Board of Trustees Report
2020 turned out to be the year of the pandemic, lock-down, home office, and digital teaching. In the midst of this, admissions were good, drop-outs were reduced and a comprehensive digital reorganization, where the whole organization had to act quickly to provide education in a completely new way, took place.
The Board of Trustees were in close contact with the management both during the weeks before BI locked down the campuses on 12 March and during the weeks and months that followed. Through weekly reports, the Board was impressed with the robustness of the organization, which was really made subject to a stress test of its ability to provide teaching and conduct research under particularly demanding circumstances. Only four days after BI was locked down, the first fully digital lecture for students via Zoom was given. BI’s most important task during the pandemic has been to provide research-based teaching and to enable the students to progress and complete their programmes. BI’s academic staff had to acquire new skills at record speed to use digital tools in a pedagogical context. Major investments were made to upgrade technical infrastructure and arrange for good digital teaching. The focus of the whole organization has been on creating even better learning experiences for our students.
In a very challenging situation, BI’s employees have shown great enthusiasm for providing good teaching and research. The close interaction between BI’s management and the student organization BISO has been crucial to secure a good basis for and understanding of decisions made, frequently on short notice. In spite of great changes in their life as students, they have been patient and determined not to let the pandemic stop them from acquiring knowledge and maintaining the progress in their studies.
Both before and during the crisis, BI has so far reached its strategic goals for the period 2018-2025. The pandemic, naturally, has led to a need for necessary adjustments and priorities to ensure increased flexibility and predictability in the organization related to, among other things, education, examinations and student support. Based on results and ongoing processes, the Board of Trustees is satisfied with the fact that BI has managed to maintain its focus on the strategic development throughout 2020. Some plans have been delayed, whereas others have been moved forward. During the year, the whole organization has been involved in the comprehensive work of development, implementation and training related to BI’s new Programme Quality system. Thorough work has been carried out to document processes and establish routines related to the development and revision of the school’s educational provision. The Board would like to underline that a unified organization is crucial to ensure a good quality culture, where there is a necessary connection between what we want, what we say and what we do.
In the international arena, the Board is pleased with BI’s ranking among the best business schools in Europe, and for the sixth year in a row as the best business school in Norway by the Financial Times. The Board recognizes the good work carried out in the organization in connection with the process for EQUIS reaccreditation. A final decision by EQUIS is expected early in 2021. Also, in 2020, BI’s researchers stand out with publications in the most highly recognized international journals. Many of BI’s faculty have distinguished themselves through benchmark contributions to the social debate.
Admissions in 2020 were very high, both with respect to full-time programmes and further and continuing education programmes. At a certain point, new applications to some full-time programmes were not accepted due to strong interest. To some extent the admissions reflect the pandemic. However, the Board would like to point out that long-term innovation efforts related to the programme portfolio are now paying off. This is very important to our graduates who distinguish themselves as attractive candidates in the labour market. In changing times characterized by increased unemployment and lay-offs, the Board follows the development closely.
The Board would like to thank all BI’s employees, students, alumni and partners. Faced with a global crisis, BI has succeeded in providing education and research at the highest level and with enthusiastic students in new digital classrooms.
GOAL ATTAINMENT AND RESULTS
In 2020, BI’s academic environment has been strengthened through the establishment of a new department and increased international recruiting. Investments in digital solutions have resulted in even more learning-oriented programmes and courses. Employees across the organization have been involved in goal-oriented work on quality. This work is continued with unabated strength in 2021.
Profit for the year and actions of the Board of Trustees
BI is organized as a self-owned foundation whose sole purpose is education and research. All value creation at BI shall be spent on strengthening the operation and the students’ learning, which implies that any financial profit is allocated to increased research activities and the development of the school’s programmes and courses. The Foundation BI Norwegian Business School is the parent company in a group structure consisting of the wholly owned subsidiaries BI-bygget D-Blokka AS, Sandakerveien D-Blokka AS, Sandakerveien 116-118 AS, Bedriftsøkonomisk Institutt AS and Studentenes Hus AS. The business address of all the companies is Nydalsveien 37, Oslo. Among the subsidiaries only BI-Bygget D-Blokka AS has had any activities in 2020 through the letting of premises in the D-Blokka (D block). BI-Bygget D-Blokka AS owns 21.7 per cent, whereas the Foundation BI Norwegian Business School owns 78.3 per cent of the property in Oslo. The group’s turnover in 2020 totalled NOK 1,716 million and the operating profit amounted to NOK 124.2 million.
