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Each square metre of the new Niels Bohr Building will cost 3 square metres of the rest of the University of Copenhagen

Construction scandal — The prospect of a huge increase in rent after a faulty construction process will lead to the University of Copenhagen having to reduce more floor space than what the new Niels Bohr Building would have added.

The University of Copenhagen has never admitted more students than in 2020. But over the next few years, the floor space available to them will shrink. Significantly.

The reason: The cost overruns of Danish government flagship buildings for the natural and health sciences threaten to send the University of Copenhagen’s rent through the roof. The Niels Bohr Building, which should have cost DKK 1.6 billion, is now estimated to cost DKK 4.2 billion according to a new report from the national auditor’s office Rigsrevisionen.

Rent makes up 23 per cent of the university’s DKK 9 billion budget, but by 2030 management predicts that this will have increased to make up approximately 30 per cent.

This is why researchers, staff and students will have to huddle closer together in the coming years. The university plans to reduce its floor space by one fifth.

Monster campus

Rector Henrik C. Wegener has not released a detailed calculation of the future rent, partly because it is yet to be decided which buildings are to be given up. But a back-of-the-envelope calculation could look like this:

The University of Copenhagen currently takes up 942,000 square metres. One fifth of this is 188,000 square metres.

The still uncompleted Niels Bohr building is 52,000 square metres. So the University of Copenhagen is sacrificing, in other words, more than three square metres for every square metre in the new building.

The Niels Bohr building is built with modern research facilities for the Niels Bohr Institute, the Department of Chemistry and the Department of Science Education.


The question is: Who is to give up their square metres so that the researchers and students from these subjects can get new facilities. The answer is probably: Most of the rest of the university.

So far, the rector has pointed to the old municipal hospital buildings CSS near the botanical gardens as a solution. This is where the Faculty of Social Sciences is based (with economics, political science, sociology, psychology and anthropology), as well as the Department of Public Health that is a part of the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences.

The idea, which has not yet been approved, is to move the entire Faculty of Social Sciences out to the South campus, where the university already has three faculties, and set up a monster campus there.

Current rooms not built for uni

It is an unequal exchange between the new, expensive, square metres and the existing square metres at the University of Copenhagen: But this does not mean that the university will inevitably end up feeling cramped and insufferable as a working and studying environment.

The old municipal hospital or CSS campus is, for example, big, but it is not built for 2020 research and education. For 15 years, its »long corridors have been a long-standing conspiracy against interaction and spontaneous encounters,« the dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences Mikkel Vedby Rasmussen said in a recent news email. It is conceivable that the university would be able to find another lease that was more compact and where it was easier to teach people than in the old hospital.

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By moving the Faculty of Social Sciences to South Campus, the university (if the municipal hospital was completely vacated) would be able to free up 69,012 square metres 69,012 square metres.

This requires that the current users of South Campus, namely the Faculty of Humanities, Faculty of Law and Faculty of Theology are able to squeeze together, and not just rent new buildings for space. There are currently parts of South Campus that are either empty or rented out to private businesses.

In a so-called master plan from Summer 2020, the university’s management discussed other plans to make more space. This could be being able to book rooms and auditoria across the faculties, so that faculty A can use Faculty B’s premises in periods where they would otherwise be empty.

Another option is, of course, to prolong the teaching methods of the corona lockdowns and make a much larger part of the university’s activities digital. Maybe you could, in this way, cut away all the classrooms, except for the most advanced labs?

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