NTNU, the university in Trondheim that recently produced Nobel Prize-winning researchers, is set to become the largest in Norway after its board approved a merger with three university colleges in Gjøvik, Ålesund and Trondheim’s own home county of Sør-Trøndelag. The board was split over the merger, but the rectors of all four institutions of higher education favoured it.
“I see great academic gains from this merger,” said NTNU Rector Gunnar Bovim in a prepared statement, claiming that the colleges in Ålesund and Gjøvik will help NTNU strengthen academic opportunities in technology. They specialize in maritime and information technology respectively.
All four institutions will now carry the NTNU name (Norges Teknisk Naturvitenskapelige Universitet), with the colleges (høgskoler) in Gjøvik and Ålesund operating as satellite campuses and the College of Sør-Trøndelag sharing some locations in Trondheim.
“From an international perspective, this is an important contribution to achieving the high ambitions Trondheim must have as a research city,” Bovim said. NTNU (The Norwegian University of Science and Technology in English) and its new “partners” also think the merger will boost recruitment both within Norway and abroad.
“We look forward to building the new university together,” said Helge Klungland, rector of Høgskolen i Sør-Trøndelag (Sør-Trøndelag University College). Jørn Wroldsen, rector at Gjøvik University College, spoke of ambitions to “add new expertise and innovative strength both in our region and nationally, while Rector Marianne Synnes at Ålesund University College claimed the merger “will also benefit our regional business sector and employment. We can become a stronger partner in both education and research.”
Not everyone supported the merger, and the board’s approval on Wednesday was based on the slimmest of majorities. Newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) reported that all five members of the board representing employees at NTNU voted against the merger and wanted NTNU to carry on alone. The university is already known for being among Norway’s most prestigious and won international recognition last fall when its two longtime researchers, May-Britt and Edward Moser, won the Nobel Prize in Medicine.
The board’s four external members including Svein Richard Brandtzæg, the chief executive officer of major Norwegian industrial company Norsk Hydro, vote in favour of the merger, though, as did the board’s two student representatives. Bovim had recommended that the board approve the merger proposal, so he ultimately got his way.
The college in the northern city of Narvik (Høgskolen i Narvik) had also wanted to be included in the merger but failed to win the board’s approval. “It’s disappointing, especially that the northern Norwegian perspective won’t be part of such a large technology merger,” said Arne Erik Holdø, rector in Narvik. He was at least partially consoled by having been part of “a useful and informative process” that raised other “cooperation possibilities that we hadn’t thought of before.”
Officials said it was too early to say actually when the merger will take effect. The newly merged NTNU will remain based in Trondheim and have around 38,000 students.