Parallel Tendencies in Nordic University Politics

07.03.2008
University mergers and the establishment of elite universities are topical issues in all the Nordic countries at present. Denmark carried out extensive university reforms a couple of years back. Representatives from Finland, Norway and Sweden discussed the ongoing processes in their respective countries at a seminar in Stockholm in February 2008.
Useful comparisons
“The balance between equalities and differences among the Nordic university systems is just right for useful comparisons and discussions across the borders”, the moderator Björn von Sydow, Chairman of the Swedish Research Council, said. The seminar was organised by “Norden i Fokus” and The Association of Swedish Higher Education (SUHF).

“Small units cause big problems” (Norway)
This was the opinion of Peter Maasen, professor in Higher Education Policy at the University of Oslo, and member of the Stjernø panel, which presented their recommendations for Norwegian university policy on 22 January 2008 (www.stjernoe.no). The problems he refers to concern the efficiency and student through-put at Norwegian higher education institutions.

The Stjernø panel recommends a reduction from 38 to 8-10 research and higher education institutions in Norway. “Competition is increasing internationally, and numerous European countries are now establishing elite universities, focusing their resources towards selected units”, Maasen accentuated.

Innovation University (Finland)
One of the European countries that Maasen referred to is Finland. By merging three university colleges the Fins will establish a new Innovation University in Helsinki. The new university is expected to be a world class institution for research and higher education.

Krista Varantola from the University of Tampere expects that Finland’s new university law, which takes effect in 2010, will increase the Finnish rectors’ and university chairmen’s independence and decision-making authority over their economic resources.

At present there are 20 universities and 29 university colleges in Finland. University mergers and collaborations are topical issues.

Co-existence is a must (Sweden)
– We have too many training programmes scattered among too many institutions. It is necessary to establish more co-existence in the sector, said Jöran Bexell. Bexell is rector at Lund University in Sweden and SUHF’s chairman.

Co-existence is not all about mergers, but may also involve networks, consortiums and collaborations between universities. – We must make the decisions about necessary reforms ourselves, the university rector accentuated, if we don’t, someone else will make them for us.



(Source: Universtitetsläraren 3/2008)
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