In 2020, the financial result for BI Norwegian Business School totalled NOK 139.7 compared to a budget of NOK 30.6 million. The Board is satisfied with BI’s financial result.
BI achieved a growth in income of NOK 76,3 million from 2019. The increase represents about 4.7 % and resulted in a total turnover of NOK 1,691.8 of which the government subsidy amounted to NOK 365 million or 21.6 % of the turnover. Revenues from teaching increased by NOK 63.5 million to NOK 1,250 million, which can be ascribed to high admission numbers to the full-time programmes in the autumn of 2020.
The operating profit increased from NOK 103.7 million in 2019 to NOK 106.3 million in 2020. Part of the reason for this good operating profit is a non-recurring impact in connection with the closing of pension schemes that took place at the end of 2020. The non-recurring impact of the closing resulted in a cost reduction of NOK å 32.8 million. Adjusted for this non-recurring impact, the operating profit amounted to NOK 73.5 million. In the operating profit for 2019 a nonrecurring impact was also included due to the change in the pension scheme of the Norwegian Public Service Pension Fund.
A large share of the cost base is related to salaries and social costs. If adjustments are made for non-recurring effects related to pensions in 2019 and 2020, salaries and social costs have increased by 4.7 %. This is related to the wage settlement for employees, and a net growth of 49 persons in the number of employees at the end of the year. In 2020 other costs were reduced by NOK 27.4 million.
Due to the ongoing pandemic, considerable movements related to individual items under other costs have to some extent taken place. Like everybody else in Norwegian working life, BI’s employees have experienced a new reality with less travel and commuting, as well as a changed meeting structure. Travel and meeting costs were down by NOK 36.9 million as compared to 2019, which represents a reduction of 71.7 %. Digital expenses increased by 19.3 %. In 2020 the Board has reallocated NOK 30 million in cost savings, as a consequence of reduced travel, to increased investments in digital infrastructure in lecture theatres and classrooms. This has been done to maintain the students’ learning outcome through high-quality digital teaching. The Board would like to emphasize the importance of the organization learning from the past year, and that it translates this learning into positive changes and new opportunities in the time to come.
The Board of Trustees has a strong focus on social and academic integration among the students. The pandemic has strengthened the need for even more systematic work to take care of the students’ mental health, the psychosocial working environment and progress of study. On this background, in addition to increased resources from BI, NOK 10 million were granted to the student organization BISO. These funds are intended to support activities for better inclusion, as well as social and academic integration. Depreciations increased by NOK 25.6 million from 2019. This was due to an extraordinary depreciation of technical installations, as well an increase due to a high level of investment this year and in the past few years.
Net financial items have been considerably changed as compared to 2019. In 2020 the net income was NOK 33.9 million as against a net cost of NOK 22,4 million in 2019. The reason for this is an equity reduction of NOK 50 million made in the wholly owned subsidiary BI-Bygget D-Blokka AS that has been taken to income as received dividend in the parent company Stiftelsen Handelshøyskolen BI. In addition, sales revenues of NOK 5 million from the sale of a shareholding in the learning platform Insendi were recorded.
In 2020 a total repayment of NOK 38 million as ordinary instalments on the mortgage with DNB was made. On the balance sheet date, the amount of NOK 58.3 million of the drawing right of NOK 200 million was utilized, which is a reduction of NOK 115,3 million as compared to 2019. The Foundation adheres to a financial hedging strategy that implies that a minimum of 33 % of the mortgage loan shall be hedged through fixed-rate agreements. On the balance sheet date, the share of the loan tied up in fixed-rate agreements amounts to NOK 400 million. On the balance sheet date, the degree of hedging is 105.5 %.
