BI did not start out as a college. The first course in business administration only lasted three months with a two-hour class once per week. From the autumn of 1944, the main course in business administration was expanded to one year of evening courses, and was further expanded to two years the following year. At the same time, BI developed into a supplier of short, independent courses within accountancy, industry bookkeeping, machine bookkeeping and business statistics.
With the establishment of the two-year daytime course in 1946, the same year that the Norwegian School of Economics (NHH) expanded from two to three years, BI started looking more like a college. Formally, no public authorities approved BI as a college, but BI presented its programme as a college-level course.
The story of BI Norwegian Business School
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.
Komissar’s task was to lead an institution that had undergone a very significant expansion. 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 incipient 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. In 1977, the committee defined four primary areas for continued research at BI. These were administrative practice, 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 financial-administrative education. The first applied to the accountant 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. In 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 was characterised by the anticapitalistic trends through the EC referendum. This appeared to have an impact on the study paths chosen.
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.
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 a corporation 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 financial-administrative 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.
Research was already a defined task when Randers started the position. His most important task became developing BI into a specialised university institution. The academisation 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 congresses.
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.
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 with 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.
Peter Lorange also stood for an expansive strategy and BI’s position within the education system was further strengthened during his term as President. During this period, numerous agreements with both private companies and public administration institutions were formalised.
Under Minister Gudmund Hernes, there was an education policy that changed the conditions for BI’s role in the education system. For example, emphasis was placed on concentrating higher education into fewer and stronger education centres, and developing a national network with work distribution between institutions.
This mainly affected public institutions, but during the negotiations with the Norwegian School of Management (NMH) and Oslo Handelshøyskole (OHH), BI learned that the Ministry did not have a negative view as regards concentration within the private sector as well.
Onarheim took BI into a consolidation period that was characterised by structuring and systematisation. The doctorate programme was established during this period and the Master of Management study programme was officially approved. Onarheim strengthened BI’s contact with businesses, while boosting BI’s standing in political circles. Onarheim later became president of NHO and a member of parliament for the Conservative Party (Høyre).
The first matter that Onarheim had to devote his attention to was sorting out the finances, and the systems at BI needed an upgrade. The many mergers conducted under Lorange came at a cost, while the former management had focused more on the structure of the departments and education programmes. Terje Jacobsen was hired as chief financial officer. He knew what was most critical and could make sure that there was a correlation between the profit, balance sheet and liquidity. This resulted in dismissals in the faculty and is referred to as a tough first year, but the financial situation improved after just 1.5 years.
Leif Frode Onarheim
Reve also introduced the term “bilingualism” at BI. This meant aspiring to both high-quality research and practical education, and speaking both the academic and business language. He was also the first president to establish the goal of BI becoming Norway’s first private university.
Transition from the 1990s to the 2000s
Over many years, BI enjoyed great success as Norway’s most well-known education institution and had done impressive work in both Oslo and the rest of the country. But BI did not have a solid research platform, which was entirely necessary in order to join the university club. Reve’s first task was therefore to build up the research base at BI. This included recruiting academic staff, which was very costly, and further developing the doctorate programme that was approved just before he started his term as President.
Open to the world
BI started competing more and more in an international market, which meant that it became necessary to introduce teaching in English. This was introduced partly for the bachelor level and completely for the master and doctorate levels. BI thus became more open to the rest of the world.
The international effort was also about establishing separate operations outside Norway. Business is international, which means that BI as an education institution must learn from the international market. Following in-depth deliberations, the management decided to establish operations at Fudan University in Shanghai in China in 1995, and at the International School of Management in Lithuania in 2000.
When Reve came to BI, its campuses were spread across three different locations in Oslo and Bærum, in addition to the other regional campuses. A joint location was therefore prioritised, and Nydalen was chosen as the location. The building was opened the same day that Reve resigned as President.
Accreditations also played a key role in Reve’s term as President. BI received its first international accreditation from EQUIS back in 1999, and BI received Norwegian approval from NOKUT (the Norwegian Agency for Quality Assurance in Education) in 2004, in addition to a reaccreditation from EQUIS. This was first and foremost a stamp of quality for the outside world, but was also especially important internally due to the improvement processes that large parts of the organisation had to undergo.
Colbjørnsen’s most important initiative was shaping BI into a more specialised international business school. His vision was that BI would become a leading European business school in the near future. In the spring of 2014, BI was awarded the prestigious AACSB accreditation, thus achieving the status of a business school with triple accreditation.
Colbjørnsen’s vision was to lead the institution to become one of the leading European business schools. The Financial Times rankings became a key yardstick for BI’s international standing. In order to succeed with these ambitions, the strategy entailed concentrating the resources on being a high-profile business school – an international and competitive business school.
Henjesand's first four years have been based on building the knowledge economy. The strategy can be summarized in three words: Impact, International and Interaction.
Impact is about the ability to influence international research and to influence students' learning and practice in business and society in a positive direction. This should be BI's driving force and leading competitive edge.
International is about how BI will fulfil its role as an internationally oriented knowledge institution and contributor to society.
Interaction is about the interaction between the academic staff, between academic staff and administrative staff, between BI and students, and between BI, business and society as a whole. The quality of what BI delivers will always depend on the quality of the interaction facilitated by the institution.
Close contact with business has always been one of BI's strengths. During the last presidential term, this work has been further systematized through the establishment of various advisory boards.
Digitization affects our sector, how the teaching and the examinations are conducted. It affects our daily processes and support functions that benefit both students and employees, and it places new demands on the content of the programmes we offer our students.
BI must have courses and programmes that are digitally updated and relevant. BI's academics must cultivate an understanding of technology, digital skills and a "digital mind set". Therefore, in recent years, much has been invested in professional development and recruitment to ensure that BI will be equipped to create this new professional platform.
As BI enter the jubilee year, the school launch two new programmes that take these needs seriously. The Master of Science in Business Analytics combines skills in data science with business school subjects, and Executive MBA Digital enables executives to set digital agendas and handle digital transformation in their own organization. Digital is launched as a new "line" at EMBA, and the first class starts in March.