Tag: Nordic HE

News: University rankings as institutional strategy tools?

euaLast week, EUA published a new report on rankings  ‘Rankings in Institutional Strategies and Processes: Impact or Illusion?‘ (RISP) where the project examines in detail how rankings are used for institutional development across Europe. This report directly follows up on two earlier EUA reports on rankings that had primary focus on analyzing the methodology of rankings. Earlier this year, NIFU also published a report on the Nordic countries, where focus was on a comprehensive deconstruction of the rankings to identify what assures success, and to examine the impact of rankings on the leadership of research intensive universities in the Nordic region.

Data for the EUA report was gathered in various forms. An online survey was sent out to all EUA members (about 850). The survey yielded responses from 171 institutions in 39 countries, with a broad coverage of various European countries. 90% of the respondents came from instituions who are part of a ranking. Folloing up on the survey, a total of 48 meetings were conducted through six site visits to understand in more detail how instituions work with rankings, and a roundtable was organised with 25 participants from 18 European countries to create an arena for peer learning and sharing of experiences.

The main conclusion from this project is that rankings indeed do have an effect on institutional behaviour, but that this effect varies. 60% of those who answered in the survey replied that rankings are used in their institutional strategies – but the specific kind of use varied from examining certain indicators to using them in a comprehensive manner. Furthermore, it is highlighted that as many as 39% report that the results of rankings “to inform strategic, organisational, managerial or academic actions, and another third of respondents were planning to do so”. Unsurprisingly, rankings were widely used in marketing, but the respondents had also reported use in “the revision of university policies, the prioritisation of some research areas, recruitment criteria, resource allocation, revision of formal procedures, and the creation of departments or programme”.

Online seminar broadcast tomorrow: university mergers in Nordic countries

helsinkiInterested in themes related to mergers in the Nordic countries?

University of Helsinki is holding an open seminar on “Higher education and research in the Nordic academy – a beter future through mergers?”. The seminar will also be broadcasted online. There seminar includes two presentations and a panel discussion.

The event takes place Friday 31.10.14 at 10:30-12:00 Finnish time (09:30-11:00 CET). 

Presentation themes:

Dr. Romulo Pinheiro (Agder University, Norway): The last decade alone has seen considerable change in Norwegian higher education. Dr. Pinheiros’ presentation takes stock of the most important developments in the last decade, culminating with the October 2014 government announcement of a long-term strategy for higher education and research, with possible consequences on a number of fronts.

Dr. Lars Geschwind (Kungliga Tekniska Högskolan, Sweden): Presentation takes a closer look at the recent years’ policy development and examples of responses by Swedish higher education institutions.

Panel debate

After the presentations Dr. Leena Treuthardt (UNIFI), Dr. Marja Sutela(TAMK) and other speakers will join a panel discussion on Nordic higher education reforms and voluntary mergers. The event is part of a Network of Nordic Higher Education activity.

Please note that the event also marks the launching of the book “Higher Education and Research in Academe – Who should pay?”, edited by Prof. Timo Aarrevaara (University of Helsinki) and Prof Elisabeth Berg (Luleå Tekniska Universitet).

Follow the event through live webcast

Call for participants: Mergers in the Nordic countries

agderInterested in higher education in the Nordic countries? Curious about merger processes in higher education?

There is still an option to participate at a seminar on mergers in the Nordic countries at the University of Agder on 27th of May! The seminar takes place in Kristiansand in Norway.

The presentations include:

  • Introduction – Mergers in Nordic Higher Education – Romulo Pinheiro (Univ of Agder) and Lars Geschwind (KTH)
  • Mergers in Norwegian higher education: Many initiatives, but mixed outcomes – by Svein Kyvik (NIFU) and Bjørn Stensaker (Univ of Oslo)
  • Mergers in Finnish higher education: Path dependencies under sectoral development – by Timo Aarrevaarra (Univ. of Helsinki) and Yuzhuo Cai (Univ. of Tampere)
  • Mergers in Danish Higher education: an overview – by Hanne Foss Hansen (Univ of Copenhagen), Jørgen Gulddahl Rasmussen (Univ of Aalborg) and Kaare Aagaard (Univ of Aarhus)
  • Mergers in Swedish Higher Education: Response strategies and strategic action in a changing landscape – by Lars Geschwind (KTH) and Mars Benner (Lund Univ)

View the information about registration and programme here

Call for Papers to a conference in Oslo on Nordic higher education

NFHEThe Nordic Fields of Higher Education (NFHE) conference will be held in Oslo on 8-9 Oct 2014, at Litteraturhuset in Oslo, Norway. The conference is titled: “Nordic model at times of crisis – what is at stake?

The conference is of relevance for those who are working in relevant knowledge areas, including policymakers, stakeholders as well as researchers on the field of education. By combining both the research relevance and user focus the conference will provide a flexible and unique arena for knowledge exchange.

