to the head of department, who is sitting there and literally yelling at me," says Mette Høeg.

"I declare that I disagree with the allegations and say that I did not request to switch from UCPH. The secretary eventually prints out an e-mail from me, and the head of department must admit that it is not what it says. But I get the reprimand anyway, even if it is based on incorrect information from the graduate school head."

(The University Post has asked Head of Department John E. Andersen to comment on this claim that he should have shouted at the meeting, but he has not wanted to comment on the grounds that it is an individual personnel case).

"Why am I getting this reprimand? I think. Are they building up a case to fire me?" says Mette Høeg. She is marked by the last months of the public debate that mixes a criticism of her viewpoints with a criticism of her. Like the claim that she hates women.

"It was quite evident that I was in bad standing in the literary environment of writers, which also includes researchers from UCPH – this could be seen in all the discussions on Facebook and in the newspapers," says Mette Høeg.

A sympathetic older researcher warns her that she may have stirred up a hornet’s nest:

"Not so much that I had stirred up a hornet’s nest, but rather that I had stirred up a hornet’s nest while making aware of myself at the same time. I hereby broke an unwritten rule to remain cautious and submissive as a PhD student and not go out in public and act as a qualified researcher expert."

Agrees to new plan with supervisor

The rest of 2015 proceeds without further messages from UCPH. Mette Høeg says she imagines that her supervisor Marianne Stidsen has been busy with her own doctoral thesis, and perhaps this is the reason for the change in sentiment. She hopes it will be possible to make a fresh start and she notifies that she is well again.

30 December, 2015 Høeg writes to Stidsen again to inform her that she will start work again after the turn of the year, initially on part time.

Stidsen replies 7 January, 2016, that she will plan for Mette Høeg to give in segments, about 20 pages a month, on the basis of a new PhD plan that Høeg is to write up.

"It's good that you're back," writes Stidsen.

The day after, Mette Høeg sends the agreed plan with a detailed consideration of theories and themes for the dissertation. 11th January 2016 and Marianne Stidsen replies that "it looks both good and exciting."

Stidsen raises some questions about the choice of literature and theory, and accepts Mette Høeg’s schedule:

"It sounds good with the 45 pages that will be delivered 4th March".

Stidsen finally writes that she this time will not send a request for delivery of a section from her.

The same day, Mette Høeg responds to the issues about her dissertation that Marianne Stidsen has raised. She adds that she does not understand the comment that 'you this time will not send a request for delivery of a section'.

"As I recall, the only time you have requested me for something was in August this year during my official holiday, where you reacted after two days when I did not respond to your mail in which you asked me to schedule a meeting," writes Høeg.

12th January 2016 Marianne Stidsen writes that she approves Mette Høeg’s choice of theory because it is proposed by another researcher who Stidsen respects. She does not comment on Høeg’s point about not having previously requested pages, but ends with a "happy dissertation writing!"

Three months deadline and threat of dismissal

Two days pass before Mette Høeg – as had happened in the summer of 2015 – gets a message that marks a sharp change in her relationship with the University of Copenhagen. It is a call for a recovery meeting – the previously mentioned meeting where Høeg gets the faculty ultimatum to meet a number of strict requirements or leave UCPH.

"My staff representative called it a refitting conversation," says Mette Høeg. "I have not heard of any other PhDs that have been put through a recovery intervention. PhD students continue sometimes for a year after the end of their three years with their own funding. I have not heard of any others, where this step has been taken. I had, after all, still a year left to write the dissertation, as my department head had promised me an extension corresponding to my period of sick leave."

Mette Høeg protests. She sends a long e-mail to graduate school head Sune Auken with attached documentation for her work as a PhD student including Word documents with the dissertation text. She states that she at this time has 40 pages with the complete text and 30 pages of 'quite useful' text.

She also writes that she has carried her teaching obligations with success (student evaluations were good, and they passed their tests). She writes that she has received an academic seal of approval in the form of a diploma for a successful Fulbright scholar program. She writes that her new PhD plan means that she expects to be finished just two months after the originally fixed filing date, although her illness entitled her to a four month extension. She also asks that the University makes an evaluation report, so she can get a proper assessment of the progression of her PhD, and finally she asks that the recovery intervention is taken off the table.

