As early as the late 1950s, when Norrköping’s textile industry started to fail, the town’s politicians saw low education levels as a major problem. Since the Swedish higher education system was to be expanded in the 1960s, they wanted a university with locations in both Norrköping and Linköping.
But it didn’t turn out that way. The new university was built in Linköping, even if a few programmes were based in Norrköping. But in the 1990s Norrköping got a new chance. The government wanted to see higher education in more places, and LiU needed to grow. Norrköping had the capacity, and the expansion there became one of several new ventures in Swedish higher education at the time.
In June of 1996 a decision was made to increase student numbers in Norrköping, and over the next year a number of committees worked hard to get everything in order before the students arrived. August 1997 saw the kick-off of Campus Norrköping, including six new interdisciplinary programmes. These were Culture, Society and Media Production; Social and Cultural Analysis; a new elementary school teacher’s programme and three engineering programmes: Industrial Electronics; Communications and Transport Systems; and Media Technology. Existing programme such as engineering and nursing continued as part of the new campus venture. At a later date, other innovative programmes were introduced, such as Environmental Science and Graphic Design and Communication.
True dreams on the new campus
From day one the idea was to locate the campus in the middle of the old textile precinct, or what is now called the Industrial Landscape. But there wasn’t time to finish everything for the start of classes. Instead, the new premises were opened a year later, on 5 September 1998, in conjunction with the mega-project “True Dreams on Uneasy Street”. More than 800 people took part in the event, where Media Technology students shone lasers from the Kopparhammaren Building, construction cranes danced, and a tram flew over the river.
The Norrköping campus received state funding for education, but not enough for research. So the university and local stakeholders joined forces to raise money for strong research environments. Today, research in Norrköping is conducted in a number of areas, and researchers in fields like visualisation, organic electronics and migration are recognised internationally for their work.
Some 5,100 students currently study at Campus Norrköping, where several innovative programmes have become real success stories. For instance the engineering programme Media Technology has earned an excellent reputation in the film industry, with graduates finding work in all the major special-effects companies – in Hollywood and elsewhere. In fact, three programme graduates have won Oscars for their work in special effects. And Norrköping itself is a big hit with students; in 2013/2014 it was named the best university town in the country by the Swedish National Union of Students.
On 18 March Campus Norrköping celebrates its 20th anniversary with an open house, including popular-science lectures, a student fair and guided tours of historical sites and contemporary educational and research environments.
In the words of an alumna
“The first thing that comes to mind is the entrepreneurial spirit. That we could influence our programmes and develop our own activities – for instance I was one of the founders of Ikon, a student newspaper. The university was very keen to hear from us regarding changes and improvements, including everything from course reading lists to more general issues. As a student you felt important.”
Elisabeth Falk, Head of Marketing and Communications for the Vallastaden Housing and Society Expo in 2017. She studied Culture, Society and Media Production at Campus Norrköping, starting in 1998.
Photo credits: David Einar and Per Wichmann