Resolution to stop the dissolution of international interdisciplinary and highly selective study programs at UiO

Background information:

 

The Peace and Conflict Studies (PECOS) program is one of the few international master’s

programs at the social sciences faculty and the only such master’s program in ISV (institutt for

statsvitenskap). It is a cooperation between IAKH ( institutt for arkeologi, konservering og

historie ) at the faculty of humanities and ISV at the social sciences faculty, but is mainly

administered by ISV. On January 19th, 2017, the ISV board decided to dissolve the program

and transfer the study spots to the master program of political science due to an economic

deficit at ISV and the high per capita cost of financing the PECOS program. The dissolution

proposal will now be handled at higher levels, through the faculty board of the social sciences

faculty on March 20th and, further, the university board.

 

PECOS is an international program which recruits a significant number of full-time international

students, providing a unique global learning environment at UiO. Transferring the study spots to

political science would mean that international degree students who do not speak Norwegian

will not be eligible applicants for political science oriented master’s programs at the university.

Moreover, the program addresses many of the world’s most pressing issues, issues that will

continue to be highly relevant to the strategic concerns of Norway, Europe, and the world at

large for the foreseeable future. The program is well aligned with UiO’s strategic vision, outlined

in Strategy 2020, of “resolving global challenges” and building an international profile. The

program also embodies UiO’s plan to “develop UiO into a first-class international university”[1].

 

The program is highly selective. Over the last five years, it has had between 650-850 annual

applicants for 20 study spots. The acceptance rate of the program, 9.7%, is comparable to the

rates of acceptance at Harvard Business School, Stanford Law School, and Yale Law School,

some of the most selective graduate programs in the world. In addition to being highly selective,

the program prepares students not only for future careers in academia, but for careers with

innovative, globally minded organizations committed to solving the world’s biggest problems.

With research highlighting topics ranging from the implementation of environmentally

sustainable development in fragile states, to the resolution of gender imbalances in international negotiations, few programs better embody the university’s core values better than PECOS.

 

On October 28th, 2015, the PECOS program council discussed concerns about the cost

required to run the PECOS program. There are many questions about the steps the PECOS

program council and ISV has taken to alleviate these concerns in the interim period between the

28th of October 2015, when these economic concerns were made known, and January 13th,

2017, when the PECOS student council was notified of the dissolution proposal.

 

The beginning of the dissolution process was initiated on January 19th, 2017, during ISV’s

board meeting. This means that the PECOS student council had just one week (January 13th to

January 19th) to prepare counter arguments for the dissolution proposal, including the research

of several innovative measures to reduce the program’s cost. Furthermore, the fact that the

documents were sent to the student council in Norwegian placed an additional burden on the

student council as it was more difficult for international students to fully participate in the drafting of a response to the ISV proposal.

 

We fear that the decision to dissolve the program has been made too hastily, without

consideration of more inspired solutions that both preserve the PECOS program and add value

to the department and the university at large. The proposal by ISV moves the 20 study spots

from the PECOS program to the master program of political science. One can question whether

the decision to move study spots will, in fact, reduce the costs to ISV considerably. The

resources that will be decreased on lecturing are also few as all but two PECOs courses are

expected to continue. The reality is ISV will have to make significant cuts elsewhere to

overcome the kr 1,7 million deficit it currently faces.

 

The decision to cut small, highly selective and highly specialized programs such as PECOS

should be a last step when all other options have been researched, discussed, evaluated, and

exhausted. These options should include applications for external funding from private

organizations, as well as European and/or global funding initiatives such as Horizon 2020.

These suggestions, in fact, come from ISVs own “årsplan” (annual plan), in addition to UiO’s

Strategy 2020. It is important to ensure that all programs at UiO are fulfilling their own guidelines on securing external fundings, so that programs at PECOS, which greatly contribute to both the academic environment and prestige of the university, are unnecessarily cut when they could be sustained by external funding.

 

We would also like to add that ISV notes the poor performance of international students in the

program. The PECOS student council has decided to take it upon themselves to resolve these

issues and hopes to work with the university so that the information gained from this process

can be used to make UiO a better university for international students.

 

Given these concerns, in addition to ensuring that the university remains committed to

sustaining academic programs of all sizes and specializations, the PECOS student council sets

forth the following resolution(s) for adoption by the student parliament:

 

The Student Parliament resolves:

  • That the University’s broad research profile and specialized competence within

    internationally renowned research areas (such as peace research) should allow for

    realization and sustainment of internationally and interdisciplinarily oriented study programs of high quality.

  • That the proposed dissolution of PECOS questions the university’s ability and commitment to financing and maintaining high quality programs of an international and/or interdisciplinary nature at UiO.

  • That the University of Oslo should encourage and expand programs such as PECOS that are highly selective, highly specialized, and specifically address several of UiOs goals in Strategy 2020, rather than shut them down. Due to the value and competitive edge these programs give UiO in the recruitment of highly qualified students from around the world, the solution to the problems facing these types of programs is not hasty dissolution, but rather ambition, innovation and program reform.

  • That the University of Oslo should see the potential of international students to improve the university’s overall academic environment and the academic profile of master’s and bachelor’s programs. The university should help international students realize this potential by providing better information about academic practices and culture at UiO. This will help international students better and more quickly transition to academic life at the university.

  • That the University of Oslo should accommodate the formation and running of interdisciplinary and/or international programs as much as possible.

  • That student councils affected by a potential dissolution should be given more than a week’s notice to prepare for meetings regarding the dissolution and be given the opportunity to ask questions, give input on the issue, and be formally invited to observe meetings. Moreover they should be given sufficient information on the issue in English if the language requirement for the program at UiO is not Norwegian.

  • That program councils work collaboratively with student councils to secure external funding in accordance with faculty guidelines to ensure the university is committed to the sustainment of a wide range of academic programs across disciplines.

  • That all alternatives to program dissolution have been thoroughly considered and documented in order to hinder the dissolution of international, interdisciplinary programs of high selectivity and academic quality.

  • That the potential dissolution of the program diminishes the value of the PECOS master degree, especially internationally as the program is less known. Therefore, the students that are potentially affected by a dissolution should be given transcripts under the name “Master program in History” and “Master program in Political Science” with a concentration in peace and conflict studies, in the case that the dissolution is approved by all applicable parties.

 

[1] Strategy 2020, University of Oslo

Publisert 27. feb. 2017 11:01 - Sist endret 27. okt. 2017 13:36
Legg til kommentar

Logg inn for å kommentere

Ikke UiO- eller Feide-bruker?
Opprett en WebID-bruker for å kommentere