http://www.universityworldnews.com/layout/UW/images/logoUWorld.gifBy Jan Petter Myklebust. Three top Swedish institutions - Stockholm University, the Karolinska Institute and the Royal Institute of Technology-KTH - are discussing a merger which would create the largest university in Northern Europe.
Professor Kåre Bremer, rector of Stockholm University, confirmed that the talks could lead to a new university being organised in four scientific areas: medicine, technology, natural sciences, and humanities and social sciences. Under the plan the Karolinska Institute could cover medical sciences and KTH would focus on technology, while from 1 January Stockholm University would be reorganised into two main areas: natural sciences, and humanities and social sciences (including law), Bremer said.
"The present names will be kept as today, and the new university can be established without a demanding reorganisational process, in a timeframe that a new board will find suitable," he said.
"Geographically, the three units today are located close to each other, and already collaborate in a large number of projects, activities and by the use of scientific equipment."
A merger would create an élite institution responsible for 40% of Swedish research with 70,000 students, more than 6,000 staff and a budget of more than SEK9 billion (US$1.3 billion).
"The merger would mean that the international position of Stockholm and Sweden in higher education and research becomes visible to a much greater degree that today," Bremer said.
The merged institution would likely be able to compete for place in the top 25 of the Shanghai Academic Ranking of World Universities.
Already, formal agreement has been reached on the establishment of a major life science project by the three collaborating partners and Uppsala University.
Peter Gudmundson, president of KTH, said: "We see a clear tendency throughout the world regarding the associations between medicine, technology and natural science becoming stronger.
"KTH sees amazing potential by coming closer to Stockholm University and the Karolinska Instititute in this joint effort. This is one of our most important efforts so far."
When he published the 2012 budget, Minister of Education Jan Björklund called for more university mergers in Sweden, and said these had to come from a bottom-up process in which the government would not interfere.
This autumn, Bremer ordered a feasibility report on the collaborative project to benchmark it against major university mergers elsewhere.
Tim Ekberg, managing director of Södertörn College and a previous senior officer at the education ministry, wrote the report after asking deans, pro-deans, heads of schools and administrative leaders for their views on "a more systematic collaboration between the three institutions".
Most said that a merger would be a natural and good continuation of a process already under way. But representatives from Karolinska were opposed to a merger, preferring to see increased cooperation with Karolinska remaining an independent élite medical university. See also Sweden: Minister says universities may merge.