The history of NIAS

Dagfinn Høybråten Quote

Established in 1968 as the world’s first regional Asian studies institute, with core funding from the Nordic Council of Ministers, NIAS celebrated its first half-century in 2018. From the outset, NIAS has pursued two main missions:

  • Undertaking and disseminating research on Asia
  • Support for Nordic Asia research environments

In addition, NIAS has worked to make Nordic Asia scholarship internationally visible. In recent decades the main emphasis of NIAS has been on modern and contemporary Asia, especially in the social sciences and humanities. Our primary geographical focus is on East and Southeast Asia.

Library resources and scholarships for visiting students were established in the early years of the Institute, soon followed by a publications programme. Initially, NIAS was physically co-located with the University of Copenhagen, but operated autonomously. This changed in January 2005, when NIAS was administratively incorporated into the University’s Faculty of Social Sciences, and now operates as a centre under the Department of Political Science.  

Over time, our library evolved into the NIAS Library and Information Centre (NIAS LINC), now a set of online resources serving the Nordic Asian studies community. In 2002, we launched NIAS Press, Europe’s only specialist Asian studies publishing operation. We also created a visitorship programme, under which hundreds of mainly Nordic graduate students and academics have spent periods at NIAS over the past three decades. Since 2005, around 25 Nordic partner institutions have joined the Nordic NIAS Council, which runs an annual conference and promotes Asian studies scholarship across the region.

Since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, NIAS has launched a very active podcast series, moved its events and conferences online, and established a virtual residency for Nordic graduate students.

At the beginning of 2021, core funding for NIAS was transferred from the Nordic Council of Ministers to NordForsk, the Nordic research council. NIAS now faces a challenging situation as regards future funding from 2024 onwards.