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Helge Jordheim

Candidate for the University Board among permanent employees with teaching and research positions.

Helge Jordheim, Professor, Department of Culture Studies and Oriental Languages, Faculty of Humanities.

Nominated by:

  • Jacob Høigilt, Professor, Department of Culture Studies and Oriental Languages, HF
  • Ola Mestad, Head of Department, Scandinavian Institute of Maritime Law, JUS
  • Sofie Høgestøl, Associate Professor, Scandinavian Institute of Maritime Law, JUS
  • Anders Malthe-Sørenssen, Professor, Center for Computing in Science Education, MN
  • Gunnveig Grødeland, Researcher, Institute of Clinical Medicine , MED
  • Marianne Kartzow, Professor, Fagseksjonen, TF
  • Hilde Irene Nebb, Vice-Dean for internationalization and innovation, MED
  • Thomas Hylland Eriksen, Professor, Department of Social Anthropology, SV
  • Tore Rem, Director, UiO:Nordic, HF
  • Carl Henrik Gørbitz, Director, UiO:Life Science
  • Cathrine Holst, Professor, Department of Sociology and Human Geography, SV
  • Terje Stordalen, Professor, Fagseksjonen, TF
  • Ola Erstad, Professor, Department of Education, UV
  • Inga Bostad, Professor, Department of Education, UV
  • Einar Lie, Professor, Department of Archaeology, Conservation and History, HF

Election Platform: Building Communities

Helge Jordheim
Helge Jordheim

For as long as I have been working at UiO, I’ve seen it as my task to build communities. My focus has been on producing innovative and groundbreaking research and teaching, but also on providing good careers and lives for all those who participate. I am running for the university board because I want to help develop and preserve the largest and most important academic community I am a part of: The University of Oslo, with its wide range of subjects and with all its diversity. During the last year, we have all gotten a taste of what happens when this community no longer works in the way we are used to. Speaking for myself, I know that I become a worse teacher when I can no longer meet the students in the auditorium, and a worse researcher when I cannot meet my colleagues in the hallway. The way forward for UiO is to restore and strengthen these communities, between students and teachers, between temporary and permanent staff, between scientific and administrative staff, within and across disciplines, departments and faculties. Although I am based at upper Blindern, I have over the years engaged in valuable cooperations with colleagues from almost all parts of the institution. These collaborations have inspired me to run for election as a representative of the permanent academic staff on the university board for the next four-year period.

University in a Time of Change

As a cultural historian and historian of knowledge, I have a particular interest in the history of our educational institutions. I know that the university has often found itself in a time of change. Nevertheless, I believe that the changes of the past two decades have been particularly rapid and powerful, driven by massive societal processes such as globalization, internationalization, liberalization and digitization. Not all parts of the institution have changed at the same rate. While some have oriented themselves toward a more globalized knowledge-system, others have stuck to more traditional practices of teaching and research. This is precisely why it is important that we find a common goal and a shared understanding of how we get there.

Dilemma Thinking

My comprehensive experience as board member and chairperson inside and outside UiO has taught me that we need to think in terms of dilemmas. During the next four years, I believe UiO, and thus the university board, will face a number of these. What characterizes dilemmas is that they are not solved once and for all. They require us to work systematically and over time, with an eye for both research and teaching, both scientific and administrative needs. My contribution will consist in highlighting the dilemmas facing the university and in finding ways to deal with them in specific issues and situations.

Wide-ranging and Excellent

UiO is Norway’s leading university, and we have many research environments that are world-leading within their fields. This does not come without a cost. It is UiO's task to ensure that these environments can progress even more, and that we are able to identify new research environments that have the same potential of excellence. At the same time, UiO is a public comprehensive university, a metropolitan university, a university in the capital of Norway, which is more than anything defined by a wide range of subjects of subjects and large degree of diversity. In order for us to further raise the quality of our research and teaching, we must work across the entire span of the institution. Knowledge does not exist in silos, but in networks and ecologies.

Disciplines and Interdisciplinarity

UiO is based on a strong and diverse disciplinarity. Researchers and educators oversee knowledge traditions that make mastery and professionalization possible, not least in vocational education. But the broad community of academic traditions also provides unique conditions for interdisciplinarity. UiO's interdisciplinary initiatives draw knowledge together in new ways, in response to some of the most acute societal challenges of our time. Likewise, our programs must take advantage of the full scope of what the disciplines have to offer, and build attractive and relevant study programs that combine subjects and courses across departments and faculties.

New Students, New Educations

In the future, UiO will have a more diverse student body, in regard to background, age and interests – if not we have failed to be the metropolitan university Norway needs. But this also requires more diverse educations that connects us more closely with leading universities in other countries, through exchange programs and collaboration at the program and course level. As a comprehensive university, UiO must also provide offers to students who wish to get an elite education, with stricter intake requirements, higher ambitions and greater learning pressure. The alternative is that we lose the ability to recruit the best, both researchers and students, and that they instead make their way to other countries and institutions.

