The Aarhus University School of Engineering and the Department of Engineering to be dissolved and replaced by four new departments

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Dean Eskild Holm Nielsen, dean of the Faculty of Technical Sciences, believes that science should be governing principle for the organisation of engineering activities at AU. So he intends to dissolve the Aarhus University School of Engineering and the Department of Engineering and replace them by four new departments.

2020.06.16 | Marie Groth Andersen

Archival photo: Anders Trærup, AU Photo

AU’s engineering programmes are currently offered at two separate departments, the Department of Engineering and the Aarhus University School of Engineering (ASE). But Dean Eskild Holm Nielsen’s has a new plan on the drawing board: he wants to dissolve the two departments and replace them with four new ones.  

The four potential new departments have been provisionally dubbed Department of Biological and Chemical Engineering, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Department of Civil and Architectural Engineering and Department of Mechanical Engineering. All of these departments will offer both MScEng and BScEng programmes. Eskild Holm Nielsen hopes that this will lead to greater synergies across programmes and a stronger profile.

“Our main challenge with the existing structure is that we’ve had two parallel organisations, each of which has to cover a wide range of disciplines, from biotechnology to architectural engineering. In a manner of speaking, your pants are more likely to rip when you try to straddle so many subjects,”

the dean told me.

 “A vertical division based on subjects will strengthen teaching and research, and make it possible to combine the more vocationally oriented BScEng programmes with the research-based MScEng programmes. This is important to ensure that our degree programmes remain relevant on the labour market.”

A break with 105 years of tradition

Dean Holm Nielsen is fully aware that dissolving the Aarhus University School of Engineering (ASE) would mean a break with 105 years of institutional culture and history. 

“Clearly, there’s a strong identity and a lot of veneration associated with the Aarhus University School of Engineering. But we will continue to produce skilled graduates and provide good teaching, which is what ASE has been doing until now.”

More colleagues with the same research interests

Staff from the two existing departments will be placed at the new department that best matches their research interests. 

“This means that whereas right now they might work with five people who share their research interests, under the new organisation there will be ten colleagues in the same field after 1 January, when we expect the new structure to come into force,” explained Holm Nielsen.

Each new department will have its own secretariat, but it hasn’t been decided whether some functions will be shared. And employees will have a chance to contribute their ideas about the new structure through working groups. 

The goal is to educate more engineers

According to Holm Nielsen, the reorganisation is a necessary step in bringing the university’s strategic engineering initiative to fruition. The idea is that reorganising the departments along disciplinary lines and greater integration of BScEng and MScEng programmes will improve engineering degree programmes – and fill more chairs in classrooms.

“In coming years, we’re going to increase our enrolment from 4,000 students to 7,000,” the dean explained.

Just like employees, students will be invited to contribute their input to the process through the boards of study and degree programme councils.

New departments, new locations

The addresses of the four new departments have also been decided. The Department of Civil and Architectural Engineering and the Department of Mechanical Engineering will initially be housed at NAVITAS on the Aarhus waterfront, and will eventually relocate to Katrinebjerg. The Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering will be located on Gustav Wieds Vej, while the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering will be located in Katrinebjerg. 

The internal consultation on the proposed reorganisation of engineering activities at AU will begin in mid June and will last through August. The proposal will be considered by AU’s board in October, after which the four department head positions will be advertised. The new structure is expected to come into force on January 1st 2021.

Translated by Lenore Messick

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