The conference will feature keynote speakers as well as selected number of high quality papers from researchers that are focused on four thematic tracks:

  • Recruitment and social structures of higher education in the Nordic countries (Session chairs: Mikael Börjesson and Jens-Petter Thomsen)
  • Dropout and study progression in Nordic higher education (Session chairs: Elisabeth Hovdhaugen and Carina Carlhed)
  • Organizational features (processes of change) of Nordic higher education systems (Session chairs: AgneteVabø and Sakari Ahola)
  • Transitions from upper secondary education to higher education (Session chairs: Christian Helms Jørgensen and Håkon Høst)

The conference marks the end of a Nordforsk funded project/network “Nordic Fields of Higher Education” by highlighting key findings and results from the project. The presenters include network members who have worked in these topics, but is also open for selected scholars who work on related themes. 

New Norwegian government announcing changes in the higher education system

norwayflagIn October 2013, Norway got a new coalition government formed by the Conservatives and the Progress Party after eight years of a social democrat government. In the area of higher education, a number of ideas have already been put forward, and the prime minister has also recently stated clearly that issues related to the knowledge society and knowledge politics are amongst the most important ones for this new government.

Until recently, Norwegian university colleges could apply for university status if they fulfilled certain criteria. This led to the development of a number of new universities in Norway, most recently University of Nordland that gained its university status in 2011. However, for the time being there is an informal cap on the process and it is not likely any new universities would be approved at this point. Earlier, the government has also announced that they would examine the consequences of introducing student fees for foreign students, but their coalition partners have worked hard to stop that process.

In august 2013, shortly before the elections, a Commission had been appointed to examine the funding system in Norwegian higher education, led by Professor Fanny Duckert from University of Oslo. That Commission was disbanded shortly after the new minister was appointed. The argument was that while there is a need to re-examine the funding structures, this should also be seen in the context of the policy objectives of the new government.

The new minister of education, Torbjørn Røe Isaksen launched a seven point plan earlier this week on the visions of the current government for Norwegian higher education in the upcoming years. These include

Hedda podcast: Mapping horizontal diversity of higher education – U-Map project

Episode 38 of our podcast series features Drs. Frans Kaiser and Elisabeth Epping from CHEPS who share their experiences with U-Map, a project mapping horizontal diversity of higher education institutions in Europe and beyond (U-Map website).

Listen without the Flashplayer

Dr. Frans Kaiser and Elisabeth Epping (CHEPS)

Drs. Frans Kaiser and Elisabeth Epping (CHEPS)

Drs. Frans Kaiser is a Senior Research Associate at the Centre for Higher Education Policy Studies (CHEPS) in University of Twente in Netherlands. He obtained his degree in public administration from the same institution in 1986, and further worked at the Department of Public Administration. Since 1988 he has worked at CHEPS and became the co-ordinator of the CHEPS International Higher Education Monitor in 1994. His research interests are linked to higher education classifications, use of indicators, comparative methodology and system level issues in higher education.

Elisabeth Epping is  a Junior Research Associate at CHEPS, and holds a Masters Degree cum laude in Public Administration from the University of Twente. At CHEPS she first worked as a project coordinator for the U-Multirank project, and since 2012 has worked as a coordinator of U-Map in the Nordic countries. Her main research interests are linked to classification of higher education, internationalisation and cross-border higher education.

Innovation policies in the Nordic countries – different national policy debates?

In June 2012, the research group HEIK at the Faculty of Education in University of Oslo held an international open seminar titled “The challenge of the Research, Development & Innovation (RDI) role of Higher Education Institutions: different national policy debates and institutional developments in Finland, Norway, Denmark and Sweden“.

We are delighted to be able to offer you the possibility to listen to these presentations here on the Hedda blog as well.

Speakers at this seminar included Mats Benner (Lund University and Uppsala University), Peter Maassen (University of Oslo), Bjørn Stensaker (University of Oslo) and Kaare Aagaard (Århus University).

The main starting point for the seminar was that in recent decades one can identify a series of large scale reforms, where higher education increasingly has to deal with complex tasks beyond the traditional teaching and research activities. A growing number of societal problems call for a closer connection between innovation and higher education – however, what do we really know about current RDI policies in the Nordic countries and what have been the experiences this far?

You can download the background paper further reflecting on the topic of the seminar at the HEIK homepage, and listen to the introductory presentation and presentations of four country cases here.

U21 rankings of HE systems – some, but not all the usual suspects

Examining most of the rankings, we face the same usual suspects all around – Harvard tops the most, with a number of other US institutions, and Oxbridge usually being represented in the top 10. Despite the weighing of the measurements there seems to be at least agreement on the very top universities in the world. Of course one could argue that any ranking that has any reputation element included will suffer from a snowballing effect over time. So what alternatives are there?