Sune Auken writes briefly in an e-mail that she will have the opportunity to present her views at the meeting.

Sune Auken’s reply to Mette Høeg’s written arguments for not having being sent on a recovery intervention (note: the meeting is subsequently postponed about a week)

The actual meeting takes place on 27th January, 2016. In the staff representative's absence, programme manager Mads Brügger from Radio24syv takes part to help out Høeg, and she asks for permission to record the conversation.

On the doctor's recommendation, Mette Høeg is still only on half-time after her concussion

Not a discussion, but information

According to Mads Brügger the mood at the meeting was "very unpleasant."

Mette Høeg is informed that she may talk, but she may also be silent, at the meeting. She is also informed that the intention that she be in ‘recovery' stands as a matter of course.

"From our point of view, this is essentially an information meeting," said graduate school head Sune Auken, who did most of the talking.

"Several years of your life and DKK 2.3m in public funding has been invested, just as the graduate school's prestige, to carry out this PhD. When people come in at one end, we put great emphasis on making sure that they also come out at the other end with a PhD. "- Sune Auken, graduate school head

Although the supervisor Marianne Stidsen a few weeks previously had accepted Mette Høeg’s time schedule for the PhD project, she now presented a number of new requirements: Høeg should now deliver 110 pages of the dissertation within three months (which, however, is to be extended in time corresponding to her only partially being well again), as well as document 30, or almost 30, passed ECTS points.

These are the objective requirements, but on top Høeg must now have her supervisor’s and the graduate school’s approval when the requirements have been met. Otherwise she will be dismissed from the programme.

"It was not an offer," says Mette Høeg. "It's the head of the PhD graduate School, who has the absolute power to judge whether I have completed the process in a satisfactory manner. Does he not think so, this means dismissal without notice. "

"I receive no warnings that I should be in recovery," says Mette Høeg. "But it states in the PhD handbook, that the head of the graduate school can only require a student to go into a recovery process if there is an evaluation. But an evaluation was never made, and I will not be allowed to prove that my studies have been satisfactory."

"I try, when I get called in for the recovery meeting, to send all the information. I send all the sections I have written, drafts of sections I have written, evidence of ECTS points, the conferences I have participated in and the lectures I have held. I have, goddammit! just returned as a Fulbright student from UC Berkeley - a scholarship that I would not have received if I had not had a lot to present - and it just gets ignored. Also, I have observed the agreements with my supervisor, and my supervisor has just approved my PhD plan”.

UCPH will not waste DKK 2.3m

At the meeting, graduate school head Sune Auken makes it clear that it is in the university's interest that she submit her dissertation.

"Several years of your life and DKK 2.3m in public funding has been invested, just as the graduate school's prestige, to carry out this PhD. When people come in at one end, we put great emphasis on making sure that they also come out at the other end with a PhD," said Auken.

But the message to the only partially-fit-for-work Mette Høeg is nonetheless that she must deliver an extraordinary effort, right now, if she is to be allowed to take the final year of her programme.

Sune Auken’s reasons for being concerned about Mette Høeg’s project were that he had heard that she was doing radio and that he subsequently turned to her supervisor Marianne Stidsen. This fits chronologically with the fact that Stidsen changed her style and began to make firm demands on Mette Høeg in the late summer 2015. Auken does not address Høeg directly during the summer.

"I do not know what he said to her when he approached her during the summer approached, but I sense that something must have been going on for her to suddenly change her attitude towards me," says Høeg.

Auken himself says to Mette Høeg at the recovery meeting that his request to her supervisor was 'by the book':

"Supervision is what I do, and just as you can contact me, so I can, good heavens, also make contact to both of you and ask how things are going."

The basis for declaring that Høeg’s progress was unsatisfactory was the original PhD plan from her first year of study, not the agreement from the beginning of January 2016 which Høeg and Stidsen have just concluded.

This is even though it appears from the mail from the supervisor Marianne Stidsen that she and Mette Høeg are working according to plan where Høeg should deliver 20 pages a month, and 45 pages by early March. Graduate school head Sune Auken denies that is a new plan.

"You have not received approval for a new PhD plan," says Auken and Marianne Stidsen does not back up Mette Høeg on this point during the meeting, despite their mail exchange.

