Our History


Discussions regarding a university in Norrland had been going on since the beginning of the 20th century. The reasoning behind the discourse was that educational level of the inhabitants of Norrland was relatively low, and that there existed a large shortage among doctors, teachers and lawyers in the area.

In 1946, the matter was brought to the fore when Gösta Skoglund, Umeå’s enthusiastic favourite-son and member of the Swedish Parliament, submitted a motion for an inquiry of higher education possibilities in northern Sweden. It was unclear at the time which town would become the fifth university in Sweden, but the two main candidates from the start were Härnosand and Umeå, in Norrland.

The motion was rejected, and the 1947 proposal to create a national hospital with an accompanying dental school met the same fate. In spite of the setbacks, the energetic work of dedicated Umeå supporters to strengthen the town’s standing as a primary candidate to be the first university in Norrland progressed with fervent momentum.

One decisive advantage for Umeå was the decision in 1951 to establish a scientific library with a collection housing all works henceforth printed in Sweden. It was to become the first de facto foundation for the establishment of Umeå University. In 1956, Umeå finally received an odontology clinic with dental students and work immediately began on the creation of a student union building and student housing construction.

Thereafter, it naturally occurred that Umeå also was allotted a medical school in 1957. When the scientific library, dental school and medical school were in full operation, it was only a matter of time until Umeå University would be founded. The Parliament accepted the proposal in 1963 and the fifth university of Sweden was inaugurated on 17th September 1965 by King Gustav VI Adolf.

University Hospital of Umeå. Odontology research and education is held in a building that was completed
in 1986.

Lars-Gunnar Larsson was appointed the first vice-chancellor of Umeå University. There have been a total of eight vice-chancellors:

Lars-Gunnar Larsson (1964–1969)
Karl-Gustav Paul (1969–1973)
Lars Beckman (1973–1992)
Sigbrit Franke (1992–1998)
Inge-Bert Täljedal (1999–2005)
Göran Sandberg (2005–2010)
Lena Gustafsson (2010–2016)
Hans Adolfsson (2016– )

(Jan-Olof Kellerth acted as acting vice-chancellor between October 1998 and July 1999)

The first ten years

During the first ten years after its foundation, 2,000-3,000 students studied at Umeå University, divided between the medicine, odontology and philosophy faculties. The faculty of philosophy was split into mathematics-science, social sciences and arts faculties in 1968/69. This grouping of faculties was in effect up to 1999, when the medical and odontology faculties were combined.

New subjects and professors were rapidly installed during the university’s first five years. The expansion went hand in hand with an increased enrolment of students, and by 1970, the number had risen to around 8,000. The period was distinguished by an active student life with protests and demonstrations.

The motive behind the placement
of the MIT Building was to create
a conjunction between the southern and northern sections of the campus.

This political activity was origin of the epithet “the red university” – a designation that was justified for the time, and a reputation that has persisted for many years.

Due to a weak job market for university graduates, student enrolment decreased during the late 1970s. The total number of students remained consistent by and large until the end of the 1980s.

Expansion during the 1990s

The University campus quickly expanded in the years after its inauguration in the mid sixties. During the 1970s the development continued at a somewhat slower pace. The Arts Building (1972), Greenhouse (1973) and Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (1978) are the larger buildings on campus that were installed during the decade.

The Teacher Education Building is among the newest generations of edifices and is suited for the practical academic demands with large and well illuminated premises.

In the beginning of the 1980s, a balance existed between the scope of activities, number of students and campus accessibility.

The huge expansion took place within research, as its budget rose 38 percent during the 1980s. In connection with an economic recession during the early 1990s, student enrolment increased dramatically. The University was partly ready since they had previously secured plans to build the Behavioural Sciences Building, the Mathematics and Information Technology (MIT) Building, and Technology Building, which were completed in 1994. During the remainder of the nineties, the Teacher Education Building (1996) and Chemical-Biological Centre (1999) were newly constructed. Furthermore, the rebuilding and extension of already existing structures took place, such as the Social Sciences Building and Arts Building.

Chemical Biological Centre (KBC Building)

21st Century: continued student growth

The number of students briskly reached 25,000 in the middle of the 1990s, and remained steady for several years. In the beginning of the first decade of the 21st century it increased by approximately 1,000 per year. Today, Umeå University has 36,700 students in total.

At the new Umeå Arts Campus by the scenic banks of the Umeå River, Umeå Institute of Design, Umeå Academy of Fine Arts, Umeå School of Architecture, Bildmuseet museum, and HumLab X are located.

New education programmes

The University’s collaboration with the surrounding world is also notable by its many educational programmes. The Umeå International School of Public Health, at the Department of Public Health and Clinical Medicine, was established in 2001, and has students from all over the world. The recently renamed Umeå Sport Sciences Centre, in operation since the autumn term of 2002, offers an education in collaboration with several of the Swedish sports club organizations. The Basic Training Programme for Police Officers was established in the autumn term of 2000 - commissioned by the National Police Board – and has 384 students spread out over four terms.

North of the Behaviour Sciences Building

Since 2002, the police training programme has been located in the newly built Northern Behavioural Sciences Building. Additionally that year, the new building 6M at Norrlands University Hospital was opened. UCMM is one of the occupiers in the premises.

Umeå University launched a significant investment in keeping contact with alumni, or former students, during the beginning of the 2000s. The goal is to enable a mutual exchange possible between the University and its alumni. The most apparent example is the Alumni web portal.

Global collaboration

University Liaison Building

In order to create a clear channel into the University, the University Liaison Building was erected in 2004. The Office for External Relations and Information Office perform their duties here. In January 2008, the Office of the Vice-Chancellor and University Director Office will be relocating to the University Liaison Building.

The future for Umeå University has never been more promising. There is a feeling of great potential and progress on campus. Over the past four decades, the University has indeed undergone an incredible transformation, and aims to retain and strengthen the prominent position as an internationally and nationally respected university with strong regional commitment.