Torben Steen Holm

Head of Secretariat, R K U
  • Denmark

Recent Comments

Apr 14, 2020

Dear Rosa Pavanelli, PSI

We all gain from strengthening structures that work well. A pivotal point, here, is to share best preactices between countries and regions. WEF and the OECD is doing a lot here - try to do even more.

My take on your comments:

1. A fair tax system is key - but go for fairness in ways that do not alienate ordinary businness people.

2. All countries need public institutions and services that are efficient, serviveminded and (of course) non-corrupt. But a private solution (say hospitals or nursing homes) can be as good, better - or worse than a public. You weaken the pursiut of services, reaching people well, if you start by denigrading the possibility of private solutions.

3. International help to Corona-stricken people should not be unduly restricted by preexisting debts etc. But: Some countries are systemically adverse to reform. Help to stricken countries shoud be handled in ways that do not underpin continued pressure to reform. 

4. We all tremor at the prospect of countries in the ME, Africa, or Latin-America about to enter untold suffering. My point, here, is  n o t  to argue 'private' in stead of public (Living in Denmark, many services are public). But to warn that recommendations that appear overtly strident will work against their purpose. 

Mar 10, 2020

To Director Anthony Gooch

Excellent initiative. Using data and insigts to encompass also (Hillary Clinton's) ufortunates -   peoples and regions. My proposal: Also visit success stories, like Denmark. Our success is the result of painstaking efforts and a willingness to learn, to adapt, to optimize: We have real collaboration bt. employers and employees; an amazing turn-over rate in jobs; astounding figures on economic activity (+7 % of GPD on BOP; surplus on public expenditures; an exstremely low net (!) rate of public dept (ab. 25%) etc). The following qualities are part of the equation: Mututal trust, an efficient, digitized public sector, (really) the world's best housing finance system, an open mind to innovation and entreprenurship and an inviting approach to immigrations, who can and will integrate.

The point, of course, is not to gloat in Nordic selfconfidence. But to use success stories from small countries, be that Denmark or New Zealand, to invite others to be inspired.

A p.s.: I have been following the relative decline of France for years. Thank your for starting out there.

Yours sincerely,

Torben Holm, working in the field of HEIs in Copenhagen. 


Mar 20, 2019

Dear Anthony,

The 3 topics are indeed very broad and the themes presented wide-ranging. It is my hope that the OECD will use some of the very data, you yourself provide, to set a more specifik programme. Premise: Education, research and the interplay bt. HEIs and the business community will decide our future agility and the competetiveness of our societies.

Suggestions: 1) The use of data in reports like 'Trends Shaping Education', 'OECD Skills Outlook 2017' and indeed: 'A Broken Social Elevator - How to Promote Social Mobility'. 2) Take note, please: The British 'Design Council' has in 2016-2018 made pioneering work on the 4th industrial revolution and the value of design skills (design used in a comprehensive sense). Design Council argues the case of technology + design giving products a human interface that ensures their successful use in society. Generating great value to companies and to society at large. Documented, almost as if done by the OECD.

My take: In terms of 'The Internet of Tings' the US presides over the FANG-technologies and China is presently aggressive in its technological and political ambitions - and in the global cow-towing, it induces. In this setting it is important to the countries of Europe (as well as other medium-to-small countries, around the world) to refocus on a sustainable sense of competitiveness: A synergi of education, research, an effective transfer of knowledge to business that is the foundation of a future-oriented, competetive and socially balanced society. And - in assuring a global competetiveness, doing so in ways that stays true to, and indeed integrates the defense of those humane values, by which Europe strives to define itself.

Coming from Denmark, my position is truly priviledged: High GDP, surplus of +6% on BOP, European leader in digitizing the public sector; a amazing string of pearls of global companies; the - probably - world's best pension system; the definitely word's best housing credit system; health and welfare systems that are second to few; collaborative values bt. employers and employees that creates acceptance of the need to adapt to change in the labour marked, continuously. A society which is truly open to people with relevant skills and social-cultural values from around the word.

When President Macron recently visited Denmark, it was evident that he would like to have some of these qualities work in a French context. My point is, of course, not to gloat or to appear smug. It is to try to argue that medium-to-small countries, in Europe and beyond, are under pressure to define their competetive positions, while staying true to their social values. Countries like the Netherlands, Finland or indeed Denmark may provide useful inspiration to others. Perhaps in a OECD Forum context.

Sincerely, yours


Torben Holm, Head of Secretariat, Rectors Conference, HEI in the Arts & Culture, Denmark.