The cash flow for the year is positive with a strengthening of NOK 139.7 million. Among other things, this is due to the capital reduction of NOK 50 million from the subsidiary BI-Bygget D-Blokka AS mentioned above, and that the payments to the pension schemes have been reduced by NOK 57 million as compared to 2019. This, together with the good profit for the year, results in positive liquidity for 2020. The cash flow from operations amounts to NOK 229.5 million in 2020, as against NOK 57.2 million in 2019. The Foundation’s liquidity is considered to be satisfactory.
BI has no problems in finding neither short-term nor long-term funding. The school currently has an agreement with DNB on drawing rights with a variable scope during the year. During parts of the year there is no need for drawing rights due to surplus liquidity during the periods of large tuition payments at the beginning of semesters.
Since the funding of the school is based on tuition fees, and since the school competes with publicly funded institutions that do not charge any fees, the market risk is substantial. The budget document for 2021, which was adopted by the Board in December, describes how investments and operating priorities in 2020 support strategic priorities and the effects of the pandemic. The Board of Trustees believes that BI’s financial position is sound. The application figures to the full-time programmes in the autumn of 2021seem promising and confirm that the educational provision of the Foundation is attractive. It is expected that admissions to full-time programmes in the autumn of 2021 will be a little lower than in the previous year; this is a good indication of the income flow for the next few years. In the time to come efforts will be made to secure the position in the national market and to strengthen the position internationally.
The Board would like to underline that the school is still dependent on succeeding in recruiting a sufficient number of students in the time to come. In accordance with the strategy, the goal is to stabilize the number of new bachelor’s degree students, reduce the drop-out rate, recruit an increased number of students to the master’s degree programmes, and to maintain and develop the position within the Executive and Corporate market (life-long learning). These objectives take into account a market where according to projections made by Statistic Norway, the number of youths will decline slightly in the coming year and then again slightly rise. The need for further and continuing education is considered to increase in the time to come. This assumption is supported by the policies of the current government. A working life that is undergoing continuous change will result in an increased need for life-long learning. Although the number of students in further and continuing education is already high, the Board expects that BI will further strengthen its position in this market in the years to come.
The financial risk of the company is monitored and analysed on a continuous basis. Financial risk includes credit risk, liquidity risk and interest rate risk. Credit risk mainly consists of accounts receivable. This risk is considered to be small, since the company has good collection routines. Net losses on claims have been stable for many years and there is no reason to believe that this will change substantially. Liquidity risk is considered to be low, since the liquidity flow to the company is stable and predictable. Interest rate risk is considered to be limited. The company currently has an interest-bearing mortgage loan of NOK 379 million, of which the amount of NOK 400 million is hedged through interest rate swap agreements. In addition to the mortgage loan, comes the utilized share of the drawing rights that will vary considerably during the year. The Foundation’s equity decreased to NOK 838.8 million in 2020. An estimated deviation related to the pension scheme contributed to a reduction of NOK 212.5 million. On the balance sheet date, the remaining debt amounts to NOK 437.3 million including NOK 58.3 million of utilized drawing rights. The Foundation has entered into a new five-year loan agreement with DNB. On the balance sheet date, the Foundation meets the lender’s requirement for covenant. In accordance with Section 3-3 a of the Norwegian Accounting Act, we confirm that the going concern assumptions have been met.
High quality in education and research
In 2020 the number of departments at BI was increased from eight to nine through the establishment of a new department in the area of computer science and analysis. This took place at the same time as BI established a separate research centre in cooperation with Simula. Knowledge in the field of data science and research methods related to programming, machine learning and data visualization is in high demand among employers and students. The Board is keen to follow this development, since this project will undoubtedly strengthen the school’s capacity, competence, and programmes and courses in the fields of data science and business analysis.
In accordance with the strategy, BI recruited a number of scientific staff with an international background in the past year. They have all demonstrated great research potential and results. In 2020 the academic staff with an international background amounted to 35 per cent.
The Board is pleased to notice that BI’s researchers continue the positive development regarding scientific publications, particularly the number of publications in so-called ABS4* and ABS4 journals. These are the journals with top ranking and the highest recognition in their disciplines. The pandemic resulted in an expected decline in the share of externally funded research projects, for which the total turnover amounted to NOK 31 million in 2020 as against NOK 37.2 million in the previous year. For 2021, the Board expects an increase in externally funded research, due to an increased focus, strengthened research administration support, and substantial activity in the area in 2020.
