From 33 to 21 state universities and university colleges

Hedmark University College and Lillehammer University College are merging to become Høgskolen i Innlandet [University College of Eastern Norway] as from 1 January 2017. “This merger is one of the last pieces of the puzzle in the most extensive structural reform of the university and university college sector in over 20 years,” says Minister of Education and Research Torbjørn Røe Isaksen.

The boards of both university colleges voted in favour of a merger on 28 September 2016. The government has now given the go-ahead.

“The merger will make it easier to build on the strengths of the existing university colleges. The new university college will be better equipped to compete for students and research funding, both nationally and internationally,” says the minister.

“The size of the new university college will enhance its position as a significant regional actor and attractive collaborative partner. There are also ambitions to obtain university status – which I fully support,” he adds.

Successful reform

The merger in Eastern Norway is the most recent step in the process launched by the government with the presentation of the white paper on the structural reform of the university and university college sector, Konsentrasjon for kvalitet [Consolidation for quality], in March 2015. The objective of the reform is to concentrate resources on fewer but stronger universities and university colleges.

A number of similar mergers have been carried out throughout the country, reducing the number of state institutions from 33 to 21. In addition, four private university colleges have merged to become VID Specialized University.

“Universities and university colleges have stepped up to the challenge we gave them and have demonstrated their willingness to make the necessary changes. Fewer but stronger institutions enable us to lay a foundation for enhanced quality in higher education and research. This will be critical to Norway’s ability to carry out the restructuring needed in the coming years,” says Mr Røe Isaksen.

A unified student union

To streamline student services at the new university college, the student unions affiliated with Hedmark University College and Lillehammer University College are also being merged into a single organisation as of 1 January 2017. The new name will be Studentsamskipnaden i Innlandet [The Innlandet Student Union].

“We believe that a unified organisation is the best way of continuing to provide students with good services,” says Mr Røe Isaksen.