"It is a choice between recovery or dismissal. This is the offer on the table," says Auken.

The unanswered mail returns

During her period of illness, Mette Høeg got reprimanded for not replying to graduate school head Sune Auken’s question about why she wanted to change university. It turns out that this sin of omission also has importance for Mette Høeg’s recovery process.

When Mette Høeg says she did not answer the question from Sune Auken, because she did not find it necessary, he interrupts her.

"This is not a question about whether you find it necessary. This is a question about you getting a question from the person who is responsible for your progress," says Sune Auken.

"But Sune Auken, this you have already ensured that I get reprimanded for elsewhere. I do not understand why this point has to be taken up here," says Mette Høeg according to the tape recording.

"That I could not get an answer to the question, is part of an evaluation of whether you should be put on a recovery process or not, " says Sune Auken.

During the recovery conversation Mette Høeg repeatedly returns to the question of why no evaluation report has been written on her, as the rules state that the supervisor should write one ahead of a recovery process.

When she states that no report has been written, Sune Auken responds with a question:

"What have you done for it?" he says.

Sune Auken says that if Marianne Stidsen had written an evaluation report at the point where Mette Høeg was asked to deliver 50 pages during the late summer, before she became ill, then Høeg would have, at this time, been put on a recovery process.

"It's something I do to avoid ..." Marianne Stidsen begins.

And Sune Auken continues the sentence: “In order to avoid putting you on a recovery process."

“… I think you are making a very lively objection at this moment." - Sune Auken, graduate school head

So the evaluation would, according to graduate school head Sune Auken, have led to Høeg being put on a recovery process. So as the evaluation has not been made, it is part of an effort to prevent the situation that Høeg now find herself in. But just without an evaluation, that she could have challenged the validity of.

Høeg objects that she has lost the right to object to the faculty's assessment of her.

"We've skipped this," says Mette Høeg.

Sune Auken responds that if Mette Høeg follows the non-approved plan, which she and Marianne Stidsen have agreed to in early January, there will be no problem.

"Then we would, at the end of the recovery period, have the 40,000 words that I ask for. So if you are able to do that, then we take a note of this, with satisfaction, and send you on your way. And we really hope that it succeeds. We would really, really like this to happen. When we reach this point, you should also know that if it turns out that I propose or decide on your dismissal, then you have a right to appeal to the dean," says Sune Auken.

This is followed by an exchange on Mette Høeg’s rights: "Yes, this would be my first opportunity to object, because I have not had the opportunity to object to this evaluation here," says Mette Høeg.

“I think you are making a very lively objection at this moment," says Sune Auken.

"Yes, but it's not a formal objection, is it? Are we clear on that?” says Høeg.

"I believe that we are holding a formal meeting," says Auken.

"But it's not a formal objection where I can make a written objection and get it processed."

"You may make a written objection, if you want to."

The recovery conversation has the result that Mette Høeg chooses to say no to staying at UCPH, whereby Sune Auken loses the aforementioned DKK 2.3 m and the prestige of the faculty.

"Why is a series of radio broadcasts of concern? Is it because of the time she uses, or is it because of what she says? It is of course not immediately obvious that it should be of concern, as it is normally considered a good thing for the University, that those who are on the payroll stand out in public debates. But then again, I must make this reservation, that I have never had the opportunity to hear Sune Auken's side of the case. "- Lawyer Lise Hoffmann, Danish Association of Masters and PhDs.

Like making a tortoise run a marathon

The Danish Association of Masters and PhDs DM criticizes the way that the Mette Høeg case has been handled

The University Post has spoken to lawyer Lise Hoffmann at DM, who says that she has not discussed the matter with management at the The Department of Nordic Studies and Linguistics, as it never ended in a negotiation between the University and the union. Nevertheless, the DM's assessment is that Mette Høeg has good reason to be dissatisfied with her treatment by UCPH.

Lise Hoffmann says that she wonders in particular about the process after Mette Høeg returned to UCPH after several months of sick leave. Høeg was, as it can be seen in the e-mail exchange from the summer of 2015, asked to deliver 50 pages. The plan was derailed after Mette Høeg got a concussion, but instead of letting Mette Høeg continue working, the PhD graduate school gave her an ultimatum with an offer of a PhD recovery process or being dismissed.

