Niels Åkerstrøm Andersen is quick in his response when I call him up for a comment about the Senior Management’s proposal to close six programs.
“I feel this is a cowardly management that does not take the strategic goals into account,” says the Professor from the Department of Management, Politics and Philosophy.
Niels Åkerstrøm Andersen teaches students attending the MSc in Social Science, Political Communication and Management program, which is a program he co-established, and one of the six programs that is proposed for closure from 2023.
“By proposing to close these programs, the Senior Management’s plan is actually a return to the old ‘Handelshøjskole’. The six programs are all interdisciplinary and within the social sciences. Without them and the research behind them, CBS risks losing its current reputation and status as the Nordic ‘London School of Economics’,” he says and continues:
“The Senior Management argues that closing six programs will lead to a more integrated CBS. What is taking place is actually a simplification, not integration, and this will destroy CBS’ integrative function in the Danish education system. We must not forget that the MSc in Social Science (cand.soc) programs recruit a lot of students from the Danish universities with degrees in political science, public administration, anthropology, rhetoric and media science and integrate them in CBS’ transformative strategy.”
The other five programs listed for closure all have deep roots in the Department of Management, Politics and Philosophy, as that is where many of the programs’ teachers and study directors are employed.
Bent Meier Sørensen, Professor at the same department and Vice Chair of the Academic Council, teaches the courses Digital Organizational and Organizational Philosophy on the BSc in Business Administration and Philosophy program and the MSc in Business Administration and Philosophy.
He calls the proposal “a very extreme and irreversible intervention”.
“It is a draconic solution that will change CBS’ strategic profile. The strategy includes the Nordic Nines and a focus on transformative capabilities, so if you exclusively close these programs that work with social commitment, green transition and so on, then you will change the strategic direction,” he says.
He is saddened to witness that the Senior Management is following a strategy of closing programs rather than moving study places out of the metropol.
“I think this is what you may call slipping ‘a dimensioning’ in by the back door,” he says.
“We are in the middle of a strategy crisis”
Both Bent Meier Sørensen and Niels Åkerstrøm Andersen know that they and many colleagues have proposed various solutions to the task forced on CBS by the Danish government to reduce 10% of its intake by 2030.
But both are left feeling it has all been for nothing.
“In our experience, CBS has been generous to us, so when CBS is in trouble, we unite and help. I myself, and others have submitted proposals to cut the intake across a number of study programs and have forwarded ideas for establishing new educational opportunities in the region. So, I felt that we would manage this. It wouldn’t be nice, but OK,” says Niels Åkerstrøm and continues:
“But all of this has been taken off the table. I’m very sad to experience that CBS has ended up making a survey that includes involvement but has ultimately flouted all the hard work from employees and made up a proposal based on weak arguments. We are in the middle of a strategy crisis.”
In Bent Meier Sørensen’s opinion, the Senior Management has been sitting idly by since the political agreement was approved in the summer, and he feels the employees and Academic Council have been missed out of the process.
“We had in Academic Council a very clear agreement with the Senior Management that they would involve us in developing solution models, and we have not been. And now it looks like an extremely hurried, forced process. Senior Management has been sitting idly by for months. Why haven’t we seen any proposals earlier? Why have we not been involved? We need Senior Management to involve CBS staff and students much more,” he says and continues:
“We need a proper discussion of various scenarios with their academic, strategic and financial consequences. That’s a minimum for making this decision, a decision which is one of the biggest in my plus 20 years at CBS. It is of utmost importance that all interests are heard and that we reach a compromise that reflects everyone involved.”
A place for blue shirts and climate action
Already on the evening of Thursday November 11, the air was thick with rumors about possible program closures. Since then, current and previous students of the affected programs have been organizing demonstrations, email storms and petitions to express their dissatisfaction with the Senior Management proposal.
Although Niels Åkerstrøm Andersen has no expectations for the coming weeks’ hearings, he still believes that the last word has not yet been said.
“The students are mobilizing. They see that the diversity at CBS is shrinking, that their possibilities for education and personal growth is decreasing. We have created a CBS where you can wear a blue shirt, save the climate and earn money at the same time. All of that is at stake now,” he says and continues:
“I hope we find a reasonable compromise that will enable us to continue to have a modern CBS that keeps developing. I truly hope for that. And I hope that the Senior Management understands the risk of making irreversible decisions if carried out.”