New rector at NTNU - Gunnar Bovim

"We should not just think small thoughts. Our task is to create knowledge for a better world, a world that our grandchildren can be proud of," Bovim says.

We toured NTNU's major campuses with NTNU's new rector, as he commented on the main issues facing NTNU in the near future. Among his priorities is improving the way the university educates its students, promoting a vibrant campus life after 5 p.m., and a call for more of the academic staff to communicate their findings to the general public.

See the video (in Norwegian, duration: 8.50 minutes)


Location 1: Øya campus, with St.Olav Trondheim University Hospital and NTNU's Faculty of Medicine.

Interviewer: On Thursday 1 August, Gunnar Bovim was formally installed as the new rector at NTNU. First we asked him about his immediate impression of the university, now some eight years after he left the position as dean of NTNU's Faculty of Medicine.

Rector Bovim: Thanks for the warm reception. I'm really looking forward to get started, and have been preparing for this day these last months. I've been visiting many of NTNU's exciting research communities, and seen that NTNU has really changed. NTNU is developing in a very positive way, and I'm proud of having the opportunity to be a part of NTNU's progress in the coming years.

Interviewer: NTNU's Faculty of Medicine, that you some years ago were the dean of, is renowned for its high quality research. Two of the four new centres of excellence are connected to this Faculty, and they also have a fine record when applying for projects in the European Research Area system.  What may other research communities at NTNU learn from their success?

Rector Bovim: I think all research communities at NTNU may draw on each other's experience. There is quality both at the Faculty of Medicine and at NTNU's other faculties.  We may learn a lot from those at the front in their field.  In addition to learn from each other within NTNU we must also pay serious attention to  the scientific world outside our university.  I think we may expect some major initiatives. We should therefore be prepared to establish new groups with the aim of attaining an international standard, in all of NTNU's disciplines. I look forward to being involved in such a process.

Interviewer: In NTNU's strategic area Health, Welfare and Technology, perhaps this building we now see will play an important part? It is the new Norwegian Knowledge Centre for the Health Services at Trondheim  University Hospital.

Rector Bovim: In total the buildings for health care services at Øya encompass some 200 000 square meters. One quarter of that area – some 50 000 square meters – is for research and education at NTNU. This puts NTNU in a fantastically privileged position, ranking us foremost amongst universities in Northern Europe. It gives us both academic possibilities and societal duties.

Location 2: Dragvoll campus

Interviewer: In his new, blue electric car, rector Bovim will be travelling between the multitude of NTNU's campuses in Trondheim.

Interviewer: We are now in the central walkway at the Dragvoll campus – where the humanities and the social sciences are located. Today is a very quiet day, but in a few days, when the students start pouring in, this place will be seriously crowded.  The wish list for additional buildings at NTNU is indeed long. Should NTNU keep two campuses or should we concentrate the university at just one big campus?

Rector Bovim: Some people say that NTNU of today has two campuses. The reality is that NTNU's departments are spread on locations all over Trondheim – making it truly a "university city".  Furthermore there is presently a "campus project" directed by NTNU's owner – the Ministry of Education and Research. The goal of this project is to find out how NTNU's need for additional space should be taken care of in the near future. I have the sincere impression that our owner is interested in good solutions for NTNU. It is therefore our task to contribute to the project's quality by bringing forward at an early stage all relevant facts and viewpoints, providing the best possible basis for the final decisions.

Interviewer: Many at this campus do not always feel at home within a university focused on science and technology. It may still be a challenge to create a team spirit and a sense of common cause, across the wide range of disciplines within NTNU? How will you go about improving this situation?

Rector Bovim: I am really enthusiastic about NTNU's present vision and strategy. The main task is "Knowledge for a better world". That is a very tangible concept, and I'm really concerned about not degrading it in any way. Some say that we are a small university in the periphery. That is totally wrong. We at NTNU have a true potential and a vision to contribute with solid knowledge for a better world. This requires a concerted effort from all of the disciplines within NTNU's wide range of competence.

Location 3: Marine Technology at Tyholt

Interviewer:  We are now at the laboratories for marine technology in Trondheim, at Tyholt. Here NTNU cooperates closely with SINTEF and MARINTEK. Together they plan to build an Ocean Space Centre. Do you think the centre will open for business in your coming term as rector?

Rector Bovim: It is a highly exciting and ambitious project, which we truly hope to bring about.  I cannot promise that it will be realized within the first few years. The project illuminates the close cooperation between NTNU and SINTEF. There are many fields where this cooperation is highly visible. We may be rightly proud of this cooperation, and it is definitely something to develop further.

Location 4: University Museum at Kalvskinnet campus

Interviewer:  Here at Kalvskinnet campus we find the NTNU University Museum, where science communication to the general public is a major task. However, too many of NTNU's academic staff are rather silent in this communication. How may they be inspired to communicate more of their work to the general public?

Rector Bovim: In this context openness is central. To have the scientists enthusiastically communicate their findings and questions central to their research is a major part of the university's main tasks.  Some concentrate this communication only to the scientists in their own field, which of course is important.  But I'm also seriously concerned about engaging the general public in this communication.  It is clearly a part of our societal duty to disseminate our knowledge to the general public. I hope we can promote this activity, both as a response to direct questions, but also through our own initiatives presenting our findings to society as a whole.

Location 4: Gløshaugen campus

Interviewer:  We are now at the Gløshaugen campus behind the Main Administration Building, soon to be the outdoor venue for the annual enrolment ceremony. On 13 August you will face some seven thousand new NTNU students. What will be your main message?

Rector Bovim: First I regard it as a privilege that 7000 young persons, in their prime years, attend our university to study.  I hope that I will be able to tell them how much we appreciate their choice. Furthermore I intend to encourage them to stick to the enthusiasm they have when coming here. We will help them retain that enthusiasm, and educate them into persons with a purpose in life.  

Interviewer:  In previous interviews you have hinted that NTNU perhaps is resting too much on previous educational successes, and has not enough ability for renewal. How will you approach this issue?

Rector Bovim: My reflections were not meant as criticism about the present state, as NTNU has many fine qualities. It is, however, important for NTNU as a university to be forever engaged in improvement and development.  We have to be at the forefront regarding what study programmes we provide and the accompanying educational methods. We must attract those young persons that will be entrusted with bringing the nation into the future.

Interviewer:  You want a campus where the lights are not turned off at five p.m. How might that be obtained?

Rector Bovim: To truly be a student in an academic environment is not limited to "9 to 5". It is an activity that follows you through the whole day. A real campus shall encompass innovative learning, coffee bars, arenas for discussions, maybe a literary society, and places for informal meetings between academic staff and students. This might make the campus a vibrant place to, a place where you want to come also in your off-time, a place where the lights are still on after five p.m.

Interviewer:  You've previously said that your main concern as rector at NTNU will be to "lift in place some large stones"?  What are the largest building blocks you have set your eyes on in the near future?

Rector Bovim: We should not engage in small thoughts.  NTNU is on both a national and international mission that shall not be taken lightly.  Our task is, as previously stated, knowledge for a better world, a world that our grandchildren might be proud of. Those that come after us will hopefully admit that we made some right choices.  One factor is creating scientific communities that gain international standing. Another one is offering high quality study programmes that really attract students.  A third factor is convincing business and industry that cooperating with NTNU will truly benefit their progress.  Those are "large stones" that yet have to be given a more concrete form. But I'm now just beginning my term as rector, engaging in a dialogue with the staff and students at NTNU how to proceed in these matters. This is a job I truly look forward to.

Rector at NTNU Gunnar Bovim

NTNU's rector Gunnar Bovim.