(11.08.2009) From the global economic crisis to the swine flu epidemic and global warming, today's students face ample challenges that they can and must tackle, the Norwegian Minister of Research and Higher Education, Tore Aasland and NTNU Rector Torbjørn Digernes said Tuesday.
"We live at a time where there is a global economic crisis, a climate crisis, and a swine flu epidemic about which much remains unknown. What these crises have in common is that knowledge is critical in tackling them," Aasland told the thousands of students, who filled NTNU's expansive commons on the Gløshaugen campus. "And it is you, the best minds we have, who must contribute to making the world a better and more interesting place. It is our knowledge that will be decisive in determining whether or not we find ways to meet our energy needs and reduce pollution."
"Yes you can."
Digernes echoed Aasland's challenge to students, and offered a vote of confidence in their abilities with a catchphrase borrowed from "someone who is more well-known than an NTNU rector," he said, with a nod to American president Barack Obama: "Yes you can!"
NTNU had a record number of applicants, Digernes said, with roughly 10800 students listing the university as their first choice. With approximately 7400 places available to new students, the university "could not accommodate everyone who wanted to attend NTNU", Digernes told the assembled first-year students. "You who are standing here today can therefore consider yourselves to be among the privileged."
Popular student city
The speeches also acknowledged the practical realities of 21st century living in Trondheim, Norway's most popular student city, which is currently short of student housing. With a national election looming on September 14, Aasland reminded students – potential voters – that the ruling governing coalition led by Labour Party head Jens Stoltenberg, has worked hard to bring more funding to higher education overall.
She noted that the government has built 1300 new student housing units this year and will continue to build more. Aasland's pledge comes as more and more eligible students apply for places at Norway's universities and university colleges. More than 104,000 students applied for places this academic year, with NTNU one of the top choices, particularly for areas such as nanotechnology, medicine and architecture.
Year's largest celebration
The hour-long event, which featured inspiring speeches interspersed with practical information and entertainment by NTNU's "music ambassadors", the Ola Kvernberg Trio, is by tradition NTNU's single largest annual celebration. It marks the beginning of the Norwegian university school year, of which the first week is generally devoted to freshman orientation. Most regular classes begin the week of August 17th.