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The merger

Date interview: January 1 1970
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New Organizing New Doing Negative side-effects National government ICT tools Compromise Barriers & setback Adapting Accommodation/housing Academic organizations

This is a CTP of initiative: Living Knowledge ‐ Science Shop DTU (Denmark)

1995 This CTP is about the merger of the Interdisciplinary Centre that Science Shop DTU was part of into a larger institute:

At that time we go from having an interdisciplinary center with a science shop and our own teaching and research, some of it in collaboration with the institutes, and then to being part of a larger institute. The teaching continues, but the research becomes integrated into other research groups.

So in many ways this was a disempowerment of the science shop, as they lost part of the constellation that Science Shops DTU was a part of, which among other things moved the research away from the science shop. As mentioned by SSC, the research continues, but it does have implications that the researchers are not sitting together anymore, and that the research is not done in lieu of the science shop.  

Børge, who died in 99, moved to the work environment group, Michael (SSC - himself) were in the environmental area together with Inge Røpke. The researchers were divided into different groups. So there is not as tight a connection between the activities in the science shop and the research.  

They still sit together physically for the first year, before they are split up physically. So the CTP took placer over a period of time. One of the implications is that it is hard to keep track of what is going on everywhere, it is hard to make common strategies etc.:  

Some of the things we start grows, but it is hard to keep track of everything and everyone. Had we still been sitting together, we would likely to a higher degree been making a common strategy.  

There were however also positive aspects of the merger. The whole reasoning and purpose behind it, as SSC understood it from the Rector and institute director, it was to reduce the vulnerability of the science shop. The move might disempower them, but a separate initiative that is so small is much more vulnerable to be closed down in the future, and the staff might then be fired. By being part of a larger institute, which then technically employs the staff, the science shop is less visible, and if it is closed there is no staff tied directly to employment in the science shop, thus safeguarding Michael (SSC) and Børge (his co-worker at the time). The move was thus not meant as a disempowerment, rather to the contrary, even though there were negative consequences as well.


The organisational changes at DTU were directly linked with national policy at the time, as explained by SSC:  

DTU was a kind of test university. The thing that became the university law (a law rearranging governance at Danish universities from the early 00’s) was implemented at DTU several years before. So they start reducing the number of units that they have (institutes, centres, faculties etc.).  

This also meant a change in the focus of DTU’s top management, which got an ambition to make DTU into a world class university:  

And around that time every second sentences coming from DTU (the management) talks about world class (research). I experience many “opinions” from the master’s bunker (top management); we should no longer spend time on things related to the basic theory of science. They produce arguments to legitimate their reforms and actions. There was no reason for it though; the university senate had worked just fine.  

What SSC describes here is a loss of the democratic way of university governance, which in his opinion had worked perfectly. It is a bit unclear, but SSC seems to imply that the ambition of becoming world class is more an attempt to legitimise the changes they try to implement, than any actual criticism of the university. This was linked to another wider societal discourse at the time, neo-liberalism, which as had been seen elsewhere tries to commercialise research:  

There is more and more focus on opening the university to society, perceived by all universities as opening up towards business.  

The change also had an impact on the co-production among the employees at DTU:  

The TAPs (Administrative staff) felt their role was reduced to nothing. It was now the rector that made all decisions, which then had to be effectuated in the university senate.  

This reduction of their responsibility to what might surmise to be something like drones, i.e. they made no decisions on their own, had no impact on their work, had a large negative effect according to SSC.

Related events

On moving around

An event that keeps repeating itself is that the science shop has to move around the campus:  

At some point the new institute gets its own building, but then when DTU needed that building for something else, were are yet again atomized, until we end up in building 424, within which we only move once.  

Although it is unclear exactly when they move and where, they move several times, which “atomizes” their group just like the initial merger had done.  

On university management

The change in university management described un content, how DTU was used as a test-bed for new legislations, is a tightly related event. However, SSC is a little in doubt about the actual chronology here:  

What came first, the merger of the change of management, I not completely sure.  

In any case, the two events were taking place around the same time in the mid-nineties, and were bound tightly together.  

It was part of the change that started with the change in management form, which came along quietly.  

SSC also described the change in more detail:  

What happens is that we get a board of the university that designate the rector where he earlier was elected by the university senate. And in that board there is a majority of external actors, and there is 1 TAP (administrative staff) and one VIP (scientific staff). It comes as a part of the reform… but I do not know how big an impact it had on us.  

It is hard to say how and if there was a direct impact for the science shop, but there science shop at the very least were indirectly affected by the wider reorganization of DTU.  

However, this change is a process, a range of events, starting in the mid-nineties with the instatement of a board. Later on the universities were converted to self-owning institutions, among other things:  

The merger happens before we become self-owning, and before Lars Pallensen becomes rector. The self-ownership is prepared during 2000, and Lars Pallesen starts in 2001. The second wave of mergers also happens before the self-ownership.  

