The competition for the students is tougher than ever, and getting increasingly tougher by the minute. Increased focus on the students’ total experience during their years at the university will provide us with quite a challenge when contending for status as the best provider of “student life”, socially, academically and culturally. The background for Kultopia was a dream of providing the students with a unique experience that would give them new knowledge, new friends, increased confidence, broader network and generally more fun during their study. In addition, we wanted to achieve better contact opportunities between different groups; students – professors, academia – business, students – culture, to mention a few.
Who is behind it?
Initiator and producer of Kultopia is SiA, which represents Agder’s approximately 1000 university- and college students.
SiA is an independent legal organization, which purpose, as stipulated by law, is to take of the interests associated with student welfare at each institution. Historically speaking, this has meant establishing day care centres, housing units, university bookstore, sports facilities, culture house, health care arrangements and different student social activities. Today, SiA has approximately 8 000 members, manages real estate, has an annual turnover of MNOK 100 and has 150-200 employees in Arendal, Grimstad and Kristiansand. The following educational institutions are associated with SiA: Universitetet i Agder, Folkeuniversitetet Agder, Gimlekollen Mediehøgskole, BI Kristiansand og Ansgar Teologiske Høgskole. After many years of focusing mainly on the building of necessary infrastructure and the establishment of basic functions around the region’s universities and colleges, SiA now sees the opportunity to contribute more actively to the marketing of the region as the country’s most interesting study destination.
In this context, marketing tools like welfare and culture are essential.
Why a winter festival?
This initiative has come into existence has a result of several reasons and reflections that have matured over time. Below are a few of them:
• ”The Battle for the Students” is more than just a headline; it’s a reality, and one that’s getting harsher by the minute. Early in the 90s there was a shortage of available admissions slots. Only 10 years later that situation has been turned completely around. Now there’s an abundance of available admission slots and those who wish to study have become a volatile mass, free to choose anything they want; and they want the best. Nowadays, it is not enough with a university with the necessary facilities such as student housing, student canteen and day care centre. In other words, a university needs the little extra, the x-factor – and as the Agder colleges’ most important business partner, SiA’s goal is to gradually increase the focus on culture and welfare as a means to make the South of Norway the country’s most interesting study destination.
• Kristiansand now has one of the most beautiful and perhaps most complete university campuses in the country. Here the students find most of the things they need; great lecture facilities, the best student canteen in the country, sports facilities, day care centre, great housing opportunities, grocery store, bookstore, ATM and a range of student social activities where the culture house Østsia is a central meeting place. In other words, a complete campus, everything gathered in one place and within walking distance, all in a beautiful environment only 3 kilometres from the city centre. Fantastic would most people say, and we agree. But we still ask ourselves the question: Is Campus Gimlemoen turning into a city in the city that’s enough by itself? Are the long-gone military fences being replaced by mental fences put up as a barrier between academia and the local community? Shouldn’t the students be more visible in the central cultural life of the city?
• Kristiansand is the city of mild seasons. People are outside, festivals, activities and events are arranged. The city is buzzing with informal joie de vivre and people are drawn to the city centre in droves. Even though things have improved, event-wise, in the fall and winter, many travellers, and especially students, might get the impression that Kristiansand is anaemic and not very inspiring during the winter. This leaves us with a choice; should we wait until someone else does something about it, or should we do something about it ourselves?
• The city’s educational institutions, spearheaded by UIA, offer education within a range of subjects and professions; health and sports, humanities and languages, computer and ICT, fine arts and music, drama, economy and administration, social studies and media, management and organization, education and science, engineering and technology. Do the people in the region know about this? Do the different disciplines know about each other? Might it be an idea to create a big common project where abilities are united in creativity and the joy of creating to the people’s joy and pleasure? Might it be an idea to unite forces to show the people of Kristiansand what really lives in academia?
In other words; we believe in a larger cultural”happening” in the city centre during the winter. We believe in the university and college environments and the students as initiators and promoters. We believe that actively tearing down imaginary barriers between academia and the city’s inhabitants will strengthen the region's competitiveness in the battle for future students.
The universities and colleges will have an excellent opportunity to use and show off their academic diversity and all the students who want to participate in the project’s many stages will obviously make memories that will last a lifetime. Such a project would also contribute to creating stronger local ties and alliances between business, culture and academia. The scope and complexity of the project would also increase the competence on large productions and new collaboration experiences. SiA wishes that this project is to be”owned” by all those who contribute to it – we create this together.