The Board considers the merger of the library and the LearningLab into the new Library and Learning Centre as successful. The Learning Centre has played a very important part in the work on arranging for digital teaching by offering systematic pedagogical training and practical support to BI’s academic staff during a critical phase of the pandemic.
Welfare, value creation and change
BI is responsible for taking care of the students’ welfare needs and for securing a good learning environment. In 2020 this work has been demanding. Many students have experienced great challenges related to social isolation and challenging learning conditions. BI has implemented a number of measures to deal with this situation, among other things through increased financial support to the student organization BISO, and by organizing safe meeting places for the students. The Board expects this work to be given high priority in 2021 as well. Over several years, surveys have shown that the employment rate among BI graduates is high, particularly for graduates at master’s degree level. In 2020 about 95% of the graduates had secured a job within six months of the completion of their degree. The Board is pleased to see a steady, positive development over time. It is considered likely, however, that the pandemic may affect results negatively in 2021. For BI it will be important to continue the systematic work to increase the relevance of its programmes of study, in close dialogue with employers from the private and public sectors.
The Board is satisfied with the fact that in a demanding year, BI was able to procure contribution and commissioned projects (BOA) worth NOK 92.9 million. Both the Board and BI’s management have given priority to this work over time. It is particularly important in the Executive education market, and a steady growth in income is expected in the time to come.
Other important priorities in 2020
BI is making considerable efforts to build an even stronger quality culture based on a new quality assurance system. In the opinion of The Board, this is very important to enable the school to reach its strategic goals. The work will continue with unabated strength in 2021.
The Board is impressed with the work carried out on sustainability in 2020. This is to some extent visualized in the report Sustainability research at BI Norwegian Business School, which gives a survey of BI‘s research related to the UN sustainability development goals. The commitment to the UN principles for responsible management education (PRME) implies that every second year BI prepares a report describing the scope of the school’s work on sustainability. In December the PRME report BI Sustainability and Responsible Management Report was submitted to the UN.
A reduction in the drop-out rate and a higher completion rate have been a high priority of the Board over time. Therefore, it is good to notice that the new BI Customer Experience platform and the digitalization of drop-out data is used already in 2020 to implement precise and preventive measures towards students whose progress of study is not sufficient and who therefore risk dropping out. The Board is very pleased with the increase in the completion rate within nominal length of study in 2020, reaching 45 % for bachelor’s programmes and 87 % for master’s programmes master. The latter is record high for BI and far above the average for this sector in Norway. An increased focus on admission quality and good follow-up of the PhD students give results. In 2020 the completion rate on the PhD programme after 6 years was 66.7 %.
The change to the new examination tool WISEflow has had a positive impact during the past year. The Board believes that BI is well on its way to reach the goal of organizing all digital examinations through the new system during the year to come.
The introduction of InfoHub, which is BI’s new first line tool for all incoming enquiries, has been successful beyond expectations. The Board is impressed with the fact that already in 2020 InfoHub deals successfully with more than 80 % of the enquiries received in the first line. Already, the school is seeing very good effects of the Salesforce tool, both with respect to student handling and increased internal efficiency in the organization. The BI Strategi 2025 emphasizes the importance of the school’s affiliation with the private and public sectors. The Executive in Residence arrangement established in 2019 builds bridges to business and industry by linking individuals with relevant experience more closely to BI’s academic environments and students. In 2020 the arrangement has been extended through three new appointments.
In 2020 BI strengthened its position as an important academic partner for business and industry through its co-ownership in Kongsberg Innovasjon. This is intended to increase the interaction between Norwegian industry and innovation clusters in Norway and internationally. The Board wants BI to play a central part in the important work of creating new green jobs and exportoriented enterprises in Norway.
Statement on commercial terms
The Board confirms that all transactions between BI Norwegian Business School and closely related entities, as well as group transactions, have been priced and conducted pursuant to commercial conditions.