The list of events, and the approximate dates, are thus:     

  • Mid-nineties: Change in management and merger ·        
  • Late-nineties: second wave of mergers ·        
  • 2000: preparation for conversion to a self-owning institution ·        
  • 2001: new university law is implemented at all Danish Universities ·        
  • 2001: Lars Pallesen becomes rector  

Lars Pallesen was an opponent of the science shop, and a core person causing the decline of the science shop in a later CTP.  

Societal developments

Very generally, new public management and neo-liberal economics had some kind of relation. Both were part of the societal discourse in the period, and as commented by SSC universities were pushed to open up towards business partnerships and commercialization of research. This is a very unspecific development, and cannot be related to a specific date (at least not by SSC).


The merger

There was a large element of contestations, or maybe more precisely the expectation of contestation in the future, guiding the events related to this CTP.  

We two coordinators (SSC and Børge) had a meeting with rector about what we should do in relation to the merger. He said that he thought we should merge with the institute, because he did not know what the future would bring.  

What rector here refers to is if there would be further mergers, closures, reorganizations etc. in the future, and if there were it would be dangerous to be an independent entity in the organization. Any subsequent principals might not be sympathetic to the science shop either. This was in some ways more to protect the staff, SSC and Børge, than to protect the science shop, because the shop could lose the funding anyway. However, if funding for the science shop was cut while it was an activity within another institute, it would be unrelated to the SSC and Børge, thus safeguarding their employment.  

The interesting aspect here is that although the merger was a disempowerment for the activities of the science shop, the rector was actually sympathetic to it, and did it to safeguard against developments in the future (which turned out to be a correct assessment, as can be seen from later CTPs).  

Abolishment of the board

Another consequence of the merger was that they could no longer really have a board of directors as they did when they were an independent center. Instead, SSC set up an advisory board composed of both internal and external actors.  

A new IT-system

Another problematic development that happened in this connection was the implementation of a new IT system. This new IT meant on one side that they had to write more extensive reports about their activities. And they could no longer publish the science shop reports, as it was made by students, and the system only allowed publications from scientific staff. This was a major problem at the time.  

Rector election

Another “conflict” mentioned by SSC was the last election before the new board of directors was established for DTU. SSC and other left-wing academics tried to come with an alternative candidate to Hans Peter Jensen, which they failed in doing. What exactly this meant, or might had meant for the development, is unclear.


SSC had clearly not anticipated that there would come a merger:  

I had not anticipated that there would come a merger. When the proposal came, I can not remember exactly how it happened, if it was obvious which entities merged together. In the end it was 4 entities – work environment & social studies, the technology development initiative, interdisciplinary center, the engineering’s educations didactic. Open it was a very open process, there was a range of committees across the institutes to discuss these things.  

So while the merger was not anticipated, there was little surprise in the actual procedure of doing it, which was still a fairly democratic process. Some of the developments were not anticipated though, SSC did not consider the atomization of their research environment at the time, and is unsure if he could have done anything about it at the time anyway. However, in hindsight there were some clear unanticipated consequences:  

We did not have a lot of projects in our institute, so I kinda felt we were a little bit more lonely. I can’t remember if I expected that development. And it was not like I did not do research together with the others, I had project in 93-98 about product development and catering, 94-96 on technology development, 96-99 strategic focus areas in Tanzania, 96 Saab… so it is not like we did not do research together, but there were a limited number of hours available, so it might have had negative consequences for the science shop.  

SSC here try to recall what they did and did not do at the time. As he comments, he still did a lot of research in various projects, these projects however were no longer in lieu of interdisciplinary center/Science Shop DTU, so by moving research and science shop apart there was in consequence less hours spent in the science shop.


Jens: what did you learn from this?  

SSC: It is good to get some things anchored, but you also have to make sure there are resources for the science shop itself. It can be hard though. We received 135,000 kr a year for operating, student helpers, printing etc. But a problem was that we did not create any STÅ (students per year, which the university gets payment from the government based upon), because had they not done a project for us, they would just have done it for someone else instead.  

SSC here describes a learning in hindsight. They did secure the science shop more buy merging it into the institute. Bure securing its existence is not the same as ensuring resources for it. And there was an essential problem for the science shop that they did not generate any income for the university. They did conduct projects, which likely helped solve problems in society, and they might have saved work by providing projects for students so other supervisors did not have to find projects, but these are all benefits that cannot be measured.  

SSC also had the dilemma if they should have more actively had asked CSOs for projects:  

A dilemma, should we go out and search for more request from clients in society when he had so many on file already… because if students did we have something that was relevant for them… and could we have advertised more internally at the university. However, we did not have any students coming who did not find a project in the end, maybe a single one…  

It is hard to say anything about this dilemma in hindsight. They could likely have attracted both more requests and more students, but the amount of resources that they had at the science shop would not have changed in that moment, so it might simply have been beyond their capacity.

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