University of Gothenburg
History of CERGU
The vice-chancellor's decision from 1995

CERGU's Beginnings

In the spring of 1995, the vice-chancellor of the University of Gothenburg decided to establish a Centre for European Research. This centre was the first of its kind in Sweden. Below you can read about the changes in Swedish society and the political debate that led to the establishment of CERGU. Read on to find out how much work was put into making CERGU the successful centre it is today.

During the 1960s and 70s, it became popular for Swedish universities to broaden their perspectives in an international manner. Many researchers chose to focus on issues outside of Sweden and Europe. Decolonization, the Vietnam War, the oil crisis and the wars in the Middle East all contributed to this shift in interest, which occurred simultateously with the internationalization of the Swedish political debate. One of the results of this debate was that new, ambitious goals were created for Swedish development aid to countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. The university system tried to meet the new needs for Swedish knowledge of international affairs by offering courses in e.g. International Relations, Developing Country Issues with Aid Technology and Peace and Conflict Research. Throughout the Nordic countries, special research institutes were established for African studies, Latin American studies and Asian studies. In addition to these, special training programs were initiated which focused on e.g. East and Southeast Asia, Latin America and the Middle East.

Since these courses required input from many different disciplines, it became a natural consequence that special centres were established, organized across faculty and department borders, in order to satisfy a multidisciplinary and broad perspective in the areas covered.

An important region which was somewhat overshadowed in this process was Europe. Despite the fact that Europe was by far the most important region for Sweden's economy and politics, interest in European-related issues in the general debate was rather weak. Nevertheless, in many places, not least in Gothenburg, active research concerning European politics, economics, history and culture was being conducted. As a general interest in European issues began to emerge in connection with the debate on whether Sweden should join the greater political and economic community that had begun to take root within the European Communities during the latter part of the 1980s, the interest among researchers and teachers in Gothenburg also increased. Universities tried to coordinate their efforts and establish a close contact with the surrounding community. The sudden political changes in the former socialist Eastern Europe, the Swedish government's decision to examine the conditions for membership in what would become the European Union, as well as the Soviet Union's unexpected dissolution, became further incentives to concentrate on European research. The need was great and the level of knowledge about the EU's organization and activities, as well as about the new economies in Eastern and Central Europe, was low. Spontaneously, interested researchers and teachers from several departments gathered for joint seminars to better understand and interpret the ongoing groundbreaking events.

In 1992, the Social Sciences Faculty Board appointed a working group focused on "Tema Europa". It was tasked with determining the future direction of research and education on European issues. The overview presented to the Faculty Board showed that research and/or teaching focusing on Europe was underway in almost all subject areas. Cross-disciplinary and cross-faculty collaborations sometimes occurred, but rarely. The working group's exciting investigation and resulting report, spurred an increased interest among researchers and teachers.

The working group followed up its assignment by inviting international guest researchers to campus for lectures and seminars. The events were well-attended and the discussions were interesting and stimulating. New contacts were established that spanned subject boundaries. A faculty-wide postgraduate course on European issues was conducted in 1993. Researchers from six departments, together with invited guest researchers, offered the course "Political, Social and Economic Processes of Change in Europe - Theoretical and Methodological Analytical Problems".

In the spring of 1993, the first "European Research Day" was organized at the University of Gothenburg. Ten participants from eight different departments presented ongoing research on European issues. The contributions were compiled in a book and thus began a tradition that has resulted in the annual publication - "Research on European Issues at the University of Gothenburg" - where hundreds of researchers from different departments have written about their research.

While this was occurring in the social sciences, the Faculty of Humanities Board established the larger research program "Europe", which took place during the years 1992-1998 and engaged researchers from several of the faculty's disciplinary areas. The program also led to the popular courses in European Studies which were offered during 1994-1999.

The wish to impart the abundance of European knowledge already present at the university led to a series of lectures within companies, public institutions, schools and organizations. In collaboration with the Gothenburg Region's Local Government Association, courses on various European topics were offered over the subsequent years.

