IT University of Copenhagen turns 20

On August 30, 1999, the first 147 students started studying at the IT University of Copenhagen. Since, the university has undergone tremendous growth. Today it is one of Denmark's largest educators of highly sought-after IT specialists – with plans for further growth in the coming years.

About ITUEducationResearchEventsMartin Zachariasen

In 1999, Denmark was at the brink of digitization. The internet was spreading like a steep fire, and businesses as well as public organizations were screaming for more highly educated IT professionals. In addition, there was a need to do something extraordinary to strengthen Danish IT research.

The solution became the establishment of a brand new university – the IT University of Copenhagen, or ‘IT-Højskolen’, as it known in the first years of its life. In just five months, a small team of staff was tasked with recruiting researchers, attracting students, designing the university's first four graduate programmes and preparing the campus to receive the first 147 students on August 30, 1999. The mission succeeded, though students had to assemble their own chairs before the teaching could begin.

Margrethe Vestager og Mads Tofte
Mads Tofte, former ITU Vice Chancellor, welcomes Minister of Education, Margrethe Vestager to the opening ceremony on August 30, 1999.

Further growth on the horizon

Through its 20 years, ITU has experienced intense growth. Today the university accepts around 900 students a year into its bachelor’s, master's and professional education programmes, making ITU one of Denmark's largest suppliers highly sought-after IT specialists.

According to Vice Chancellor Martin Zachariasen, ITU plays a very special role in the Danish educational landscape.

“The IT University has been given a special task, namely to support the digitization of Danish society. Our graduates and researchers are instrumental in creating good digital solutions for the benefit of both Danish companies and ordinary citizens,” he says.

As digitization spreads to all corners of society, the need for IT graduates continues to increase, and Martin Zachariasen has ambitions for the university to grow further in the coming years.

“Even today, companies and organizations are experiencing a significant shortage of IT workforce, and the demand will only increase in the future, when people and computers will work even closer together. The main task for ITU in the coming years will be to educate even more talented IT graduates so that we can meet the demand in society,” says the Vice Chancellor.

Technology does not stand alone

Since its inception, ITU has adhered to the idea that technology is not an isolated phenomenon, but always works in interaction with the surroundings.

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ITU has always stood for a modern interpretation of IT where we see IT as an interplay between technology, people, society and organizations.

Martin Zachariasen, Vice Chancellor
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“ITU has always stood for a modern interpretation of IT where we see IT as an interplay between technology, people, society and organizations. In relation to Artificial Intelligence, for instance, we should not simply look at what is technically feasible, but also consider the ethics of using the technology. There is a risk that AI will repeat and reinforce unfortunate prejudices and patterns, or that it is used to make important decisions that we cannot sufficiently understand,” says Martin Zachariasen.

Thus, an app or an IT system is not a neutral tool, but bears consequences for the way we understand the world, he points out. This means that IT developers are increasingly influencing people's daily lives.

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One of our most important tasks is to make the IT specialists of the future aware of the great responsibility they have when developing the IT solutions that we will use in for instance the healthcare system.

Martin Zachariasen, Vice Chancellor
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“One of our most important tasks is to make the IT specialists of the future aware of the great responsibility they have when developing the IT solutions that we will use in for instance the healthcare system. All of our fields of study are designed to give students insight into the social and human aspects of technology,” he says.

The 20-year anniversary will be celebrated with a reception for staff and students on Friday, 30 August.

WEB DOCUMENTARY: Read about the history of ITU, as told by the first Vice Chancellor, Mads Tofte.

Further information

Vibeke Arildsen, Press Officer, phone 2555 0447, email viar@itu.dk