However, when we start looking at higher education systems, the picture that emerges is quite different. Last year at the Hedda conference, dr. Leo Goedegebuure (LH Martin Institute, Australia) presented a keynote that examined the issue of mergers. In that presentation he also provided a ranking of higher education systems based on how countries do in the usual rankings – that is, how many higher education institutions are represented in the most widely used ranking systems in relation to the number of institutions in that system. By doing that, one can say something about the effectveness and performance of those systems in terms of what is being measured in the rankings. He ended up with the Netherlands, Israel and Sweden being on top of the list. The usual suspects of USA and UK were further down, with UK being on 14th place. However – the list showed much more favourably the Nordic countries and many European countries (you can download the paper here and listen/view to the presentation here).

Recently, Universitas21 (U21) – a network of research universities has taken up an initiative to create a ranking of higher education systems. So their starting point is not institutional performance, but the overall system level indicators. They included 20 indicators grouped together as Resources, Environment, Connectivity and Output. The ranking examined 48 countries and thus one can argue that the overall positions are merely suggestive, since the great majority of countries in the world are not even being ranked (as is the case with institutional rankings as well).

Thematic week: Debates around tuition fees in Denmark

Stina Vrang Elias, Photo: DEA

This article is written by Stina Vrang Elias who is the administrative director of DEA (Danish Business Research Academy). DEA is “an independent think tank dedicated to the issue of the relation between companies’ competitiveness – and investments in education, research and innovation”. Previously, she has worked as a consultant for the Confederation of Danish Industry, and as an analyst for Oxford Research AS.  She holds a cand.mag. degree from Roskilde University, and her main competence areas include leadership and communication, research and education policy, business, and career development for women.

There is only one road to productivity and competitiveness for a country like Denmark and that road goes through education – especially higher education. A recent study from DEA shows that when we provide one percent extra of the work force with a tertiary education, we subsequently enhance the GDP by 1 percent as well.

The general situation in the field of higher education is that higher quality (better education) and larger quantity (more candidates) are asked for, but less money is provided. The public spending does not even match the need created by the demographic development. It seems that the only way to meet the need for a better educated workforce is to dare to discuss the need of supplementing public funds with private money. Putting tuition fees on the agenda is both timely and wanted!

The Danish debate about tuition fees in higher education has one overall characteristic: it doesn’t exist. Our reluctance to deal with this area is of course related to the long standing objective of higher education policy to provide equal opportunities for students from all socio-economic backgrounds. As indicated by the previous blogger Jussi Kivistö, providing free education does not necessarily lead to higher equality in the education system.

Denmark has a tradition of providing higher education free of charge for all EU/EEA students and for students who are participating in an exchange program. Less than 5% of the expenditures of higher education are financed by private funds. Providing free education is a worthy goal, however, the situation is that we cannot afford to bury our head in the sand any longer. If we want higher quantity and better quality we need to face the facts and deal with the challenges – we need extra funds.

Thematic week: The introduction of fees for international students in Sweden


Lars Geschwind, Image: Technopolis

This article is written by Lars Geschwind, who works at a UK based research firm Technopolis. He holds a doctoral degree in history from University of Uppsala, and has earlier worked at the Swedish Institute for Studies in Education and Research (SISTER). His research interests are mainly focused on research policy and higher education. In this article, he reflects on some of the debates that have recently taken place in Sweden.


In June 2010 the Riksdag voted in favour of the Government Bill ‘Competing on the basis of quality – tuition fees for foreign students’ (Govt. Bill Prop 2009/10:65). This means that higher education will remain free of charge for Swedish citizens and citizens of an EU/EEA member state or Switzerland, but also that citizens of other countries (‘third country students’) will pay a fee for their higher education as of the autumn term 2011. The Government’s intention is to ensure that Swedish higher education institutions compete internationally on the basis of quality, not on the basis of free tuition.

The fees apply only to bachelor’s and master’s programs and courses, while PhD programs still are tuition-free. Universities set their own fees, and these vary between SEK 80,000–140,000 (approx. 9,000€ – 15,500€) per academic year for most subjects. However, programs in the fields of Medicine and Arts have notably higher fees. There is also an application fee which has been set to SEK 900 (approx 100€). At the same time, scholarships are also available. The Swedish Institute (publisher of Study in Sweden) administers several of these. Additionally, Swedish universities offer scholarships directly to non-EU/EEA students from autumn 2011.

The introduction of fees has reduced the number of applying international students in Sweden dramatically. The number of applications has decreased by 86 percent and applicants for master courses dropped 73 percent. For some of the technical universities this is a radical change, as the proportion of international students have increased for many years. At Blekinge Tekniska Högskola, for instance, the number of applicants has dropped from 9099 to 611 (www.vhs.se).