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Anders O Bjarklev, President at the Danish university DTU
Anders O Bjarklev, President at the Danish university DTU, during the Nordic network meeting at KTH. (Photo: Håkan Lindgren)

Cooperation is growing between the Nordic universities

Published Dec 05, 2011

The Nordic University Alliance Nordic Five Tech has so far started up five joint Master's programmes. The next step may be to open up the universities' postgraduate courses as well, this was discussed during a meeting between the Nordic Presidents at KTH.
“KTH is involved in many collaborations, but this is one of the most important,” says KTH President Peter Gudmundson.

Nordic Five Tech (N5T) was founded in 2006 and includes the following five universities: KTH, Chalmers University of Technology, Technical University of Denmark (DTU), The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), and the Finnish Aalto University.

Per Berglund, KTH Vice-Dean and a member of the above-mentioned educational committee, says that the cooperation so far has been focused around education.

“It is much harder to create research collaborations since each researcher is responsible for his/her work and the direction it takes. What we can do is for example to make it easier for people to travel or find accommodation at other educational institutions, as in our parallel cooperation with Aalto University,” he says.

During a recent meeting between the universities, the Presidents discussed the possibility of offering postgraduate courses for each other.

“KTH already has these courses on the open web, but not all of the others. For example, N5T's website could become a place where we make all the courses available to each other's doctoral students,” says Per Berglund.

Just as strong as Erasmus Mundus

The objective is that Nordic Five Tech will become just as strong a brand as Erasmus Mundus is today. All thanks to the educational programmes that have a strong research affiliation which the universities that make up the alliance can offer together, Per Berglund says.

“The educational programmes are therefore within the core areas we share. Then students will be able to study at the various universities each term starting with the coordinating university that has most activities in the area specified,” he says.

KTH coordinates the Master's programme “Innovative and Sustainable Energy Engineering”, which was also the first to be launched in 2009. The first group of students, coordinated by DTU were admitted to the Nordic Master in Maritime Engineering this year.

Nordic Five Tech is led by a presidential committee in which all the universities' Presidents are included. And it requires a commitment at that level if cooperation is to bear fruit, says Torbjørn Digernes, President of NTNU.

“We are facing extensive coordination transversely in each university and an overall picture is required, something that exists only at President level,” he says.

Peter Gudmundson also underlines the strength of Nordic Five Tech for KTH's part.

“We have much in common with the other Nordic universities in terms of culture and traditions, which produces good synergies,” he says.

Aiming for deeper cooperation

Alliances such as the Nordic Five Tech are particularly important from a European perspective, says Chalmer's President Karin Markides.

“There are similar geographic clusters in other places in Europe where other technical universities are collaborating and can speak with one voice. It evokes a need that we act in a similar way, otherwise there is a risk that Northern Europe will not make its voice heard so clearly in the competition” she says.

Tuula Teeri, President of Aalto University, would like to see even deeper cooperation between the Nordic universities.

“We ought to integrate our research systems because we as individual countries are actually quite weak in the international competition. For example, the entire research budget of the Finnish state is equivalent to that of one of the leading universities in the United States. We should cooperate more, which would also quality increase,” she says.

Possible obstacles to cooperation between universities are today's student fees. Norway is the only country that does not charge its students fees directly. Denmark has had student fees for some time, and the Finnish universities may introduce them for selected courses or programmes.

“We have therefore set up a special working group within the Nordic Five Tech dedicated to that issue. One possible way might be as with Erasmus Mundus, to bring in fees to joint consortia, but nothing is decided yet, but we await the working group's results,” says Per Berglund.

Text: Magnus Trogen

Facts – Master's programmes in the Nordic Five Tech:

  • Innovative and Sustainable Energy Engineering Programme
  • Nordic Master in Maritime Engineering
  • Nordic Master in Environmental Engineering
  • Nordic Master in Sustainable Urban Transition
  • Master's programme in Engineering and Applied Mathematics

  Read more about Nordic Five Tech