News in English – September

News in English - September

Av Forskerforum

Publisert 13. desember 2023 kl. 13:59

An interview with the new Minister of Research and Higher Education, uncompetitive salaries at the Faculty of Dentistry, properties of national value falls into disrepair and political control of research. Here is our September news.

‘One of the most important ministerial posts’

Sandra Borch (pictured) recently took over as Minister of Research and Higher Education after Ola Borten Moe.

As the second leading Centre Party politician in this post, how do you view research and higher education?

‘It’s one of the most important jobs in government. In many areas we lack people and expertise. This sector is crucial for Norway’s future and for ensuring everyone is included, so the ministry is somewhere we saw we could make an impact.’

According to a recent survey, Centre Party voters are more in favour of tighter political control of the research sector than other voters. What is your opinion?

‘Academic freedom in research is and always will be vital, and I believe the government has helped reinforce this. The new university law also ensures more autonomy and less reporting. Free research stands firm, but politicians must be able to spotlight specific areas that are decisive for societal development. I’m confident that researchers know what is important to focus on in the future.’

Uncompetitive salaries at universities

The Faculty of Dentistry at the University of Oslo struggles to replace professors when they retire, mainly because the university cannot compete with salaries paid to dental specialists in the public sector. Furthermore, specialists can earn considerably more working part-time in the private sector than full-time at the university, according to John Frammer of the Norwegian Dental Association. He is concerned that the relatively low salaries paid by universities will fail to attract and retain the necessary expertise.

Likewise, school teachers with master’s degrees often earn less as associate professors. Notably, special education teachers are better paid working in the educational and psychological counselling service than lecturing at Nord University.

‘The state is now a pay leader when it comes to those with short educations and in last place for those with longer educations. It must do something,’ fumes Guro Elisabeth Lind, president of the Norwegian Association of Researchers.

Museums need to prioritise more

A recent report reveals that a number of historic buildings are in bad condition, yet Norwegian museums lack the resources to properly maintain them. One solution could be for others to take over responsibility for their upkeep, and museum directors are now discussing if this might be feasible. As a result of merges, larger regional museums have too many artefacts as well as buildings, and the challenge is to register all these objects before attempting to reduce their number. It is also important for museums to define and prioritise precisely which things have national and regional value.

More political control

Does today’s policy threaten the independence of universities and colleges? Lise Øvreås, president of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters, thinks it does: ‘We’re meant to be world leaders in areas that are important to this government. These are then prioritised for funding, often at the expense of curiosity-driven basic research.’ She points out that the government now decides if educational institutions should be closed down, not their boards. During a debate at Arendalsuka, state secretary Oddmund Løkensgard Hoel argued that such closures are a minor phenomenon and only occur ‘once in a blue moon’.