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Comment: The merger of four departments into the Niels Bohr Institute

Merger experiences 3: Four departments into the Niels Bohr Institute

In 1993, four of the University of Copenhagen’s previous physics departments – the Astronomical Observatory, the Ørsted Laboratory, the Department of Geophysics and the Niels Bohr Institute on Blegdamsvej – were merged into a new department, ‘The Niels Bohr Institute for Astrophysics, Physics and Geophysics’ – NBIfAFG. As the name implied, there were strong disciplines in the new department, and the merger took place under heavy protest. Today, the department is simply called the Niels Bohr Institute, but it still contains all of the University of Copenhagen’s physics disciplines.

Geophysics is a special feature of the department and of this combined physics environment, and is only found three other places in Europe.

The merger was enacted to strengthen the university’s physics research and instruction. All physics students, including astronomy and geophysics students share a common bachelor’s programme, one that is at a high and abstract level, so that all students are provided with the same foundational education, regardless of their eventual specialisation. This is valued by the graduates’ future employers.

Today there is full support for the Niels Bohr Institute among its staff and students, and they strongly identify with the department and its academic environment. It is accepted that the merger has provided the department with a superior academic profile, and the academic and economic power to undertake independent strategic efforts both within and beyond the university. The department’s self-understanding is high, and the department has been at the forefront in a number of areas, not just academic, but also in terms of organisation and administration. The merger also granted the department extraordinary external visibility, helped of course thanks to its name and history.

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