Norway set to relax requirements for full university status

In change welcomed by sector leaders, institutions can become fully accredited with only one PhD programme from 2025

十一月 30, 2023
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Norway is set to relax the requirements it imposes on institutions hoping to achieve full university status.

Alongside its 10 full universities, Norway’s higher education system includes specialised universities and university colleges. Under the new proposals, which will undergo consultation next spring and are expected to come into force at the start of 2025, institutions aiming to obtain full accreditation will only be required to offer one doctoral programme that covers a significant extent of their academic purview. Currently they must provide four.

Institutions with multiple disciplinary focuses may be required to offer several PhD programmes in order to cover a substantial proportion of their academic remit, the Ministry of Education and Research said. The new requirements, which follow recommendations from an expert group established in May 2022, also stipulate that institutions must produce five PhD candidates a year over a three-year period and admit an average of 15 candidates a year over a five-year period.

Sandra Borch, the minister of research and higher education, told Times Higher Education that the proposed changes would bring Norway’s university system more in line with those of other countries. “In reality, these institutions are already universities, albeit small,” she said. “Their formal status should reflect this, although they will be given a choice as to whether they want to apply.

“University status will give the institutions in question increased powers to establish new study programmes and may facilitate international cooperation.”

The application process for full university accreditation will be simplified, Ms Borch added, although the details were yet to be determined.

The umbrella group Universities Norway welcomed the proposals, saying they were “aligned with the general development of the Norwegian university with an increased focus on quality”.

Astrid Kvalbein, principal of the Norwegian Academy of Music (NMH), called the new requirements a “positive change”. “NMH is more than unlikely to house four PhD programmes. This is the main obstacle in the current Norwegian system for a relatively small institution like ours, currently offering two programmes,” she said.

Though NMH would not immediately seek a change in status, Dr Kvalbein said, “looking ahead, becoming a university might secure our status and position in the higher education system”.

Bård Mæland, rector of VID Specialized University in Oslo, which offers courses in health and social sciences, plus theology, said the previous requirements “led institutions to develop doctoral programmes that they did not need”. The new requirements, he said, “are better suited for the natural evolution of institutions” and would prevent them from “depleting their resources and wasting funds that could otherwise have been used for investments in research and education within their natural subject areas”.

Obtaining full university status, Professor Mæland added, could also make it easier for institutions to describe themselves. “To be honest, to communicate an institutional category like ‘specialised university’ for smaller and medium-sized institutions with one, two or three doctoral programmes has not been a very easy task, neither nationally nor internationally,” he said.



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