Tag: Norway

Interview with Prof. B. Stensaker about his new appointment in a national expert group

Professor Bjørn Stensaker  (HEIK, University of Oslo)

Professor Bjørn Stensaker
(HEIK, University of Oslo)

Bjørn Stensaker is a Professor of Higher Education at the University of Oslo and is also involved in the Hedda Master programme in higher education with teaching and supervision of students. He is also a member of the research group HEIK (Higher Education: Institutional dynamics and knowledge cultures)

Recently, he was appointed to a newly founded expert  group in Norway that will examine the funding structure of higher education and advise the Minister on future developments. The Commission is led by Torbjørn Hægeland and it will deliver their conclusions by the end of the year. On this occasion, we asked Bjørn about his thoughts related to the new appointment and his evaluation on the current state of affairs in Norwegian higher education. 

You have newly been appointed to the national commission that will look into the funding system of HE in Norway. Could you tell a little what the role and mandate for the group will be?

Well, it is still early days, and it should be underlined that the Commission haven’t had its forst meeting yet. However, the Minister has been quite clear that one of the main aims of the Commission is to look into how quality within the sector can be fostered through the funding system. This would imply a shift from the current system which is more emphasising productivity/efficiency.

In your opinion, what are some of the core issues in Norway that highlight the need for re-examining the funding system?

Guest blogger: Internationalisation of higher education in Norway – towards strategic partnerships and alliances

dr. Jennifer R. Olson  (University of Oslo)

dr. Jennifer R. Olson
(University of Oslo)

This guest entry is written by dr. Jennifer R. Olson who is currently employed as a post-doctoral fellow at the Faculty of Educational Sciences, University of Oslo, the hosting institution of Hedda. In this post, she reflects on some of the recent trends in internationalization of higher education in Norway, following a nation wide conference on the topic.  

Internationalization of higher education in Norway is clearly a priority area for many higher education institutions and organizations as the third annual “internationalization conference”, held 5-6 March 2014 in Trondheim, underscored. More than 500 participants from the Norwegian higher education sector attend the conference organized by the Norwegian Centre for International Cooperation in Education (SIU) in cooperation with the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU).

The title of the conference, “Strategiske Partnerskap og Allianser” (strategic partnerships and alliances) focused the presentations and discussions on a key theme running through much of the current internationalization of higher education discourse.

In many countries, including Norway, and international organizations (i.e. the European Unions’ Erasmus + program) the notion of strategic partnerships and alliances indicates a new direction for internationalization, namely to be more specific and active with particular programs and countries, and organized at an institutional (rather than individual faculty or department) level.  This perspective was supported by the new Minister of Education, Torbjorn Røe Isaksen. In his opening speech, Isaksen, highlighted the importance of strategic internationalization, emphasizing key partners: Europe and North America and the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) countries. The growing attention given to partnerships with the BRICS countries draws questions as to why should countries focus on the BRICS but as well signals internationalization is aligning with other national interests.  Indeed, Isaksen stated that there is a global power shift where the BRICS countries are becoming increasingly important and Norway needs to keep abreast with these trends. As such the government is in the initial stages of developing a national strategy to engage with the BRICS countries. Moreover, in 2012 the Ministry of Education asked SIU to strengthen the knowledge base for policy development and cooperation with the BRICS countries. The comparative study devised by SIU and carried out in 2013 looked at how Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Germany and the Netherlands organize their cooperation with the BRICS countries. One key impression that emerged, according to SIU project leader Arne Haugen, was that many of these countries have clearer goals for what they want to achieve as compared to Norway. The targets are primarily related to national economic interests.

Norwegian students generally satisfied with their studies

norwayflagThe Norwegian Quality Assurance Agency (NOKUT) has launched a new nation wide student survey regarding students’ satisfaction. This is the first national survey of this kind in Norway and will now be repeated on a yearly basis. The responses this year came from about 17 600 students from 58 universities and university colleges in Norway, with a response rate of about 32%.

The central results from the survey indicated that Norwegian students are in general satisfied with their studies. On the question whether they are satisfied, 77% gave a respons that they were satisfied and only 8% indicated that they were not satisfied (1 and 2 on a scale of 5). Amongst professionally oriented programmes, nurse and kindergarten teacher education are those with a highest levels of satisfaction. On the other hand, teacher education students are generally more critical. Students also rank highly the relevance of their studies for future employment (81% indicate a high rank) and how academically challenging their studies are (86% indicate a high rank).

While there was general satisfaction amongst the students, this was contrasted with the fact that only half of the students were happy with the teaching and even fewer with the feedback they receive. For instance, 59% of the political science students are unhappy with supervision and feedback.

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

Professionally oriented Masters Programmes give a clear advantage on the labour market

businessA new Norwegian study by NIFU has examined labour market conditions for Norwegian Masters degree holders three years after degree completion. The key finding is that those with a more profession-oriented degree have clear advantages on the labour market. Norway is known for its generally low unemployment rate, even in the context of current global economic crisis where especially youth unemployment has been increasing in a number of countries to record levels.

Recent prognosis for Norway is an estimated unemployment rate of 4,6% by 2016, with current estimates being around 3,6%. This suggest a rather different labour market context than in the rest of the world, and provides an interesting case for examining how students perceive their own options and capacities on the labour market when the conditions are rather stable.

The results from the study suggest that a Masters degree definitely pays off. Nearly 99% of the graduates were active on the labour market three years after graduation.  However – this was not in all cases stable employment, as the graduates also reported some periods of unemployment. The report suggests that this is due to the fact that many graduates do struggle to find relevant employment and the transfer from studies to work-life is not always smooth. Furthermore, the disciplinary differences were very clear. Where psychology and engineering graduates in fact often were headhunted to their first positions, those with humanities and social sciences background had to use more time to find a job.