During the past year BI’s ability to provide excellent teaching and research under very demanding circumstances has really been tested. The Board believes that BI is coping well with the pandemic and thus has created a strong fundament for the years to come.
Since 1943 BI has developed from a modest evening school that offered courses in business economics into a central international provider of life-long learning. Determination and goaloriented work have placed BI in a position to become one of the leading business school in Europe.
BI’s Strategy 2025 specifies long-term goals. These are to be reached through areas of priority such as the development of attractive programmes of study and graduates, the development of a first-class academic environment, as well as sound operations. The Board emphasizes internationalization, digitalization and sustainability within all these areas, and believes that in 2020 BI has seen good progress in this work.
BI operates in several markets characterized by fierce competition, both in Norway and internationally. This implies that the school has to ensure continuous innovation of the programme portfolio, and all the time explore new delivery models, formats and course combinations to secure that programmes and courses are as relevant and attractive as possible.
Since BI is competing with public institution with no tuition fees, BI is dependent on attracting a sufficient number of students, particularly at bachelor’s level. The Board believes that the organization is well prepared to deal with future fluctuations. In order to secure BI’s competitiveness in the years to come, the Board will continue to focus on the development of the bachelor’s programmes, with an even increased focus on internationalization through student exchange and practical experience through internships. The Board would like to underline that good progress in this work in the time to come is important. Through several decades BI has provided students with an opportunity of taking an education irrespective of their background. Our philosophy is that BI cares about where the students are going, not where they come from.
The Board considers BI well prepared for increased competition from international educational institutions and from companies such as Google and Microsoft. The market for digital learning is growing. In the rime to come it will be important for BI secure its position as a central provider of web-based and flexible teaching. The introduction this year of so-called Short Learning Modules in the further and continuing education market is an example of measures BI has to further develop and explore.
The Government’s competence reform «Learn throughout life» (“Lære hele livet”) contributes to increased competition for BI in the national market for further and continuing education. Through long-term cooperation with private and public enterprises, and through a strong involvement in defining the future competence needs, BI has a strong brand in the market in this area.
In the opinion of the Board, the pace of innovation and international competition will increase. At the same time, the Board feels safe that BI, as one of Europe’s leading business schools, is well prepared to meet the competition. 2020 has shown that BI is a good employer with a good financial position. The pandemic has not led to any layoffs.
BI Norwegian Business School has not made and is not planning to make any organizational changes that will affect the legal and financial position of the foundation.
In addition to the qualifying fixed-term positions, there are 13 persons in temporary positions on the faculty and 5 short-term appointments on contract. One person is temporarily appointed in an externally funded position as researcher. On the administrative staff BI had a total of 18 temporary positions on contract at the end of 2020, as well as 11 temporary substitutes for staff on leave of absence. Temporary positions on contract in the administration are mainly due to a short-term increased need for capacity in connection with projects related to the development and implementation of new digital systems and work processes.
Equal opportunities, discrimination and availability
BI’s plan for diversity an equality affirms that all employees shall have the same rights, duties and opportunities irrespective of gender, age, ethnicity, national origin, functional ability, philosophy of life or sexual tendency. BI aims at a gender distribution within the 60-40 interval, and systematic wage differentials shall be neutralized. BI’s work on equality is regularly reported to The Board and is an area followed closely by the Board.
In 2020 a new action plan for equality was prepared. The main goal is to increase the number women on the faculty through goal-oriented recruiting, particularly within finance and economics. At the same time, the share of men in administrative positions shall be increased, including leadership positions. On the basis of the national survey on bullying and harassment in the higher education sector in 2019, BI has chosen to focus particularly on how to prevent sexual harassment. BI has started and strengthened the work to prevent sexual harassment at work, including measures to detect and address unconscious attitudes of gender discrimination in the working environment.
On an annual basis, BI conduct surveys of the gender balance in different positions and bodies in organizations. At the end of 2020 BI had 29 female professors, of which 24 held full permanent positions.
