United IT-Associations

United IT-Associations

Now the student associations are going to collaborate


Now the student associations are going to collaborate

Vegard Hellem has united the largest IT student associations in Norway


Vegard Hellem. Photo: Private

- We constantly tried to develop ourselves as a student association, and perhaps the best way to improve was not just internally, but also by looking at what others were doing

Vegard Hellem explains the fundamental idea behind the United IT Associations, or FIF, which he has initiated.

At that time, Hellem was involved in Abakus, the student association for computer science and communication technology at NTNU. They were already collaborating to some extent with the student associations Online and TIHLDE, both located at NTNU in Trondheim. However, Hellem saw the need for broader cooperation.

"I thought it would be fun to gather everyone. So, I contacted all the student associations for IT students that I could get hold of."

This eventually led him to gather relevant student associations from the largest universities in Norway.

- I remember that the student association for IT subjects at the University of Bergen was extremely quick to join. On the other hand, the relatively newly started student association at the University of Agder, Beta, was a bit challenging to reach. They have since expressed gratitude for being part of it. Being the smallest student association, they are mostly there to gather ideas and inspiration. I believe they benefit a lot from it, says Hellem.

Delayed Application Deadlines

Even though the primary motive behind FIF was to share experiences, the need to collaborate on certain specific matters arose over time.

- "There were some issues where it became difficult for Abakus to act alone. Situations where Abakus alone did not have authority or it was not within our role," explains Hellem.

Among the issues that brought them together was the desire to delay application deadlines for summer jobs.

- "Five years ago, it was common to apply for summer jobs in January. Now we saw a trend where companies often set deadlines as early as August or September. We felt it was becoming a significant problem," explains Hellem.

With such early deadlines, they feared that students wouldn't have enough time to fully understand the job before applying.

- "Students barely have time to get back to school before rushing to apply for a job, almost a year in advance," says Hellem, adding that a delay would also be beneficial for the companies.

- "One reason company presentations are so popular is that students can get information about summer jobs there. So, companies would likely experience a decrease in interest in events if students have already secured jobs. They would also find that students haven't had the opportunity to make an informed decision about whether they actually want to work there, something I assume is also important for them," he explains.

During the two meetings FIF has had so far, it was decided to recommend not publishing summer job postings with deadlines before October 1st.

- "We started the process at our meeting in April and contacted the industry to hear their input. The response was quite good, so at the meeting now in October, it was decided to proceed with it."

Hellem emphasizes that FIF is merely a forum without real decision-making power.

- "Now the proposal is circulating among the student associations so they can approve it in their boards. Most likely, it will pass, and from next year onwards, summer job postings won't have deadlines before October 1st in the student associations' channels.

They have also discussed more universal topics such as student dropout rates and spent a lot of time sharing experiences.

Ensuring Continuity

So far, Hellem has been the driving force behind the project. From the time the idea emerged around two years ago to when he got it through Abakus' board last year, to the forum now on the verge of winning its first joint cause. Therefore, he admits he has thought about what will happen when he completes his master's degree and leaves NTNU in the summer.

- "I've been a little worried that this would fade out when I disappear because I've been driving much of it in the last year. Fortunately, we discussed the administrative organization at the last meeting and reached an agreement," he explains.

The arrangement involves setting up a rotation determining which student association will host the next meeting and a facilitator who ideally should not come from that student association. This way, the facilitator can push and ensure that something actually happens.

- "This way, I can calmly step back and see that it's going well," Hellem says, adding:

-  "At least we've established a system now; now it remains to be seen if it works."

Initial Support from Excited

Excited provided initial financial support for the project and served as a discussion partner for Hellem regarding the latest research results from the study barometer and from Excited, such as dropout rates and student satisfaction among IT students.

- "We are pleased to contribute to enabling all students studying IT in Norway to collaborate across institutions. One of our clear goals with the center is to work to improve educational quality, including increased student engagement," says center leader Guttorm Sindre."

Facts about FIF

Facts about FIF

  • The United IT Associations (FIF) is a forum comprising student associations within IT disciplines
  • Meets once per semester or as needed.
  • Participating student associations:

- Abakus (NTNU Trondheim)
- Online (NTNU Trondheim)
- TIHLDE (NTNU Trondheim)
- Cybernetisk selskap (UiO)
- Navet (UiO)
- Fagutvalget fra Institutt for Informatikk Bergen (UiB)
- Beta (UiA)
- Tromsøstudentenes Dataforening (UiT)