Research news

Research news

Millions from AU for research on the welfare state

Professor Kees Van Kersbergen from the Department of Political Science and Government has received a grant of DKK 4 million from AU IDEAS. The research grant is to fund the establishment of the pilot centre UNIWELL, contributing to research on the welfare state and the redistribution of wealth in Scandinavia.

“With UNIWEL we want to develop a strong research team with the ability to generate new knowledge about social and political developments that are essential to understanding the future of the universal welfare state. Our ambition is to learn much more about people’s attitudes and perspectives on basic issues and dilemmas related to welfare state reforms. In addition, we want to examine how their opinions affect the political parties,” says Professor Kees Van Kersbergen, who has just received DKK 4 million from AU IDEAS to fund the new pilot centre.

UNIWEL is an acronym for Universalism and the Welfare State in Scandinavia. So far, the project is scheduled to run for four years from January 2014 until December 2017. Van Kersbergen collaborates with his colleague, Associate Professor Carsten Jensen, on the project. The two researchers want the pilot centre to constitute a favourable research climate that attracts skilled PhD students and postdocs.

Potential to become a strong and sustainable centre

AU’s Research Foundation is responsible for distributing the AU IDEAS grants, and they hope that the pilot centres will develop into strong research hubs that are able to attract external funding from organisations, such as the Danish National Research Foundation or the Danish National Advanced Technology Foundation. And this is also what Van Kerbergen and Jensen see as their goal:

“We expect to be able to develop our potential and secure external funding to further support the development of a strong and sustainable centre,” says Van Kersbergen.

“Considering the economic, political and cultural significance of the welfare state, and especially in light of how the welfare state has come to signify Scandinavia and Denmark, it is only appropriate that Aarhus University now has a centre for research on the welfare state,” he says.

Brilliant and daring research ideas are rewarded

In their distribution of funding, the AU IDEAS programme has rewarded the brilliant and, in some instances, daring research ideas, giving the recipients of the total pool of DKK 50 million the opportunity to continue their work to expand on these brilliant ideas.

“All ground-breaking research results are founded on fundamentally brilliant ideas. But not all brilliant ideas are fully fledged from the very beginning, and that is why it is important that the university makes space and time to research on and develop the ideas that have obvious potential,” says Rector Brian Bech Nielsen, who is also chairman of the board of the Aarhus University Research Foundation.

The researchers behind UNIWEL are very excited about being able to launch their pilot centre:

“We are entering a very exciting period, where we have the opportunity to realise our research ambitions. This is not just a recognition of our idea; mostly it is a memorable event in our academic careers and a great impetus to keep working,” says Van Kersbergen.

Further information:
Associate Professor Michael Bang Petersen from the Department of Political Science and Government has also received funding from AU IDEAS in support of his development project entitled “Automatic Biases and the Strength of Political Communication:  Developing Theory and Laboratory Methods.”

For more information about AU IDEAS, go to



Kees Van Kersbergen, professor i statskundskab
School of Business and Social Sciences
Aarhus University
T: 8716 5727