Anne Birgitte Rønning
Candidate for the University Board among permanent employees with teaching and research positions.
Anne Birgitte Rønning is Professor of Comparative Literature at Department of Literature, Area Studies and European Languages, HF. Employed by UiO as a researcher and a teacher since 1996.
Harriet Bjerrum Nielsen, Professor of Gender Research at the Center for Gender Research
Democracy is crucial to a university, although no longer a matter of course. So I want to contribute to it if I can by standing for election to the University Board. I have broad experience with governing bodies at all levels (see below). My experience from positions such as the Board of the Centre for Gender Research, the Central Appeals Committee at UiO and, recently, the Research Infrastructure Committee has given me an understanding of not only the diversity, but also the common goals and challenges we have at the University of Oslo. I am particularly concerned with the quality of education and the terms of research and research cooperation. Central to both fields are the University's responsibility towards society and the need for international cooperation.
1. Education and education quality
Knowledge offered in university education is complex: new and old, research-based, questioning, anti-dogmatic and reflexive, critical and useful. Our students invest years and loans to acquire knowledge that should make sense to them in the present and be relevant for future work serving both the community and themselves. I have been engaged in developing several study programs within the humanities and gender research, always aiming to respond to the drive to learn and to provide useful critical competence. In my experience, a variety of teaching and assessment methods and courses that assure both community and new people and new subjects are the most important success criteria. There is great diversity at UiO in terms of content of studies as well as teaching methods, and it is necessary to expose and discuss well-functioning study designs across departments and faculties. I am also concerned with internationalization. Both the students themselves and the university as such profit when the students are given the opportunity to go abroad as part of their study program and when they get acquainted to foreign students visiting Oslo.
Stortingsmelding 16/2016−17, "Culture and quality in higher education", announces distinct expectations to universities. We should focus more on education, its content and teaching methods as well as the way in which teaching is assessed. Although UiO already offers high quality study programs, I believe they can be even better, and I would like to contribute to the discussion and implementation of a set of means to respond to the demands made by the Minister of education. The aim must be to have teaching assessed as much as research, and to make students experience their studies as genuinely meaningful, so that they anxiously want to complete their education and not give up.
2. Research and research cooperation
The way research is carried out varies between the university's many units and research groups. For some, it implies sitting alone with well-defined materials and methods and tools available on their desk, while for others, it means taking part in large international networks that assumes collaboration, responsibility and costly equipment. Research policy must consider this entire spectrum. In addition to investing in major strategic areas such as Life Science and UiO: Nordic, the university must have mechanisms and resources that facilitate bottom-up initiatives, particularly when it comes to interdisciplinary research. Small-scale funding, such as småforsk, demonstrates that even small sums can initiate and develop high-quality research. In my opinion it might prove very useful to establish a medium scale central pot for interdisciplinary research groups – aiming to develop ideas for subsequent project applications for external funds.
The university has its legitimacy in developing knowledge and competence for the Norwegian society, but international cooperation is today also a fundamental condition for research. I am more concerned with cooperation than competition. The University must facilitate cooperation through agreements and infrastructure, depending on the needs of all disciplines and research communities.
In this respect, there are three matters which I find important, and of which I think UiO, as the country's foremost and largest university, should be in the forefront:
- We know from research that both working environments and research are getting better by being diversified. UiO must continue the work for gender equality, as well as equality in terms of ethnicity, both when it comes to recruitment for posts and positions, and to studies.
- Internationalization implies communication. For the sake of environmental challenges, UiO must encourage the use of communication tools that reduces carbon footprint to the most necessary. We should encourage the use of digital communication platforms in research collaboration, Skype meetings, etc. UiO should strive to be a leading green university.
- Internationalization implies communication in English, but UiO also has a special responsibility for maintaining Norwegian as a research language. If research is to be of importance in Norway and have an impact on society, we must be able to participate and communicate in Norwegian.
Experience with university boards and committees
Ever since my freshman years, I have participated actively in university democracy, as a student representative at the University Board (Det akademiske kollegium) in Bergen in the 1980s, as a fixed-term fellow at Faculty and Department Councils at UiO in the 1990s and as a permanent employee with teaching and research positions at ILOS’ Department Board in 2009−2012 and at the Faculty of Humanities Board from 2015 until now. I have also represented the Faculty of Humanities at the Board of the Centre for Gender Research in three periods, one of which as vice chair and one as chair. For one period, I was a deputy representative of the Central Appeals Committee, and in the autumn of 2016 I was appointed Faculty of Humanities representative in the University Research Infrastructure Committee. In the mid-nineties, I was employed as head of HF's research administration, and then I served as a secretary to the faculty's research committee.
I have extensive experience in developing study programs within literary studies, but also with interdisciplinary, cross-departmental and cross-faculty collaboration. When it comes to research, I have been working in several interdisciplinary research groups at the Faculty of Humanities, as well as at a national and international level.
Both the university and the society of which it forms a part, has changed since I represented the students at the University Board, but still I am sure it will be a good thing for me as a board member that I have had various roles and perspectives within the university. I feel well acquainted with the University of Oslo, and I have always communicated well with representatives from other groups represented in the university's governing bodies.