Report reveals college warfare

November 25, 1994

A row has broken out over the administration of Llismatusarfik, the University of Greenland.

A report by PLS Consult, a Danish consultancy, for the Greenland government, describes conditions at the university as "unstable and turbulent". The university's three institutes -- administration, culture and society, and Greenland affairs -- are said to have waged war against each other, a number of tutors have left in dramatic circumstances, and the vice chancellor has been accused of not fulfilling his duties.

Located at Nuuk Godthab, on Greenland's southwestern coast, Llismatusarfik has 85 undergraduates, plus 12 students on a fundamental course common to the three institutes. The university has about 14 staff. Greenland itself has a population of about 55,500.

MP Marianne Jensen, who heads the government directorate for cultural affairs, education and research, believes that a thorough clear-up is necessary.

"The report confirms its necessity -- not only at the university, but also here at the directorate, so we can avoid things coming to a head," she says.

Ms Jensen admits that there have been problems concerning "continuity in the teaching staff at the institute of administration". Although this change of tutors has affected continuity in the teaching, it has not affected the course.

There have also been problems with the curriculum, she said. Tutors are free to include what they want. "The guidelines for the course have not been clear enough, apparently right from the start."

"We've started tackling these problems. We've prepared a plan of action for the administrative course at the institute of administration, we've set up a working group to look at a new law to govern the university, and we've set up another working group to produce a new curriculum for the institute. The new curriculum must be modern and meet the demands of the labour market and industry here in Greenland without binding the young people to Greenland -- it must be acceptable internationally."

The PLS Consult report followed a hectic winter at Llismatusarfik, during which two of the four staff at the institute of administration were sacked. They had allegedly accused the university of giving tuition at the institutes of Greenland affairs and history and ethnology a higher priority than tuition at the institute of administration. This led to a student boycott of tuition last May.

Ms Jensen said: "We've appointed a working group to change the law so it better suits Greenland's conditions and a small university. The current law governing the university is a copy of the law in Denmark, where universities are much larger -- it must be adapted to Greenland's conditions without changing the status of the university."

According to PLS Consult, the turbulent situation arose because vice chancellor Robert Pedersen took the side of the institutes of Greenland affairs and history and ethnology, where he has a professorship, rather than intervening to stop the warring.

PLS Consult concluded that the vice chancellor was not in a position to ensure proper tuition at the institute of administration.

Mr Pedersen said: "It was difficult to swallow the PLS Consult report as it was poorly documentated and only covered the period from the autumn of 1993 to the spring of 1994. Before that period we had constructive co-operation among the three institutes, and that is the case again. It's all quiet at the university now.

"What lies behind all this was an attempt to get the politicians of the Greenland government to take decisions in matters that are actually the responsibility of the university council. We could not live with that, as we wanted to maintain our autonomy -- that's what we're fighting for.

"A new administration with an appointed vice chancellor has been proposed," said Mr Pedersen. "We believe that that is a very dangerous situation when we want freedom to carry out research."

The Greenland government originally gave the university council until October to propose improvements to conditions at the institute of administration. That deadline has been postponed by three months, and the university council expects to issue its own, constructive proposals about the future law governing the university before the end of the year.

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