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How a university emerges

It is exciting to watch how a university becomes real. The foundations have been laid, the procedures, rules and regulations are in place, and it is now time for visions and strategies to take over.

As a board member in the Governing Body  of the newly established Munster Technological University on the south coast of Ireland, I have had the benefit of watching how MTU has emerged. The new university is the result of a merger between two smaller and very different university colleges, Cork Institute of Technology and IT Tralee.

It is fun and interesting to compare different universities, with a humble reservation about the age difference. KTH with almost 200 years of history and solid operations that has developed into what it is today. MTU is a one-year old, that has just started to take its first steps or more likely leaps and bounds, with six different campuses and 18,000 students. MTU is the second university of technology in Ireland after Technological University Dublin that was also founded after a merger three years ago.

MTU  has a broad research and study programme prospectus, ranging from civil engineering to courses in sport and music. The constant dilemma, specialisation or breadth, (perhaps at its most sprawling?) has been a key discussion issue at meetings.

As an external member who should offer an international perspective, I have several things from KTH to bring to the table. The importance of a profiled prospectus, a close connection between research and education, and clarity and transparency in the regulatory framework. (As a new board member, I had to sink my teeth into a 147-page document for Code of Governance in board work).  And of course innovation, that in this part of Ireland is hugely important.

But there is naturally also plenty to learn from MTU. The close connection between technology on the one hand and the humanities and social sciences on the other . If I were to toy with the thought of building a university from scratch, what would I go for?

More interdisciplinary pursuits definitely. Both when it comes to different programmes and within research. As we face ever more complex societal challenges, we need to become even more knowledgeable across disciplinary borders.