Jørgen Randers - Expansion
In 1981, Jørgen Randers was elected BI president. At that time, the 36-year-old already had a doctorate degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the US and well-rounded experience from working in Norwegian and international research communities.
Under Randers’ term as president, BI saw unprecedented growth. A stronger academic focus and streamlining went hand-in-hand. The work of developing BI into a specialised university institution was prioritised as BI’s most important task during the period. Randers used a proactive and expansive strategy, and was the president that turned BI into a truly academic school. It was during this period that BI established its own network of regional colleges. BI also hired its first three professors during Randers’ term.
The 1980s belonged to the economists. It was also a great decade for BI. Firstly, BI became a truly academic school. Secondly, BI finally achieved its long-term goal of being recognised as a business school. Thirdly, BI as an organisation went from being a college in Oslo with independent partner schools around the country, to being an institution with regional departments. And finally, BI graduates were truly starting to leave a mark on the job market.
There was a formidable increase in the demand for business administration education in the 1980s. BI’s student body increased more than tenfold over just a few years, and in 1986, more than 12 000 applied to study business administration at BI. The Master of Science in Business (siviløkonom) programme could take approximately 250 students per year, so the programmes at the local campuses provided BI with this vast increase.
The last half of the 80s were characterised as the era of the yuppie. Private consumption grew, and bank loans increased by about 20 per cent during the period 1984-1987. There were also major changes in the education that young people chose. In 1987, finance, business administration and DH graduates were the most popular choices among young people. And BI was branded the hub of yuppie culture. But the expansion can also be linked to the good job market for recent business graduates at this time.
Research was already a defined task when Randers started the position. His most important task became developing BI into a specialised university institution.
The stronger academic focus came in the form of Randers increasing the faculty by adding external forces. Significant individual freedom was considered necessary to attract superstars. As a result of this, a gradual halving of the teaching commitment was introduced in the 1980s, which made it possible for faculty members to undertake assignments as consultants. This made BI a more attractive workplace. Externally financed research increased and BI’s faculty often contributed at academic conferences. Academic communities were also being established in research centres. At the same time, the academic management was strengthened when Kjell Eliassen was chosen as BI’s first provost in 1985. He had a dedicated responsibility for academic development.
Many of the local campuses were unwilling to expand in line with the increased local demand. This was cause for concern in BI’s management, which decided to change strategy. BI’s leadership role was to be strengthened and the local activities would provide a financial contribution to the operation of BI. In particular, they were dissatisfied with the school in Drammen, which only enrolled 27 students, based on an old agreement. In May 1984, BI terminated the agreement with Drammen Bedriftsøkonomiske Høyskole and established a separate department of BI with an enrolment of 100 students. After this, BI’s board decided to establish a national network of local departments. While certain schools embraced this change, others had strong reactions and were resistant.
The expansion meant that BI’s current premises at Nadderud were too small. Many of BI’s employees wanted to move to Oslo to get closer to the university and research communities, but a majority decided to stay in Bærum. In December 1988, BI moved into new premises in Sandvika. The building was perceived to be a physical expression of the changes the institution underwent in the 1980s. Organised around a glass promenade and with a modern library in a central location in the building, the character of a specialised university institution was emphasised. The building also realised the idea of more rational and efficient teaching with several small and large auditoriums.