The women’s share among professors was 24 %. The total share of women in academic positions is stable at 34 %, with great variations across position categories and departments The share of men in administrative positions is 33 %. The share of men in administrative leadership positions has declined from 22 % to 17 %. Analyses of pay and gender show, among other things, that on average female professors earn less than their male colleagues. This can be ascribed to the fact that the time of service for female professors is shorter than that of their male colleagues, and also that women are strongly underrepresented in disciplines with the highest pay (finance, economics and accounting). The share of women on BI’s Board of Trustees amounts to 50 %. In the Senate the share of women is 36 % and in the top management team the share of women is 40 %, whereas 50 % of the heads of department and 25 % of the deans are women
The BI 2020 working environment survey showed that most employees experience equal opportunities and rights across gender, age, nationality and functional ability. Major reasons for reported bullying and harassment were related to disagreement on academic matters and personal chemistry.
In 2020, 49 nationalities were represented among BI’s employees. In an effort to include everybody with an international background in the working environment, BI’s Board of Trustees has adopted a new language policy in 2020, stating that English is the main language for internal communication and when the whole organization is gathered. At the end of 2020, 18.5 per cent of all BI’s employees were foreign citizens. The share of international staff amounted to 6 per cent for administrative employees and 35 per cent for all persons in academic positions. The Board notes that the number of international staff in academic positions is constantly increasing as compared to administrative positions.
The average age for resignation with a pension is 68.4 years for all BI employees. Senior staff in academic position on average work until they reach 68.9 years of age, which is at the same level as in 2019. Senior administrative staff on average work until they reach 67.1 years of age, up 0.7 years on 2019.
BI’s campuses have been developed pursuant to the laws and regulations in force when they were built. A survey has been made of areas where the buildings diverge from the present rules and regulations. Continuous work is carried out to repair any defects through rebuilding and adaptations of the buildings
Civil protection and preparedness
A central element in BI’s HSE activities is to secure the life and health of individuals. BI conducts annual risk analyses and implements measures on the basis of these. BI works actively to prevent serious incidents and plans for how to deal with such incidents in a way that will restrict harmful effects should they occur.
Dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic has been the first priority in BI’s work on security and preparedness in 2020. A number of measures for infection prevention among students and staff have been implemented, evaluated and followed up. Risk assessments, such as decision support prior to important changes, have been made on a regular basis. BI has endeavoured to keep the measures proportionate and in accordance with recommendations and advice given by the authorities. The handling of cases of infection among students and staff have functioned well and has been carried out in close cooperation with local health authorities. In general, the number of infected has been low at BI in 2020, 43 in Oslo, 69 in Bergen, 5 in Trondheim and 1 in Stavanger respectively. The total number of infected employees was 7. The handling of the pandemic has led to closer cooperation on security and preparedness with other study centres. BI is planning to carry out an evaluation of the way the pandemic was dealt with, where preparedness and infection protection will also be included.
Otherwise, no serious threats or incidents related to security and preparedness have been reported in 2020.
THE BOARD OF TRUSTEES IN 2020
The Board of Trustees consists of 10 members of which four are external members and two are observers.
The four internal members of the Board count two representatives elected by and among BI’s faculty, one representative and one observer elected by and among BI’s administrative staff, and one student representative and one student observer elected by the student organization BISO.
Chair of the Board of Trustees
BI’s Board of Trustees has elected Åse Aulie Michelet as new Chair of the Board for a term of three years as from 1 August 2018. Åse Aulie Michelet has held a number of leadership positions in Norwegian and international business and has comprehensive board work experience.
Members of the Board of Trustees as of 31 December 2020
Åse Aulie Michelet Chair of the Board
Per Hove External member of the Board
Bjørn Jørgensen External member of the Board
Pål Lauritzen Representative for the academic staff
Siv Jønland Staubo Representative for the academic staff
Donatella de Paoli Deputy representative for the academic staff
Anders Dysvik Representative for the academic staff
Kjersti Ø. Gummerson Representative for the administrative staff
Truls Birger Brænden Observer from the administrative staff
Minda Sofie Håan Aakre (Deputy representative for the administrative staff)
Ole Andreas Løseth (Deputy representative for the administrative staff)
Martin Horgen Student reresentative elected by BISO
Eirik Skorstad Student observer elected by BISO