Resolution to stop the dissolution of international interdisciplinary and highly selective study programs at UiO
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”.
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.
 Strategy 2020, University of Oslo