Leading up to Sweden's referendum on EU membership in 1994, researchers specializing in Europe from the University of Gothenburg frequently offered their expertise, both in mass media and during various public events. Gothenburg-based researchers specializing in Europe were also frequently asked to serve as commentators for international media.

The rapid and widespread establishment of interdisciplinary and faculty-wide collaboration on “Tema Europa” led to increased support from the Social Sciences Faculty Board. In the spring of 1995, the vice-chancellor of the University of Gothenburg decided to establish a Centre for European Research. This centre would be the first of its kind in Sweden. After a number of different names were proposed, the abbreviation CERGU (Centre for European Research at the University of Gothenburg) was eventually agreed upon.

Over the years that followed, postgraduate courses were developed, and guest lectures and  seminars were arranged. In 1996, a professorship in political science was established with a special focus on European integration issues. The investment in European research and education garnerd national and international attention. Undergraduate courses focusing on the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe were offered, within the specialized Center for the Study of Russia and Eastern Europe. In 1998, the European Union declared the University of Gothenburg to be Sweden's first “Jean Monnet European Centre of Excellence” and the following year, Sweden's first European Studies program at the undergraduate level was established.

Since the very beginning, active researchers and teachers from the CERGU network have stressed how important it is that European research should not be seen as connected to any individual discipline, department or faculty. Because of this, a system was established in which CERGU received its funding from three faculties: the Faculty of Humanities, the Faculty of Social Sciences, and the School of Business, Economics, and Law. Furthermore, a special steering group was formed with representives from these three faculties, and a steering group chairmanship which would alternate among the three faculties. CERGU did not have employees, but from the very beginning, both researchers and administrative staff were had their positions at suitable departments. This required a strong connection to and close contact with the individual departments from the three faculties.

When we look back on more than thirty years of activity at the CERGU network, and its related European research and teaching networks, it is gratifying to see the active, lively, international engagement that has remained intact despite the university's various organizational changes. CERGU still manages to attract new generations of students, researchers, and teachers at the University of Gothenburg who enthusiastically tackle the neverending conundrum "Project Europe".

Chair of the Steering Group: 
2005-2009  Rutger Lindahl, professor of political science, Faculty of Social Sciences
2009-2012   Claes G. Alvstam, professor of economic geography, School of Business,                                   Economics, and Law
2012-2015    Mats Andrén, professor of intellectual history, Faculty of Humanities
2015-2018    Bengt Larsson, professor of sociology, , Faculty of Social Sciences
2018-2021    Thomas Erhag, professor of law, School of Business, Economics, and Law
2021-            Linda Karlsson Hammarfelt, senior lecturer in German, Faculty of Humanities

1995-2005     Rutger Lindahl, professor of political science
2005-2008     Per Cramér, professor of international law
2008-2011      Mats Andrén, professor of intellectual history
2011-2013       Daniel Naurin, associate professor of political science
2013-2019      Linda Berg, senior lecturer of political science
2019-             Klas Grinell, researcher of intellectual history

Deputy Director:
2005-2008     Rutger Lindahl, professor of political science
2008-2011       Linda Berg, senior lecturer of political science
2008-2011       Andrea Spehar, senior lecturer of political science
2012-2012       Rutger Lindahl, professor of political science
2012-2013       Anja Frank, senior lecturer of economic geography
2012-2013       Johan Järlehed, senior lecturer in Spanish 
2014-2015       Katarina Leppänen, professor of intellectual history
2016-2020      Andreas Moberg, senior lecturer of law 
2020-              Ann-Kristin Jonasson, senior lecturer of political science

Administrative Staff:
1998-              Birgitta Jännebring, research coordinator
2013-              Angie Sohlberg, research administrator
2013               Emilie Hayes Polk, temporary research administrator
2017               Lena Caspers, temporary research administrator

CERGU 1992-2005

Read more about CERGU's formative years (1992-2005).