Foto: David HolmstrÃ¶m“The university and the municipality of Linköping already have a long history of collaboration, but there is more to do. For example, we are proud that we are a university that attracts so many students from outside this region. 19,000 of our 27,000 students come from outside Östergötland County. But when they finish their studies, almost as many leave the region. There is a fantastic potential for getting them to stay here,” remarked University Vice-Chancellor Helen Dannetun when the local action plan was unveiled.
EU project led to plan
The plan is a result of a two-year EU project that has now been completed. Ten cities in nine countries were part of the EUniverCities project. One condition for taking part was that the participating city have an on-going collaborative relationship with the university in that city. One overall aim is to promote sustainable development of the city, from financial, social and ecological perspectives.
“Now for the first time we have a common platform, where the municipality of Linköping and the university are trying to find internal structures so that the work can move forward,” Lise-Lotte W Järvinen, coordinator of the project from Linköping municipality, pointed out.
Three main areas are highlighted in the action plan. They include the physical planning of the city, Linköping as an attractive university city, and cooperation between Linköping municipality and LiU. Physical planning includes, for example, the new Vallastaden residential area and Wahlbeck business park, where one goal is to form links between the university and the inner city.
An attractive town centre and a functional residential environment are key to attracting more people to the city; of special importance is getting more international researchers and students to feel that the city has something to offer them. A better job market for students during the summer would also get more people to stay and discover the city. The presence of the university and the students in the town centre must improve, for example with more student accommodation and more arenas for the development of knowledge and culture.
Growing across the river
“When the city grows, over time, across the river Stångån towards Kallerstad we will make sure to include the university and the students in the plans. This is one way of strengthening our collaboration in general,” said Elias Aguirre, chairperson of the Linköping Community Building Committee.
Jan Axelsson, the university’s director of collaboration, stressed the importance of expanding collaboration with small and medium-sized enterprises in the municipality and region.
“There are opportunities there. The students know all about the big companies in the region but they don’t know about the smaller ones, even though they comprise a major part of the business,” Mr Axelsson says.
He also pointed out that one benefit of the EU project has been to hear the opinions of other universities and cities about the combined societal challenges confronting LiU and the municipality.
“They see things with fresh eyes. And even if we already have a lot of collaboration between the university and the municipality we can definitely do more with the long-term strategic work. What we will begin with is the marketing of Linköping as a university town,” he says.
Vice-Chancellor Dannetun took the opportunity to publicise the Student Orchestra Festival on the holiday weekend of May 14–17.
“It will be seen and heard in the city; here we can discuss major interaction between the university and the town.”