We embark on a new year, and it is fitting to express gratitude. Students and staff at NTNU have put in significant efforts in the previous year. Last year, almost 9000 people graduated from the university, and more Ph.D. degrees than ever before in NTNUs history have been obtained. This means that a high number of capable graduates enter the workforce equipped with valuable knowledge and skills from NTNU.
Thousands of skilled employees have taught, provided guidance, conducted research, disseminated information, and developed new solutions. 2023 was a year that saw Nobel Prize winners May-Britt Moser and Edvard Moser establish their third center for outstanding research. Additionally, 2023 was the year when NTNU researcher Inga Strümke brought artificial intelligence firmly into the spotlight. These examples demonstrate that we are a university rich in excellent and hardworking role models.
The government gave the green light for campus project last year, and the construction of both Helgasetr and the Norwegian Ocean Technology Center is on schedule. The work on the new five thematic focus areas is underway, and new leaders were appointed before Christmas. In other words, NTNU has delivered on its societal mission and prepared for the future. This would not have been possible without all of you. Thank you very much.
2023 was a year of many events, and the tasks and challenges we will face in 2024 will be no less daunting. We live in uncertain times, and many look to us for answers to the challenges society is facing. The work you do at NTNU is of great importance. Do not forget that as we embark on a new year.
Academic freedom and freedom of academic expression will be two important themes in 2024. As the acting rector, I want to emphasize that we take the concerns raised at the end of last year seriously. If the tolerance level feels lower and the range of opinions narrower, we will listen to that. And, of course, we will welcome the debate on freedom of expression. I believe this is a given at NTNU. We are an institution rooted in strong academic traditions, and if there is anyone well-equipped to engage in this debate with all its nuances and breadth, it is the diverse university of NTNU. Academic freedom of expression is an inviolable principle.
Towards the end of last year, questions were also raised about the relationship between the business sector and the university. Based on this, NTNU’s board asked us to review relevant collaboration agreements. We are well on the way in this important work. I also want to be clear that collaboration with the outside world and external partners should never compromise our integrity as a university. Collaboration is the key to a better society, but our societal mission requires that our researchers are free and independent in their work. We have extensive practical experience in collaborating with actors in the labour market, an experience that I believe strengthens our outward-facing university. In order to respond to the complex challenges of tomorrow with knowledge that is true to our vision, it is crucial that we also look inward. The work on thematic focus areas and enabling technologies has contributed to breaking down barriers between academic communities. This is work that we must continue with the new focus areas.
I wish everyone a happy new year and good luck in your endeavors and important work.
Best regards Rector Tor Grande