"I make the reservation that I have not heard the UCPH side of this case, but based on Mette Høgh's experience of this process, I can understand she feels that the University just wanted to get rid of her. It does not seem fair, that she was not allowed to just come up with the 50 pages that she had been asked to write before her illness," says Lise Hoffmann.

"Mette Høeg was not able to deliver the pages that they had asked for, but when she came back after her illness and was ready to resume work, she was immediately greeted with a sanction in the form of a recovery intervention. If Mette Høeg had lived up to her obligations as a PhD student, it seems premature to put her on to a recovery intervention process. And it seems a bit rough to put a person who is partially on sick leave and has just recovered from a concussion on to a recovery intervention. It is a bit like asking a tortoise to run a marathon. "

Trade union: UCPH did not follow the rules

UCPH has not, according to Lise Hoffmann, followed the rules by failing to prepare an assessment report on Mette Høeg’s project before she was confronted with the recovery ultimatum.

"According to the PhD regulations § 10, you need to have an evaluation done that the student should have the opportunity to object to," says Lise Hoffmann.

Lise Hoffmann also says that the recovery process is a radical step for an employer to take. It reminds you of a dismissal.

"It's a pretty serious thing to be put through a recovery intervention. As in practice, this is where the warning clock starts that other employees would get before termination. In my experience it's hard to come back when you have reached that point. "

Lise Hoffmann says she wonders why it was the summer radio programme series which attracted graduate school head Sune Auken's 'concern' for whether Mette Høeg would finish her dissertation on time.

"Why is a series of radio broadcasts of concern? Is it because of the time she uses, or is it because of what she says? It is of course not immediately obvious that it should be of concern, as it is normally considered a good thing for the University, that those who are on the payroll stand out in public debates. But then again, I must make this reservation, that I have never had the opportunity to hear Sune Auken's side of the case. "

"Obviously you start looking for other explanations, when your process does not really make any sense," says Lise Hoffmann.

Mette Høeg in London, November 2016

No comments from the university

"The union calls it a process of harassment," says Mette Høeg.

"But even if this were to go well. Do I want to submit my dissertation to this institution? It is the head of department and the supervisor, who appoint the assessment committee for my PhD. The head of department has just given me a reprimand, where he has sat there yelling at me, and my supervisor has completely turned against me. Do I want them to appoint my assessment committee and that I should submit my dissertation there? I did not. So I chose to resign."

According to Mette Høeg, the University of Copenhagen needs to take a critical focus on the PhD graduate school head system and the situation it puts the students in:

"You assume that the graduate school is there to help the students. But what happens if the head of the school does not have the students' interests in mind? He may at any time decide that my progress has not been satisfactory, even though he has no knowledge of it. Here we have a person in a position of power who can use it as he pleases."

After her resignation Høeg hears no more from the department. She does however, receive an encouraging e-mail from her staff representative, associate professor Jørgen Staun:

"I have not got any response from the faculty after your resignation. I do not know if they [the department head and graduate school head, ed.] feel embarrassed – they should be – but this may well be the reason that the topic is not brought up. Why give me an opportunity to remind them of their bad behavior?," Staunton writes to Høeg.

The University Post has been in contact with George Staunton, but he does not wish to contribute with his views on the matter.

Also graduate school Sune Auken, supervisor and associate professor Marianne Stidsen and the Head of the Department (INSS) John E. Andersen have been asked to comment on Mette Høeg’s criticisms. They have not wished to comment.

Sune Auken refers to the Associate Dean of the Humanities at UCPH Julie Sommerlund who says that she cannot comment on personnel matters.

Mette Høeg is currently a PhD student at King's College London, one of the world's leading universities, according to current rankings. She says that she has managed to achieve one of the university’s few scholarships.


This is a really interesting

By Kat Shapiro on 16. January 2017, 12:22.

This is a really interesting piece of investigative journalism. Well done by Christoffer Zeiler. I'm surprised Mette didn't "fight" her case, and it would also be great to hear the university's side in all of this.

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Campus 10/1-17 13:02 1

Dorms Disclosed: Oresundskollegiet 2.0

Oresundskollegiet 2 cover photo
Things have changed quite a bit since we looked at Oresundskollegiet back in 2014. The University Post dropped by to see what life is like now at the dorm.

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