Viktor Balch Barth
Candidate for the University Board among the fixed-term employees with teaching and research positions.
Viktor Balch Barth, Doctoral Research Fellow, Department of Mathematics, Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences.
- Viktor Balch Barth nominates himself.
I run for representative of the temporary scientific staff because I think that the university in some areas is headed in the wrong direction. The ratio of temporary to permanent academic positions keeps growing, and the university's democracy and autonomy have been weakened through political reforms. I want to reverse what I regard as an unfortunate development in these areas.
Particularly relevant for us temporary employees is the large decline in the proportion of permanent employees. In the last 20 years, we have seen a sevenfold increase of people holding postdoctoral positions, but only a threefold increase in permanent positions at Norwegian universities. This means that we have to live with job insecurity for a longer time, and that an increasing proportion of us never get a permanent position in academia. This is despite the fact that the main purpose of the postdoctoral position is precisely to qualify for work in top scientific positions. Some of the funds currently used for postdoctoral positions should instead be used to create permanent positions. I will fight for UiO to look into and implement measures to increase the proportion of permanent scientific staff.
I want to protect university democracy, and the university as an autonomous institution, because both society and the universities benefit from the universities governing themselves. Since 1995, university democracy has been gradually weakened. In light of this, it is not surprising that voter turnout has dropped drastically in the same period. In recent years, extremely few — only about 14 per cent — of the temporary employees have voted in the University Board election, and repeatedly too few candidates have run for office. Low turnout is a natural consequence of perceived powerlessness. Today, only seven out of eleven of the University Board's members are actually from the University of Oslo. I believe that the composition of the University Board should be changed so that a larger proportion of Board members are actually affiliated with the University of Oslo. I think the University of Oslo should advocate an increased degree of university democracy and autonomy in the public discourse.
In recent decades, the funding model for the university and college sector has also changed. Although a university's expenses are relatively stable and predictable, parts of the universities' funding are linked to the so-called production of "studiepoeng" and "tellekanter" — numbers counting how many students pass their exams and how many papers are being published at a university. In the same vein, the political parties Frp, Sp and Ap in 2020 have advocated that parts of the universities' funding should be linked to whether the students obtain relevant employment after completing their studies. This is, in Svein Stølen's words, "directly shocking". In my opinion, this type of new public management is based on an extremely narrow and instrumental view of what knowledge is and what the universities' role in society is. I should not have to say this, but: Basic research is also valuable, and "tellekanter" are neither suitable for measuring research quality nor quantity. Economic incentives create distortion in the behavior of researchers and institutions, and are thus a threat to academic freedom. I want the University of Oslo to advocate for the universities' funding to be independent of "tellekanter" and similar figures.
I am a mathematician, with a bachelor's and master's degree from NTNU. In the autumn of 2020, I started my PhD at the Department of Mathematics at UiO. I was awarded the Abel Scholarship by the Norwegian Mathematical Society in 2019, and am a Fellow at the Centre for Advanced Study (CAS) in 2020 / -21.