Rector of Design School Kolding will not stay on
After nearly 12 years as rector of Design School Kolding, Elsebeth Gerner Nielsen has decided not to reapply for the position of rector when her contract terminates in December.
- I have informed our board of directors that I will not be applying for another term. I announce this decision with quite some sadness, because there is nothing closer to my heart than Design School Kolding. Working with this school and all its talented, passionate and fun employees and students has been one of the great privileges of my life, she says.
A lot has happened since 2008 when Elsebeth Gerner Nielsen accepted the position of rector of Design School Kolding. 12 years ago there was a lot of talk about mergers, and the prospect of continuing as an independent institution seemed uncertain.
World’s only Design for Play programme
All of this talk soon fell silent under the management of Elsebeth Gerner Nielsen. More than anyone, she has been successful in positioning Design School Kolding and making the school internationally known. Not least as Vice President of the Cumulus Association. Design School Kolding ranks as one of the top-100 design schools in the world, and the fashion programme has been in the top-30 for a number of years.
We should also mention the unique partnership with The LEGO Group and The LEGO Foundation, which means that this year, Design School Kolding will be sending off the world’s first class of Design for Play graduates.
Under the management of Elsebeth Gerner Nielsen, Design School Kolding has evolved from an arts and crafts school to and internationally acclaimed design programme that offers BA, MA and PhD programmes, recently offering three new lines of study in the MA programme: Design for People, Design for Planet and Design for Play.
The value of design
Students and staff are often met with the question: ”Isn’t it the former Danish Minister of Culture who is rector at Design School Kolding?” Yet, Elsebeth Gerner Nielsen has never herself made any fuss about her past as first lady of culture. However, in the last 12 years she has been more than able to use her poltical flair and ability to bring new stakeholders into play in favour of design. This has put not only the school but Kolding city on the map.
Under the motto ’We design life’, Kolding Municipality has integrated design in local administration; even schools and kindergartens have made design part of everyday life. In 2018 this effort meant that Kolding was able to join cities such as Buenos Aires, Mexico City and Singapore in receiving the UNESCO ’Creative Cities’ honour.
Just recently, Design School Kolding received the The Danish Design Council’s Honorary Award as ”a tribute to long and faithful service to design, its use and its dissemination,” as it was declared by Lars Thøgersen, president of the Danish Design Council. The Council referred specifically to Design School Kolding’s huge effort of integrating design in companies. In recent years more than 800 small and medium-sized Danish companies have completed various design programmes organised by Design School Kolding, teaching them to apply user-oriented design methods. Perhaps the largest design development project in the world.
In other words, the dissemination and understanding of the value of design reaches far beyond the institution walls. With Elsebeth Gerner Nielsen at the head of the table, Design School Kolding has doubled its turnover from approx 38 to 75 mio DKK, one third of this turnover is generated through partnerships with private companies and public institutions and foundations. And just a few days ago, Elsebeth Gerner Nielsen received news that the school will receive a 20 mio DKK grant to help renovate the building.
- I know the school’s journey will go on, and I look forward to watching it from the sidelines. I will continue to work with the issues that have always been close to my heart: communities, culture, sustainability. I will do so from my current seats on the board of directors and possibly, in the future, from new ones, Elsebeth Gerner Nielsen ends.
Design School Kolding’s board of directors has now started a process of recruiting a new rector, who will be able to carry on the work. Not least the work related to achieving a positive accreditation of the institution.
Jørn Pedersen, Mayor of Kolding
”Elsebeth Gerner Nielsen has lifted Design School Kolding to a whole new level. This is not least due to her personal commitment, her huge network and the professional respect that she enjoys. Her dedication plays a large role in Kolding’s design venture. It has helped us to become a place that inspires others, and it has turned us into the Danish city with most creative jobs per inhabitant. I am proud that Kolding – as the only Danish city and few international ones – is now a UNESCO Creative City. We owe a lot of this honour to Elsebeth Gerner Nielsen.
Christian Bason, CEO, Danish Design Centre
”It has been a pleasure and a privilege working with Elsebeth Gerner Nielsen on furthering the value of design for our industry and for society. She has been an innovative beacon for new ways of applying design both locally in Kolding, nationally and internationally. Design School Kolding is more powerful and dynamic than ever, not least thanks to the close ties to the business community and the wider society.”
Merete Due Paarup, Chairman of the board of directors at Design School Kolding, Kolding City council member
”Elsebeth Gerner Nielsen has a personal drive out of the ordinary. She is visionary and forward-looking and is very ambitious in everything she does. Due to her tireless efforts, design and Design School Kolding is on the map locally, regionally and internationally. With Elsebeth Gerner Nielsen, Design School Kolding has played a significant role in Kolding Municipality’s design venture. The local government has made design the focal point of business and welfare. This means that the Kolding brand is linked to design. The Region of Southern Denmark, as well, has chosen design and creative jobs as their strategic venture and supported the establishment of the design cluster D2i – Design to innovate, which has taught 800 small and medium-sized companies to use design.
Jakob Møller Hansen, Vice President Research & Development ECCO
”Working with Elsebeth Gerner Nielsen and Design School Kolding has been a real pleasure. Innovation is one of ECCO’s core values, and with Elsebeth’s visionary outlook we have had a unique partnership. ECCO has benefitted greatly from Elsebeth’s unblinking energy and determination in finding new paths for developing talents in an international context to our mutual benefit. Elsebeth has succeeded in surrounding herself with skilled colleagues, so we have a good foundation for continuing the partnership between ECCO and Design School Kolding.”