Gerson Komissar - Legitimacy
Gerson Komissar was hired as president of BI in 1975. He had been affiliated with BI since 1946, and knew Finn Øien from his student days when Øien worked as a mathematics teacher at the Trondheim commercial college. During Komissar’s time as president, new visions were launched, processed and deployed with associated organisational changes.
One of these changes was introducing an election of BI’s president, and in 1977, Komissar became the first elected president of BI.
Gerson Komissar laid the foundation for the further development of BI. He developed the entrepreneurial BI into an institution with legitimacy in society at large, introduced social science subjects and expanded the cooperation with public authorities. The leadership change also entailed a stronger management and organisation with an elected president, greater emphasis placed on the role of external board members, formalisation of wage and collective negotiations and developing research activity.
Komissar’s task was to lead an institution that had undergone a very significant expansion. The number of permanent employees had increased nearly tenfold over five to six years, and BI’s organisation was only partially adapted to the new reality.
His term as president stands out as a new era in BI’s history. This involved a stronger management and organisation with an elected president, greater emphasis placed on the role of external board members, formalisation of wage and collective negotiations and developing research activity.
The idea that BI would conduct its own research was not new, but was strengthened under Komissar. The breakthrough came when BI established its own research committee in 1975. BI’s most active researchers at this time were Pål Korsvold (Finance), Fred Wenstøp (Quantitative Methods), Pat Joynt (Organisation and Management) and Ole Hagen (Social Economics). In 1977, the committee defined four primary areas for continued research at BI. These were administrative practices, purchasing economics, the capital market situation and material administration.
In the 1970s, the authorities were working on three issues that affected BI’s position as a private alternative within higher education in business administration. The first applied to Accounting education, the second was related to the follow-up of the Private School Act of 1970 and the third dealt with higher education in Eastern Norway.
The Ministry of Church and Education (KUD) wanted to establish a regional college for Oslo and Akershus counties in the form of an umbrella organisation over the colleges that already existed, not including universities and specialised university institutions. The challenge was that 13 of the colleges were private, of which BI was decidedly the largest. BI, which aspired to be an alternative at a higher level than the colleges, was in a challenging situation. This led to a discussion lasting several years related to BI’s organisation vis-à-vis the public system.
In 1977, however, the Government concluded that there would be no development of the regional colleges in Oslo and Akershus in the near future, and that the private colleges should not be covered under the Private School Act.
Parallel to these developments, the explosive increase in students in the 1960s was declining somewhat. This was not only caused by the establishment of the regional colleges, but also that Norwegian youth were influenced by anti-capitalistic trends through the EC referendum. This appeared to have an impact on the study paths chosen. At the same time, there was a favourable job market in the public sector, as the authorities chose to expedite development of the public sector during a period of significant structural problems for business and industry.
However, the enrolment numbers started to increase towards the end of the 1970s for the advanced programmes in business administration at NHH and BI’s graduate business administration programme. The government started to realise that the public was dependent on help from private alternatives in order to cover the demand. Through the difficult political process in the 1970s, very positive relationships were formed between BI’s management and the public. A relationship of trust had been established, which entailed that BI could start seriously discussing whether BI would receive formal official approval as a business school with the right to offer Master’s degrees in business and economics (siviløkonom).