Short Term, Long Term

Several dilemmas relate to the role of the university in society. As a publicly funded university, we are committed to responding to the knowledge needs of the nation, as well as the private and industrial sector, at all times, in the form of graduates, research results and innovation. But at the same time, it is our responsibility as an institution to resist the requirement of short-term relevance, and to insist on long-term excellence. Otherwise, we are weakening the nation's ability to respond to future challenges that we cannot yet make out clearly. The pandemic is just the latest example of the necessity for UiO’s researchers to get involved when society faces a crisis, but in public debate or by work in laboratories. In order for UiO to fulfil its social role, we must ensure that different types of researchers and educators can realize their potential and build their careers in different ways, for the benefit of the institution.

International and Local

Internationalization creates new opportunities for collaboration but also increased competition, both for students, researchers and research funding. UiO can only continue to be Norway's leading university by increasing our international participation and visibility. At the same time, however, we must also strengthen our foothold in Oslo and find more local partners to collaborate with, both in the public and in the private sector, and be more visible in the urban space. Internationalization requires us to create environments for work and study that are capable of including everyone that comes here. We must be able to safeguard and benefit from the diversity of knowledge traditions and cultures that will help define the UiO of the future.

Sustainability and Digitization

This future UiO must be a sustainable university. Sustainability is our biggest knowledge commitment, but also an obligation to change the way we work. The lockdown caused by the pandemic has given us a kick-start in experimenting with digital formats to replace excessive flying. We must continue to reap the benefits from this. New forms of work are also create new challenges related to digital platforms, data security and knowledge sharing, and will require vigilance. Teachers and students have experienced not only the advantages of digital teaching, but also its limitations. Going forward, we must continue to defend and develop the actual encounter between people, face to face, as a core value in the academic community.

Acknowledgment and Responsibility

In a community, we acknowledge and support each other and feel responsible for each other. A new generation of students are used to and want more and closer follow-up, as well as more transparency in course progression and evaluation. We have to give them that. In addition, we need to get better at including them in our research work. I also believe that we must take greater responsibility for young researchers who begin their careers at UiO, often in temporary positions with a high degree of unpredictability. Their challenges cannot be solved only by reducing the use of temporary positions. We need to find other strategies to offer them greater predictability in their lives and careers. New communities, in externally funded projects, interdisciplinary initiatives and interfaculty teaching programs, can make the university more transparent. Close collaboration between scientific and administrative staff is the best way to improve transparency. This can only take place in close and supportive interaction between people who understand and respect each other's different roles and tasks.

Working with Dilemmas

I do not think that any of these dilemmas can be solved overnight, but that it is crucial how we work with them. We must have a clear direction and strategy, but at the same time there is a need for an ability to cope with tensions, conflicts of interest and unforeseen events. Achieving this will require both openness, trust, and good lines of communication. If elected to the university board, I will work diligently and purposefully over the next four years to live up to such ideals.


I am a professor of cultural history at the Department of Culture Studies and Oriental Languages (IKOS, HF). My field is in the cultural history and history of knowledge of Europe from 1500 and onwards, with a focus on Germany. In 2006, I defended my thesis in German literature at the Department of Literature, Area Studies and European Languages (ILOS, HF). Recently, my research has focused on understandings and experiences of time, in projects with a global historical and increasingly interdisciplinary scope. I have held guest researcher positions and guest professorships at Gothenburg University, EHESS (Paris), NYU (New York) and Zentrum für Literatur- und Kulturforschung (Berlin), and am currently adjunct professor at the Department of Language and Literature, NTNU. I am elected to several academies of science, including DNKVS and DNVA.

In the first round of interdisciplinary initiatives at UiO, I was hired to build and lead KULTRANS (Cultural Transformations in the Age of Globalization, 2009-2015), with broad participation from HF, TF, SV and JUS, and a large group of PhD fellows. Since then, I have led several interdisciplinary research projects and research groups, including InSync at the Centre for Advanced Study (CAS, together with Espen Ytreberg). I am currently head of the Toppforsk project LIFETIMES, a platform for a number of research projects that at the most counts around twenty researchers, including master students, PhD candidates and postdoctoral fellows. Internationally, I am on the board of The Re:Enlightenment Project, which includes researchers from a variety of disciplines and universities. I have also led the International Research School in Conceptual History (Concepta), and participated in the board for the History of Concepts Group (HCG).

Most of my teaching is related to the bachelor's programs in cultural history and museology, as well as the master's programs in European Culture (EKUL) and Museology and Cultural Heritage (MUSKUL). Since 2014, I have spent much of my time building and leading the PhD program at IKOS, the most diverse institute at the Faculty of Humanities, both in terms of disciplines and nationalities. By virtue of this role, I have also been involved in the management of the institute.

I have broad board experience both inside and outside UiO, including from the board of the TIK Centre (SV) and the board of UiO:Life Science. My most substantial experience I have from the The House of Literature Foundation where I have been chair of the board since 2014. In addition, I have participated in extensive evaluation work for other institutions and foundations, such as The Research Council of Norway, The Swedish Research Council, Bank of Sweden Tercentenary Foundation, Volkswagenstiftung, Uppsala University and the University of Bergen. In 2017, I chaired one of the panels that would assess research quality and working environment at Uppsala University.

Published May 14, 2021 12:31 PM - Last modified Mar. 14, 2022 10:54 AM