On the way home from Australia I stopped off in Oslo to take part in the Nordic Vice-Chancellors meeting on Monday and Tuesday.

We were welcomed by Ole Petter Ottersen, Vice-Chancellor of Oslo University. He pointed out that the Nordic countries have more top-ranked universities than France or Germany. Asked what universities should stand for his reply was: Autonomy, curiosity and durability. A lot is going on in Norway, a new funding model has been suggested and several universities are currently merging. There is curiosity regarding our experiences from Campus Gotland.

Kristin Ingolfsdottir, Vice-Chancellor of Háskóli Íslands spoke on Nurturing talent and meeting the needs of new generations. Technology-driven development was the theme, but not much has happened in higher education. She also spoke of MOOCs and the development 2012–2015. There are many question marks regarding the extent and effect they will have in the longer term. But one effect of MOOCs and the discussion they have generated is that many universities have implemented e-learning policies, better infrastructure and innovative teaching. MOOCs have become a catalyser for rethinking structures and reforms in courses. Edinburgh University was put forward as a good example.

Lars Haikola, former university chancellor and head of the Swedish Higher Education Authority (UKÄ), was invited to speak about his inquiry “The role and educational task of higher education”. Part of the inquiry is to describe the relationship between free-standing courses and study programmes, magister vs Master’s programmes as well as assessing if there is a balance between student demand, the needs of the labour market, other needs of society and quality.

Different talks were given on societal challenges and how to face them, the challenges faced in Finland where the situation was described as the worse than in all other Nordic countries. The Confederation of Swedish Enterprise’s reports were criticised by Pam Fredman, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Gothenburg, for being substandard. Multidisciplinary and transdisciplinary research was also on the agenda. Finland and Norway will give tuition fees a pass, perhaps from having seen the consequences in Sweden.

All in all it was an interesting day. It was good to get an overview of what is going on in our Nordic neighbours. But now it feels really good to be back home in Uppsala!


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