In December 1965 the Swedish government decides that Linköping will get a technical college, a medical school and a university campus – the foundation on which Linköping University will be built. Part of the deal is that the technical college will offer a new engineering programme, which combines economics and engineering.

Four young people sit around a table with a computer Photo credit Ida Sörensen The combination itself is very attractive. In the business sector there is huge demand for staff who can bridge the gap between engineering and economics, and previously many students have completed two degrees: one in each field. But now there are a lot of questions as to whether all of this can fit inside a single programme. Will the graduates really be “proper engineers”?

In a debate in the Swedish parliament, one member compares the economics-engineering programme to a skvader, a fictitious Swedish animal with the front of a hare and the back of a wood grouse. “Whatever you say about this oddity, nothing good will come from it.” Another member quotes an editorial in an engineering magazine: the programme will be “neither chalk nor cheese”.

However the bill passes and when the new technical college opens in 1969, the economics-engineering programme has 50 first-year places. Now the students and teachers in Linköping have to prove that yes, something good will come from the programme.

And they do. Industrial Engineering and Management, as it is later called in English, becomes one of the most sought-after engineering programmes in Sweden. Several other universities follow LiU’s lead, and start up similar programmes. It even gets the nickname “the executive programme”, because so many graduates reach senior positions in the private sector.

And for Linköping University, Industrial Engineering and Management is one of many examples of how innovative study programmes develop expertise that is in demand in the labour market.

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